Studio Visit: Mokichi Otsuka

Magic of the Tea Bowl Volume III
July 4, 2023
Studio Visit: Mokichi Otsuka

Mokichi Otsuka studied sculpture in Italy which strongly influenced his view of the tea bowl. Working in Italy still today, Otsuka introduces abstract painterly effects that transform the chawan into a picturesque scene. Currently crafting his ceramics in Faenza, the pottery capital of Italy, his chawan are a fusion of German clay fired in an electric kiln with Japanese glaze.

Mokichi OtsukaTea Bowl - 茶碗, (C25849)


Question 1

Do you practice tea in daily life? Please share your chanoyu routine, or a beloved memory of chanoyu.



I enjoy having matcha here in Italy. However, at times, I am sometimes exhausted by the contrast in this country, between Russia and Ukraine, and I often hear disheartening news. In addition, the Italian characteristic is so open-minded compared to the Japanese. Nevertheless, a cup of tea brings me a peaceful and calm moment, regardless of location.

While in Japan, I had a fantastic chajin mentor, my father-in-law, who gave me tremendous insights into creating tea bowls. My father-in-law, a massive fan of Koetsu's creations, shared with me the philosophical meaning of Chawan. Through the sessions with my mentor, I find a lifelong goal for my artwork: to create one that should be a tea bowl but not a tea bowl.


Mokichi OtsukaTea Bowl - 茶碗, (C24232)



Please describe the influences that inspire your work.



My biggest inspiration is from the artist Taro Okamoto, that “Artists should create shapes that are not "shapes" and colors that are not "colors." The guidance provided by my father-in-law and Taro’s words shares sure compatibility, which I attach.


From Mokichi Otsuka's exhibiton at Ippodo Gallery New York in 2018.


Mokichi Otsuka, the artist.



Please describe the qualities do you most treasure in a tea bowl—be that shape, color, texture, or history, style, and type of clay? 



The importance of creation encaptures in a philosophical term called sublation. It means elevating two conflicting matters to a higher level without merging but integrating them with balance in the broader framework.
Regarding my experience in Italy, especially military affairs, I have seen many opposing phenomena, such as life and death, Good and evil, and love and hatred. These opposites must remain at odds; however, as an artist, I must
 contemplate and craft the alternatives for the two opposites.


Mokichi OtsukaTea Bowl (Grey) - 茶碗, (C20120NP)



Please share with us how you prepare to make a new piece; how do you decide on the materials and direction for the idea?



The initial step and the most significant challenge in creating my artwork is to deliberate how my art piece will appear while aligning with my theory: to create one that should be a tea bowl but not a tea bowl.

Mokichi OtsukaTea Bowl - 茶碗, (C25847)


Mokichi Otsuka's cross-cultural chawan are on view now at Magic of the Tea Bowl (vol. III) at Ippodo Gallery New York, 32 E 67th Street, 3rd floor. The exhibition will continue through the end of July, and we welcome your visit with an appointment Monday through Wednesday, or by walk-in Thursday to Saturday! 

About the author

Keiko Taniguchi

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