ceramic research institute

so many posts to catch up on.  this is my first short term residency and while i’m thrilled about how much i was able to get done, i especially cannot wait to share all the little details with everyone.

today, finally, i was able to visit the shiga prefectural shigaraki ceramic research institute, a separate entity from the ceramic cultural park where i am doing my residency.  there are students studying ceramics full time there but it is also open to the public.  meaghan brought up wanting to look for glaze recipes on one of the first days i was here and today we finally made it there.

i’m not a huge glaze person but o.m.g.  once we had signed in we went upstairs to a relatively small room filled with shelves.  which were filled with file boxes filled with cardboard sheets filled with test tiles.  triaxle blends, line blends, some with recipes, others with kiln schedules attached.  it was out of control.

as you flip through you might notice that some images are upside down.  i was just going crazy with my phone trying to get as much data as possible in each frame in hopes of translating some of the recipes.

shigaraki peops: meaghan gates and yumie shukuya

2 three month residents are finishing up.  they both mounted amazing exhibitions last week.  meaghan gates, an artist from california just finished her undergrad at chico state and came to shigaraki as part of a trip funded by the presigious windgate grant she received last year.  before coming to shigaraki she spent a month at a pottery in seto, japan and after she leaves next week she will go to san bao, china for a month.

yumie shukuya is from the gumna prefecture but lives in tokyo.  she recently graduated from tama university, one of the top tier programs for art in japan, where she studied sculpture.

both artists went to undergrads that nurtured conceptual sculpture  thought they both use the wheel in some areas of their work.  the also both make work that falls beneath the umbrella of biomorphic abstraction.  meaghan uses the wheel, almost exclusively, to creae repeated  shapes that she brings together into complex organic compositions.  Some are particular abstract, others evoke more recognizable animal forms such as fowl or mammals which the artist calls comforting.

yumie’s sculptures begin from the idea of a flower, which she sees as a stand in for the human body.  she uses molds to create base forms which she alters and adds onto.  her glazes push the flower-like qualities forward, with thick feldspathic nodules that sit on top of the form like button mushrooms or crawl off the clay body leaving what looks like a naturally occurring pattern.  she also employs variegated glaze colors that bring to mind orchid or hellebore petals.  these colors are echoed in the ink washes she applies canvases which are set behind the installed work.

i’m really thrilled i got to work with these artists this month and see their shows go up.

shigaraki peops: makiko suzuki

makiko’s station is right next to mine and while i sit working i also watch her throw.  she would affix a huge pugged cylinder of clay to the wheel head, center it and throw off the hump.  taped to the wall in front of her are pages of orders from galleries.  the entire time i’ve been here she has been working tirelessly to fill them.

originally from saitama (near tokyo) she  moved here about a year ao when she married a shigaraki local.  she’s in the process of building a new studio at home and in the mean time is a resident here.  though she heads home most nights she (like the rest of us) has a room here.  when she’s pulling all nighters to finish work or firing kilns she stays in her room.

makiko loves trimming, or maybe i just love watching her trim?  one of her forms is a wine goblet, the stem of which she throws solid and then trims out everything but the stem.  above her wheel, on the window sill above her orders sit several pots of trimming tools.

though her tight schedule has meant she socializes the least, sitting next to her has lead to several nice conversations.  despite the language barrier we have talked about inspiration, the virtues of shared studio space, what it will be like when her studio is done…when i had some work crack in the drying room, she gave me cookies and consoled me with her own stories of ceramic woe.  i couldn’t always understand every word of what she said (and certainly she couldn’t understand my terrible japanese) her quiet, sparkling voice was a comfort.

makiko’s pots are super popular in galleries and shops in osaka, tokyo and abroad, hence the busy schedule.  as i write this she and her husband are sanding the bottoms of hundres of perfect, cleverly designed and glazed forms.

i can’t wait to come back to shigaraki and to visit her home studio or, better yet, for her to come show in the u.s..


***edit as of 3/28/17
This blog post contains some links to Makiko’s work.