I am not here

I have arrived back in the U.K. after an incredible experience in Japan.

I had planned ideally to deliver this project over a two month period, but thanks to the support of so many people, I was able to achieve it in the one month I was able to spend in Japan.

That said, the first three weeks were so intense, with schedules beginning very early and often ending late, that I was often conscious of floating through time.

My first stop at Hiroshima was an unforgettable way to begin. It was still very warm in Japan, so I was aware of the type of summer that might have occurred in 1945. This was very important to me.

The ring of the mountains surrounding Hiroshima are also very moving when you see them. They are so prominent in the archival images taken after the destruction when the city was obliterated - with nature left standing.

Meeting Nassrine Azimi and Kenta Matsuoka from Green Legacy Hiroshima and receiving donated leaves from the surviving trees was so emotional - I couldn’t have wished for a better introduction to the project.

It was then quickly on to Shigaraki.

The wonderful thing about Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, especially now I know it better, is that everything is organised quietly toward helping you achieve your aims. Thank you Sugiyama San, Matsunami San, Yuki, Yoshiko and Akira for everything.

It felt a very appropriate place to come and make work about the natural world, and in between making, I was able to gather inspiration and materials from the local countryside.

I will never forget those quiet moments of solitude cycling into the mountains to find a renewal of energy and focus, sometimes just finding a space to sit and breathe.

The forest became a special place for me.

I was also able to enter the rhythm of local life: meeting people walking their dogs at the end of the day, seeing them visiting shrines, tending their vegetable and rice fields.

Of course, when I’m here I enjoy the huge privilege of seeing my friends again and on this occasion it was on a much deeper level. A major highlight toward the end of my trip was being taken to the shrine city of Ise Jingū in Mie prefecture. This place has such significance nationally for Japan, so I felt honoured to give thanks in a very traditional way. Erika, Yo-Ko and Ishihama San - thank you!

There were so many other moments, which are too numerous to mention, as well of endless gifts of kindness, that I will treasure.

The Ittekoi wood firing was a major moment, not simply for me, but as a communal event in which so many people voluntarily contributed.

What is it about the wood fire that draws people? It felt elemental. Everything I hoped it would be - and perhaps more.

I should say a special word about my fellow artists, who were, of course, unknown to me at the beginning, but who proved to be amazing companions. How lucky to come at a busy time to the studios and meet such positive and talented people. The endless hospitality and willingness to include me was appreciated so much - I am in your debt: Vanessa, Virginia, Man, Barbara, Nate, Matt, Antonio, Clark, Sayuri, Kaho, Sita, Wen Hsi, Martin, Jennifer and Kim.

The final exhibition was an exciting moment. Quickly appraising the works I had made (over 200 pieces), and selecting a small handful. Thank you to everyone who helped make the Preview event a success, and to those who came and gave me feedback during the week.

I am very happy that one of the main pieces in the exhibition has been donated to the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park Collection. A piece of me, the Hiroshima trees and the memory of the trip are bound up in this work - I am so grateful it resides in Japan.

It was with some trepidation that I returned to Japan. My 2017 experience changed my life, so I was nervous returning might dilute or alter this experience.

I now know that Shigaraki is a place I will hopefully always return to - a piece of me is there.

I have not quite returned yet.

どうもありがとうございました

また会うまで !

 Using a home made camera obscura to connect with Hiroshima - 1 October 2018

Using a home made camera obscura to connect with Hiroshima - 1 October 2018

 Hibaku-Jumoku  Yanagi  (Willow) - a fallen branch was collected from this pond and later fired on clay - the piece is now in the collection of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

Hibaku-Jumoku Yanagi (Willow) - a fallen branch was collected from this pond and later fired on clay - the piece is now in the collection of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

 Shigaraki - my first evening walking back from the wood kilns to the studio - happy to be back!

Shigaraki - my first evening walking back from the wood kilns to the studio - happy to be back!

 How would these materials speak to me? - a period of testing and research begins…

How would these materials speak to me? - a period of testing and research begins…

 The mountains ….

The mountains ….

 The forest ….

The forest ….

 The shrines … connecting to Japan at a much deeper level.

The shrines … connecting to Japan at a much deeper level.

 Wonderful moment - when  Yabu Tsubaki  buds (Camelia) revealed themselves from the electric kiln in ash form - how could I know they would resemble radiation symbols?

