Friday 19 April 2013

More pictures from Mashiko

Hello all
I took many photographs while I was away, these were all taken at Tomoo Hamada's place.

The kiln doesn't have a conventional chimney, it flues through the end of the climbing chamber. It must be quite a remarkable sight when it is in full flame.

Tomoo's workshop

These split lengths of bamboo are used for feeding salt in to the salt kiln.
The salt kiln

Tomoo and me
Pottery shops in Mashiko
Path made from dense firebrick
'oooo men' for Hannah
I was surprised by how similar so many of the plant species are to the ones at home.

Shoji Hamada's house
Kiln at the Mashiko Museum
Shoji's house again

Thursday 18 April 2013

Mashiko last week

Hello all. Here's a blog post that I wrote last Wednesday when I visited Mashiko.

Well what an incredible day I just had. I’m lying in bed, wide awake as my time clock is still completely confused and my mind is mulling over the events of today. There is no internet access in this little travel lodge in the woods on the outskirts of Mashiko, so I’m writing this now, to put on line at the next opportunity.
It’s a great place, nothing like the travel lodges back home, with their cheap and tacky interiors.
I don’t dare press any of those buttons.

So here’s the story of my day. It began with a soak in the deep bath of my hotel, before I packed up may bags ready to say farewell to Tokyo. Koi picked me up at 9.30 and we headed off by car to Mashiko. It was interesting to see the terrain change as we headed further north away from the city. Koi told me that only 30% of Japan is habitable, because the rest is too mountainous. The houses in Tokyo are very close together, but as we entered more rural territory, the buildings were more spread out amongst flat farm land, flanked by sudden rugged mountains. It was a beautiful sight.

A couple of hours later, we arrived in Mashiko at a restaurant, where we met with Tomoo Hamada. How surreal, to be sitting down cross legged on the floor, eating lunch with this famous man. We ate a huge meal of pork cutlets and salad and rice and I did my best with the chopsticks, then made our way to the Hamada workshop.

I didn’t want to start taking photographs indoors, it would have felt disrespectful.

Tomoo showed us the almighty climbing kiln with its five chambers. The last two chambers had needed to be rebuilt following the earthquake.

And he showed us the salt glaze kiln. It was fascinating and quite overwhelming.

We left Tomoo and made our way in to the centre of Mashiko. Koi had an appointment to attend, so I wandered around the numerous pottery shops, looking at the local wares.

I saw more climbing kilns and a whole variety of different styles of pottery. It has really struck me how many people here use hand-made pottery every day.
I also wandered in to this wonderful old building where fabric was being dyed deep indigo blue, the floor containing numerous vats of steaming dye.

This had been the trade in Mashiko before it became established as a pottery town.

Koi and I met up again at 4 pm and went to The Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art, where we saw a fantastic exhibition of works by Bernard Leach and his associates, before meeting the Vice Director of the Museum in his office. He wanted to interview me with a view to possibly including my work in an exhibition in September, demonstrating the influence of Leach on contemporary British makers. I was delighted to have been accepted, so that’s very exciting.

Then I stood smiling in disbelief outside Shoji Hamada’s house.

This evening we met with Mr Yokobori from the museum again and had a delicious meal.

On tonight’s menu, these wonderful salads.

Oysters, another first for me and really good.

 Burdock root wrapped in bacon.

What a brilliant day, Koi has really looked after me so well, it has been a mind blowing, inspirational experience.

Tomorrow we are meeting Tomoo again to visit the Mashiko Hamada archive and then to see Ken Matsusaki, before I jump on a train to my next destination, Tokoname.

Wednesday 17 April 2013


Hello there
Well I'm home, lying in my bed in Devon. I got back on Monday evening after a grueling 32 hour journey which knocked me out all day yesterday with a migraine. I need to get back to work today. I will have plenty to think about in my little workshop, deep in the English countryside, half a world away from my adventures in Japan.

It's early in the morning now and the song thrush is singing outside my window, the beautiful song it sings every morning here - there is no sweeter music. I loved every minute of being away, incredible adventures, amazing sights and wonderful people. I love home too. I wandered out to the workshop last night when I finally arose from my sickbed and it was a joy to smell the cool, damp air of the Devon countryside. It's so easy to allow the beauty of everyday life to go unnoticed and going away exposes my senses, not just to the wider world, but also to my own environment when I return. I love it here so much.

I was off line for a while last week and then so busy living life that I didn't have a chance to blog about it, but I have many pictures that I took and I'll share some of them with you in the next few days. It has been a mind blowing experience and  I have memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Thank you so much to all the people who looked after me so well while I was away, I made some really good friends. It was brilliant spending time with you all.