An interview with Tatsuya Hattori

When we first met him in a summer, he was tanned and looked like an athlete, and we felt a gap between his appearance and the delicate image of his detailed works such as teapots. Tatsuya Hattori was born in Tajimi, a town of ceramics, and the school he learned was also close to his parents' house. But he said he had no interest in pottery when he was a child. He was dexterous by nature and loved to make things. He was enthusiastic about making plastic models and didn’t lose his concentration even when he kept doing all day long. He thought he wanted to live on producing things in the future, and thought about entering an art school, but he chose to study business at university. When he finished the studies, he didn’t feel like getting a job right away, then decided to spend one year on his hobbies of surfing and snowboarding, thinking about what he would do afterward. At that time, he took a pottery class accidentally, and he found pottery was interesting to make. That was the moment when his preconception about ceramics as ‘mass production’ was swept away. He wanted to study more about pottery and entered Tajimi City Pottery Design and Technical Center which happened to be very near from his house. There, young people who aimed to be potters gathered from all over the country. Most of them were from pottery club at university or their family business is ceramics, and those who had no basis at all like Hattori were a minority.


‘ I didn’t know anything about pottery, but I didn’t feel like it was hard. It was a lot of fun. The school was close to my house, so I was the first to arrive every morning, and sat in front of the potter’s wheel all day long. I went to school every day even in summer holidays. Normally, senior students can preferentially use the wheel, but I could keep one for me and practiced all day. I worked hard and exchanged information with colleagues. I acquired a lot from teachers, but also learned more from the people around me.’


He does things at his own pace, but once he comes across something which captures him, he gets into it. He absorbed many things at school. Then, an event became a turning point for him. He went to the exhibition of London-based potter Lucie Rie held in Japan, and was shocked by her works. 


‘I thought,‘Wow, this is pottery, too!’’  They were shaped like vessels, but they were works art as well. Colors were vivid. Her works changed completely my idea about pottery, and I was excited to realize that the expression of pottery was free and unlimited.’


After graduating from the school, he got a job in a design department of a ceramic manufacturer, and while working for the company, he gathered tools and equipment necessary to make his own works. He cut his sleeping hours, made his works at night, and went to galleries to promote them by himself. As the number of stockists of his works increased, he decided to leave company and live as a potter. He showed us a bowl he made at the beginning of his carrier. Its matte face with titanium-based glaze looks soft, and the influence of Lucie Rie was seen in the beautiful inlaid work of which the form spread gracefully from the bottom to the top. It was wonderful. These artistic works at that time were favorably received, but some people said they were not suited for practical use. Until then, he aimed to make works like those of Lucie Rie, but he got to feel it was more interesting to know the comments or feedback from the users of his works. While he met works by Kan Ito and Yaku Murakami which were practical and showed their individuality, he was inspired and intended to make with his own style. He asked himself what his individuality was, and what he started to make was teapots. As he continued to create, he gradually became able to express in his own way.


‘I rarely sketch. Even if I do, it’s just rough one. It’s because I feel like trying to get closer to it if there is a sketch, and get far from unintentional creation. I certainly have a vague image in my mind.  The image is inspired and influenced by many things after all, but the piece is made by me, so I think it must be something different from others. When works are done, I always look at them critically, and l has repeated this process and it made my current style.’


Making a teapot requires subtle adjustments such as making handle or filter separately and assemble all parts at the end. Such a laborious work is not suitable for everyone, but Hattori said these works are the most enjoyable for him, and he feels a happiness when it’s completed. It probably comes from his enthusiasm to make plastic models in his childhood. Currently, he works hard day after day as a potter, but he is not so interested in being known widely. He says he feels fulfilled when he enjoys himself working and someone is happy to use it. He doesn’t think of hiring any apprentice or staff. He will keep going his own way with his physicality, intuition, and encounter. ’Well, I’d like to have more time to surf, if possible,’ he said and smiled.


* This article is a compilation of an interview in Toki city, Gifu pref. on June 25, 2020.

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