The past few days have been busy days for firing the kilns – a community group was firing the large anagama, resident artists Takashi and Suzuki were firing a smaller anagama (it still takes three days) and an independent artist was using yet another! Debra was firing a bisque and I was firing the .4 meter gas kiln. Since Deb and I were in Kyoto, our kilns were cooling and all will be revealed later. Additionally, there are guest artists who seem to come and go and while working with large forms also requiring very large kilns. The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Centre (SCCP) is a well used and much appreciated site in this community by all levels of ceramic practitioners and is the most comprehensive ceramics centre in Japan.
Introducing Oscar and Rebecka …
One of the pleasures of being at the SCCP is getting to know other resident artists such as Rebecka Larsdotter and Oscar Ek from Sweden. In a conversation with them, it is readily seen they support each other in expressing what each wants to achieve at the Shigaraki residency and in their future as artists working and making a living together. However, Oscar and Rebecka approach their work very differently.
Rebecka has a Masters in Ceramics and Oscar a Masters in Design and the two of them were awarded a working grant by the Swedish Art Committee to explore their ideas in China and Japan for a period of six months. They spent three months in Jingdezhen before coming to the SCCP. They will then return to Sweden to work in their studio putting into practice what they have learned in their community.
Rebecka says she doesn’t like to say much about her work but wants her work to express her feelings and for people to respond to her expression. She wishes she was a painter though her background is in ceramics, but she says she lacks the confidence to use painting as a medium. As she feels totally comfortable in working with clay, manipulating thick slabs she subsequently paints with richly coloured clay stains on the clay surfaces. She does much of this in the studio with resident artists about but through the night, she prefers working on her own, sometimes calling Oscar to help while she tears the large oloured slabs, working collage like pieces together, and painting the clay edges for her paintings. She has been working on this concept for the last four years. While the clay is still moist and colours vibrant, a photographer comes to the centre to take high resolution photos of her work. Her hope is to have quality posters printed of these photographs on her return to Sweden.
Oscar is a designer – he says he’s really in-between a designer and a craftsman, so a blend. He doesn’t see himself as an artist. As a designer, he can explore well- designed technical work with a strict aesthetic. He loves precision and likes to work with more industrial methods such as jiggering plaster molds and subsequent casting. His goal here is to focus on learning from Japanese ceramic history, specifically techniques as the Japanese approach is so distinctly different from other traditions. In researching historical methods such as production work, stacking , glazing with his aesthetic precision he is reinterpreting historical work in a contemporary style that is his own.
Oscar and Rebecka are a good team and spend much of their time in dialogue with each other – it has been a pleasure to watch them work and their progress with such different, yet compatible perspectives.