I started here a month ago. Empty pot boards, clean wheel head, heaps of storage racks all waiting for pots. 100 kgs of clay waiting in its plastic packs. I’m here in a fertile frame of mind and ready to experience and learn. I’m here to harvest what I can from this fertile environment.
Now after weeks of intensive work I’ve made about 115 kgs of premium Arita porcelain clay into about 100 pots. I’ve ruined 3 of them by accident and turned all the others into fine, thin, beautiful bowls. I’ve gone through them over and over as the turning, re-turning then finishing and polishing has progressed. I’ve narrowed them down to just a dozen nice ones to be fired and glazed.
It doesn’t seem like much for a months work, but I’m quite happy with what I’ve learnt. Ideas and experiences are mingling and germinating. It’s what I’m taking away in my head that counts. The work that I’ve done here is the best way of getting it in there. I haven’t come here to take pots home. I’ve come to learn some skills. I think that I’ve done that, and of course I didn’t spend every day at the wheel. I managed to get out to visit people and places of interest on a lot of days, and that was very good. It was great to get some insight into this place and the people that make it all happen.
I’ve also eaten a lot of wonderfully flavoursome food. Most of it I cooked myself, in my little kitchen, often for me alone, but also for others who dropped by at times. I quite enjoy cooking , and Japanese food is a favourite influence on what I cook at home.
I cook a bastardised version of Japanese food at home using the ingredients that I grow in my garden and what I can get hold of locally and substituting the closest things that I can find to make an approximation of what I have in mind. I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy doing it and everybody eats it politely and compliments me on what I cook for them. Japanese people are so polite!
I don’t cook for myself every night. sometimes I get to go out. I’ve had a coupe of meals out. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, shiso and kelp salad, It’s all so lovely. But it costs money. So I get better value by staying in and cooking for myself. It’s no problem. I love cooking and very good sashimi and fresh vegetables are readily available in the local supermarket. You can’t beat it, fresh, delicious and cheap! What more could you want?
I did manage to find some good salads finally. I took a while, but I got there eventually. Mostly I just bought the salad greens from the supermarket and made them myself, but occasionally , when I saw what looked like a good salad, I’d lash out. Hang the expense! A ten dollar treat every now and then didn’t break the bank.
Mizumi salad, with tofu skin and roasted seaweed, Yum!
Not only is the salad delicious, but the plate is a joy to examine after I’ve eaten its contents. Beautifully warped, with a thick application of white slip, over a dark iron body, under the clear glaze. Beautiful. Sugoi!
Before I finish up at Tatsuyas workshop. I decide to spend my last day making glaze tests. I have collected a few pieces of Izumiyama stone from the access ramp at the quarry site on a previous visit there last week. I crush it in Tatsuyas huge stone mortar. I ask him if he has a mortar and pestle. He nods and shows me a 100mm dia one that he has made himself for grinding pigments. He has several of them. But they are just too small and light for crushing rock. Then we go outside and there in the garden is the mother of all mortars. It’s huge. It has to be about 50 kgs and carved out of a solid block of volcanic rock. I’ve seen little versions of these in Asian markets in Sydney and other countries around the world. I have used them for my lectures/demos in Singapore and Taiwan recently. This has the be the biggest one that I have ever seen, let alone used.
I set to work and make some tests out of the powdered stone with limestone and wood ash added in various proportions. I’m keen to see how it melts. It isn’t any use to me. I won’t be using the glazes, but I’m inquisitive to see how it melts from an intellectual point of view.
Finally its time to leave. My time is up. When I arrived here 5 weeks ago, the rice crop was green and lush, and starting to bolt upwards. Now it is all yellowing and has set its heads of golden grain. As I set out to leave on the train, I see that the first of the harvesters is starting their work.
I say good bye to Tatsuya san and Miyuri san. My place here is going to be taken by another Australia, Keiko Matsui. She arrives and I leave. It’s an all Australian event here this month with a brief visit by Nicky Coady and her friend Erica during my time here.
I must say that I’m quite sad to be leaving but I have achieved everything that I set out to, and then some more on top of that which I just couldn’t have imagined before arriving here. Thanks to my friends, Tatsuya and Miyuri san.
I am very grateful. Thank you!