New work.

July 9, 2011

I am working on combining some drawings I do with wood fired slip. I am using a Canon laser printer and firing to about 950 – 990 C. with about a 2 hour soak.

Aged Karatsu.

June 27, 2011

I have been busy cleaning up around my noborigama so I can repair and shorten the chimney. That means moving  hundreds of pieces of work that I had out around my well, put there so they would age.  It is interesting to see work I made and fired almost 10 years ago. My eye has changed a lot since I’ve made the work and now it looks great.

I will remove the steel portion of the chimney and re-do the whole brick part.

The work is all from about the first year of firing this kiln. I extended the chimney about three times, twice with brick and the last with the steel, high pressure water pipe section. I will lower the length back down to just high enough to clear and not set fire to the roof.

Pocket Marche 6-5-2011

June 5, 2011

For the first time in about 15 years I took both Saturday and Sunday off.  I spent it at an event named Pocket Marche. This is the 3rd. time I have helped my wife out at this event and I never cease to be amazed at it. I think it is a perfect example of building tribe as Seth Godin puts it.

Yes, that is a Miniature German Schnauzer, wearing a hat, being held on the front of a woman’s chest with his legs held out in front of him, slightly bent at the joints.

And what event wouldn’t be complete without wandering accordion players.

General scenes.

Japanese Antiques, 6-4-2011

June 4, 2011

I saw some very interesting pieces today.

The first piece is a white slip bowl from Korea, early Yi. I love the wear of it, the pinholes and amamori.

The next pieces are fabric from the beginning of the Edo period. Very old. Hita Shibori.

The next is a sumi-e from the late Muromachi period by Senka Sosetsu. It is the same piece featured in the magazine I have included pictures of.

The next is a tea ceremony kama. I am hoping to be able to buy it during the next auction I go to on the 15th.

The last piece is a Seto piece from the Muromachi period. It isn’t clear what it is, tea caddy or what ever. It is used now by tea practitioners but it isn’t originally a tea piece. It was found in the discard pile of an abandoned kiln.

Square plates.

June 3, 2011

I tend to work from only the vaguest ideas, not sketches.  I work by making something I have an idea to do and then refining it.

This last firing I made a number of octagonal plates and then moved from there to legged plates, using the equilateral triangles I cut from the edges.  I got bored with that and so I started out with a piece of square clay. I found a right angle triangle from my box of children’s blocks. After trimming all four sides of the clay slab, to my surprise, I was left with a square, just like when I started. I always have to laugh when  meandering down a path takes me somewhere a more rational approach would have informed me of.

Nanban bowl.

June 1, 2011

I still remember, 16 years ago, looking at work in galleries in Japan and marveling at how things looked like they had been lifted, intact, out of the mud. One hand had reached in and grabbed clay that was formed with a minimum of movement. Like a well executed sumi e painting, one that looks like there was an accidental spilling of ink on a piece of paper that the artist then manipulated to form a recognizable form. I wondered what it would be like to eat using work that could be seemingly returned to its natural state without much effort.

The work out of my last Nanban firing is, to me, my best so far. The color and forming have come together and I am very happy with it.

This bowl has  a slumped, natural stance. There are areas where the iron in the clay was leached out and melted onto the surface, areas where organic material burned out of the clay and left negative space.  Slight remains of the day. In this case, ash.

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Matsumoto Craft Fair 2011, part 2

May 30, 2011

Here are my thoughts.

If you are thinking about participating in the fair, first, there are some things you should know about.

The “RULES” on how to get your space are firm, unbending and clearly written out on the Matsumoto web site. The reality is much different. You are supposed to come to the fair ground at NO earlier than 6:00 AM and pick a spot. (We arrived at 5:57 and were told to go around the block one time.) If you are like me you arrive at 2:00 AM and need to use the bathroom so do so, using the one located on the grounds. Looking around you will see many spaces already staked out with signs saying ‘jikoiinkai’ which means something like organizing committee. If you arrive at 6:01 AM you will find that exhibitors who are in their second year or later will have already taken all the best spaces, even though the rules clearly state that anyone caught staking out spots before 6 will be ejected from the fair. We found out the hard way that getting a space isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our first space was colonized by the person next to us when they told us they would be using our space for an entrance way to their tent and a rain run-off area. After some discussion we decided to move to a space next to the registration tent. We then lugged all our stuff, 6 boxes 20 kilos or more into place only to be informed by ‘staff’ that that space was not to be had. Luckily someone had pity on us and let us set our tent up next to theirs. If you are planning on attending I suggest you physically occupy the place you decide is good between 5:00 and 5:30 AM and then when 6:00 AM rolls around stick 4 tent spikes in the ground and string your space off. The spaces marked jikoinkai you will find will be used by exhibitors based in Matsumoto who amble in about 8:00 AM or so. None of this unwashed masses grubbing for them.

