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.
Mr. Shimaoka's workshop
Mitsuiyan, Sabuiyan, Shochan in the back and Fukiyan in front of him, Toshki-san to the far right