Bernard Leach and Onda & Koishibara Pottery Villages in Japan



In 1953 Bernard Leach visited both Onda and Koishibara, the two villages featured in Potters At Work.

Onda (& Koishibara) Village Pottery

Onda Bernard Leach Frog DishOnda was especially favored by the founders of the Mingei Folk Crafts Movement; Bernard Leach, Soetsu Yanagi and Shoji Hamada, as a living paradigm of their ideal pottery making community. In Yanagi’s writings defining the Mingei philosophy, the village of Onda is cited frequently.

Shoji Hamada, one of the most renowned artist potters of the 20th century, also wrote admiringly of his visits to Onda.

Bernard Leach lived and worked in Onda for almost 6 weeks in 1953 and, with the help of the village craftsmen, produced a large group of important works. During this trip he also visited Koishibara briefly.

Bernard Leach - Glazing a DishIn A Potter in Japan (1960), he wrote:

“Every so often since my return to Japan I have been in receipt of invitations and messages from the potters of a remote village called Onda, in the southern island of Kyushu, They seemed to be most earnest that I should go and work with them for a time….Yanagi told me of his first visit after hours of walking over mountain tracks many years ago, and of the simple unspoiled life which they led and of the good pots which they made.”

In 1953, Leach showed the film The Leach Pottery, 1952 in a special outdoor screening in Onda. “They clapped and clapped over the St. Ives film”, he wrote.

Onda Village PotteryOnda Clay Crusher

It was the writings of Bernard Leach that inspired Marty Gross to visit Onda and Koishibara, where he filmed Potters At Work in 1976.

Back to The Leach Pottery, 1952


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