Wednesday 12 November 2008

Friends in Mashiko

Michael Warner and Kate Carruthers came to visit us on their way to Australia from their pottery "Starfish Ceramics" on Mull in Scotland. During their stay we visited the Hamada Museum in Mashiko. The original Hamada pottery is now a reference museum, and the current Hamada pottery has been moved next door. Sitting at the kick wheel brought back fond memories of my time at Shimaokas.

Of course Hamada sensei himself usually worked cross legged at the hand wheel. A stick would be notched into the hollows at the edge of the wheel and the wheel "wound up", then momentum would keep it spinning long enough to centre, form the basic shape and then "wound up" again to finish the pot. Very soft clay and slow revolutions makes the process very expressive. Without the hum of the electric wheel, with a veiw of the garden through the shoji screens, it could not help but imbue his pots with a great sense of peace.

In the garden stand a pair of statues of sheep. Mika wondered if he put them there to remind him of his time in england. The leaves are turning to orange as the autumn gets colder.

Beside the workshop firewood is stacked between bamboo to warm the space through winter. Fire was always a danger with thatched rooves, so the Kanji for water is marked in the end of the thatch, along with a turtle to ward off fire.

Many of the buildings are thatched in the traditional way. They are all buildings which Hamada moved to the compound from other parts of Japan to preserve them. This guest house was moved to the site on horse and dray on dirt roads. Some of the beams are so massive they had to be moved by two drays in tandem.

We let ourselves get too busy and flustered to take notice of the beauty that surrounds us. It is that simple beauty that inspire Hamadas work and which we must try to discover in our own lives, not only for our own sakes, but for generations to come.


  1. Thanks, Euan, for the tour of Hamada's sites. I came to Mashiko in 2004 with George and visited you in your home and studio. Meeting you was a special treat as was watching you throw dozens of pieces in only moments (or so it seemed). I enjoy reading your blog--it is as close as I can get to a return trip! Gay

  2. Hi Gay,
    Great to hear from you!

    Hamada Shoji said that an artist potter needed the same skills as a "shokunin" or journeyman thrower. If not your expression will be limited by your skills. High skill levels also allow more spontaneous expression.

    Hamada Shinsaku, his son, told me a story about watching a thrower make 300 rice bowls in a day. I'm not sure that I can make dozens in moments, but I have been known to 300 a day!

    I hope you can come back and visit again some time, and who knows, I may eventually get over to the states.

    All the best,