School of Art

Contact Details

School of Art
Aberystwyth University
Buarth Mawr
SY23 1NG

Tel: +44 (0)1970 622460

Fax: +44 (0)1970 622461


Display artist/maker:

Shiro Otani

Born: 1936, Japan, Shiga Prefecture, Shigaraki

Ceramicist. Otani was born in Shiragaki, site of one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan. He began working with ceramics at a young age, working as a labourer in various potteries while progressing through high school, studying with a pottery decorator after graduation, and then spending five years decorating over fifty hibachi a day.

Otani bought a parcel of land in 1973, upon which he built his own wood-burning kiln. Until the mid-1970s he dedicated himself to learning how to make and fire work in fitting with his image of traditional Shiragaki ware, focusing on two specific aspects: the physical qualities of the region’s coarse, white, and highly refractory clay; and the interaction of the clay with ash and flame in a lengthy and intense wood-firing process which gives Shiragaki ware its distinctive surfaces.

Due to doubts over his ability to make an impact on the Shiragaki tradition as a modern artist, Otani explored possibilities outside this area in the early 1980s, receiving a cultural exchange fellowship from the Japanese Ministry of Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts and spending a year at the University of Tennessee and a brief period at the Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts.

After this, Otani saw the direction of travel for his work gradually take shape. He sought to emphasise the concept of harmony between form and function, and egotistical and unassuming. Otani has aimed to emulate these qualities through continuously denying the superfluous and constantly seeking beauty in the basic form. These ideas are exemplified in his collection of ‘broken’ ware, upon which Otani began to work in the early 1980s.

Otani was named a Shiragaki Intangible Cultural Property by the Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs in 1990.

Objects in the collections associated with this artist/maker

[Shigaraki Bottle] C1234 Ceramics