It has been 25 years since Kazuhiro Shiraishi died suddenly at the age of 38.I have no right to talk about the skills of the potters, but I know the following facts: Shiraishi's works fascinated many ordinary people, just as people who do not know opera can shed tears in a song. Many Shiraishi fans bought his works not for speculative purposes, but for immediate use at home. Experts said,“If you put food on a plate or pour sake into a cup, neither will sell at a high price.”But they didn't care about the advice at all. For exactly the same reason, if you don't buy clothes you don't want to wear.
For many who bought Shiraishi’s works in his lifetime, his presence still looks brilliant because he was on the stage for too short a time. After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts, he was out of the sun for a long time. It was held at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, which is said to be a sacred place for traditional crafts. And two years and a month later, he passed away like the wind.
The person who read the condolences at his farewell ceremony was Tetsuya Soutome, the owner of the famous tempura restaurant“Mikawa”. Without this man, Mr. Shiraishi's talent might have been buried for the rest of his life. Mr.Soutome is an art director like Oribe Furuta, tea master in the 16th century, for the craftsmen who have a relationship with him. Especially for young potters at Tokyo University of the Arts, he has developed their talents in the right way and with a warm heart. The way to grow them was to use their tableware every day in his restaurant.
Mr.Soutome discovered Mr.Shiraishi’s talent when he was still a college student, and bought his work at a group exhibition of Tokyo University of the Arts. It is the ash glaze vase on display this time. Mr.Soutome told him,“The shape of your pottery is similar to that of Shoji Kamoda. It's a natural talent, so take good care of it.”After that, Mr.Soutome advised Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi to hold a solo exhibition of Kazuhiro Shiraishi . He even lobbied some craftsmen for the purpose. Mr. Shiraishi gave up saying at the time,“My works won't sell.”But Mr.Soutome said with confidence, "It won't be such a stupid situation. There is no reason why your work won't sell.”
As you might have guessed, the supporters of Mr. Shiraishi mentioned above were those who were influenced by Mr. Soutome. Anyway, there is no other time when ordinary consumers and craftsmen could have a happier relationship than that time. It was about 10 years from the mid-1980s to the mid-90s. In front of department stores and craft salons, there was a long line of people looking for an exhibition, and sometimes numbered tickets were distributed to them. Although that era is regarded as“The Bubble”, it was a better time with richer culture than the desert-like economic priorities of today：at least for artists, it was dreamy days, because it was much less likely to be disturbed by someone who was accidentally promoted.
In Tokyo, Mr.Soutome and artists from Tokyo University of the Arts such as Mr.Masahiro Maeda were at the center of the craft movement. Although Mr.Shiraishi lagged behind others, he was the most symbolic artist who had the good relationship with the users. He was thinking only about the users when he was working. The users were those who enjoyed buying art works with their small pocket money. Mr.Shiraishi never spared any effort, even when making a very small plate. He repeated 200 to 300 prototypes to make it perfect, said Mr.Soutome. The reason Mr.Shiraish became a potter was because he longed for an ascetic life like making rice bowls for the rest of your life. He did not change the stance even after his works became popular. He was most pleased that everyone used his tableware and vases in their daily lives. So he spent all his time pouring esprit or playful spirit into them.
He is over 60 years old if he is alive now. Is he really continuing to make a rice bowl?.“Yeah, he's definitely making it. He may also make tea bowls and bowls for the tea ceremony, but on the other hand, he must be making the one and only rice bowl.”said Mr.Soutome. Probably that's right, and the fans who genuinely love Kazuhiro Shiraishi’s art must be buying new works by him.
Written by editor and writer Naoya Yura