Itō Sekisui V, a 14th generation ceramic potter, was recognized for his work in mumyōi in 2003, when he was designated a Living National Treasure. Mumyōi is a reddish brown, ferric oxide clay extracted from gold mines native to Sado Island in Niigata prefecture, where the artist was born. After completing ceramic studies at Kyoto Technical University, Itō returned to Sado Island to experiment with mumyōi and create his signature aesthetic, red on black. Itō is known for neriage ware characterized by delicate patterns and created by layering and patching clay of different reddish brown tones. To bring out the vibrancy of the red, Itō does not apply glazes; rather, his firing technique, yōhen, uses different flame streams inside a wood-fired kiln. The areas directly hit by the flames create a black hue.
Itō says that the creator’s destiny is to, “Bring forth what has never existed, something new and attractive.” In 2005, he received the Medal with Purple Ribbon and in 2011, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, from the Emperor of Japan.