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Yuzan Fujikake

Portrait of a Modern Artist Potter



Yuzan Fujikake - many bonsai lovers know him - is a famous master potter of handmade bonsai pots. He is an artful creator of both shohin and large pots and renown among people of all generations. Pots by Fujikake are created with great care and often lavishly decorated. His works are particularly notable for their subtle drawing technique and his inventiveness. In this article we would like to present the art of Yuzan Fujikake in more detail.



Denbutsugakuiri-gosai-sansuizu-chohoubachi (rectangular), 12 cm x 9 cm x 4 cm 


Pots painted with such detail are masterpieces.



Akae-sansuzu-daenbachi (oval), 13,5 cm x 11,5 cm x 5 cm



Akae-sansuizu-daenbachi (oval), 13,5 cm x 11,5 cm x 5 cm


Yuzan Fujikake became famous over night, and his works are very sought after among bonsai enthusiasts. Many dream of owing a pot by Yuzan Fujikake. Fujikake is a versatile artist and also creates plates, vases and pots. Therefore his name is also known to non-bonsaiists.

The skill of an artist increases over the years, and often the works from the early years of an artist will look immature and amateurish. Often they don't exist any more, which makes it impossible to follow the development of his art. Fortunately Yuzan Fujikake retained a few works from his early days. After over 30 years these pots represent a piece of history. The colours and surfaces reflect the times gone by.

One pot from his amateur days is particularly remarkable. Regrettably this pot has a fissure, caused by a tree's strong root development. This mini pot was created in the shape of a Gosai pot and is not painted. This pot is on display in the Cafe Dosenbo and can be viewed there along with several other pots.


Mini bonsai pots


First Ceramics, Then Porcelain


You can find the works of Yuzan Fujikake in the Cafe Dosenbo which is run by himself. Dosenbo is the name of a type of clay found in Kyoto and its environs. The clay contains a high percentage of sand. Due to its resistance to fire, it is frequently used as interior covering or repair material for kilns. On its own it is rarely used for pottery, but mixed with other clays it develops desirable properties, such as preventing shrinkage during firing and giving a special surface to the finished ware. Fujikake entitled his cafe Dosenbo according to his motto: “I will always stay modest just like this clay”. As a type of clay that isn't noble at all, it doesn't by itself provide for prestigious works of art.



Sentsuki-sansuizu-chohoubachi (rectangular), 14,5 cm x 11,5 cm x 5 cm


Fujikake started with pottery 35 years ago. That was before bonsai were commercially cultivated and traded on the art market. He cultivates bonsai himself and started to design and create bonsai pots for his own use. At that time he only owned a small kiln and could only create small pots. After buying a larger kiln, he started producing middle-sized and large pots from ceramics and porcelain as well as small ones, and still does so today. His bonsai pots were first presented to the public at an exhibition of the Japanese bonsai club “Kiriyu”. They caught the attention of Mr Zeiko Nakamura, who immediately fell in love with these pots and bought them all on the spot. After this event Fujikake decided to become a professional potter. This was the birth of a master artist potter.



Sentsuki-sansuizu-marubachi (round), 12,5 cm x 6 cm


When you think of Fujikake, you immediately think of his painted bonsai pots. “Before I became a potter, I had always wanted to be a painter. I started painting bonsai pots because I dearly wanted to paint on the pots that I created for myself.” So it was quite a natural process that he began painting the pots. Everybody who knows his works is convinced that he is an exceptional master of this art.

Confidence and Character

Yuzan Fujikake finishes his pots with painstaking detail. The painted sides and the bottoms and feet that are painted as well result in an image of perfect harmony. “It is very difficult to design and paint bonsai pots. Bonsai lovers have extensive knowledge and a trained eye for harmony. They wouldn't buy pots that are badly made. I cultivate bonsai myself and I think this is why I understand why bonsai lovers like pots that I also use for my own bonsai”, says Fujikake.

Although he learned his craft in a self-taught fashion, years of experience have strengthened his confidence. One example of this is the way he makes his pots. Round pots are thrown with a standard potter's wheel. But his rectangluar pots are carved from a large piece of clay. “For shaping porcelain pots, the carving technique is suited best. Pots can also be made using the Tatara technique, but this has the drawback that pots created that way will sometimes crack when they freeze in cold winters”. (Tatara is a technique where the clay is shaped in a mould). So Yuzan Fujikake uses the very time-intensive carving technique with the goal of creating the optimal pot.

Another feature of his works is their inventiveness. For example, the bottom of the pot is shaped with patterns on the inner side to which the roots of the bonsai may attach, which gives them more stability. Furthermore he uses a very thin glase for his works of art, and fires them at 90% of the temperature which is commonly used for porcelain (1300°C). This technique gives his porcelain a touch of timelessness. Fujikake is doing a seemingly common job, but the techniques he uses cost a lot of work and effort.

Craft Is Becoming Art

All craftsmen have their own rhythm. Yuzan Fujikake's rhythm is even and fluent. You can experience this rhythm with all your senses. The execution of the techniques of his craft touch us. The work of Fujikake is both dynamic and beautiful. If you watch him at work, you can hardly turn away your eyes from his hands. First he estimates the amount of clay needed to create a pot of the desired size. Then he designs the shape of the pot and carves out the lump of clay. After drying, the pot is coloured, glazed and fired. “Even with a lot of effort I cannot create more than 10 pots in a month”, he says. The carving of a pot takes an entire day, and painting it also takes a lot of time.

Carving is like creating a sculpture. In the beginning the clay is amorphous, only through his hands it transforms into the shape of a pot. The quality of a work depends on the technique and the skill of the craftsman. “I use neither gauges nor rulers. It's better if the sizes of the pots vary. It's a sign of crafting them by hand.” He laughs, as if it was nothing special that he's doing. But such sophisticated pots can only be created through technique that has been exercised for years, and a lot of artistic talent.

The carved bottom of a pot: Yuzan Fujikake spends a lot of effort on parts of the pots on which probably few people will have a look at. This accuracy sets him apart from other potters.


Many bonsai lovers will have made the experience that the shape of a bonsai doesn't harmonize with the shape of a pot. The bonsai pots of Yuzan Fujikake are specially made to fit the movement of a tree.

Sentsuki-sansuizu-chohoubachi (rectangular), 11 cm x 9 cm x 4 cm.

This pot is suited for a tree with a movement to the left.



Sentsuki-sansuizu-chohoubachi (rectangular), 11 cm x 9 cm x 4 cm.

This pot is suited for a tree with a movement to the right.



Here are some photographs of the manufacturing process.



The rim is cut horizontally with a knive.


The interior is hollowed out.


The thickness of the wall is determined on the interior.


After that the inner side is refined and the bottom is straightened.


The outside and the walls are corrected, the thickness of the walls is now fixed.


With selfmade tools he defines the curves on the outside.


The curve on the outside is created.


The pot is thinly painted. This technique is also called Dami and requires high concentration.



This article was kindly provided by BONSAI ART.


Translation: Stefan Ulrich

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