Wonderful moment - when Yabu Tsubaki buds (Camelia) revealed themselves from the electric kiln in ash form - how could I know they would resemble radiation symbols?

 絵里香 ‘gift of flowers’

絵里香 ‘gift of flowers’

 Loading the furnace - so much to learn …

Loading the furnace - so much to learn …

 The Ittekoi firing - so many memories and perhaps the only way to enjoy sweet potatoes!

The Ittekoi firing - so many memories and perhaps the only way to enjoy sweet potatoes!

 Wood kiln sculpture in the sun outside the studio - with  Yabu Tsubaki  (Camelia)   ash motif.

Wood kiln sculpture in the sun outside the studio - with Yabu Tsubaki (Camelia) ash motif.

 Light relief! - pounding drums with the local Shigaraki drumming group :-)

Light relief! - pounding drums with the local Shigaraki drumming group :-)

 Fellow artists - great company, great food!

Fellow artists - great company, great food!

 Exhibition set up and ready for guests.

Exhibition set up and ready for guests.

 Preview - 23 October, 2018.

Preview - 23 October, 2018.

 Free Day - At Ise Jingū - precious memories.

Free Day - At Ise Jingū - precious memories.

 My final night - made happy by Halloween!

My final night - made happy by Halloween!

 Departing … made a little easier in Kawai Kanjiro’s Museum in Kyoto.

Departing … made a little easier in Kawai Kanjiro’s Museum in Kyoto.

 An auspicious end? … Mount Fuji emerging above the clouds as I fly away from Japan. My first ever sight of Fuji San.

An auspicious end? … Mount Fuji emerging above the clouds as I fly away from Japan. My first ever sight of Fuji San.

 Osaka to Bristol all in one day! - until next time …. またね

Osaka to Bristol all in one day! - until next time …. またね

Computing

Today was spent mostly on the computer, documenting my works and measuring in the space. I was also thinking quite hard about how to spend my few remaining days in Shigaraki...

The gallery is open each day at 10am so I had a little time to get some fresh air beforehand.

I decided to find my way to Mt Hando San where I’d been last year. It was odd retracing my steps but wonderful to be on the mountain again with no-one around except some interesting wildlife!

I had a visit in the gallery from one of the drumming group- Sashiko- so nice she made a special effort to come. 

Virginia and I visited Yoko San’s exhibition at the end of the day. So amazing to see her painting. I hope she continues to build on this success.

Finally, a huge effort was made on the food front for another delicious shared meal. Perfect way to end the day - thank you! 

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Full Moon!

Let the howling commence! 

My exhibition ‘Hibaku-Jumoku - in search of Hiroshima’s ‘Survivor Trees’ was launched yesterday at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park. 

The event was really lovely, made special by the attendance of my fellow artists, who I was able to thank. I was also grateful so many staff who have helped me at SCCP were also able to come, including Yuki, Matsunami San and Yoshiko. Special friends Yoko and Erika made my day, with beautiful flowers and cake from Erika. Her bamboo also appears in the exhibition - so lucky.

Tomoko Konno from last year’s residency also came which was a wonderful surprise as she is here in Shigaraki for a short while. 

Sugiyama San, Chief of the Residency, was present and returned after the first visit for a second look around. I’m very honoured! 

I’m pleased with the space and Yuki helped me set up pretty much on the day itself.

A special shout goes out to Nate who provided a wonderful vessel for the flowers! 

I also wanted to mention that Martin, Wen Hsi and Barbara all contributed to the making of my small teapots - clay and under glaze powder respectively! 

I have taken some pictures of the works today but will no doubt take more. 

One week to go... ouch!

 A few words... 

A few words... 

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 Meeting with Tomoko again - so special. 

Meeting with Tomoko again - so special. 

 Michael Jackson aka Yo-ko! 

Michael Jackson aka Yo-ko! 

 Virginia - great talent and company.

Virginia - great talent and company.

 Erika San - a star. 

Erika San - a star. 

 With Sugiyama San. 

With Sugiyama San. 

 Vanessa - so many gifts. 

Vanessa - so many gifts. 

 Barbara - I’ll never forget the Ittekoi noodles! 

Barbara - I’ll never forget the Ittekoi noodles! 

 With Man Yau - a super dude. 

With Man Yau - a super dude. 

