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day one in India

Posted by [email protected] on December 17, 2012 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi all, I know I promised a blog from India, however there were big problems with using the internet. Access is really slow and very on and off. I had enough trouble just getting a few emails out.

Anyway I thought I would still write the blog now that I am home so you can have a look at wonderful India and the amazing experience I had.

I arrived in Vadodara (Baroda) early in the morning and was picked up for the 45min drive to the Uttarayan Art Centre. Wow what a drive, dodging cattle, dogs, goats, people, motorbikes, cars and trucks. It was fascinating and I realised I was going to be staying in quite a traditional area of India. Most women were wearing colourful sari's which were so beautiful. Then we turned on to a dirt road and started what seemed like a rally drive through the country side on narrow, dusty and very pot holed roads. At this point I was starting think where on earth am I going.

Passing a small temple and through a gated entrance I arrived at the art centre which was an oasis. The lush green lawns and sculpture gardens in stark contrast to the dusty roads travelled on. As the car pulled up, I noticed the familiar face of Madhur and was greated with her usual warm welcome. What an amazing place.

I'll fill you in with more soon

Countdown to India

Posted by [email protected] on November 25, 2012 at 9:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Well it's nearly time to hit the creative road again. This time I am off to Vadodara, in India. I have been invited to attend and present at the International Ceramics Forum to be held at the Uttarayan Art Centre. 20 artists from all over the world have been invited and it will be great to see some old friends that I met at the forum in China.

Packing has begun, my Visa is organised and now the countdown begins until Thursday when I catch a flight via Singapore to Mumbai and then on to Vadodara.

Follow the whole trip via this blog and I will fill you in with  the sights of India and the development of lots of new ceramic art.

Final Studio Day

Posted by [email protected] on February 9, 2012 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (1)

It was the last day in the studio today. I spent most of the day taking photos and drinking coffee. It was a really cold day with more snow. I hope it stops snowing so my flight won't be delayed tomorrow. Anyway here are some images of my artwork....

   

See I have been doing some artwork whilst here and I am quite pleased with the result. All of the above works are to be donated to the Seto City Ceramic Art Museum.

Today was also a bit of a sad day as I had to say goodbye to some wonderful new friends. We have already added each other's skype address to our contacts and we promise to keep in touch. I will really miss them all.

Anyway I leave here tomorrow and head to Nagoya airport, but I would very much love to return to Seto one day. Here is a picture of me with all the trainees, my assistants, and Marika from the arts centre. I am going to miss them so much.

 

So that is the last blog from Japan, stay tuned for my next adventure which will to India.

 

Visiting Kyoto

Posted by [email protected] on February 8, 2012 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Well I have seen many sights and had some wonderful experience since I last spoke to you. Again I had been invited out to dinner to an artist's house who paints in a traditional Japanese style using powdered pigments. His home was beautiful, the meal was amazing and he even painted for us whilst we watched. It was an very special experience, topped off by him giving me the painting he had just finished, as a gift. Here are some images of the evening. He even managed to continue to paint with his 2 year old daughter jumping all over him.

 

Yesterday, being Tuesday, the studio was closed and I was taken on a trip to see Kyoto. It is a very big town, with a mix of the very old and the new. We visited a number of temples and a Zen garden that are all world heritage listed, and also managed to squeeze in some eating and shopping. It was a fantastic day and I would love to return with more time to explore the city. Here are a collection of images from the day.

 

 

 

We saw so much that I can't possibly show it all, but the photos show just what a beautiful and special place Kyoto is.

As for today, well it was spent finishing my work. Adding lights and the final touches. I also unpacked the kiln with the students work in it and added lights. I also had a chance to spend a little bit of time in the glass studio, trying some glass blowing and making my own glass. It is something I have not done for many, many years and it was great fun to try again. Thanks to the trainees of the glass studio for their help and patience. One trainee is also helping me, by making one glass rod that I am hopefully going to incorporate into my last sculpture.

Tonight was my farewell party and it was a bit sad. I have made so many new friends and I will miss them all so much. I look forward to staying in touch with them in the future. Seto city has been the most wonderful host and I feel a real connection with the place. I just know that one day I will return.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Japan and I will spend it taking photographs of my work. I have no space to bring anything home, so really want to record what I have done here with some decent photos. I will donate 3 sculptures and give the others away as gifts to those who have made my time here really special.

