The town of Arita is to be found on the western side of Saga Prefecture, in a rural area of outstanding natural beauty blessed with an abundance of varying landscapes and a temperate climate. To the north lies Imari City, to the east you will find Takeo City, just over the prefectural boundary in the west is the city of Sasebo (Nagasaki Prefecture) and finally the town of Hasami also famed for its ceramics sits to Arita’s south. The local river, Aritagawa flows northward towards Imari and the town is nestled between the impressive Kunimi and Kurokami mountain ranges stretching across the landscape from east to west. The town has a population of 20,385 people spread across 7,852 households and covers a total area of 65.85km² (as of November 1st 2017).
It was in 1616 that a potter from Korea, Yi Sam-pyeong first discovered the porcelain stone at the Izumi-san quarry that would catapult Arita into becoming the first epicentre of ceramic manufacturing in all of Japan. Subsequently, under the feudal Saga Clan pottery production became regularised and a flourishing townscape known as ‘Arita Senken’ began to take shape and prospered in the valley below. In the present day, these streets are still lined with numerous examples of buildings of historic importance and in 1991 was designated as national Conservation Area for Important Historic Buildings. On the other side of town, the western landscape is dominated by its distinctive terraces of staggered paddy fields and the town is also at the forefront of livestock farming in Saga. Built on the twin industries of ceramics and agriculture, Arita is a town rich in tradition and history resplendent in its own natural geography.
The neighbourhood where the creators stay is dotted with an array of professionals involved in all stages of the local industry including ceramic artists, mould-makers, greenwear-makers, print transfer specialists, potters and trading companies. In the production area, there are currently 150 potteries of varying size, as well as 100 trading companies, meaning this small town of merely 20,000 people is furnished with the infrastructure and ability to design, manufacture and sell its own goods. Furthermore, as a place specialising in creative ceramic research and design education, the Arita Campus of Saga University was jointly established in conjunction with the Saga Ceramics Research Organisation to provide education primarily focusing on the acquisition of technical skills related to porcelain production. Each term, exchange students from Design Academy Eindhoven (The Netherlands) and the University of Art and Design Halle (Germany) are welcomed to study in Arita. As such, the Saga Ceramics Research Laboratory serves as a focal point for the residency programme and is home to researchers specialising in all areas of ceramic production, drawing on technical support from participating potteries and local business people encouraging development in various forms of research and support for the field of ceramics. Since 2016, the Laboratory has borne the responsibility of providing visiting artists and designers not only with their own creative space for production but are also keen to offer any advice or technical support they made require. While continuing to use the Laboratory as their production base, creators on the residency programme will be in constant touch with their chosen potter and the various other facilities at their disposal.
For more detailed information on the Saga Ceramics Research Laboratory please visit Workspace.