 Nate - top shelf Lawson! 

Nate - top shelf Lawson! 

 Clark enjoying the detail.

Clark enjoying the detail.

 Thank you! 

Thank you! 

 Mikazuki special. 

Mikazuki special. 

Looking

Another long day starting at 7am unloading and tidying the kiln. I’m happy to say the firing was a success with all pieces surviving the trial by fire. 

The drawings from the natural fibres are much more subtle than the electric kiln and the Shigaraki style clay has really revealed itself. 

The kiln is now empty and I have left the wonderful hillside space with a sense of regret and anticipation for the selection process.

More detail will come once exhibition is launched on Tuesday.  

At the end of the day I managed a bike ride despite weariness. 

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Burning up - wood firing Part 2

Yesterday was a marathon wood firing effort.

I can’t begin to claim the credit, as I was helped by so many people completely voluntarily. 

The day passed in a haze of hot sunshine, increasingly hot wood, and endless gifts of food, drink, homemade produce, stoking time and good humour. When advice was imparted, it was very subtle and I noticed how people were drawn to the firing out of true enjoyment and a desire to participate. 

Akira San helped so much, to guide me at the beginning with a schedule and during the day; and the ever serene Matsunami San checked in on me occasionally and exuded his calm presence.

One particular highlight were the sweet potatoes from Erika San’s garden which roasted away infront of the kiln. She also spent some time stoking too after work.

Two major events occurred during the firing from a technical point of view. The first was around 600 degrees when huge plumes of black, acrid smoke billowed from the side of the kiln. I made a quick phone call to the office, swiftly followed by Yuki San arriving to re-assure me it was normal!

This took the firing back a bit and I struggled to get up to 800. Eventually making it with a little prayer to the patient Kiln God I’d made earlier, and prompted by fellow artist Wen Hsi who dropped by.

Both Antonio and Sita came and got stuck in with two very helpful sessions - Sita getting the kiln to 1200 at which point I was able to maintain the heat solo handed for 3 more hours. 

Barbara brought a delicious bowl of udon soup with Inari tofu up to keep me going and provided much appreciated help. 

Both Nate and Matt sat with me as it got late and we had a good chat about politics! 

The session ended with frozen edamame from Jennifer Lee, and finally, a celebration beer and the very chilled out and calming presence of new arrival to SCCP, Man Yau from Helsinki.

All I can say is thank you, because apart from the obvious enjoyment and challenge of my first wood firing, it was the people (and Japanese luck) that made it.

 

 Akira San made the first flame. 

Akira San made the first flame. 

 My little Kiln God loosely based on Kitsune the fox that guards the Shinto Shrines in Japan. The kiln was also sprinkled with sake for additional good luck and thanks. 

My little Kiln God loosely based on Kitsune the fox that guards the Shinto Shrines in Japan. The kiln was also sprinkled with sake for additional good luck and thanks. 

 Starting to gradually build up the heat. 60 degrees per hour until around 250.

Starting to gradually build up the heat. 60 degrees per hour until around 250.

 Surrounded by the forest as I worked. Late summer cicadas still calling, occasional crow calls, and a black kite emerged from time to time. 

Surrounded by the forest as I worked. Late summer cicadas still calling, occasional crow calls, and a black kite emerged from time to time. 

 First visitors to the kiln. Barbara is here for a 6 month residency, so it’s nice to see someone enjoying the life at Shigaraki with so much potential ahead. 

First visitors to the kiln. Barbara is here for a 6 month residency, so it’s nice to see someone enjoying the life at Shigaraki with so much potential ahead. 

 Antonio made a brilliant contribution to the day, coming in after my challenging moment around 800 degrees. 

Antonio made a brilliant contribution to the day, coming in after my challenging moment around 800 degrees. 

 Sweet potatoes from Erika’s garden - they were perfect by 5pm. 

Sweet potatoes from Erika’s garden - they were perfect by 5pm. 

 Erika and Ishihama San stoking during their lunch break!

Erika and Ishihama San stoking during their lunch break!

 More stoking from Erika after work - great company. 

More stoking from Erika after work - great company. 

 Holding temperature reached around 7pm. 

Holding temperature reached around 7pm. 

 Thanks to incredible effort by Sita. Everyone who stoked had slightly different approaches, but the result was always in the right direction. 

