Wednesday 5 August 2009

ART FOR ETERNITY; Discovering "Nontemporary Art"

Twelve million years ago Japan was the bed of a cold and shallow sea. Volcanic action and the moving of continents pushed this archipelago up out of the sea, built mountain ranges and valleys. Rain and erosion resculpted the landscape, filling the valleys with clay. Vegetation created rich soil and over ages these islands became what they are today. Throughout Japan, however, there still remains a layer of sedimentary rock, a strata that was once sea bed, and the evidence of its history can still be found there.   
"Ichikai", the name of the town in which we live, means "City of Shells". In this area there are some of the best fossil deposits in Japan, and the other day we went excavating with some people from the prefectural museum of natural history.    
The children all participated, and we found a variety of different shells.    


Time and pressure had changed the structure of the primordial mud, forcing the separate particles to meld together, embedding these beautiful forms and pattern into the rock for all eternity.  
As a potter, I too am trying to transform mud into stone, melting the particles together to form a new material which bears the patterns and forms which I have consciously created. By firing the kiln to 1300 Celsius I achieve in human time scales what nature does in geological time over millions of years. There is a limit to what I can do though, and I trust the forces nature to take my work beyond my limitations.   
To prevent the pots from being stuck in the kiln by liquid glass from the molten, running ash I will sometimes set the pots on sea shells. I fill them with clay to prevent them from collapsing, then place the pots on top of them.In the firing some carbon dioxide will burn off from the calcium carbonate of the shells, leaving the shape of the shells intact as calcium oxide.   
Even if ash runs down and sticks on the shells, the pots can be taken from the kiln with the shells attached. They can then be put into water and the calcium oxide will dissolve into sludge, leaving only the shell marks on the foot of the vessel, in this case tea bowls.
Sea shells also contain a small amount of salt, which will turn into sodium gas during the firing, giving orange flashing on the inside of the foot. The spiral left by the trimming tool on the base of the pots resonates with the spirals of sea shells, not as a conscious representation but as a natural consequence of the forming process.   
It is the beauty which springs from the natural process that imbues these works with their intrinsic charm. This beauty, this art, is not pretentious nor contrived, like much representational art, nor is it bound to a specific set of aesthetics or social mores as is contemporary art and fashion. This beauty is relevant to any one who loves beauty regardless of culture or creed, in any age, and will last for all of eternity. This is "Nontemporary Art".


  1. Your work is remarkable! Good work, I love it.

  2. What a wonderful chance encounter! Thank you so much for this post. I am a geology graduate approaching my 70's and began serious potting about 4 years ago. I am currently making sculpture with reference to images which mark the previous existence of a living creature. I wanted to render 'steinkern'(the mineralised cast of a now dissolved fossil)and from your description I believe this will now be able to happen.I really enjoy your posts - so poetic and gentle.