Ken Nagakui




  Japanese Ceramics Heritage

Ken Nagakui is a quintessential Japanese earthenware artist - a strict traditionalist with high level of attention to detail, thought, and hands on involvement from beginning to end. Although Ken has never studied pottery in Japan, but his style is distinctly Japanese.  Ken is not actively deciding on a Japanese style...rather it is a form from within that manifests through his hands - "It's not chosen, but something coming out from inside of me".  Japanese ceramics reflect a long and storied history as one of the oldest ceramic traditions in the world dating back from the neolithic era.





 Connecting To the Earth Through the Clay

Ken Nagakui often digs up and filters his own clay and then mixes it with commercial clay to create his pieces by hand...and frequently without the use of an electric potter's wheel.






 Dedication To His Craft


Ken Nagakui's immense dedication to his craft shows in his hand built kiln.





 Hand Created, End To End





From the hand dug and filtered clay, to the hand built kiln, to the hand formed ceramic pieces...Ken's pieces are carefully and thoughtfully hand created, end to end.










Wood Fire Imbues Unique Character


He prefers wood fired kilns because the wood imbues a specific character on the glaze, making each piece unique.







 Connecting To Earth and To His Art




He creates his artistic endeavors with as much connection to the earth as to his hands.







 The Artistic Escape Hatch - Painting


He started his artistic endeavors like all great artists...depression. He felt like he didn't fit into his engineering college...and felt a deep emptiness as a result. He turned to painting as an outlet for expression. 










Although he still thinks of himself a painter, " the impact from an image of Jennifer Lee’s hand built work (picture on the right) was so strong that it has lead me and opened to the path to ceramics."









Societal Reflection



He questions how society should be; and cites George Matheiu, a 20th century painter and theorist that influenced his perspective on art. “He has interesting, provoking ideas. He said our society puts … [the] economy first all the time. Second is politics, and culture is always the last thing to consider, the first thing to scratch when the economy is down,” Nagakui said. “He wanted to make culture first, then politics. And economy is merely supporting it. Economy has no say in the direction. Culture directs it.”










He feels that "working on clay and firing it are more of a way of connecting to the earth and nature, while the process of painting is more cerebral, although the definition of 'cerebral' constantly redefines itself in the process of painting."
"Even when I’m doing pottery, I’m thinking about color, texture and composition. My ceramics is a three dimensional extension of painting. I don’t think pottery is less valuable, but I often think that the two-dimensional expression (painting) truly is the window from this side to the ambiguous space of art for me."





Cerebral Perspective on Communication Via Art 


"Art for me is a way of communicating with the unknown space where imagination meets reality (I have a theory that imagination and reality should be one for artists). The unknown space means the space that extends not only beyond my own mind to some unconscious level, but also to the same area in other people’s minds; the real meaning of common ground lies there. Art ought to be a way of enabling that level of communication."


For more information about Ken Nagakui, please visit his personal web site at