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2003 Newsletter Archive



                   Written by Robert Yellin

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October 2003


Bizen; Various Exhibits; Tsujimura Kai

-- Bizen Virtual Wheel and Videos
-- Noguchi Book-Exhibition, Oribe Exhibition
-- Jeff Shapiro's New Web Site -- Online Exhibit with Tim Rowan
-- Nihon Kogeikai
-- Tsujimura Kai Exhibition

Bizen Virtual Wheel and Videos
Many of you know my particular fondness for Bizen pottery. My first touch of that fabled clay, oddly, came about by mistake. An Osaka lady gave me a Bizen yunomi after I visited her family and all the photos we had taken in her camera came out, well, they didn't come out at all. She was so embarrassed and ashamed that she sent me a Bizen yunomi to warm my hands and soul, and to say sumimasen (meaning "please forgive me"). Of that I did, and I was enraptured with the earthy cup from day one. I have since been to Bizen City dozens of times and even led my local Japan Ceramic Society group there. It was quite a sight, this unruly curly haired gaijin (foreigner) leading a stately group of elderly Japanese gentleman around the streets! We turned a few heads, and also saw all the old kilns as well as some of the better potters in town.

For those of you who'd like to know more about Bizen pottery, I've found an online page with many interesting videos of potters in various forming-firing stages. The short videos are Bizen Pottery, Bizen and the Tea Ceremony, Guide to Bizen, Clay Forming and Sculpture, Potter's Wheel, Loading the Kiln, Kindling Ceremony, Firing, and Opening the kiln. Many well-known potters appear in the videos including Shibaoka Koichi, Horie Shozan, Nakamura Rokuro, Yamamoto Izuru among others. The captions are in Japanese only, yet the pictures tell a story.

The URL is
Another neat feature at the above site is that there's a virtual wheel and you throw a Bizen pot! After it's finished the site will fire it for you. Gambatte -- do your best!

Isamu Noguchi Book-Exhibition
Plus Oribe Exhibition
"My close embrace of the earth -- a seeking after identity with some primal matter beyond personality and possessions" is a quote from the late brilliant artist Isamu Noguchi. His work has been shown worldwide but never before have his ceramics been given center stage. That is until now. In an unprecedented exhibition at the Japan Society in New York titled "Isamu Noguchi and Modern Japanese Ceramics," Noguchi's inspired clay creations are shown alongside some of Japan's finest 20th century potters, mostly from Kyoto. Special consideration is given to Noguchi's output from his association and stay at Rosanjin's kiln and also on works made by members of the avant-garde Kyoto group Sodeisha. I have yet to see the exhibition and very much look forward to viewing it at the Japan Society in New York City. As fate would have it, John Gauntner ( and I will be having a sake tasting and shuki (sake vessels) talk on Nov. 7 at the Japan Society. We'll also be at the Japan Society in Boston and Yale. For more on these events, please visit the below link:

In the meantime, I've picked up the exceptional book that accompanies the Noguchi exhibition and I highly recommend it. You can find information about the exhibition and the book at this link:

New York is not finished yet! In yet another unprecedented exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will host Turning Point: Oribe and the Arts of 16th Century Japan from Oct.21 until Jan.11, 2004. I have yet to see the catalog, so I've simply copied and pasted (below) the description from the Met's homepage:

"This exhibition explores the genesis of the dramatic stylistic changes in Japanese art during the brief but brilliant Momoyama Period (1573 - 1615), which witnessed the struggles of ambitious warlords for control of the long-splintered country and Japan's first encounter with the West. The first comprehensive examination of the subject in the West, the exhibition presents nearly 200 objects; paintings, ceramics, lacquerware, and textiles from public and private collections in Japan, the United States, and Canada that together illustrate the political, economic, and social forces underlying the unprecedented changes in the arts and aesthetics in late-16th-century Japan. Chief among these forces was Furuta Oribe's (1543/44 - 1615) innovative approach to the practice of the tea ceremony, culminating in the unique development of the strikingly bold and colorful ceramics known as Oribe. The new creative energy that marked this period found expression not only in Oribe ceramics but in all the arts, which with their shared motifs, designs, and compositions evidence a collaboration among artists never before witnessed in the history of Japanese art."

In connection with the exhibition, a full-day scholarly symposium will be held at the Metropolitan Museum on Sunday, October 26, from 10:00 to 5:00 in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. Reservations required; call (212) 570-3710 or e-mail

You can find out more by visiting here:

I look forward to visiting this exhibition as well and commenting on both more personally at a later time.

Jeff Shapiro's New Web Site
Online Exhibit with Tim Rowan
Up north from Manhattan in Accord, New York is the studio of Jeff Shapiro. Jeff and I go back some years and I greatly admire the man and his work. Jeff apprenticed here in Japan for nine years and returned to the US and built an anagama. His work has been shown in many exhibitions both here and abroad and he is a very important ceramic artist. Finally, he's set up a home page and you can view it here:

Another online feature with Jeff is a joint exhibition being held with Tim Rowan. I wrote about Tim for my shuki column on e-y net and you can view that here: The online exhibition is hosted by Akar Design and their site is very nice indeed:

Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts
A friend of mine visited the annual Japanese Traditional Arts and Crafts exhibition in Tokyo recently and was overwhelmed at the quality and variety of workmanship. It's true, the works on display dazzle the senses in many genres; lacquer, kimono, dolls, metal, and ceramics. The association is known as the Nihon Kogeikai and many of its senior members are Living National Treasures or on the road to be. The site also shows award-winning works in the above-mentioned 50th annual exhibition, as well a complete list of selected works. If you scroll down the list you'll find links to photos of works, and some are quite stunning. The first stop of the exhibition is always held at the Mitsukoshi department store in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo. I've heard the visitors who come to see the exhibition also bring in an extra million dollars of business each day. The event travels the country until early next year. For more, please visit:

I must also add that many artists turn out the same form and design year-after-year. Going to the J.T.A.C. exhibition is like climbing Mt. Fuji. Everyone must do it once, but only a foolish person goes twice. Well, a slight exaggeration but not that far from the truth!

Tsujimura Kai Exhibition
October 17 to December 17, 2003
Our next online exhibition will be of the works of potter Tsujimura Kai. The actual pieces will be on display at our Mishima office. For more on this artist, please visit:

Tsujimura grew up with clay in his blood. Tusjimura Shiro is his father. Kai studied with his father and established his own kiln a few years ago. He fires Iga, Shigaraki, Kohiki, Karatsu and other styles. His debut exhibition was last year at Nanohana in Odawara. I'll be going to Nara this weekend to select 200 works -- from large tsubo to small guinomi -- for the exhibition, and they will be available for online viewing starting on October 17. Also, look for an interview with Kai on sometime next week.


That's about it this time around. As always, many thanks for your interest and support. I'd like to end with a quote from Kaneshige Toyo about the joy of shuki:

"When one holds a guinomi, one should enjoy the sensation and texture while enjoying the sake within. And when one pours sake from a tokkuri, that sound that is made from its mouth is something so beautiful that I unconsciously feel light-hearted. These things I've just named are deep pleasures that cannot be expressed by words. There are many who pass these pleasures by without trying to understand, and I do feel a bit ashamed at such people. The mentality of just passing by without understanding is something far removed from culture itself."

All the best,
Robert Yellin


Copyright 2001

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