Our time in Karatsu was wonderful – it has remained a very special place for me since I visited many years ago. We explored the castle, admired the cherry blossoms and walked along the seaside through a pine grove, then moved in earnest to the ceramic shops. Karatsu is a foremost clay centre in Kyushu and there were outstanding works we wanted to buy but many were beyond our means, but not all! Some of the pieces were the cost of an upscale car+ and we were thrilled that collectors saw the value of the works and didn’t blink when buying them!
While there, we visited Takashi Nakazato’s ‘compound’ about 10 minutes outside of Karatsu. We had met Takashi at Shigaraki where he was working with Ryoichi Suzuki. More about them below.
Takashi had just returned from Tokyo and was kind enough to serve us tea in beautiful tea bowls and show us about his wonderful studio and retail area.
鈴木産 と 仲里 産
Ryoichi Suzuki and Takashi Nakazato
Ryoichi Suzuki and Takashi Nakazato, friends for 25 years were ‘collaborating’ on a project. According to Ryoichi, – he was not sure what they were doing, but he would take his lead from Takashi as he had an idea of what he wanted to do. They would ‘talk about it’ and decide what they were working on.
Ryoichi is a sculptor and his preferred medium is stone although he knows much about clay. He and Takashi first met at Anderson Ranch in Colorado where Takashi goes at least once a year to work at whatever he wants to do and where he is always welcome. He had been at Anderson just before he came to SCCP this year and Ryoichi briefly left Shigaraki to travel from Karatsu with Takashi by car back to Shigaraki. In retrospect, I think this was in part because Takashi loves to cook and wanted to be able to travel to buy the freshest food available! He seemed to know where to buy the best of everything. Takashi had been to Shigaraki a number of times, but it was the first for Suzuki. Takashi also takes apprentices at his compound in Karatsu for up to three years from Anderson Ranch.
The two of them are early risers and I would occasionally stumble into them in the kitchen where Takashi frequently cooked them breakfast – he was a meticulous cook and paid the same attention to his meals as he did to his clay, and if we were fortunate, he would offer samples.
The two of them worked from eight until five, stopping for a good lunch and then for wine in the studio about five and have dinner over the next couple of hours – sometimes longer, depending upon who was visiting , what they were preparing and cooking. There was always much beer, sake, good food, conversation and laughter.
We were grateful to Ryoichi for his understated manner, patience and constantly interpreting the Japanese conversations, as well as translating directions on how to cook noodles, udon, gyoza, or what was Takashi cooking on the studio heater all day?
Ryoichi grew up in Tokyo and moved to Salt Lake City about 40 years ago after falling in love with skiing, and earned his living as an sculptor for most of his life, quite an accomplishment. For the last 8 years, he has been teaching sculpture at Utah State University as an Associate Professor of Sculpture and is now on sabbatical where he spent some months at SCCP. He will go on to Carrara, Italy, where he has been before, to carve marble at the end of April. While he seems Americanized he very much has his place in the Japanese world.
The nearest I can get to being closely accurate (using online sources) is that Takashi Nakazato’s family is the fifteenth generation (including his children and grandson) of potters in the Karatsu area. Takashi was very modest with us and didn’t speak about his lineage but his family is said to be responsible for the revival of Karatsu ware and to say he and his family are revered in this area is possibly an understatement. His father was granted the ‘National Treasure’ designation and Takashi was offered the same but as Suzuki explained it, he felt the process has become too political in recent years and he would not accept it.
We truly enjoyed watching the two of them working together, chatting, cooking and engaging with each other on a daily basis. When Deb, T and I left for Karatsu, Ryoichi and Takashi were busy finishing and piecing their sculptures together, taking photos before driving to Tokyo to deal with the galleries and hopefully, pending exhibits. It was such a pleasure to have met the two of them and get to know a little about their work and lives!
And, thank you for reading and commenting….
I have so appreciated the private emails and the public comments about my thoughts on this residency. I look forward to working in my studio soon, using some of the things I’ve learned. There is lots more to tell I haven’t touched on – not to mention Kyoto, Nara, Kanazawa and Tokyo. This week is the official week of the Sakura or Cherry Blossom Festivals and it is indeed a celebration here! I’m looking forward to being home and enjoying ours as well….