Making attractive, cool, useful stuff out of dirt since 2006.

Karatsu Ware

Karatsu ceramic ware is a style of pottery that has been produced in the Hizen region of Kyushu (modern day Saga prefecture), Japan since the mid 16th century. It is the first example of glazed ware in Japan, made possible by the introduction of the climbing kiln, the kickwheel, and clay/glaze processing technologies from Korea.



Beauty and Function

Karatsu ware is known for its simple, rustic beauty, and considered to be a model of the Japanese wabisabi aesthetic.

Karatsu ware is above all, functional, and at its best when in use, rather than occupying space on a display shelf. It is designed with the intent of showing off whatever it contains, be it food, drink, or something else such as flowers, etc... The muted palette of earthy tones accentuates the colors of tea and flowers, making Karatsu ware ideal for tea and tea ceremony.

I like to think that when you buy a piece of Karatsu ware, you are getting an unfinished work of art. Unfinished, because the real beauty of the piece is revealed through use. As you continue using Karatsu ware, it will develop a beautiful patina of age as the crackle patterns become accentuated and the color of the clay changes as it absorbs tannins and minerals.



Who I Am

My name is Michael Martino. I am a potter making functional stoneware in the Karatsu tradition. Gotanbayashi Kama 「五反林窯」 is the name of my kiln and studio in Taku, Japan. Karatsupots is the name of my website and blog.

I am a native of New Mexico, but have lived in Japan since 1990. Although I developed an interest in pottery as a child from visiting ancient ruins and surrounding pueblos, I didn't start making pots until 2002 when I met veteran Karatsu potter Tsuruta Yoshihisa who mentored me in the Karatsu tradition. After an initial period of renting and borrowing kilns, I built Gotanbayashi studio in 2005 and installed a gas kiln. In 2008, I began showing work to the public, participating in shows, and conducting workshops.
In 2010, I built a 10 meter long anagama/noborigama hybrid wood kiln next to the existing studio, and this is the kiln in which most of the work is fired today. Much of the work is teaware for the Japanese tea ceremony, but I also make Japanese and western style tableware, ware for drinking sake, sculptural work, custom orders, and collaborative pieces with artists from other mediums.


Because I work in the Karatsu pottery tradition, there is naturally a Japanese flavor to my work. One of my goals is to successfully incorporate both ancient and modern American influences into the Karatsu tradition. One main reason Karatsu ware is attractive to me as a potter is that its simplicity and refinement reaches beyond trend and fashion. A good piece of Karatsu ware will be functional and aesthetically relevant, not just for months or years, but for generations of use. My goal as a potter is to produce work with a Karatsu flavor, but at the same time crosses national and cultural borders. Karatsu as a living tradition encompasses an enormous range of work, representative of both Japanese and Korean culture. It seems entirely natural to me that the future of the Karatsu tradition come to include other cultural influences as well.

I want to make pots which will enhance your life functionally and aesthetically. Pots which will slowly change over time, becoming more beautiful to you as they come to reflect your unique lifestlye. Pots that are beautiful not only to the eyes, but to all of the five senses. When you use my work, I want you to feel the 500 years of Japanese and Korean tradition and technology, the local flavor of Saga in my pottery materials, the spirited interaction of foreign and Japanese culture, and my devotion to studying and making simple, beautiful ceramics.

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Click the image above to view a slideshow of recent work, from fall 2015 ~ spring 2016. Most of the work is from the wood kiln.


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Click the image above to view some pictures of chawan (tea bowls) and mizusashi (water containers) for Japanese tea ceremony.

Some of what I have for sale is on the Karatsupots Etsy store , however that is just a small selection of work. Contact me via email if you don't see what you're looking for. Chances are I have something attractive, cool, and useful for you here in the studio...