My road to Japan

This will be in my next firing.

This will be in my next firing.

In 1986 I took my first trip outside of the U.S. Basically a ten week trip through parts of Europe. I met a lot of travelers who were on one or two year trips around the world. I discovered the traveling community is small. You run into the same people over and over. On a subsequent trip through South East Asia I ran into a Dutch man 4 times, all in different countries, all unplanned. The most surprising time being in Varanasi when I was getting into and then hopping out of a rickshaw when the driver would up the price, this going on for 10 or more minutes. Just as I was tiring of the game around the corner walked my  Dutch friend. I think I asked him what took him so long.

Getting back from Europe I then set about saving money to go on a one year trip. At the time I was enrolled in college and doing land surveying as my way of making a living. Yes, land surveying is kind of an unusual job to do when pursuing a degree in the arts but it fit my model of challenging work that left me a lot of time to get on with my studies.

I finished saving in a little over a year and headed off to South East Asia. Indonesia for two months, Thailand for two months, Burma for one month, Nepal for two, India for six, Sri Lanka for one, on to Europe for 3 weeks and finally to New York and Washington D.C. where I would bought a bicycle and rode it out to California and back to college.

Mission accomplished. I was picked up at Union Station in Los Angeles by a  friend from high school and headed off to California State Long Beach, bypassing UCLA which I see in hindsight I should have selected.

I finished up my BFA in drawing and painting with a focus on multimedia, still doing land surveying to make a living, and saving for another one year trip in  celebration of my degree. I actually focused on performance art, working a lot with Rachel Rosenthal or workshops such as Performance Rooted in Ceremony and Ritual in Humbolt. I have some great videos of work from that time. I will post them as soon as I get them transferred from VHS to digital.

At the time of finishing my degree I was living with my girlfriend, Ozula Sioux Moreno, ne Tammy Sioux Moreno. She was given her name by Nora Wynne in Humboldt. The story on the name is Nora and I were talking as Ozula was taking a nap in the next room. Nora said she doesn’t look like a Tammy, I said ‘Well, what does she look like?’ and without thinking she had a new name, adopted as Tammy magically appeared in the door to adopt it.

I headed out on a trip with a  remarkably similar itinerary to my first trip although with different destinations within the different countries.

Two months in Indonesia, two in Thailand, six in India, and then six or so in Africa. Or so the plan went. In Thailand, on to India everything went according to plan but I had to make a detour back to Thailand to finish teaching a class in performance in Chaing Mai.

I went back to Chang Mai and after I finished doing what I had to do in Thailand and headed to the airport to head over to India.
At the airport in Bangkok, on my way back to India, I first caught sight of Yukiko, my wife. It is cliche to say things like love at first sight and what not but in my case, walking as I was in front of her, for some unknown reason glancing behind me and seeing her, my first thought was “Now, that is a woman I could marry.” I had the same thought as I sat staring at her in the waiting area before boarding the plane. A little conversation on the plane, a shared taxi to Paharganj with another Japanese, making it a three way split on the bill and fifteen years of marriage later I can say it was a good thing to listen to the thought.

I had an interest in Japan ever since seeing this video on Ankoku no Butoh in Japanese Art History taught by Dr. Ingrid All’s  at CSULB. I have been here since 1994, a ticket to Nairobi somewhere in my attic. I did do some performance and worked with a few people here, Katsura Kan or here being one of them. I quickly discovered the Butoh I knew from videos and my exposure was very different than the Butoh going on here. After about one year I gave up performance all together, leaving me without an “art” for the first time in almost 10 years. I spent the next year only working for money, an odd thing I thought. I was not happy at all. I explored going back to school, starting an art center, etc. All that time I was going around to galleries looking at different kinds of art. I finally decided to either do calligraphy or ceramics as they were the most exciting to me. I immediately bought a kiln, wheel and started making things. I further decided there were three people I would like to study with if I were to study. Shigeyoshi Morioka, Shiro Tsujimura or Naoki Kawabuchi.  I met Mr. Morioka and Mr. Kawabuchi and got a chance to study with Mr. Kawabuchi through a chance meeting.  I spent two years shuttling back and forth between his studio and my house, working and studying. It was very difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which being my personality. After two years I found land to buy and build a house and kiln.  It did take two full years of looking because I had a number of requirements. Some of the obvious criteria were enough land to build both a house and kiln, off in the country so the smoke didn’t bother anyone. Some of the more demanding criteria were I insisted on buying the land, having the title in my name, and perhaps the most difficult of all, I had absolutely no money. I had to find land that the owner would be willing to sell to me, transfer the title so we could get a loan to build a house and accept payment later.  No mountain is too high. No valley too deep.

Here I am, 15 years later in the house we had built.

After glazing, before firing.

After glazing, before firing.


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13 Responses to “My road to Japan”

  1. P.F. Jennings Says:

    Wonderful story. Talent, determination, lots of hard work and — perhaps most important? — the right woman. Bravo.

  2. edmontonrealestateinvestor Says:

    What an interesting story. Talk about crossed pathways. We are in Tochigi near Mashiko. I love the pottery there it’s beautiful but so fragile. If I buy anything it’s lucky to last a year. Perhaps that is the point fleeting beauty? Anyway your pieces are lovely.

  3. Dean Kelly Says:

    Fascinating story of your background. I bet you have a load of interesting stories of your time traveling in Southeast Asia. To be young again!

    I especially liked hearing about your persistence in finding your house and kiln.


  4. A Says:

    I have recently crossed paths a T. Ozula Sioux. Could it be the same?

  5. A Says:

    She’s living in Syracuse, NY, right now but may soon take flight. She doesn’t seem to stay in one place too long. We recently celebrated her 41st bday. She told me about living in a monastery before, but I never heard the story of how she got there. Interesting enough. Thanks for sharing! I totally agree, she doesn’t look like a Tammy at all.

  6. Tim Harris Says:

    I was ozula’s boss in a very small organization in Seattle from around 95-97. I still miss her. Wish she wasn’t so hard to find.

  7. rob Says:

    Ha!….had to laugh a bit Dave…….Tsujimura san you listed as someone you’d like to work with, is in my past as well as is Katsura Kan who was my first Japanese teacher I had while living in Kyoto in the ’80s. I loved the way he would teach kanji by making the characters with his body.

    Hope to meet sometime……


  8. perlajulieta Says:

    Such a beautiful story!!! You are incredible talented, you have determination and love!! Congratulations!!

  9. Bob Redmond Says:

    Funny, I just did a web search for Ozula, and came across this. I worked at the same small newspaper Tim Harris (above) mentioned, in the late 90s with her. Ozula was a tenacious organizer and good musician (she’d just started stand-up bass). I remember her telling the story of her name, and now I hear it from another point of view. Plus the travel story too. Here’s to the days and the people in them.

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