I have recently come back from spending 2 weeks in the countryside of southern Japan. It was such a resourceful experience that I wish for all potters.
It was all Mike’s fault, the American potter living in Japan who always wanted to organize workshops to unite potters of the world under ceramics related circumstances.
The goal of the trip was to learn to build a Japanese woodkiln, half anagama and half noborigama, but very quickly it became a lot more than that.
I ended up meeting great local potters, toured their workspace and saw their kilns and amazing pottery.
I also got to know the other participants of the workshop who were also great potters and kiln builders. We were also very fortunate to watch Tsuruta Yoshihisa sensei give us throwing and traditional handbuilding demonstrations.
He also gave us trimming tips among many other ones.
All the exchanges of ideas, tips and approaches on pottery were a big inspiration to me and my work method.
A typical day would start at 8am after a communal breakfast. We would all walk down to the kiln site through rice terasses with a beautiful view of the mountains. 10 minutes later we would be on a real construction site.
Gravel, dust and excavated clay mounds everywhere.
Wood, mortar bags and tons of bricks neatly piled up.
Not to mention all the kinds of tools available, except pencils for some reason…
Craig Edwards was in charge of the kiln building plans and development. So we just waited for orders: dig deeper here, fill that hole with gravel, shovel some clay over there, sive it too, prepare more mortar, lay those bricks as level as you can (especially while Mike is around) etc.
Not to mention the art of brick cutting amazingly well done by Ron and Russ. The job that no one else had the courage, heart, and precision to do (or definitely didn’t want to be bent in half breathing dust near the atrocious sawing noise).
Anyway, everyone found a task and when it was done, there were plenty more to choose from. We had to make the kiln progress and so we tried. And even though we never saw the kiln fully finished, I think we made a great team and started a strong and tight kiln.
The days would fly by and so did the the great evenings, whether it was a pizza dinner in Mike’s clay oven under the stars or a nine course meal at a top notch restaurant served in beautiful local pottery. Sipping on some home made plum wine or trying a few different kinds of fine local Sake was definlitly a highlight for most of the team.
" I feel it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship "