Creative Residency Arita 2023 image
Creative Residency Arita 2023 image

Creative Residency Arita 2023

Swiss designer joins forces with Arita artisans to vitalize centuries-old ceramics tradition

From January 2023, Carlo Clopath, a talented Swiss product designer, took part in a 3-month residency program focusing on ceramics, where he collaborated with Saga craftsmen with the aim of vitalizing centuries-old ceramic traditions and contributing to the region’s revitalization and sustainability as part of the Creative Residency Arita program.

Documentary ARITA - In a land of Terra / 焦がれた地で by Kohei Yamaguchi

Check out the 3-part documentary series by Kohei Yamaguchi chronicling talented Swiss product designer Carlo Clopath’s 3-month residency in Arita, Japan, as he delves into the ceramic art of Arita-yaki!

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Creative Residency Arita 2023

© Kohei Yamaguchi

With more than 400 years of history, Arita is one of Japan’s epicenters for traditional porcelain craft. In recent years, however, the population and artisan community of Arita have started to shrink. Carlo Clopath, one of Switzerland’s brightest talents in design based in Graubünden, was selected by a jury of experts including BIG-GAME design studio, design director David Glaettli and Okro founder Heinz Caflisch, to participate to Creative Residency Arita, with the support of the Vitality.Swiss program. The goal of the residency is to foster exchanges and co-creation between the Saga craftsmen and international artists, with the aim to contribute to the region’s revitalization and sustainability.

Carlo Clopath immersed himself into the history, nature and culture of Arita to work on new pieces together with the local craftsmen. For his series of tableware items and tea utensils, developed in collaboration with the kiln Risogama, Carlo was inspired by the philosophy of Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the Mingei movement, and his idea that patterns and symbols have an important role in how society relates to nature and the environment. The collection, comprising of porcelain vessels and printed textiles, features variations around the spiral symbol, “a representation of movement, growth, and maybe galaxies and our own DNA…”, Carlo comments.

Ambassador Andreas Baum, together with Honorary Consul Joëlle Sambuc Bloise and Head of Communications and Culture section Jonas Pulver, attended the presentation of the collection in Arita on March 24, 2023, together with the stakeholders of the residency program and members of the local community. On this occasion, Ambassador Baum also had the opportunity to pay courtesy visits to the Governor of Saga Prefecture, Mr. Yoshinori Yamaguchi, and Arita Mayor, Mr. Yoshiaki Matsuo. All expressed their satisfaction to the outcome of the residency program, and look forward to deepened relations between Switzerland and the Kyushu region.

The Beautiful Act: Ornament as ecological gesture by Carlo Clopath

Japan premiere exhibition by Swiss industrial designer Carlo Clopath was held from November 17 to December 3, 2023 at (PLACE) by method in Shibuya. The exhibition showcases a collection of decorated porcelain tableware, the result of Carlo Clopath’s three-month stay at the Creative Residency Arita from January to March 2023 where he worked closely with RISO porcelain “Risogama.”
In his works, Clopath delves into the origin, meaning and function of symbols, stemming from an examination of selected Japanese artefacts from Jomon to Pop Culture. He focuses in particular on spirals and their diverse interpretations, inviting the viewers to reconnect with nature and the immaterial.
By illustrating the value of ornamentation as an impetus for ecological action, the exhibition seeks to stimulate reflections on environmental sustainability. Clopath hopes to remind the viewers that beings, including human beings, are an integral part of Earth’s natural living system – with limited living resources. Nature is not a mere resource but a living self, and as such the rational actions of human beings should be respectful and sustainable.