Second point to remember if you are thinking about going.

The staff are all volunteers. That means 1), they for the most part don’t have a clue about what they are supposed to be doing. 2) They don’t know how to do what they are supposed to be doing. 3) They are completely unmotivated to help you solve problems.

I won’t be going back to Matsumoto to exhibit even though my sales were Ok so what follows are some observations which are my impressions.

It seems to me that Matsumoto has gotten its reputation because it has been around the longest, or that is the popular wisdom. It is a couple hours outside of Tokyo so it gets a lot of traffic from there. I did see a lot of gallery owners running around which helps the reputation of as a place you must get into.

Geography won’t change, i.e., Tokyo won’t move so will bring a lot of attendees, but the level of indifference on the part of the staff is something that surprised me. People exhibiting go the extra mile to have great work and displays. They get there and find out it is a connections based system. I heard from a number of first time exhibitors the same.

There are a couple of craft shows that are really working hard to build out into great shows, Yamaguchi and Tomoshibito are 2 I know of first hand. Both of these have post-fair questionnaires for the exhibitors. The staff is highly motivated, organized AND volunteer.  Matsumoto has staff that leaves at 2:00 PM because the rain is too strong, leaving the exhibitors to fend for themselves.  I think if having a level of motivation to make the craft experience positive for both exhibitors and attendees is worth anything, the Matsumoto organizer should stop resting on his laurels and get a clue.

One last note.

I came to Japan 17 years ago to study Butoh. I am not a professional butoh person but I am still interested in it. Matsumoto has ‘happenings’ and this year’s happening was a “butoh” performance, I think they were trying to do Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. A number of people took videos so you might be able to find it on the net.. It was so amateurish it was painful to watch. It also sent a couple of children into crying fits.


Where to stay.

We stayed at the エースイン松本 or Ace Inn Matsumoto. 6,300 yen including breakfast for 2. It is next to Matsumoto train station. The hotel is good but it took 40 minutes to go from the craft grounds to the hotel parking lot, a distance of about 750 meters. Very bad traffic. Better to walk.

Next to the craft fair grounds is the Smile Hotel Matsumoto. We didn’t stay there but I think it is about 5,000 yen a night for a double, big parking lot. It is about a 20 minute walk from the train station, 3 minute walk from the craft grounds.

Matsumoto Craft Fair 2011

May 27, 2011

The power this fair has is amazing. It is seen as the crown of craft fairs in Japan, aswarm with people with loads of cash looking for things to buy. I was at the Himeji fair a couple of weeks ago and had no less than 10 exhibitors congratulate me on being accepted into Matsumoto Craft Fair.  You can see the participants here, I called up the organizer of the Karuizawa Craft Fair to ask about sending photos with my application and they recognized my name as being on the roster at Matsumoto.

My prediction is this fair, Tomoshibito, list of last years exhibitors here,  will at least equal if not surpass Matsumoto in the next couple of years.

I am all packed up and ready to spend a very rainy weekend in Matsumoto city. The rainy season has started, almost 2 weeks earlier than usual, and Saturday is forecast to be very rainy, Sunday a little less so.

Himeji 2011

May 16, 2011

Just back, here are some photos.

Beautiful weather both days. There were many people wandering around but not many sales, not at least for me.

Post firing pictures.

May 12, 2011

This firing took almost 9 days to cool down. It is still about 70 C. but I went ahead and opened it. Here are some pictures of pieces I was able to reach in and pull out. I may be able to go in tomorrow if it cools down enough.

On one of the interior pictures damage is visible. On the very first piece of wood I put in, the very first, it smashed into a shelf and you can see the results. I was very nervous the rest of the firing.