Swanica explores Japan

Monday, February 26, 2007

Euan Craig gave a workshop in Mashiko at the Tao International Tougei Center of Furuki-san on Feb 22-24 for the student and parent potters of the International School of the Sacred Heart from Tokyo. This was organized by the head of the art department Steve Tootell.


Euan started out with how to wedge clay and then how to throw cups and bowls. Then the girls and parents started to wedge clay and throw pots. There were beginners and some who already knew how to throw. Kusakabe-san was also there and we helped where we could.

The next day, Euan showed how to trim the cups.

Euan had brought a plaster mold from a face and showed how to make slabs and put one in the mold. The moisture of the clay goes in the dry plaster mold. The clay slab releases and you have a face mask.

They made a mask from Jill's face. First, you put on a lot of vaseline on your face, so, the mask will not stick when you take it off. Then you put wet bandages, big and small strips, with plaster of Paris on the face. You leave the nostrils open.

After 10 minutes you can take off the mask and go clean up your face.
This is a negative of your face.

After the mask is completely dry, you fill it up with clay, take the plaster bandage mask from the clay and you have again a positive of your face.

Here, Jill cleaned her positive face and corrected and modeled it, so, it would be ready to make the plaster mold.

You build a wooden box around the head and fill the cracks. Then you pour the plaster in the wooden box on the clay face and let it harden.

This face mold is again a negative of your face. And from this mold you can take a lot of face masks.

With another project Euan showed how to build a face stand.
First, he filled a bag of newspaper with sawdust, which he can shape in a hollow form. He put a precut slab on the newspaper and started building the sides.

He filled the inside with sawdust and put the second slab on the sawdust, which kept the shape. The slab will not collapse. When it is hard enough to put it up, he will empty out the sawdust.

He put the face on the stand.

It was a great workshop with a wonderful group of people. It felt good to be back in Mashiko.

You can watch this video made by Steve Tootell about the workshop: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqxBT0dOIBo
A potter in Kamakura, Sato-san, generously offered me some space in his workshop to work.

It is a 20 minute bicycle ride from my house and a little bit in the hills. A wonderful natural excercise.

It was a very old house. While renovating, he put this workshop in one of the rooms. He makes beautiful pots and has a gallery upstairs in his house.

The drying racks in the workshop.

The work table.

A beautiful view from the window while you throw on the wheel.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Last week, we went to Odawara to the Soga Plum Grove. In the morning it was storming and raining, but luckily the weather cleared and we were able to walk through the orchard.

A pink wheeping Plum tree.

Some branches full with blossoms.

The mountains in the back with clouds.

In a warehouse I found a beautiful scroll with a Plum branch painting. It hangs in our room with some branches in one of my vases.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

There were wonderful table settings at the Tableware Festival 2007 in Tokyo Dome.

This one is the Autumn table setting. I like the warm feeling of it.

The Lilly table setting.

The Rose table setting.

The Japanese Scroll table setting.

A beautiful Oribe plate.

Then there were booths with all kinds of additional wares to enhances the dining room and the dining experience.




Iron kettles.
So, in the afternoon, I went to Tokyo Dome to the Tableware Festival 2007.
It was astonishing and so much to see.

Yo Thom's work.
Her website: http://www.yothom.com

Euan Craig's work.
Look also on my blog in the month of July for more of his work. http://www.d1.dion.ne.jp/~euan/sub4.htm

Penny Simpson's pottery work. She wrote "The Japanese Pottery Handbook" together with Lucy Kitto and Kanji Sodeoka.

There were rooms where they had all kinds of small table settings.

Lacquer ware table setting.

Oribe ware table setting.

Black lacquer ware table setting.

Porcelain ware table setting.

Crystal glassware setting.

Pink/purple glassware.

On February the 10th, I attended a workshop from Yo Thom at the Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo.

Yo Thom is born in Tokyo and went to Britain after she got her degree in English. She started at the Kent Institute of Art and Design. In the meantime she assisted Lisa Hammond, a well-known British studio potter, and became a full-time apprentice after getting her MA degree in ceramics.
She lives in London, has her studio there and produces hand thrown functional stoneware. Yo exhibits her work in the UK as well as in Japan.

Here she shows us how to throw a teardrop form, which she uses for her functional ware.
She pulls up the clay.

She talks about a "kote" tool. This one is a specific one : a "egote" tool and used for shaping from the inside tall or narrow-necked forms. This tool was carved for her by Ken Matzusake.

Closing of the tear drop.

Checking the curve.

The last touch is making some dimpels, a mark she uses for almost all her pots.

In the afternoon, we went to Tokyo Dome where she participated in the Tableware Festival 2007.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Today, I went to the Keio department store and attended a tea ceremony "chanoyu".
This ceremony is a great art and is engrained into the Japanese culture. It signifies no more than the making and serving of a cup of tea, but the supremely important matter is that the act be performed in the most perfect, most polite, most graceful and most charming manner possible.

When you enter the tearoom, you first proceed to the "tokonoma" alcove, where you admire the scroll, the "chabana" (the simple style of flower arranging used in "chanoyu") and other decorations. Then you seat yourself in "seiza" style on the "tatami mat" on a assigned place.

There is a long history, but in the 12th century the "matcha", powdered green tea, was introduced by Eisai, a Japanese monk returning from China. This tea was first used in religious rituals in Zen Buddhist monastaries, which started here in Kamakura. The samurai warriors had begun preparing and drinking matcha in a effort to adopt Zen Buddhism and the foundations of the tea ceremony were laid.

If no meal is served, the host will proceed directly to the serving of a small sweet "o-kashi". They are eaten from a special paper called "kaishi"

By the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan.Sen no Rikyu followed his master, Takeno Joo's belief that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings brought to full development "sado": the principles of harmony "wa", respect "kei", purity "sei" and tranquility "jaku", still central to tea ceremony today.

Tea equipment is called "dogu". A wide range of "dogu" is necessary for even the most basic tea ceremony.

The host poured hot water with the bamboo ladle from the iron kettle on the hearth to clean the "chawan". She turned the bowl slowly with very specific movements.

She poured hot water on the matcha.

Then she wisked the matcha and then presented the bowl with again very specific movements.
All the time you also bow in politeness with your two hands on the mat in front of you.

This bowl was presented to me with the matcha tea. You turn it around in your hand and find the front. Then you drink the tea. When you're finished, you admire the bowl.

This is an interesting website to start with if you would like to know more about the "chanoyu":