Organized by Embassy of Switzerland in Japan / Vitality.Swiss
Supported by USM U. Schaerer Sons K.K., Création Baumann Japan Ltd., Sakae Stünzi Foundation
In collaboration with Creative Residency Arita, RISO Porcelain,Ltd., method Inc., The Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Tama Art University

About the Exhibits – Tea drinking as an everyday ritual

Collaborating closely with RISO porcelain “Risogama”, Clopath has been concentrating on contemporary everyday rituals and their related items – in particular, on tea drinking. Based thereon, he has developed a collection of 21 oriental and occidental tea vessels and utensils. The forms of the various objects are based on simple, archaic shapes – spheres and cylinders or combinations of the two. Spiral ornaments of diverse origins adorn several utilitarian objects, adding layers of meaning and a link between society and nature.

Designer’s reflection

Through the idea of beauty or the beautiful act (a moral act – performed by one's own inclination to do so), the exhibition aims to offer access to the intangible, the inaccessible, the fantastic – to a mysterious reality: a world animated by elemental spirits – spirits of the earth, air, water and fire – graspable through beauty, myths and rituals.
For Carlo Clopath, these elemental spirits that come and go cyclically are connected to the seasons, and to a sense of beauty – his interpretation finds resonance in Japan where the ephemeral is an ideal of Japanese aesthetics.
Thus Clopath has chosen to focus on the tea ceremony, a ritual of concentrated beauty, which embodies asceticism and offers a transcendent experience, drawing parallels to myths and shamanism in a distinctively Japanese and Buddhist manner.
In addition to the porcelain tea ceremony utensils that Clopath created in Arita, the exhibition also illustrates his reflections on the origins, meanings, and functions of symbols – particularly of the spiral. In his research, Clopath explores the presence of spirals in prehistoric cultures around the world and attempts to explain their origins (observation of nature, hallucinations as a result of drugs or meditation, endogenous image patterns), meanings and functions. The spiral can symbolize cyclical time, recurring seasons, the return of earth and water spirits during spring and autumn harvest celebrations, water’s spirit guardian – the serpent, etc. Clopath will be tracing the history of the ornament – especially of the spiral – by means of Japanese artefacts from Jomon period pop culture. Carlo was particularly inspired by the philosophy of Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the Mingei movement, and his idea that patterns and symbols have an important role in how society relates to nature and the environment.

About the designer, Carlo Clopath

Carlo Clopath is a Swiss industrial designer. In his studio in the Alps, he develops everyday objects and utensils – in close collaboration with local craftsmen, with   international manufacturers or in cooperation with   various research institutions – mainly in Europe, Japan or North America. His creations ideally condense tradition and innovation into a calm, evident, familiar product. During the development, the idea, the material and the craft (technology) are tested and observed in countless experiments, in order to push the material, process and quality to their limits.
After his education – following the Swiss tradition – based on precision and innovation at the ECAL/University of Art and Design in Lausanne (CH), he experienced the Scandinavian method based on craftsmanship and the fluid line (of the drawing) at the office of Cecilie Manz in Copenhagen (DK) from 2012 to 2013. Subsequently, during a residency at the Statens Værksteder for Kunst (Danish Art Workshops) in Copenhagen (DK), he was able to realize his first truly personal project: a series of kitchen utensils made of wood, porcelain, urushi – which won the Swiss Federal Design Award the following year and enabled him to participate in his first exhibition (Showcase) in Tokyo (JP).
Since this first, intensive experience of Japanese culture, he has, fortunately, had the opportunity to work with various Japanese craftsmen and manufacturers and to participate in multiple exhibitions in Japan. His work has been exhibited at the Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen (DK), during the Salone del Mobile in Milan (IT) or the Tokyo Design Week in Tokyo (JP). Recently he won the Swiss Design Awards 2023 as Borgmann & Clopath (in June 2023) for a wooden furniture collection. Designed by Carlo Clopath, SARO, a new flatware collection of Fukui based company Sekisaka Co., Ltd. has been released in June 2023 and has just been awarded a (Japanese) Good Design Award 2023 .

About the Japanese Partner – RISO porcelain / 李荘窯業所

One of the most popular Arita-yaki potteries. Led by the fourth generation head of Shinji Terauchi. Their products are acknowledged as being well-designed and made with highly skilled techniques and this has led to collaborations with famous chefs and restaurants.