Thursday, 24 July 2014

Ten Japanese Potters

This is not a good photograph but it does give an impression of the wonderful exhibition I went to see yesterday.

Firstly, I have to thank Tony Orvis, the potter at Unique Cottage Studios for posting on Facebook that he had been to the launch of the exhibition, which had included a tea ceremony and sushi.  That status update led me to searching for Goldmark Gallery and discovering a treasure in the delightful town of Uppingham in the beautiful county of Rutland.  (If I am waxing lyrical and overusing the adjectives here please excuse me but it was a wonderful day out).

In 1919 Bernard Leach met the Japanese potter, Shoji Hamada, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The exhibition of Japanese pottery at Goldmark, focusing on the tea bowl and the tea ceremony, included the work of both the son, Shinsaku Hamada,  and the grandson, Tomoo Hamada,  of Shoji Hamada and also the work of the current Living National Treasure, Jun Isezaki.  The works were set out in a spacious, light gallery on the upper floor and there were no barriers to any items except three by Jun Isezaki which were in a simple glass case.  There were no notices to say "don't touch" and it was tempting but I resisted when I looked at the price list!  It was an interesting exercise to think about these practical, beautiful, everyday items being worth thousands of pounds (and to see how many had a little red dot stuck alongside them, these are obviously very appreciated).

Alan and I wandered around the exhibition of 200 pots at our leisure, returning to our favourites several times.  Interestingly, we both liked the work of the same artist, Tsubusa Kato.  
"TK20.  Chawan.  Porcelain.  Celadon with blue drawing 8.5 x 13.0 £1055" 
does little to sum up the exquisite item we both coveted.

We were given a catalogue and will enjoy looking at that and dreaming of tea bowls.  You can view the exhibition catalogue here and Ten Japanese Potters and a Tea Ceremony is on until 10th August.

In addition to the exhibition, Goldmark Gallery itself was also a delightful find.  The building, on Orange Street in Uppingham, is like a rabbit warren of small galleries, each with something more unexpected and glorious than the previous.  One specialism of the gallery is artist's prints, and having enjoyed the works of Matisse, Warhol, Dali and Picasso at an exhibition in Lincoln's Usher Gallery last year we were enchanted to see works by these artists, and others, available for closer inspection and enjoyment.  They are remarkably affordable, limited print runs, signed by the artist and available for a price that I thought was just for a weekend's loan!!  

I like this quotation from Henri Matisse,

"It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else."

There is also another studio of pottery.  Various potters, working in various ways have combined to produce work the looks wonderful en masse.  It reminded me of natural dyes all working well together.  We had a very long chat with a knowledgeable young lady (sorry, I didn't ask her name) and shared tips about visiting Japan.  We even treated ourselves to two beautiful ash glazed mugs by Somerset-based potter,  Mike Dodd.  After being served coffee in them it would have been too difficult to leave them behind!

Of course, being on a jolly we had to find good food.  Coffee and plain chocolate florentines in a teashop/bakery and later, a fresh and tasty lunch.  Even the journey was a pleasure, through the Lincolnshire and Rutland countryside on a beautiful Summer's day, the sky was blue and the fields were golden and ripe for harvesting.  And all this on the day that my fantastic son became 30 years old, Happy Birthday David, I enjoyed your day!


  1. Many years ago, two wives of higher-ups in the New York headquarters of the bank where Paul worked, visited Japan with their husbands ... and while the man did what bankers do, we women made the rounds of famous potters and kilns. Those women had all the best connections and I recall as if it were yesterday, sitting face-to-face with living national treasures, drinking tea from their bowls and listening to them talk of their work. The most often thing was the idea of USING the piece rather than admiring it in a museum ... the true beauty being in the purpose.

  2. Thanks for this post. They are beautiful! . And thanks for the link to the catalogue. Beautiful pieces. Interesting that they call themselves potters when I find recently one has to use the term ceramicists.
    I wish I could have seen them.

    1. Maybe the clay police have decreed that potters only make pots, so for everything else they have come up with ceramicist!!

  3. maybe calling them ceramics elevates the status of the work - and the price. wouldn't it be nice if textiles commanded those prices - no matter what they are called!

  4. But think of the conversations you have every day with the pottery you eat from. The price is usually worth it. Unfortunately, the level of the conversation doesn't rise to the level of the prices correspondingly. Thinking of you thinking of pottery.



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