Wednesday 29 February 2012

The Mayors Speech

 It is still dark as I drive through the snow to Tokyo on Monday morning. In the back of the little truck, wrapped snugly and packed safely in boxes, are 107 pieces of my pottery for the exhibition at the Tokyo American Club. The exhibition of five master potters from Mashiko is being held to launch the next stage of Mashiko's recovery after the great earthquake.  Ken Matsuzaki, Tomoo Hamada, Akihiko Ishijima, Akiko Tao and I will be exhibiting in the Frederick Harris Gallery for four weeks, and the Tokyo American Club will be donating the proceeds from sales to earthquake relief. Now that many of the kilns are rebuilt in Mashiko, the task will be to get back in production, get the vessels out to the world, and get mashiko back on  its feet again. 
I arrive at 9:00 am, having navigated through Tokyo peak hour traffic to the club which is situated between the Russian Embassy and the Afghanistan Embassy, and pull into the secure car park. My dirty little truck seems incongruous amid the luxury cars, and the valet seems to enjoy the novelty!  

The other potters arrive around the same time and we set to the task of unpacking the work and setting up the exhibition. Several of the gallery committee members show us the ropes and help us get organised. Each potter has one of five large glass cases to display the work, and we joke and laugh as the exhibition starts to take shape.

Akiko Tao's display

The potters represent different aspects of Mashiko pottery and our work is quite different. I think the balance is very good, and say so to Ken who agrees;

"この展覧会は非常にバランスの良い5人です不協和音ないのが珍しいです、海外でもやってみたいですね." 松崎健
("This exhibition is an extraordinarily well balanced 5 person show without any discord, which is rare. I'd really like to show this overseas." Ken Matsuzaki)  

Akihiko Ishijima setting up his display

A spectator sport! I watch  Tomoo Hamada in action setting up his display.
Tomoo's work on the carpet

The exhibition is opened by the president of the Tokyo American Club, Lance E Lee at a formal reception. Each of the artists give a speech, introducing themselves to the guests and explaining the process and philosophy behind their work. The speeches need to be translated into English on the spot, and I find myself as interpreter and artist!
Ken Matsuzaki making his speech.


The Mayor of Mashiko, Tomoyuki Ohtsuka, with Hamada, me and Ishijima. 

The Mayor of Mashiko, Tomoyuki Ohtsuka, makes an official speech as part of the opening ceremony. He is well prepared, with an English speech that he delivers with great sincerity. He calls each artist to stand beside him as he introduces them.

"Good Evening, my name is Tomoyuki Ohtsuka, I am the Mayor of Mashiko

I would like to thank the historic Tokyo American Club for opening the Mashiko Potters Recovery Exhibition today.

As you all know, Mashiko was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March of last year, but with the support of the international community Mashiko is gradually recovering. Supporting exhibitions such as this is a great encouragement for the recovery of Mashiko. As representative of the town of Mashiko, I offer our sincere gratitude.

Cultural power is the power to create something, is it not? I believe in the cultural power that Shoji Hamada and the potters who followed him have nurtured in Mashiko. It is fair to say that the work of the potters introduced here today (at the Frederick Harris Gallery) is the fruition of that cultural power.

I would like to introduce the 5 Mashiko potters introduced here today.

It is said that Japanese pottery is firing first, clay second and craftsmanship third, and Ken Matsuzaki’s pottery, of course skilfully crafted, incorporates the merit of the Oriental Noborigama climbing kiln and Anagama tunnel kiln through his personal wood firing process, to create vessels which could only be made by Ken Matsuzaki’s hand.

Tomoo Hamada is, as I’m sure you all know, the grandson of the potter Shoji Hamada, but, while using Mashiko clay, Mashiko glazes, and firing in a Noborigama to preserve the Hamada tradition, without copying the work of Shoji, is creating the next generation of Hamada pottery.

Then there is Akihiko Ishijima who, in the functional pottery town of Mashiko, rather than functional work, creates works which appear to be three dimensional vessels trapped in two dimensions, and his expression through clay is fascinating.

The pottery of Euan Craig, who studied in Mashiko, with an Australian sensibility and a Japanese spirit, creates ceramic art which combines both beauty and function in pottery for use.

 And recently the world of pottery has seen the advance of women, and Mashiko has nurtured many female potters. Akiko Tao, a lady potter, uses the now rare kick wheel to produce her fresh and powerful vessels.

The work of all of these artists is rich with the fragrance of Mashiko, and I’m sure they will bring pleasure to you all.

In closing, I would like to express my deep thanks to everyone at the Tokyo American Club Frederick Harris Gallery and all those involved in bringing about this exhibition."

He calls me to his side and puts his arm around my shoulder as he speaks of me to the guests. "An Australian sensibility and a Japanese spirit," he says, then looks at me, gripping my shoulder stronger. "A Japanese spirit," he repeats...

I am proud and humble to be a part of this exhibition. Even though I do not live in Mashiko now,  it will always be a part of me.  


  1. What a heartfelt & beautiful comment the Mayor of Mashiko made about you. You & your family must be so proud of your achievements.
    Being a Melbourne boy, you could suggest the exhibition comes out to Australia.

  2. I wish I could see that exhibition in person, it looks so well displayed and does justice to the beautiful work.

    I hope the work sells well

  3. looking tight, glad to hear the kilns are restored. best to all,
    J Bodilly

  4. Congratulations on being part of such a nice and important exhibition!

  5. There is more than mere recovery at work here...there is Renewal as well. Congratulations all!

  6. I found an old report in french about the potter Hamada and his family. I added it in my blog under the title "trésor du passé". Maybe it will interest you. Thank you so much for your blog to which I am faithful since a few months.
    A french fan ! :)