I will post some photos of my finished artworks on my final blog from Japan....tomorrow.

 

Meeting Shigekazu Nagae

Posted by [email protected] on February 5, 2012 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (2)

Ok..ok, its seems like I have forgotten about writing this blog, well you are wrong as there has been some kind of problem and I have not been able to post them. So here is what has been happening over the last few days and hopefully it gets to you.

Obviously my work has been drying and yesterday was the final firing, which will be unpacked tomorrow. As there are no more firings scheduled, then I am unable to make any new work. But I have still been keeping busy.

Kuwa took me to see a wonderful small exhibition of ceramic sake cups with many important ceramic artists of the area showing their work. I fell in love with one by an artist I have admired and even researched as part of my Masters Degree. His name is Shigekazu Nagae. In fact we had been invited to his house for dinner that night. Kuwa told me that he has a gallery at his studio and I hoped that there might be something that I could afford to buy. In short,his work is amazing. Sculptural porcelain forms that are allowed to warp and drape in the kiln to create organic shapes that create a wonderful silhouette. They seem to defy gravity, and all 24 works sold at his exhibition at Saatchi Gallery in London.

It was a wonderful evening, with a long table set up through the middle of his studio. An amazing array of seafood all cooked at the table in large ceramic bowl, with each addition adding to the delicious stock. He had even arranged for some Australian wine and Estonian vodka. His cousin is a folk singer and played a number of his songs about ceramics in Seto. We went upstairs to his gallery and I was breath taken by the beauty of the large sculptural works. If only I could bring one home. I agreed to buy a much smaller piece and am very excited to own one of his works.

Yesterday, Mare and I both held workshops. I had 8 students who had paid to attend for a couple of hours.

 Due to time constraints they could only make a small sculpture each, but they all enjoyed it and produced some good artwork, considering they had no experience in using clay.

In fact I have been invited to dinner by one of the participants. As it turns out, her husband is a well known traditional Japanese painter and he contacted the arts centre and organised dinner. So I am looking forward to that tomorrow night.

Tonight, however, it is dinner with the trainees. I'm not sure where we are off to, but I enjoy their company very much, so it should be fun. Apparently we are eating a Japanese dish that I have not yet tried. It a mystery to me, but I will keep you informed. Wednesday is a farewell party, Thursday will be some last minute shopping and packing and can you believe I fly home on Friday. So not much time left, just enough to unpack the kiln, fit the lights and take some photos of my work. I must say I am ready to come home to family and summer and apparently a new dog at our house.

Anyway talk to you all soon.

5cm of snow

Posted by [email protected] on February 2, 2012 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Well this morning I woke to a very white landscape, and snow falling quite heavily. It was amazing for me to see as (as I mentioned in an earlier entry) I haven't really seen snow falling.

      

As for my artwork, well it is at the drying stage now, in readiness for the firing which is scheduled for Sunday. Tomorrow I am preparing clay for the workshop that I am running for eight people. Each will make a small sculpture which will be lit from within with an LED light. The workshop is on Saturday and is the last of my official commitments to the Seto Cultural Promotion Foundation. On completion of the residency I will donate 3 artworks which will be exhibited at the Seto Arts Centre in May at an artists in residence exhibition. After that they will become part of the International Artists collection.Four artists are invited each year, however this year there were only 3, myself, Mare from Estonia and another ceramic artist from Canada. It is a fabulous experience funded fully by the Japanese government, so if there are any glass or ceramic artists out there who are interested, then please send me an email and I can elaborate on the process of applying.

Bye for now

Kuwa's road trip

Posted by [email protected] on January 31, 2012 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (1)

I know I keep repeating myself, but yet again I really have been very busy.

