The schools of the craftschool.us consortium (Arrowmont, Haystack, Penland, Peters Valley, and Pilchuck) want makers of all kinds to know about the dynamic educational experiences that take place in our workshops. 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. This year we developed an exchange program with the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan..
Nozumu Shinohara, a potter who lives in Shigaraki, was selected to participate in a two-week residency program at Haystack followed by a two-week workshop at Penland. In the fall American potter Kathy King, director of education in the ceramics program at the Office for the Arts at Harvard University, will travel of Shigaraki for a month-long residency. Shigaraki potters are known for wood-firing and a rough clay body, and Kathy works in porcelain creating drawn narratives on her pots. She says that she is looking forward to working on a different surface and experimenting with other clays.
We don’t know where Kathy’s studio time working with an international community of makers in Japan will lead, but if the past is any indication, it will have unanticipated encounters and adaptations to a new setting that will inform her work. For Nozumu, his time at Haystack and Penland introduced him to an American studio experience and inspired those working around him.
Nozumu lives in the traditional pottery community of Shigaraki, where he wood-fires his pots made from local clay. He was an apprentice for ten years before establishing his own pottery in 1999. This was his first time in the United States, and he experienced the interdisciplinary spirit and the collegiality of the craft schools.
At Haystack for the Open Studio Residency, where artists can work in any of the school’s six media specific studios, he got to see a less traditional and more freewheeling approach to craft. “In Japan,” he said, “we’re connected to one particular material. Here you have so many ways of combining materials and interacting—your initial idea can change.”
One of the artists he met at Haystack was Niho Kozuru. Niho, a sculptor who works in cast glass and other materials, moved from Japan to the US when she was 12. . While she comes from a well known pottery family in Japan, as an artist she had never worked with clay. Talking and working with Nozumu allowed her, she says “to see and connect with (her) roots.” and she began to experiment with clay. It’s the kind of chance encounter that can happen working side-by-side with others.
At Penland, Nozumu participated in ceramics workshop taught by Josh Copus and Ben Richardson that featured the use of locally dug clay. Josh brought a truckload of clay from nearby Madison County, and the class also dug clay at Penland. Students learned how to process the clay and some (including Nozumu) chose to use it in its unrefined state. For Nozumu, using local clay was similar to the way he and many other potters work in Japan. He was excited, he said, to make pots with what he called ‘the wild clay’ of North Carolina. Beyond making his own pots, Nozumu met and worked with American potters. He was surprised by how much they knew about the pottery of Shigaraki and traditional wood-firing techniques.
The bonds that can be established in a two-week session can be surprisingly strong. At the end of the workshop, Josh gave each participant an ‘award’—a handmade brick stamped with the word ‘community’ along with a notation for each student. Nozumu’s was for his “honorable work as a cultural ambassador”. (You can watch him receive his award here)
The sessions end, but relationships and ways of working continue. Following the Haystack residency this summer, Niho Kozuru returned to her home in Boston and, inspired by her time working alongside with Nozumu, decided that she wanted to learn more about ceramic history. She enrolled in a course at Harvard-- taught by Kathy King-- and discovered that Kathy would be traveling to Shigaraki. That’s the kind of unanticipated connection that can emerge from a workshop or residency, whether we’ve traveled to another country or just down the road.
Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of the poetry collections Only Now (Deerbook Editions, 2014), Prayers & Run-on Sentences (Deerbook, 2007), House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook, 2003), and Pilgrimage (Coyote Love Press, 1990)—and a collection of essays: The View From Here (Brynmorgen Press, 2012). A former director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, he is the poet laureate of Maine.
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