Thanks to incredible effort by Sita. Everyone who stoked had slightly different approaches, but the result was always in the right direction. 

 Man Lau from Helsinki witnessed the final push to 1240 after 3 hours of holding temperature. And so to bed!! 

Man Lau from Helsinki witnessed the final push to 1240 after 3 hours of holding temperature. And so to bed!! 

Loaded - Wood Firing Part 1.

It’s hard to imagine loading a kiln for a whole day but that sums up my day today! 

 

 Breakfast in the studio around 7.30am.

Breakfast in the studio around 7.30am.

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 Seven round trips up the mountain hand carrying my greenware. The 8th with Yoshiko!

Seven round trips up the mountain hand carrying my greenware. The 8th with Yoshiko!

 The unknown - what will tomorrow’s firing bring??

The unknown - what will tomorrow’s firing bring??

 Deciding and wadding. I’m happy not to be wadding for a while. This process of attaching wadding clay to the base of each piece is vital to prevent items welding to the shelves. But time consuming.

Deciding and wadding. I’m happy not to be wadding for a while. This process of attaching wadding clay to the base of each piece is vital to prevent items welding to the shelves. But time consuming.

 Great to see work finally in a kiln! 

Great to see work finally in a kiln! 

 Using rice straw to add depth and colour to the pieces.

Using rice straw to add depth and colour to the pieces.

 Yoshiko bricking up the door for sealing tomorrow.... 

Yoshiko bricking up the door for sealing tomorrow.... 

 It was lovely to have visitors on the mountain side - wood firing is a special occasion and enjoyed by all.

It was lovely to have visitors on the mountain side - wood firing is a special occasion and enjoyed by all.

Half Moon

Two firings begin this week. I have my 10kw electric kiln firing tomorrow followed by the wood kiln on Thursday. 

I’m still making! 

Tonight I need to select pieces and make sure everything is dry. 

It’s been amazing working on ideas at such an intense pace, with lots of unknowns but surrounded by the stimulating landscape of Shigaraki. 

Most days have either started or ended with cycling out to collect samples and inspiration. Without the bike this would be a much more limited experience - so I feel very fortunate that so much is within reach. 

One month is a very short space of time to realise a project like this, but I’ve used my time well, having now reached the half way point. 

Once the wood firing is completed, I’ll have a couple of days to organise the exhibition which previews on the 23rd October. 

I look forward to that day!

 

 Camelia from Hiroshima on clay tile.

Camelia from Hiroshima on clay tile.

 Sita’s wood fired pieces in the gallery.

Sita’s wood fired pieces in the gallery.

 Deep in Spider Web Forest.

Deep in Spider Web Forest.

 Visiting Nate’s firing.

Visiting Nate’s firing.

 Nate’s results look impressive...

Nate’s results look impressive...

 Moon rising over Heiwado!

Moon rising over Heiwado!

Grafting

I’m into the main building phase now so it’s longer days and one eye on the clock before my firing commences next week.

The work will present interesting challenges when it comes to transportation and loading the Ittekoi, so a 10kw electric firing will also take place as a back up next week.

The days are getting darker so my trip to find local bamboo was mainly in twilight. I’m trying to use as much fresh material as possible to supplement my Hiroshima samples.

I’m also taking the opportunity to make some drawings and photograms which may be considered for the exhibition - preview on the 23 October. 

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  Hello!...Yes I am really here...

Hello!...Yes I am really here...

Day of Silence

Yesterday was mostly a day of silence.

The centre was closed, so the park was still with occasional bird song. 

It was a chance to prepare publicity for the exhibition including design work for the poster and supporting text. 

The day ended peacefully with friends at the mountain Onsen under the stars. 

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Thinking

Testing of clay bodies has been completed with one type (25) proving most consistent results.  

The next stage of my project involves creating pieces robust enough to withstand the wood kiln (flat and vertical) and achieve effective (and interesting) results.  

The gallery space also needs preparing, so there is much multi-tasking underway. Vanessa is also having an exhibition shortly before mine so we are working together which helps. 

The Ceramics Market is now over and has been very successful this year. Lots of visitors dropping into the studio too, so we never quite know who’s going to appear. 

Ceramic artist, Chitaru Kawasaki came to the space and met me and the other artists which was a pleasure.

Still enjoying memories from Sunday night at the fireworks and drumming event in town!

