$39,709 raised out of $198,000

Gorgeous Japanese ceramics handmade by an independent Japanese maker.


Hello! My name is Masako Niimi, and I am a ceramic artist from Chiba Prefecture, Japan. I have been making pottery for about ten years, and work out of a studio that I built in a spare room in my house. My kiln is actually located in my driveway! 

Art has always been my passion, and after graduating from high school, I decided to major in ceramics at an art university in Kyoto. Up until then, I had mainly focused on studio art, so ceramics was a whole new world for me. I originally entered the ceramics world because as an artist, I thought it was important to broaden my horizons and try my hand at different types of art. 

It was in university where I learned about yuyaku enamel glaze (more on yuyaku below), and after graduation, I studied it further under a local Kyoto ceramicist for a year. I was intrigued by the mystical effects of the yuyaku, the unpredictability, and how different factors brought about different results.

I subsequently moved back to my hometown in Chiba, where I set up my studio and continue to work with the yuyaku that brings life to my pottery.    

My pottery uses a special type of enamel glaze called “yuyaku,” or “uwa-gusuri,” which is an ancient Japanese glaze that dates back to the Nara period (710 – 794). It adds glassy, fantastic effects to the finished pieces, from gentle, faded colors to vibrant effects that almost appear to mimic the night sky. Yuyaku can be quite finicky, and it is almost impossible to recreate a piece exactly, making each piece special and unique.

A big part of working with yuyaku is learning control. Many different factors have to be taken into consideration to be able to predict the final result when a piece comes out of a kiln. It takes lots of practice, experimenting, and trial and error to be able to get a good enough grasp of the glaze and process to be able to predict how the piece will turn out. Even so, with the unpredictability of yuyaku, it takes a lifetime to truly be able to master. Different colors and amounts of yuyaku, the type of clay and the thickness, as well as the temperature it is fired at, create different effects, and I am constantly experimenting and finding new aspects to the glaze.   

My Style of Yuyaku

While yuyaku is used by many craftsmen across Japan, my way of using the glaze stands on its own compared to others. Although yuyaku in itself is fairly unpredictable, making sure all the factors are the same will produce similar pieces, which is what many craftsmen tend to do. The focus is on quantity, and they choose to go a “safer” route, incurring fewer losses and creating lines of the same product. 

On the other hand, I prefer that each of my pieces have a concept or story. I look for the best way to use the yuyaku in order to portray how I see the world; my pieces are not mass-produced. Each one has its own inspiration, concept, and story behind it, and was made with care to express that as faithfully as possible. 

 I take the inspiration for my pottery from nature. I look at my surroundings, like the grass, trees, and mountains, and try and figure out how I can translate that into a ceramic piece. Firing the ceramic pieces brings out the beauty of the natural materials, and also changes it to bring out a new, unseen beauty. All the components must meld together in true harmony in order to portray the correct emotions, as I view pottery as poetry.

I take great pride in the pieces I decide to put out into the world, and many of them are displayed at galleries and specialty shops across Japan. I am very grateful for those who appreciate my art, and I hope that looking at it brings them joy.


Common characteristics: -Hare’s fur glaze (streaks that follow the flow of the glaze) -Pooling glaze (collection of the glaze at the bottom of the dish/bowl) -Glassiness (glass-like effect of the glaze) -Emulsion (glaze that reacts differently and does not produce the same color) -Crystallization (firing of the glaze creates crystal particles) -Crazing (network of fine cracks)

(A) Small plate with scorched surface coloring

 Small plate  (Shell pink, color variation during firing) / size: Approx. Φ6.5 in×H1 in / Materials: Kaolin

The inspiration for this piece is the feeling during dawn and the color of sunrise.

 This piece has a shell-pink hare’s fur glaze that flows along the surface of the plate and leads to the purple pooling glaze with traces of bluish-white emulsion. When observed closely, accents of crystallization and crazing can also be seen in the glaze. The clay of the unglazed portion of the pottery turns a brilliant red, creating a striking contrast when aligned with the fragile colors of the glaze, which is even more apparent with the variation of matte and glossy textures.

(B) Small plate with scorched surface coloring 

Small plate  (Shell pink, color variation during firing) / size: Approx. Φ6.5 in×H1 in / Materials: Kaolin

This piece uses the same components as (A), but with a slight amount of metal added, which creates a matte yellow surface with hare’s fur glaze. Bluish-purple glassiness and emulsion can be seen among the hare’s fur glaze and in the cosmic pooling glaze. When observed closely, accents of crystallization and crazing can also be seen in the glaze. There are colors that can only be seen when the piece is hit with sunlight, as it causes light refractions and reflections in the glaze. 

(C) Large plate with scorched surface coloring

Large inscribed plate A “Kinsha Aoi” (color variation during firing) / size: Approx. Φ9.4 in×H2.5 in / Materials: Potter’s clay

“Kinsha,” or silk crepe, is the inspiration for this piece, and is made by weaving together gold threads and foil.

 By firing at a consistent temperature held for a long period of time, a delicate golden-brown crystallization effect appears on the surface. The pointed golden-brown crystallization effects layer to appear fabric-like, and cover the surface with a matte effect. Bluish-white emulsion can be seen sporadically.

(D) Large plate with scorched surface coloring 

 Large inscribed plate B “Color of Sadness” (color variation during firing) / size: Approx. Φ9.4 in×H2.5 in / Materials: Potter’s clay

The inspiration for this piece is the feeling of “sadness,” which is caused by hearts being beaten with bittersweetness and love.

 This piece uses the same glaze components as (A), but the firing method and clay base are different. This causes the glaze to turn the surface a bluish-purple gray color. Matte textures can be seen across the piece, along with elements of hare’s fur glaze, glassiness, crazing, emulsion, and crystallization in the glaze. 

(E) Tea bowl with scorched surface coloring  

size: Approx. Φ4.3 in×H3.2 in / Materials: Kaolin, potter’s clay

The inspiration for this piece is the feeling during dawn and the color of sunrise.

 The name of this piece is “Ha,” the Japanese character for which means “borders” and “the beginning of things.”

 This piece is a shell-pink color with hare’s fur glaze leading down to the purple pooling glaze. Bluish-white emulsion can be seen in different intensities in certain areas. The glaze also has elements of crystallization and crazing. There is a striking contrast between the glazed and unglazed parts of the piece, which also shows the different glossy and matte effects, and the pooling glaze at the bottom creates a dazzling effect.

(F) Gallery bowl “Tomorrow’s Dew” 

 size: Approx. 4.3 in×H3.2 in / Materials: Potter’s clay

”Tomorrow’s Dew” represents the morning dew that glistens on the grass. It is a portrayal of the ephemerality of life.

 The glaze turns the bowl into a smooth, matte white with a faint hare’s fur glaze tracing down. The pooling glaze has gentle bluish-white emulsion and glassiness tinged with pink. Fine crazing can also be seen when observed closely. The edge of the bowl is decorated with Oribe glaze that has been fired repeatedly, creating a yellowish-brown color.