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Makoto Yabe




Makoto Yabe’s work exemplifies the artistic freedom and improvisational approach that was essentially prohibited to him in Japan, where he was a classically trained ceramicist. In order to be free to experiment and explore the boundaries of his art, Yabe left for the US where he taught and worked for the rest of his life.

He began to incorporate elements of the Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that embraces the imperfect. ”Wabi-sabi objects are usually kind of ugly, but when you look carefully at the details, you see beauty in the objects. It’s quite different from the Western concept of beauty; it’s asymmetrical and imperfect, because that’s more like nature.

Nerikome (mixed colored clays thrown on the wheel), Neriage (mixed colored clays formed in a mold), and Mishima (inlaying colored clay into a different colored clay body) were some of his favorite ceramic techniques. He created both functional and decorative works and traditional and experimental pieces. He made boxes, pots, and plates as well as sculptural works, even a stoneware installation he called ”Song of the Wind,” which consisted of an array of brightly colored vessels, vaguely human and nearly 4 feet tall.

Makoto Yabe


Makoto Yabe was born in Fukushima, Japan and began studying ceramics in Kyoto when he was 9. He earned a certificate in ceramics at Kyoto Municipal Industrial School in 1967 and a bachelor's degree at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto in 1969. He served an apprenticeship with ceramicists Jinmatsu Uno and Sango Uno before he came to the United States to explore artistic freedom that was not possible in Japan. According to a Japanese proverb, nails that stick up are hammered down. ''Whenever I tried something new, I was hammered down," said Mr. Yabe. ''That's why I came to the US." ''He really came here for artistic freedom," said Bill Thrasher of Wellesley, an independent curator who specializes in Japanese art. ''His work had an improvisational quality that is highly desirable." Yabe said, ''There are still things to learn, new things to explore. However, as people age, their perceptions change, and I see Japanese traditions differently now. I don't have to fight traditions, but instead can express myself through it." Yabe taught ceramics in Alaska before moving to Boston, where he was quickly accepted by the local ceramicists and opened a studio at the Brickbottom Artists building in Somerville, MA. A consummate and influential instructor, he taught at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, and the Decordova Museum. ''He was a teacher in the truest sense of the word," said an associate. ''He never tried to bind his students to his choices or his artistic vision. He encouraged them to explore on their own." His work has been exhibited at and collected by museums throughout the US, including the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Cleveland Art Museum. His spirituality informed all of his work and teaching. According to a close friend ''He wasn't just a pottery teacher, he was a teacher of life."

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  • Dimension/

    8.3 x 17.8 x 8.3 cm (3.3 x 7.0 x 3.3 in)

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  • Ships from/

    Philadelphia, PA

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