Monday was spent working in the studio and I am nearly finished thankfully. Mae, one of the trainees had been away for a few days for a friend's wedding and he bought back some new foods to try. It's quite interesting that each prefecture seems to have its own unique foods that are only available there. You just can't buy it anywhere else in Japan. So I tried a slice of lotus with all the little holes filled with mustard. Oh my gosh, I think I nearly exploded, it was the hottest thing I have ever eaten. I think my nostrils are still recovering. I moved away from the table after that, just so I was not offered anymore. It is considered quite rude to refuse an offer of food. Later I was offered and yes did try something that many of you guys will not be happy with. I can hardly say it, but I tasted a small piece of horse. It seemed that it was quite a normal meat to the trainees. It tasted a bit like beef actually.  Anyway I have always tasted something strange on every trip I have been on and I think that horse was easier to eat than all the bugs I ate in China. Later that evening I was glad to hear that we were ordering McDonalds for dinner in the studio. It tasted just the same, except for a Japanese style hamburger that had much more interesting flavours of teriyaki and ginger. Yum, they should bring that one to Australia.

Tuesday was a rest day and Kuwa and Ai had organised a shopping trip. Actually we didn't do much shopping but we saw some amazing things. Kuwa took us to Shizuoka, in the next prefecture. She was born in this area and her mother still lives here, she is 87. We went and visited her. I expected a frail old lady, but no she looks young and lived on the 6th floor of an apartment building. She was quite amazing. She made us some green tea, which the area is famous for and then informed us we couldn't stay too long as she has to catch a bus to a friend's house for lunch. Did I say she was 87....amazing. Anyway check out the view from her apartment.

Yep it's Mt Fuji. She said we were lucky to see it as it is often covered in clouds. If fact we saw it so many, many times that day as it stands above the landscape, it seems to be everywhere you look.

After this Kuwa took us to see a shrine, which required a cable car ride to get too. Fun! This shrine was the first tomb of a famous shogun and was an amazing place of wonderful colour and a great many stairs.

 

But that was not the end of the day. Lunch was at the one of the hundreds of strawberry farms that line the coast. And we were going to pick our own, which is not strange to us. But when I was handed a small container with a small amount of condensed milk I was confused. Anyway we were placed in our own little hot house and were given half an hour to eat as many strawberries as we could manage. Now that's a bit different. Let me tell you, they were the most delicious, sweetest and tender strawberries I have ever eaten.

We all made ourselves feel quite ill, but it was wonderful. I shall remember the taste of those strawberries forever I think.

But wait there is more. From here we went to a historic site called Toro, which was discovered in 1943. The site has been redeveloped back to its original state. The area includes a number of dwellings, some rice storehouses, a ceremonial hall and rice fields from a farming village from 1900 years ago. And yep I learnt how to make fire like they did in the Yayoi period.

     

From here we found some shops and some dinner at a restaurant that served Aussie beef, served on sizzling plates. The image below is showing a paper placemat that is used to protect you from the hot fat (funny). It was quite nice to have meat and 3 veg after so much Japanese food....and with a knife and fork.

A two hour drive home and the day was at an end. What a great experience. It's back to the studio tomorrow.

A beautiful gallery

Posted by [email protected] on January 29, 2012 at 5:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Wow is this 2 blogs in 2 days, I am on a roll hey?

As I mentioned previously today we visited a very well-known gallery about a 20 minute drive from Seto city. It is run by a husband and wife team. He is a ceramic artist and she is a glass artist. It was a beautiful setting in a 200 year old building with beautiful gardens. It was the opening weekend for an exhibition of artwork by artists from the areas affected by the earthquake last year. There were many people, as confirmed by the many, many pairs of shoes just inside the door. This time it was easy remember that I had to remove my shoes. Below is an image of the understated beauty of the gallery entrance. I was particularly taken by the little row of red fruit at the door.

Inside was a range of ceramics, metal and textile art displayed with the same beautiful simplicity.

I felt an overwhelming urge to buy something and support these artists, and so a beautiful black bowl caught my eye. I am looking forward to using it when I go home. We had lunch at the gallery and as usual it was presented in such a way that I was compelled to take a photo. It was a simple meal of vegetable soup, a marinated carrot salad and salt bread (tasted a bit like date loaf).

   

And I just had to include the floating head dog sculpture which is actually attached to the table. Isn't it great?

After all of that fun it was back to the studio and I have been trying out what the LED lights will look like in my little frilly sculpture. I am happy with the result and I am really looking forward to seeing a large collection of 20 of these all lit at once. But I have to wait until after the final firing which is in about a 5 days.

