13th Yokoishi Gagyu Utsutsugawa Set: 5pc Hana Kashiki

Potter: Yokoishi Gagyu, 13th generation

Approximate size: W3.1″ by 3.1″ by H1.2″ or 8.0 by 8.0 by 3.0 cm

A set of 5 serving dishes in the rare Utsutsugawa tradition (also seen spelled Utsutsukawa), by the 13th Yokoishi Gagyu (1925-). Son of the 12th generation and famous throughout Arita and the rest of Japan. His father is credited with reviving the lost art of Utsutsugawa yaki in the late 1800’s and like his father he employs the (250 year), old brush techniques which is what is what gives Utsutsugawa ware its distinctive style. It is now a registered as what is known as an important cultural property of Nagasaki Prefecture.

Works by the 13th Yokoishi Gagyu are known for the sense of movement, flow and perfect balance of visual weight in his designs. Meticulously shaped with indentations on the rim these pieces emit a quiet but unmistakable air of sophistication. The clay once dried to leather hardness was covered in white slip and manipulated by brush while wet. This set is in a style seldom seen and more commonly encountered are designs of egrets and the characteristic theme of flora taken by the wind. The flowery motif seen here is more quiet or natural if you will and rarely seen in my experience. When holding one of these pieces it speaks to a different kind of quality, one that is seemingly less and less common in today’s world.

Yokoishi Gagyu was the 13th successor at the Gagyu-gama or Gagyu kiln in Arita, Saga prefecture. The kiln is a designated intangible culture asset of Japan. Gagyu is considered the most famous kiln in Western Japan and called a “Ninsei (the most famous kiln in Kyoto) in Kyushu”. The kiln was build early in 17th century, Edo period but disappeared late 1800’s for which the exact reasons are unclear. Restored during the second half of the 19th century by the 12th successor of Gagyu. For to this reason, they are called the ‘legendary’ kiln of Saga prefecture (on Kyushu island), and is well known all over Japan.

The current generation painting the Utsutsugawa trademark egret on a bowl

Gagyu’s first exhibited in 1955 at the age of 30 and took the governors prize at the Nagasaki Kenten Prefectural Art Exhibition. This was the beginning of a prestigious career prolific with awards culminating in being named an important cultural property of Nagasaki prefecture in 1975 (the state version of the Living National Treasure). It is important to note that Nagasaki prefecture borders on Saga prefecture where he was born.

Over the years he has been presented at an impressive number of exhibitions, many of which private but also displayed publicly at the Nihon Dento Kogeiten (National Traditional Crafts Exhibition), amongst numerous others.

A rare set in excellent condition. All dishes are free of cracks and chips. Comes with the original quality paulownia tomobako or storage box with kiln stamp and calligraphy on the inside and outside of the lid.

€450 + shipping cost

The exterior lid describes this set as follows 菊見込珍味入, roughly translating to ‘a set of small chrysanthemum petals shaped dishes’. The last three kanji, 珍味入 seems to refers to the type or category of dish. 珍味 could be translated as delicacies (lit. “rare flavor”), and 入れ means holder or container. Small and elegant in order to accentuate the presentation of small portions of precious delicacies.

All five have a carved signature on the bottom and at the same time the signature is also present in white slip, seemingly written at the slip’s point of origin, with brush strokes overlapping the carving. Highly unique and uncommon. In more than a decade this is the only time I’ve come across this a type of double or overlapping signatures.