Ceramics by Sakai Mika in our shop ->

Sakai Mika is passionate about the study of color, but the Japanese nerikomi ceramics artist initially cultivated that interest by studying fashion design at Tokyo’s famous fashion school, Mode Gakuen.

Ceramic artist Sakai Mika’s library of tinted clay test tiles. (Photo by Sakai Mika)

After graduation, Mika took a course in ceramics while pursuing fashion-related jobs. The class helped her to realize that clay is perfect for her explorations of color and function, the two points that she considers to be most important to her work. Both are also important considerations in fashion.

A selection of nerikomi ceramics by Sakai Mika showing her beautiful color palettes and forms. (Photo by Studio KotoKoto)

Mika likens her discovery of the creative possibilities of ceramics to an electric shock. It came after an exposure to nerikomi, a style of pottery in which the clay is tinted, layered in precise ways, and then sliced to form a slab that is pressed into or onto a mold. The work’s color and decoration are created by the patterned clay, differing from ceramics which derive their color from surface-applied glazes or techniques.

Tinted clay rods, grouped in a specific pattern, prior to slab formation. (Photo by Sakai Mika)

An example of nerikomi clay slabs prior to firing. (Photo by Sakai Mika)

Mika’s enthusiasm for nerikomi resulted in a two-year apprenticeship under expert Murofushi Eiji. The time she spent with her teacher impressed upon her the importance of precision in creating a crisp design, something that is difficult to maintain when increasing the scale of a piece.

The nerikomi process, viewed by starting in the top left corner. (Photos by Sakai Mika)

We at KotoKoto were particularly taken by Mika’s skillful work because we first thought that her beautiful patterns were decals applied to the pottery! Notably, she began winning awards for her work during her apprenticeship.

Examples of nerikomi ceramics by Sakai Mika demonstrate various patterns and color combinations. (Photo by Sakai Mika)

Although nerikomi is a variation on an ancient technique, Mika sensibly approaches her color studies in a modern way: by testing color combinations on the computer. She replicates the most successful ones in clay.

Sakai Mika explores color combinations and patterns prior to implementing them in clay. (Photo by Sakai Mika)

Mika’s gift for color work makes it easy to take the beauty of her forms for granted. The pieces are simple because she wants her work to be used, a core sentiment for us at KotoKoto. As a result, Mika designs with ease of washing and stacking in mind.

Studio KotoKoto is thrilled to bring Mika’s beautiful nerikomi ceramics to the United States and to share her skill and story with our readers and customers. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.

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6 Responses to Nerikomi Ceramics: Sakai Mika Explores Color and Function

  1. [...] With Yusuke Aida in his 80′s now, there are some younger artisans that have taken up the art of nerikomi, and the price point is not quite as high as. I am really excited about discovering Sakai Mika. Her pieces are for sale online here. And if you’re curious to see more of the nerikomi process, check out this amazing post on her technique. [...]

    • Kathryn Pombriant Manzella says:

      Thank you so much for your enthusiasm about Sakai Mika’s ceramics and for our blog post about her. Nerikomi ceramics are relatively unknown outside of Japan so we, too, find her technique and results to be fascinating–especially with her modern twist in the development stage! Kathryn of KotoKoto.

  2. Jheem Medh says:

    Thanks for sharing Sakai Mika’s Nerikomi ceramics. The pieces pictured at this site are beautiful. At what temperatures are these pieces fired before and after glazing? Thanks.

    • Kathryn Pombriant Manzella says:

      Thank you, Jheem, for your nice compliments. I’m not certain of the bisquing and firing temperatures of Sakai-san’s work but the clay is stoneware so the second firing would be between 1180°C to 1280°C, I believe. Thank you for visiting our site!

    • Studio KotoKoto says:

      Hello Jheem,
      Thank you for visiting our blog. We contacted Mika about this, and she kindly told us the temperatures. These pieces are bisque fired to 1436F and then glaze fired to 2336F.

  3. […] introduction in 2012 of Sakai Mika‘s nerikomi ceramics to the Studio KotoKoto community produced an immediate and overwhelmingly […]

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