2016 marks the 35th Anniversary of having finished a three year apprenticeship in Mashiko at the Shimaoka Pottery.  It was a powerful three years in Japan and although I was working in the pottery everyday sometimes I think the least of what I absorbed was about pottery making.   I learned to speak  Japanese well enough to get by and that in turn allowed me to begin to see the world through the lens of another culture.  I was introduced, via many small lessons, to the power, beauty and confines of history.  I learned about the value of solitude, loneliness and patience.  I now understand more about the power of restraint, the value of homage as expressive artistic tools.  I learned sometimes humbling but valuable and interesting lessons in prejudice from a minorities point of view, very important to me to this day.

 

Perhaps most importantly my values and belief system were challenged everyday in small and large ways.  It was a three year examination of what it meant to navigate daily using western based values, in a culture that did not necessarily embrace the same. In fact a great deal of what informs a daily Japanese code of conduct seemed to run diametrically opposed to decsisions I would make out of mine. Those subtle frequent cultural collissions were very dynamic moments for me that forced self examination & growth.  The idea of culture had become larger and more complex that I had ever imagined and I am eternally grateful to Mr. Shimaoka and his family and all of the workers for their generosity in having me at the pottery for three years. 

 

Workers

Fukuyan
Fukuyan

Mr. Shimaoka's pottery studio manager

Hiroshiyan
Hiroshiyan

Using a traditional method of preparing a large platter for shipping with rice straw bumpers

Mitsuyan
Mitsuyan

In the pottery trimming a large platter

Shochan
Shochan

With Mr. Shimaoka at a kiln unloading

Sabuyan & Hiroshiyan
Sabuyan & Hiroshiyan

Pounding harvested buckwheat

Yoshisan
Yoshisan

In the pottery slowly revealing the inlaid rope texture by shaving back layers of white slip

Pottery

Yohen Vase
Yohen Vase

Shigaraki Clay, Sea Shell Pattern 1980

Yohen Vase 1979
Yohen Vase 1979

Shigaraki Clay 1980

Large Platter
Large Platter

Date Unknown

Hakame Platter
Hakame Platter

Cobalt Brush Work 1981

Assorted Stoneware Platters
Assorted Stoneware Platters

Platters being sorted and packed for exhibition in Osaka 1979

Large Stoneware Jar
Large Stoneware Jar

Fine rope inlay pattern. 1978

Large Stoneware Jar
Large Stoneware Jar

Inlay Rope Pattern Ash glaze 1978

Large Bottle/Vase
Large Bottle/Vase

Salt Glaze Cobalt Slip 1980

Grounds

Studio
Studio

interior: clay recycling, mixing area

Thatched
Thatched

kiln shed roof

Pots in the sun
Pots in the sun

drying in prep for a bisque firing

Radishes
Radishes

hanging after harvest as part of the curing process.

Front Entrance
Front Entrance

To Mr. Shimaoka's home

Walkway
Walkway

through the pottery grounds between studios and the wrapping station for pots leaving the pottery

Thatched kiln shed roof
Thatched kiln shed roof

covers one of the noburigama

Barn
Barn

Traditional farm building used for storage

Pottery
Pottery

The main pottery where most of the hand production of pottery was performed

Kura
Kura

A traditional safe store house made of a local, light volcanic stone

Wood Storage
Wood Storage

Several years of cut and stacked red pine aging for the 3 wood kilns used at the pottery

Garden Shed
Garden Shed

In a field between the Hamada & Shimaoka properties. Used for the storage of farm tools

Tools

Hand carved
Hand carved

wood paddle for pattern. Mr. Shimaoka's studio

overglaze enamels
overglaze enamels

in mortars for grinding

Hakame brushes
Hakame brushes

made of local dried rice straw. Used for slip painting, Korean style. Mr. Shimaoka's workshop

Mr. Shimaoka's
Mr. Shimaoka's

assorted tools for creating patterns to be inlayed

Wood shed
Wood shed

years supply of cut, bundled, cured red pine for the firings

Mr. Shimaoka's
Mr. Shimaoka's

Tools for throwing

M. Shimaoka's
M. Shimaoka's

assorted braided rope for inlay patterns

Kilns & Firing

One of two Noborigama
One of two Noborigama

and traditional kiln shed

Kiln loading
Kiln loading

before the saggers are stacked

Saggers
Saggers

filled with plates create a bagwall as a kiln is loaded

Hiroshiyan
Hiroshiyan

stokes one of the upper chambers of the noburi-gama with pine

The Yohen
The Yohen

(charcoal) chamber is being loaded with pots

Salt chamber
Salt chamber

is loaded and ready to brick up. Each pot on seashells

Fire mouth
Fire mouth

where special pots related to ritual are fired for 4 days. Temp may reach cone 10-12

Fukuiyan
Fukuiyan

stoking the fire mouth grate through the main port

The larger
The larger

of the two noborigamas. This one fired in oxidation and started with two diesel burner mounted on the front of the kiln

Wood fired
Wood fired

over glaze enamel kiln

Glazed ware
Glazed ware

loaded on stationary shelves for an upcoming firing.

Hidaski
Hidaski

technique borrowed from the Shigaraki tradition. Pots wrapped in rice straw and fired in oxidation saggers.

Kiln
Kiln

at night

Fukuiyan
Fukuiyan

charging the Yohen chamber with pieces of light charcoal

Smoke
Smoke

from the early stages of a noborigama firing

Me

Mr. Shimaoka
Mr. Shimaoka

With Prof. Ward Youry and myself at a solo exhibition of my work at Takumi Gallery in Tokyo

Taking a break
Taking a break

from clearing the field of dry growth. Mr. Shimaoka's Shokunin-san Left to right; Mitsuiyan, Sabuiyan, Shochan in the back and Fukiyan in front of him, Toshki-san to the far right

Tony & Toshiki-san
Tony & Toshiki-san

At an exhibition a Tokyo exhibition of Mr. Shimaoka's work

Working with
Working with

Hiroshiyan preparing clay for press molding

Stoking the kiln
Stoking the kiln

Night shift on the noburigama

Assisting Mr. Shimaoka
Assisting Mr. Shimaoka

with making a larger pot in sections on the wheel in his workshop

At the wheel
At the wheel

making work for an exhibition

My wheel
My wheel

after a mornings work throwing unomi

In the Field
In the Field

working on the tobacco crop

Laying Brick
Laying Brick

on the back wall of the top chamber in Mr. Shimaoka's new noborigama