Anyway that is all from me tonight, will speak to you all soon.

Open studio

Posted by [email protected] on January 28, 2012 at 6:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Hi there everyone, well today was my open studio. So the morning was spent setting up. I expected that I that it was simply that the studio allowed people in to see what I was up to. However it was much more formal than that. A table was set up with a display of my work freshly out of the kiln. Another table was set up for me to work and chairs were arranged for people to sit and watch. I had an interpreter and I demonstrated how I created some of my work whilst the interpreter sat beside me and relayed everything in Japanese. I had a portable microphone and it was quite strange to hear myself broadcast around the studio. About  40 people visited and they all seemed interested in what I was doing, and I had lots of questions asked. So it was a success.

After my presentation they crowd moved upstairs to see Mare talk about her glass work, which was very interesting. She makes very delicate work which is kiln fused using glass powders.

After was spent talking and laughing with my assistants and some of the trainees.

And if you look closely, yes it's a packet of Tim Tams. A gift from the interpreter.

After a discussion about shopping, my assistants at the front left and right of the above picture, offered to take me shopping. Shopping......of course! We went to a funny little shop full of strange gifts and gadgets. It was a great place to get some gifts to bring home to Australia. Next was off to a fashion clothing shop, aimed at teenagers. I picked up a great down jacket at a super cheap price. Apparently it's a good time to buy jackets as they are all on special. Yay I love a good sale!

Apart from all of that fun, I did unpack the kiln this morning and now you can really see how interesting the black clay is. See the picture below.

And just to show how many people choose to ride bikes around here, I thought I would upload this photo of the bike parking at the local train station. I could not help but take this photo as I was so amazed.

Tomorow I am off to visit a gallery and then out for coffee with Mare and the glass artists. So that should be fun. Then back to work in the studio for the afternoon. So I'll talk to you all soon.

Snow

Posted by [email protected] on January 26, 2012 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Yes I am still here in Japan, just keeping very busy. So here is what I have been up to.....

Tuesday was my day off, and I decided to have a bit of a look around Seto. As usual it was freezing cold, but at least the sun was out. I walked for about 2 hours and checked out a few shops, lots of them ceramics shops. It seems that the area my apartment is in is the main part of the town, surrounded by lots of housing and places to eat. I found a few bits and pieces as gifts for my family. The rest of the day was catching up on washing and cleaning my apartment. A bit boring, but actually it was nice to have to time to do those things.

Wednesday was spent in the studio preparing for the next firing. At five I had an appointment with my assistants to prepare for the upcoming open studio and workshop. Straight after that it was a meeting with our interpreter regarding our slide show lecture that was being given that night at the arts centre. At 7pm both Mare and I presented to a group of about 40 people. Our lectures were about the development of our art. All went well and it was finished off with another....yes you guessed it....party.

Today was freezing, the most cold it'sbeen since I arrived. It snowed at lunchtime and it's snowing now as I write this (9pm). Despite the cold, its really very beautiful to watch snow falling. Anyway today was firing day. The kiln was carefully packed this morning, however I still managed to damage one artwork. But some swift sanding and carving rectified the problem. Hopefully it survives. Below is an image of all my hard work, being left to the kiln gods.

At least they are all toasty and warm tonight. The facilities here are quite amazing with 4 electric kilns and two very large gas kilns.

Above is one side of the kiln room and my assistants setting the firing schedule for my work. Ai has a mask on. It seems if you have a cold or allergies then you wear a mask so that you don't cough, sneeze etc. on everyone. Ai has a cold.

I received another gift today, this time from Mae, another one of the trainees. His work is really very beautiful. Simple thrown forms, so fine they are transparent. He paints in blue and white style that Seto is known for. His work is detailed and executed with perfection, it must take pain staking concentration to complete these.

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Even the base is treated with the same respect...

I feel very privileged to own one.

As for me, well I have one more firing, so I am still working towards that. I also have an open studio in 2 days, so need to make sure that I have some decent examples of my work available to view, just in case the kiln is not cool enough to unpack in time. So it's back to a long day of work in the studio.

Hope you are all enjoying the warm weather in Australia, I am extremely jealous.

Until next time.


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