Ando Hidetake (b. 1938) was named an Important Prefectural Cultural Property in 2003, a status towards that of a Living National Treasure for his work on the research and revival of Mino ceramics which encompass Seto and Shino wares.In his own words.."What is so wonderful about Mino ware is this relation to nature, the uniqueness of every firing and every piece, and of course the inspiration from the old masters. But you should never try to imitate what they did. Conditions then were completely different. They didn't have access to boundless information, for example, like we do. What we need to do is to try to take our pottery even further in our own unique way, finding our own personal way of expressing ourselves. That is my path. Mino ware is in many ways the very pillars of Japanese pottery...dating back to the Momoyama era - the golden age of Mino pottery.
Ando Hidetake only uses clay from the Mino area where he works walking around in the mountains trying to find the clay needed to make classic Shino and other Mino ware. "True Mino ware cannot be made from clay you buy." The works of Hidetake Ando have their own style, with the depth and thickness of the atmosphere different from those of conventional ones.
He is exhibited in many museums including the Brooklyn and Newark museums in the USA.
Ando hands the white glaze on this large cup. A treasure enclosed in the original signed wooden box. The white rise like fire up through the feldspar in perfect condition. "Hidetake was born third generation into a Mino pottery family in Gifu prefecture in 1938. He began an apprenticeship under Kato Tokuro in 1960. A testament to his skill "- Ando is the Living National Treasure of all the times. Fantastic execution
This piece comes with its original tomobako bearing the signature and seal of the artist. The bottom of the piece is also signed with Ando's characteristic mark "日" Ando, a master well known in Japan in particular for his Kiseto works.
You said you had to start from scratch and nobody would share their knowledge with you. Does that mean you even had to build your kiln with no advice whatsoever?
"Yes, indeed! I started out with a common gas kiln, to get started in the business. But after a while I could not find any satisfaction in just producing for the market. I felt an urge to try my hand at what the great potters of the Momoyama era made in their day. That would require a Momoyama style kiln - an anagama [cave kiln]. My older sister lived in a place called Kukkuri in Kani city, and she asked around if there was a piece of land somewhere in the mountains where I could build a kiln. Luckily there was a landowner in possession of what I was looking for. "There is a hill on my land you could use," he said. That was it. I borrowed six thousand yen and bought the land."
"Luckily there was a man who could give me advice on how to build my kiln which I called Sentarogama. It wasn't easy. Nothing about this work is easy, and that is why I love it so much! Thinking back about the potters in the Momoyama era you have to admire their accomplishments. In their time there was no electricity, everything was primitive compared to our present day. In spite of that they were able to produce the most exquisite pottery! I firmly believe that even today in order to produce something of that class you need to go up in the mountains and find the proper clay. You must make your own glaze the old fashioned way. Nothing you can buy will replace such raw materials. Once you have the materials and your kiln, the path ahead is trying, failing, and trying again. And it will never end."
"The most important thing is to have fun. I find that the firing is the most exciting in the whole process. You can have the best clay in the world and give your pottery the best shape imaginable, but it is during those last climactic days in the fire of the kiln the final result is decided. It was thirty-five years ago that I climbed up that hill and began to build my anagama kiln in the middle of nowhere. I had to route power lines up there so I could have electricity. I must build a dwelling and a workshop, and dug a well. And of course I had to build the kiln itself. I lived like a tramp up there during this time," he says, laughing. "I spent days in the mountains to find the clay I needed. During all this time I have only found three good deposits. But it was what I had to do."
ABOUT HIDETAKE ANDO
Hidetaki Ando has been awarded the honorable titles of Gifu Prefecture Important Intangible Cultural Property Holder and Tajimi City intangible cultural property holder. He has also received numerous other cultural awards and has appeared frequently in the media, including TV programs broadcast by NHK, Japan's public broadcaster.