Wednesday 21 October 2009

Below the Belt

Yesterday saw the end of my exhibition at Mitsukoshi. Thanks to all of my guests throughout the exhibition for your support. I was very touched by the gifts I received. It was great experience and I would like to thank everybody involved in the exhibition, its preparation and successful execution. In particular Hashimoto san was fantastic, both in his cooperation at the design stage and the fantastic food he served throughout the exhibition and also the wonderful demonstrations that he did with me at the talk shows at Mitsukoshi on the 10th.

The demonstrations were packed, with all the seats taken and folks standing up at the back. I've never been comfortable with a microphone, but Hashimoto san was provided the only clip on which left his hands free. After an introduction by the Mitsukoshi MC, I gave a talk about the aesthetic and technical aspects of my work, about why I became a potter and about the food and pottery collaboration. Hashimoto san then gave a demonstration and a talk about how best to serve food on my vessels, the principles of composition and the importance of emphasising the season, and balance in flavours, textures and colours. It was a fascinating and educational experience for everyone.

Many guests were able to enjoy the vessels and the cuisine at Kappo Toyoda during the exhibition (including myself...fantastic!), and at one stage there were so many bookings we borrowed extra vessels from the exhibition! All in all another invaluable experience to have under my belt.

Monday 19 October 2009

Craftsmanship and time

"As I was going down the stairs,

I met a man who wasn't there.

He wasn't there again today,

I wish that he would go away."

After a hundred or so years of being polished by slippered feet, the stairs of the Okazaki Ryoukan have worn into soft waves around the wood grain. As the morning light caught the edge of the step on my way to the onsen, I felt part of the long line of guests who had unwittingly participated in the creation of this beauty.

Traditional Japanese architecture is a study in light and shade. Shoji screens that allow diffused light to enter a room, light filtering through the "Ran Ma" screens above the walls, light reflected off the tatami floors. These Ran Ma also allow a flow of air between rooms, helping to prevent mold and ventilate the rooms.

There is no glue used in making this screen, the component parts having been cut by hand with impeccable precision. There was a pride in the creation of these works, made by unknown artisans. It was not about fame or wealth, though reputation brought work, and work brought income. It was about the beauty of the every day, and creating beautiful spaces in which to live, and finding value in living every day.

The light changes with the seasons, and the symbols of nature were used as themes in the architecture. These clerestory screens have sprigs of pine needles incorporated in the lattice. It was beautiful waking in the morning to the soft autumn luminescence, and the view of the leaves changing across the mountains beyond the hand made glass of the engawa. I look forward to returning again next year.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

North to Murata

There is less than a week left to visit my exhibition at Mitsukoshi in Tokyo, but for many that is too far to travel. Mashiko is at least 3 hours drive north of Tokyo, and tomorrow I will be trekking another four hours north to the town of Murata in Miyagi Prefecture for the annual autumn pottery festival there. The festival is open to the public Friday 16th, Saturday 17th from 10:00am~6:00pm and Sunday 18th from 10:00am~4:00pm. You will find a map linked here.

The main street is lined with historic store houses, many of which are no longer in use. For the duration of the festival the towns folk lend out these "Kura" to potters to exhibit their wares. There are about 70 potters who attend the festival, and many visitors come from Sendai and Yamagata to view and purchase our pottery.

This will be the 6th year that I am participating. Each year the display sites are decided by drawing lots, so we never know where we will be from year to year. You'll just have to find me!
One of my favourite things about this festival is staying at Okazaki Ryoukan, at Aone "onsen" hot spring on mount Zao. The lodgings are edo period (who knows what stories those creaking floors could tell!) and the natural hot spring is REALLY HOT! Just perfect for relaxing after a long hard journey.

Monday 5 October 2009

Mashiko Workshop

The 10th World Art Educators Workshop will be happening here in Mashiko later this month. (Thursday October 29th till Sunday November1st)

This year the theme is architectural ceramics and we will be working in the studio of Ikuzo Fujiwara. Fujiwara san is the leading architectural ceramic artist in Japan, with murals and monuments and other large scale public works throughout the country. I will be visiting him this week during his Anagama firing to fine tune some details, and will be interpretting throughout the workshop.

We will be staying at the old potters inn at Mashiko pottery club, with its open charcoal brazier over which we will prepare a traditional "nabe" supper to welcome everybody on the Thursday night.

On Friday and Saturday we will be going to Fujiwara sans studio where he will demonstrate and teach the techniques he uses for large murals, solid clay sculptures which he fires in an anagama, and glass casting with recycled glass. Participants will get hands on experience using his techniques to produce large and small ceramic reliefs.

On Friday night we will be enjoying a Japanese Kaiseki meal, with the option of an onsen afterwards, and on Saturday night a Cajun meal at the log house restaurant of George Guine.
On Sunday participants will be able to enjoy the Mashiko Pottery Festival, with 600 potters from all over Japan displaying their works (Including Me!). Everyone can then return to the real world from which they came....

The Organizer, Steve Tootell, tells me we have a very varied international group this year, but there are only 4 places left, so if you want to participate, please contact him for more details.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday 1 October 2009

Dinner and a Show

The curtain is up! My exhibition at Mitsukoshi Department store started yesterday, as did the "Euan Kaiseki" course at Kappo Toyoda. It has been a very hard schedule to make up time after the fever, but it all worked out and opened successfully!

This is my first exhibition at Mitsukoshi, which is the oldest and most prestigious department store in Japan. I am very pleased with the display, the staff have been fantastic and their advice has been invaluable.

The full course "Kaiseki" menu at Toyoda is amazing (as always)! This really is the culmination of years of collaboration between Hashimoto san and I, and the new works come to life with the cuisine. The pinnacle must be this "Usuzukuri" sashimi plate with chattering and a celadon glaze. The interaction between the lace like translucency of the sashimi and the chattering is just magic.

Vessels for Entertaining
September 30~October 20, 2009
10:00 am~7:00 pm daily
Mitsukoshi Department Store
Nihombashi Honten (Head Office)
5F Remix Style Gallery
Nihombashi, Tokyo

"Euan Kaiseki"
September 30~October 20, 2009
Kappo Toyoda
1-12-3 Muro Machi, Nihombashi, Tokyo
5:00~10:00 pm daily
(closed Sundays and public holidays)
10,500 Yen per person

Demonstration & Talk show with
Hashimoto Touru and Euan Craig;
Remix Style Gallery
October 10,
2:00~2:30 pm

There are more than 400 pieces in the exhibition, and 200 being used by the restaurant.On the 10th Master Chef Touru Hashimoto will be demonstrating serving techniques with my vessels while we discuss the Japanese food and vessel relationship. I will be at the gallery on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th and 20th of October. If you have time and are in the area, by all means drop by for a look or indulge in a fantastic meal!