Swanica explores Japan

Sunday, July 09, 2006

On Sunday, we visited Gerd Knapper: a potter, ceramic artist, sculpture and person of lots of other trades: painter and decorator, restorer, art metal workshop assistant, sailor, photographer and architect.

David, Lee, Hank, Craig, Jean (Lee's wife), Jim, Swanica, Mike and Gerd Knapper.

We drove through the wonderful Tochigi prefecture country side with plenty of rice fields and beautiful flowers (red puppies, irisses) as we arrived at his Tarosaka studios and fabulous and world famous Japanese manor in Daigo-machi(town) with dormor windows and reed thatched roof. It was built about 170 years ago and Gerd Knapper restored and redesigned it in 1976.

We were greeted by him, his wife and oldest daughter. He is a very interesting, generous, hospitable and friendly man and offered us refreshments. He took us to the "Fukuroda no taki" (waterfalls) and gave us a delicious lunch with view of the falls.

On our return, he showed us his noborigama (climbing kiln), other kilns and workshops. In the fall, he will open a gallery in one of his barns.

Gerd Knapper's prides include his family, house ceramics, sculptures and commissions. His ceramics are scattered in museums and houses all over the world.

He has been living in Mashiko for 6 years as the first foreigner potter before establishing himself in Daigo for 31 years by building his own kiln. He has been strongly influenced by the country and in turn strongly influences pottery in Japan. He has succeeded in combining the Japanese style with the technical expertise brought to Japan from his native Germany.
Knapper has done what no western ceramist had accomplished before him. He not only won both the prestigious "Minister of Education Award" and the no less prestigious "Prime Minister's Award", but he followed his distinctly individual vision and still was enormously successful with the Japanese public.

Knapper's art reflects his affinity for nature. Shells and flowers are among his recurring forms. He demonstrates respect for the achievements of Japanese potters, yet he is only Knapper the artist, who cannot be claimed by a country or style.


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