We believe that our programs help us understand what humankind has in common and that international exchanges are a great way to connect cultures through craft’s universal language of material, skill, and ingenuity. In 2017 we developed an exchange program with the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan. Last summer Nozumu Shinohara attended programs at Haystack and Penland. In December, American potter Kathy King spent a month in residence in Shigaraki.
Read more about her experience here:
This year, I was fortunate enough to take part in an exchange program with Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan from November to December. My counterpart, Shigaraki potter, Nozumu Shinohara, had traveled to both Haystack and Penland last summer and came to visit me when I arrived.
I worked among nine different artists hailing from Japan, Taiwan, Sweden, Argentina and France of all different ages in a large, open studio space within the larger park. During my stay, two invited artists worked in an adjoining space, - sculptor Vilma Villaverde (http://vilmaceramista.wixsite.com/villaverde/about ) and painter Yoshitomo Nara (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshitomo_Nara) inspiring all as they worked on sculptures that would later be installed on-site. The park, features a spectacular tiered system of spaces carved into a hillside and has ample opportunity for one to “get their steps” in. During my visit, daily walks included observing noborigama and anagama kiln firings, strolling the paths flanked by numerous outdoor ceramic sculptures from past residents, viewing examples of area ceramic production in an exposition space as well as the on-site museum that featured an Imari ware exhibition. The view from the top often came with a view of wood-kilns firing from the numerous potteries that surround Shigaraki.
The journey begins with a trip to the local clay supplier whereby the clays are unlike much of what we can access in the U.S. The area, known for its feldspathic rock-rich clay is ideal for making large sculpture with very low shrinkage rates. That speckling of rocks in the clay were not ideal for my own method of carving into clay (sgraffito) but the porcelain available was ideal. Rather than work in my standard black and white style, the clay was too beautiful to cover with slip and instead, I experimented with carving solely into the white surface. Still, the rate at which my studio-mate sculptors were able to build with local clays and the variety of colors available were remarkable! Residents also have access to excellent staff and a multitude of kiln firing choices from electric to gas and wood. An incredibly energy conscious studio, the kiln room featured a room of controllers that looked straight out of science fiction movie (only the staff allowed).
In the evening the group would return to the adjoining housing with private dorm rooms/bath and, often times, gathered together in the communal kitchen/lounge to make dinner. Thankfully, resident artists such as Japanese sculptor Maria Murayama (http://www.maria-murayama.com/ ) would quickly reassign my duties to setting the table rather than assist in cooking one of the many amazing Japanese meals. Artists are responsible for their own food so on other days I would trek into town armed only with five basic Japanese phrases. Wishing I had spent the time to learn Kanji, the grocery store was a challenge and, much to my surprise, my first can of purchased tuna fish came with a vertebra in it! I soon became a repeat customer at the café located within the park featuring an inventive interpretation of pizza. When touring the local restaurants, stores and potteries, one will observe a multitude of Tanukis – a characterized Japanese raccoon dog sculpture sold throughout the area promising wealth and good luck to the owner. A stay in Shigaraki would be incomplete without a trip to the nearby Miho Museum (http://www.miho.or.jp/en/ ). This museum and its mountain top location is breathtaking – both for its amazing collection of ancient global art and ceramics but for its scenery.
Near the end of my residency, I provided a slide show of my own work and apparently gave the translator quite a challenge with my narrative work. I called to the audience to ask if anyone had attended a craftschools.us (http://www.craftschools.us/) organization and was delighted to see how many international artists had and we took a group photo to celebrate our common love of the experience. In addition to being able to work in this amazing ceramic center, it was a gift to be able to live within a community that was so very kind and thoughtful. In Shigaraki, the pace is slower than ours and basic human interaction allows time for pleasantries and not as much time attached to a cell-phone – whether it be in the studio or the local store. Returned to my busy role at the Harvard Ceramics Program (https://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/ceramics ) , I look around at my own community craft space with a new appreciation – pleased to be part of an international conversation on the importance of craft education. I cherish my time at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural park and thank craftschools.us for allowing me the opportunity of studio time, experimentation and growth in such an outstanding setting.
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