 No.25 - textured clay with oxide content proving consistent.

No.25 - textured clay with oxide content proving consistent.

 Occasional surprises with others (Raku mix)

Occasional surprises with others (Raku mix)

 Kawasaki San with one of my tea pots.

Kawasaki San with one of my tea pots.

 Wonderful festival of fireworks and drumming in the town centre on Sunday.

Wonderful festival of fireworks and drumming in the town centre on Sunday.

 Late night cleaning the plinths.

Late night cleaning the plinths.

Testing

Six days in and my test firing is underway. 

Lots of interesting challenge to keep foliage from Hiroshima fresh and selecting local materials, such as sasa (bamboo), too.

The 5KW electric kiln will be ready by morning which will help me on to the next phase. 

I’m also preparing some additional work inspired by my project and the wider experience of returning to Japan. I hope to include this in the exhibition later in the month. 

It’s been fun to see two other artists from Bristol joining the residency! - Wen Hsi and Martin Harman. 

The Exhibition Hall has re-opened with another inspiring show. I may make some iPhone sketches like last year.

Now off to fireworks in the town...

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Tropical

The weather has suddenly jumped back into summer mode - very humid, heavy downpours mixed with hot sun.  

This was tricky for the start of the Tougei No Mori Ceramics Market which is a major local event in Shigaraki and the region.  But the rest of the weekend is due to stay dry.

I spent most of the day trying to keep cool and work on some options for my important test firing on Monday. One challenge is that wood kilns are known to provide striking effects on vertical wares. So I’m probably going to mix flat pieces with other shapes in order to maximise these opportunities.

Sita’s Ittekoi firing was successful, which gives added confidence for mine on the 18th.

I’ve also spent some excellent time with Guest Artist from Philadelphia, Nathan Willever, talking about coal beds and cones. 

Finished the day with more bike exercise and discovered a large Buddhist temple along my countryside route. 

 

  Sita unloading the Ittekoi.

Sita unloading the Ittekoi.

   Test tile waiting for Monday.

 Test tile waiting for Monday.


 

  Foliage gifts from the mountain .

Foliage gifts from the mountain.

  Bamboo at the top of the park.

Bamboo at the top of the park.

   Rain clearing for visitors to the Ceramics Market.

 Rain clearing for visitors to the Ceramics Market.

 Temple at dusk.

Temple at dusk.

Tougei No Mori

Life at Tougei No Mori (Forest of Ceramics) has begun in refreshingly familiar, but also new ways.

For a start the jet lag has been no problem. I put this down to managing to sleep on the aeroplane or at least refuse to be tempted by the view from the window as before!

The task ahead is starting to come into focus and most of my time has now been allocated.

My project this year means I will be constantly juggling organisational tasks with creative work.

The exhibition at the end of my month means I need to be looking forward at the space now and making work accordingly. This is exciting and challenging but hopefully my period of testing back in the U.K. and my successful trip to Hiroshima will help.

It has also been wonderful to meet up with the staff at SCCP again, who make life here such a happy one.

I’m also getting to know my new fellow artists and the residency is now almost full to capacity with very talented people. More on this, will no doubt follow.

  Ceramic prints made in the U.K. made it through the journey!

Ceramic prints made in the U.K. made it through the journey!

  Much testing on Japanese clay begins - mainly to see if the natural fibres will fire ok. This is another theme based around the refining of uranium - ‘yellow cake’.

Much testing on Japanese clay begins - mainly to see if the natural fibres will fire ok. This is another theme based around the refining of uranium - ‘yellow cake’.

  I’ve been checking out the gallery space - measuring and considering options for curation.

I’ve been checking out the gallery space - measuring and considering options for curation.

  After work - amazing trip into the mountains with Erika.

After work - amazing trip into the mountains with Erika.

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  Local and very talented potter showed us his Shigaraki wares.

Local and very talented potter showed us his Shigaraki wares.

  Yoko - she hasn’t changed!

Yoko - she hasn’t changed!

  New artists - Thanos from Greece (although he’s just left), Antonio (Hong Kong), Vanessa (China), Barbara (U.K.)

New artists - Thanos from Greece (although he’s just left), Antonio (Hong Kong), Vanessa (China), Barbara (U.K.)

Return to Shrine

It’s great to be back at Shigaraki.

Thankfully nothing has changed, except the weather.

