Leaving the Residency at Shigaraki Cultural Ceramic Park…..

Saying our goodbyes….

For me, this is the most challenging part of a residency… saying goodbye to the staff who have made things comfortable for us to work successfully.  A  residency is meaningful in part because of the staff  and their assistance while here has been invaluable and very much appreciated.

Saying goodbye to resident artists and guest artists we have worked side by side with; formed relationships with; and shared strategies with not to mention evening meals and conversations throughout  the weeks is difficult for me. Fortunately, we have exchanged emails  so we can keep in touch.

Then, my assessment of  what has worked for me?  What would I have done differently?  What do I want  to move forward with?  Questions it takes time to answer and the answers are not readily accessible… nor, is it important to know right now… the answers will come.

My loyal boots worn through – veterans of residencies at Rome, Kecskemet and Shigaraki

Glazed functional ware from the gas kiln – shinos and black clay

My small buttery Tajimi porcelain pillow tiles

Talking with Debra…

Some of you are aware of my residency travelling companion and good friend for forty plus years, Debra Sloan.   Our time has been intertwined with learning, discussing, arguing, bouncing ideas off each other and valuing our exchange of thoughts and ideas. I am very fortunate to have this friendship on personal and professional levels.

Debra with her tanuki creature – a figure she is particularly fond of

Debra approached this residency as she has others we’ve done together, with gusto and preparation. She is a hard worker, maximizes her time, and takes the ideas around her and synthesizes them into her works. Our week of museums in Tokyo at the beginning of February resulted in her working with historic ideas in her playful yet detailed manner. She particularly like the Noh masks and became interested in the East-West face and her first project was trying out the different clays making little figures with demon faces.

Figures with demonic faces

She then worked with roof tiles, a long time interest she has explored at St. Ives, Hungary and in Vancouver. Photographing many  outstanding Japanese examples, she began to appreciate, over the weeks, how the role of the traditional figured Japanese tile differs from that of the traditional decorative European roof tile.   Japanese tiles, with their demonic faces, or family crests appear protective and the actual roof tiles are substantial, whereas surviving European tiles seem to be the result of decorative impulses based on old myths.

Her first roof pieces were of the beloved family dogs, with a protective attitude. She didn’t like how they turned out in the gas firing so they went into a wood firing but they won’t be out of the kiln until after we leave!  So, will we ever know what has become of them?

One of the two family dogs are now hiding away in the anagama kiln

While on the bus to the Miho Museum, I asked Debra what was most important to her about this residency?  Her husband Terry listened quietly as we chatted – it is lovely to have him here on this last leg of our journey – jet lagged though he is.   I also asked her what she thought was important we know about her? In her clear manner, she said this is a big question, but she hopes her work will speak for itself. She sculpts intuitively sometimes beginning with historical references, or working from themes and ideas she has identified. Using representational figures, animal and/or human, she builds interactive tableaux attempting a visual dialogue with surface layering and patinas, and through animating expression. Finally, she does not forget that these pieces also need to act as three-dimensional art, and their overarching forms should have sculptural value.

Dosojin-  usually husband and wife guardian figures native to Nagano,  generally placed at an entrance to a village, made with a pink clay Debra is very fond of

I find and know that many of our fellow artists find Debra’s works thoughtful, the detail and form marvelous and the humour they exude delightful. I am excited by what she does, how she continues to evolve and am in awe of her work ethic and know she will continue to provoke and stimulate her viewers.

And… a dinner to celebrate and say goodbyes

Amy, Barbara, Ariel, Sayako, Nako, Kim – apologies for catching you eating with your mouths full!

Takashi, Suzuki, Amy

Our almost vacant studio room with boxes packed for shipping


And… we are off to Karatsu on Kyushu!




5 thoughts on “Leaving the Residency at Shigaraki Cultural Ceramic Park…..

  1. Debra Sloan

    thank you for the thorough summing up of our residency Mary, and for my profile…glad to join the other artists we shared our studio with..d

  2. Kit

    So fabulous your last notes of artists be about Debra. Her work is extraordinary and she has been such a great friend and traveling buddy for these ceramic adventures. Lovely images

    1. Mary Daniel Post author

      Thanks Karen! Glad you are enjoying the blog and like my work! Looking forward to seeing you soon…. L,M

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