Swanica explores Japan

Monday, July 10, 2006

Shimaoka Tatsuzo is born in 1919 in Tokyo.
When Shimaoka was a teenager , wondering what to do when he grew up, he visited the Nihon Mingeikan (Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo) in 1938. There he discovered the beauty of Mingei advocated by Yanagi Soetsu (1889-1961). Shimaoka had found what he wanted to become and met the most passionate advocates of Yanagi's Mingei Movement: Hamada Shoji, Kawai Kanjiro and Bernard Leach.

Shimaoka began making pottery in 1939 as a student at the Tokyo Institue of Technology's Department of Ceramics. Shimaoka joined Hamada's workshop as an appentice after graduation and four years later, built his own, independent kiln adjacent to his teacher's in Mashiko.
Shimaoka developed his own personal style. He was designated a "Living National Treasure" by the Japanese government in 1996 for developeng a pottery technique where white slip is applied to rope impressions made in the surface of the pot when it is still wet: something he calls "Jomon Zogan".
Shimaoka-san himself gave us a tour despite his old age and showed us his kilns, the workshops with throwing, decorating and glazing areas. David apprenticed with him for 2 years 27 years ago and Lee in 2000 for 3 years.

Shimaoka-san talking to his "deshi".

Putting slip on a rope impressed vessel.

Scraping off the hardened white slip.

Platters drying in the sun.

We also went in his showroom. You always take your shoes off and walk carefully around. He was preparing for a show. His work is beautiful, but of course quite expensive.

We had tea in his house and we drank from his cups and had a nice talk. He knew quite some english, understood more then he could talk. Mike and David did most of the talking because of their Japanese language skills. We got a catalogue from him when we left and he joked, when he looked at it, that it was old work and that it was time to make some new designs. Good for him!


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