It’s much warmer than my spring experience last year and I have the insect bites to prove it!

The air is also filled with the new sound of Cicadas (or the Japanese version I assume), but change is on the way with the prospect of a typhoon. ..

It was my first day in the studio, setting up my space, my schedule for the month and making my first tests. 

It’s also very busy with lots of international residents from China, Greece, Sweden and USA.

Sita from China is firing the Ittekoi Kiln so I will shortly see (and learn) from her experience before my turn on the 18th October.

Now, where’s that bite cream?!...

 

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 Back!

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New space, familiar view.

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New artists - Sita at the Ittekoi  Kiln.

 

   First Hibaku-Jumoku samples for test firing on Japanese clay.

 First Hibaku-Jumoku samples for test firing on Japanese clay.

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My first bike ride, ending the day back at the shrine.

Forgiven, but not forgotten

Yesterday I was able to finally meet Nassrine Azimi, former director and Kenta Matsuoka, current staff, of UNITAR--a research and training institute of the United Nations.

Nassrine is co-founder with Tomoko Watanabe of ‘Green Legacy Hiroshima’ (GLH) a voluntary initiative that sends seeds and saplings of the historic ‘Hibaku-Jumoku’ or ‘Survivor Trees’ around the world, raising awareness about the history of the trees, the resilience and beauty of nature and the dangers of nuclear weapons.

I was shown key sites within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and the trees themselves.

Some of the trees still remain in the exact spot when the atomic bomb was exploded above the Genbaku Dome.

One Weeping Willow is the tree closest to the epicentre, and is characteristic of the Hibaku-Jumoku - leaning in toward the blast of the bomb.'

Nassrine presented me with a variety of cuttings which I will be test firing shortly,  although their symbolic nature makes them almost too precious to use.

I am very grateful to Nassrine and Kenta for their time and for Nassrine’s deep knowledge of Hiroshima’s history - past and present.

She left me with the powerful idea that Hiroshima (and Nagasaki) symbolise the wider intent of the Japanese people today - to forgive the past, but to also share the lessons from it. 

  Weeping Willow - leaning in toward the blast.

Weeping Willow - leaning in toward the blast.

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Nassrine and Kenta

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After leaving Hiroshima late morning, I took the long journey across Honshu Island to Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park where my project will continue.

   At Kusatsu Station - probably on the wrong platform!

 At Kusatsu Station - probably on the wrong platform!

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Back again at Tougei No Mori (Forest of Ceramics) at dusk.

Long Day Closes

My project has got underway with a mammoth day.

It started in London on Sunday morning at Heathrow, and I’m now ending it on Monday evening, after a 13 hour flight to Osaka (via Helsinki), and a successful onward trip to Hiroshima.

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 Genbaku Dome Peace Memorial, Hiroshima.  Camera obscura image. 1.10.18.

Hiroshima comes with a huge weight of expectation, making any kind of artistic interpretation full of pitfalls. So I was really keen to use a different approach to capture my first impressions, and decided to make a pin hole camera obscura. 

I particularly like the unfinished nature of this kind of photography - and the layering of paper inside the camera adds depth and perspective.

The dome: the only direct architectural reference of the atomic bombing, is a magnet for tourists and photographers, so it was fun to wander around with my black box.

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Tomorrow I will meet Professor Nassrine Azimi, the co-founder of ‘Green Legacy Hiroshima’, to talk in more detail about my research into the Survivor Trees of Hiroshima  - the ‘Hibaku-Jumoku’.

I am also very fortunate to be receiving samples from these trees, to use in my project.

I’ll end the day travelling to Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park where I’ll be staying for the next month to make new ceramic works for an exhibition.

  Travelling to Hiroshima via Bullet Train.

Travelling to Hiroshima via Bullet Train.

  Inside the Memorial Museum.

Inside the Memorial Museum.

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The Peace Park at dusk. 

Japan 2018

It's taken 18 months, but I am finally on the verge of a return trip to Japan this October.

I will be returning to Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park to undertake a specific project and hold my first exhibition in Japan.

My initial inspiration has been the symbol of the 'Hibaku-Jumoku' or the 'Survivor Trees', that withstood the impact of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War Two.

I will be travelling to Hiroshima (typhoons willing) on my arrival in Japan. There I will be visiting the Memorial Park and Museum and gathering natural materials for my work at Shigaraki.

