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.
Kilns & Firing
Mitsuiyan, Sabuiyan, Shochan in the back and Fukiyan in front of him, Toshki-san to the far right