In today’s Meet an Artisan, we’ll be sitting down with Mr. Doi and Mr. Nagaya, founders of 3RD Ceramics. Through this conversation we’ll learn more about their unique approach to ceramics.
Mr. Doi and Mr. Nagaya hail from Tajimi, a city in central Japan home to the Minoyaki style of ceramics. In high school, the two came up with the idea of starting a brand. In Japan, it’s common for artists to open one-person studios focused on their individual work; but Mr. Doi and Mr. Nagaya wanted to start a larger business with a wider variety of products.
“We are not a solo artist, nor are we a big manufacturer; we are working toward a third way to make ceramics,” they say. Many artists handle the entirety of the business themselves, but Mr. Doi and Mr. Nagaya split the work. Mr. Doi focuses on the business and production side, while Mr. Nagaya focuses on the design and creative side.
Products from 3RD Ceramics feature beautiful, clean lines and a minimalistic product design. But this seemingly simple exterior masks huge amounts of work by the makers, often involving a lot of trial and error to arrive at the perfect final product. Mr. Nagaya spends a great deal of time conceiving new product ideas, working closely with Mr. Doi to modify and improve the design. Often, this begins with prototypes that help refine the color, texture, and other aspects of the final product.
Adjusting the glaze is particularly challenging because it requires a lot of small tweaks to get it just right. This takes a long time and results in many failed proof of concepts. But, in general, this is the nature of pottery – what comes out of the kiln is often a surprise. “Each failure becomes an inspiration for the next product. Failure is integral to the production process at 3RD Ceramics.”
Mr. Doi and Mr. Nagaya both place great importance on family time, viewing it as integral to the success of 3RD Ceramics. “We believe a happy family life enables us to make better products for our customers. Customers often send us pictures of our products being used at family banquets or other special events. Seeing our work make people happy brings us great joy.” For 3RD Ceramics, pulling a product out of the oven isn’t the end; a work isn’t finished until the moment it’s being enjoyed by a customer in their daily life.
“In these tumultuous times, it’s important to figure out what should be changed and what shouldn’t,” says Mr. Doi. 3RD Ceramics always pays attention to changes in the world, but they always remind themselves not to forget their original purpose. 3RD Ceramics leverages this memory to draw inspiration and find their way as they look ahead. Much like their collaboration with studio marii to produce the SUSHI YUNOMI Tea Cup, they're continuously trying new things - they're already planning a new brand, this time focused on children's tableware. 3RD Ceramic's "third way" keeps finding new ways to surprise and delight us.