Stephen Kissick

ceramics craftsperson
Tokyo, Japan

WITH THE TOKYO tower lit up in the distance, I headed to a small ceramics studio to meet Stephen Kissick, a craftsperson who came to Japan to pursue his own pottery journey.
Stephen's first encounter with Japan was on a short term university exchange seven years ago, where the cross-cultural classes gave him the opportunity to try his hand at ceramics and using the pottery wheel. That experience made an impression on him, and he decided to return 3 years later to dive deeper into pottery.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Stephen's background is in music and he had worked as a luthier, making guitars for three years before his move to Japan. His love for natural materials, especially stone, wood and clay inform his passion for Japanese ceramics. 
Stephen picked up the basics at a pottery studio in Mashiko, in the Tochigi Prefecture. There he also learnt to work with wood-fired techniques in an anagama kiln. 

“[The anagama kiln] is pretty much a huge firebox, which is very technical and consumes a lot of wood. But each piece you fire comes out different and unique.”

This style of kiln is not common in Japan, but Stephen is looking to master it and hopefully build one of his own one day. He relishes the five-day ritual of wood-firing, and the communal aspect of it. It isn’t something you can do alone. Even the placement of each vessel in the kiln affects how the pieces will eventually turn out. In that sense, each ceramic piece is one-of-a-kind. 

“In some way, I love that what I make as an artist/craftsperson
is functional and for everyday use.”

Compared to working with wood, Stephen finds clay more forgiving as a medium. It is malleable and tactile compared to wood which is stiffer and more definitive. There’s more room for experimentation and you don’t have to worry about mistakes. 
Stephen has plans to set up his own studio with a wood-fire kiln, but for now, he hosts pop-up ceramic workshops in coffee houses around Tokyo, promoting his work and sharing his knowledge and love about the medium. 

Stephen Kissick


Visited January 2023, published June 2023.