I also hope to meet representatives of the voluntary body 'Green Legacy Hiroshima' who take care of the surviving trees in the City.

Sadly, time does not allow a trip to Nagasaki, but I will be using the testimonies of those people who survived the bombs to inform the project. 

I will then set off to Shigaraki, arriving on October 2nd and staying for a month to develop new work, using the wood firing kilns and having an exhibition toward the end of my stay.

The next couple of weeks before I leave will be taken up with testing materials and designs in preparation for the trip.

Thank you to all those who have supported and helped me realise this project. Returning to Japan is a tremendous gift and one which I hope you can enjoy with me via this blog.

Look out for new updates soon.

 Return to Shrine - music inspired by my forthcoming trip.

Return to Shrine - music inspired by my forthcoming trip.

 Pulled from the fire - reviewing the effects of japanese wood firing on a teabowl I made last year in Japan and fired at Oxford Anagama in  May 2017 .

Pulled from the fire - reviewing the effects of japanese wood firing on a teabowl I made last year in Japan and fired at Oxford Anagama in May 2017.

 Testing designs and clays - September 2018

Testing designs and clays - September 2018

New work

It's been a busy and productive 2018 so far.

I am really interested in the development of my clay drawings, which started with Stilboestrol in the spring, followed more recently by Love Song, both inspired by the life of Alan Turing.

  Love Song , 2018 (100 x 150 x 50) Ceramic Hanging

Love Song, 2018 (100 x 150 x 50) Ceramic Hanging

  Love Song , (detail) - Image credit Max McClure

Love Song, (detail) - Image credit Max McClure

Both pieces signal a new level of detail in my work - usually I like to produce pieces more quickly and spontaneously. This new mentality has come partly from observing the intense dedication of the artists I met in Japan, coupled with my own drive to push the boundaries of my chosen media, as far as possible.

Both Stilboestrol and Love Song were on show at this year's BV Open Studios and received a very positive response. I hope to develop new opportunities to share them with a wider audience in 2018 and beyond.

I have also been developing my printmaking techniques, using oxide on clay; and building up my installation of wheel thrown miniature teapots inspired by the group culture in Japan titled: 'My Place at the Table'.

  Shining Officer , 2018, 21 x 14 cm,  Oxide print on stoneware clay

Shining Officer, 2018, 21 x 14 cm,  Oxide print on stoneware clay

  My Place at the Table , 2018, stoneware clay - Image credit Max McClure

My Place at the Table, 2018, stoneware clay - Image credit Max McClure

Stilboestrol

The life of computer scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, renowned for his pioneering work, notably at Bletchley Park in WW2, has inspired several pieces of ceramic work over the last year.

Portrait of Christopher (50 x 70 cm) was my first attempt at using finely rolled clay sections to build up a larger composite piece, inspired by archival images of early computers and Turing's school friend Christopher Morcom.

The delicacy of the process, from construction through to firing, taught me a lot about the boundaries of clay, its handling and transportation.

This piece was selected for the 165 Royal West of England Academy Open Exhibition last year and was exhibited flat on perspex. 

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In Japan I undertook further experiments and used inlay techniques to build up a drawn image with stoneware clay - working with large format kilns also allowed me to produce single pieces.

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I have now completed my first large scale sculptural ceramic drawing - Stilboestrol (100 x 150 cm).

Stilboestrol, a form of oestrogenwas the drug Alan Turing was injected with when he was convicted of 'Homosexual Acts' in 1952. It was this treatment, known as Chemical Castration, which he underwent in lieu of a prison sentence. He died two years later when a verdict of suicide by cyanide poisoning was given.

The composite ceramic piece is designed as a wall hanging and whilst it remains a very fragile structure it is my first successful attempt at a three dimensional drawing.

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Images by Max McClure

High Rise Ceremony

As I continue to assimilate my experiences from Japan, I am intrigued by the impulse to use certain media to express myself. I am always excited by the moment when music comes to the fore and it is liberating to explore the multiple textures of sound.

High Rise Ceremony is a selection of largely improvised sketches inspired by places, people and my return to the West. In it I explore themes of discovery, personal transformation and societal dysfunction and briefly refer to literature in Hara (from Van Der Post's The Seed and the Sower).

High Rise Ceremony was composed in November and December 2017.