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.

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?!...





New space, familiar view.


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.


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.


Nassrine and Kenta


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!


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.


 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.


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.


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


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.

'Elemental Journeys' - Ceramic Review (Issue 289)

This summer I wrote an article about ceramics residencies in Japan for the international magazine for ceramic art - Ceramic Review.

I interviewed three artists about their experiences in Japan and highlighted my own at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in March this year.

Anne Mette Hjortshoj told me about her residency at Mashiko - the historic home of Shoji Hamada - and the realisation of a life long dream to fire her own work in one of Hamada’s own climbing kilns. Christopher McHugh has a long association with Japan but until only recently undertook a residency there. He was particularly attracted to the programme at Seto in a town with a history of pottery making extending as far back as the 13th century. Jennifer Lee , like me, also attended the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, and as a Guest Artist there, spoke about the significant impact making work in Japan has had on her practice.

All three artists seemed to share a deep sense that Japan offered a complete change from life in the West, but also a chance to connect to an elemental source of inspiration. 

I was able to recount one of my own memorable experiences - the creation of a teabowl with Shigaraki tea master Okuda Eizan. In many ways this bowl has become a kind of self portrait of my time in Japan, and its dramatic firing back in England at Oxford Anagama Project - reminds me of the transformation I underwent.

The article also highlights some tips for planning a residency in Japan and one additional one which I want to add here, is the bi-lingual book I was recommended before my trip: The Japanese Pottery Handbook.

Ceramic Review (Issue 289) is out now.


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15 seconds and 60 years

Tomoo Hamada is the grandson of Shoji Hamada famous in the mid 20th century for helping to re-introduce folk pottery to Japan (the Mingei Movement) and for establishing his renowned partnership with English potter, Bernard Leach.

I heard Tomoo speaking at the Japanese Embassy in London a couple of weeks ago at a celebration event marking the centenary of the links made between Hamada and Leach - in particular, the ongoing collaboration between their respective potteries at Mashiko and St Ives.

Tomoo, now a ceramicist in his own right,  recalled several moments as a young child growing up with Shoji, watching him at work in the atmospheric wooden buildings at Mashiko - and one memory, in particular, stood out.

A young Tomoo was helping Shoji in the studio one day, decorating wares in preparation for a firing. Shoji often admired Tomoo's playful, free style with the brush. This looseness was a trademark of Hamada's own wares and he enjoyed seeing his grandson quickly work his way through the vessels, the youngster often beating him in the challenge to 'finish first'.

Tomoo then recalled what his grandfather said about brushwork - 'I describe it as 15 seconds and 60 years - it is possible to make quick brush strokes like you are doing, which are very good - but it also takes experience and age to get it just right.'

Returning to my studio to begin new work, I realise the benefits of this kind of playfulness - looking at tests from 12 months ago, finding them fresh again - I hope to capture their original essence but with the added benefit of another year's experience.


A tenmoku plate by Shoji Hamada. ( 


My stoneware tests.

When we stop the dance

The Reith Lectures this year have been given by British author Hilary Mantel.

As an artist working with both materials and ideas about the past Mantel has become an important figure in the conceptual development of my practice.

She recently described the past as not 'behind us but alongside' and for a while I felt this was the closest anyone had come to expressing what ultimately motivates and informs my work.

Now in her series of five in depth reflections she considers her craft as a writer in what she describes as 'resurrecting' the past.

But her main argument calls for the value of the imagined historical narrative as a potent and valid conduit to understanding the past, and how this can complement, rather than conflict, with the historian's role - a seemingly revolutionary notion...

The following section is transcribed from her first lecture 'The Day is for the Living', where she talks about the need to re-create rather than reproduce history, as '99% of supposed evidence' e.g. unrecorded speech, is unavailable to us:


'....Facts are not truth - although they are part of it - and information is not knowledge.

History is not the past: it's the method we've evolved of organising our ignorance of the past.

It's the record of what's left on the record.

It's the plan of the positions taken when we stop the dance to take them down.

It's what's left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it.

A few stones, scraps of writing, scraps of cloth - it's no more the past than a birth certificate is a birth, or a script is a performance, or a map is a journey.

It's the multiplication of the evidence of fallible and reliable witnesses, combined with incomplete accounts of actions not fully understood by the people who performed them.

It's no more than the best we can do.

And often it falls short of that.'


The full list of lectures can be found here:

Silent utterances

Looking recently at chawan by Raku Kichizaemon XV and reading Kato Shuichi's autobiography 'A Sheep's Song' I am also reflecting on new works created since coming back from Japan.

Working through my feelings about returning to the West I am conscious of a pervading tension: to maintain the positivity of my life in Japan amidst the almost overwhelming shadow of political life in the U.K.

Observing society showing signs of imploding with a growing sense of powerlessness is unnerving.

I then began to make some tea bowls and found they were almost immediately dysfunctional.

I am interested in the way the tea bowl holds a particular power in Japan as a philosophical and functional vessel. It embodies stillness and hope and silently speaks volumes.

As I struggle to maintain the deep silence I found there and navigate the extreme difference between our two cultures - I hope the work in clay will quietly speak and make small footholds. 


Hand built stoneware fired teabowl, June 2017. 


As paths intersect

The final armature was removed from my clay sculpture installation 'Exhume' today. 

It is the culmination of two weeks work in the wonderful environment of Bryggens Museum in Bergen. 

The exhibition will open on Friday and will showcase research findings from Bergen University's exploration of the history and cultural heritage of Palmyra and the Middle East.

In the space will be gathered stories, artefacts, books and photos from museum collections and archives as well as images taken by the team on site visits to Syria.

Visitors will have a chance to see classical pieces such as Atenatan and Salmat on loan from the Glyptotek in Copenhagen alongside ceramic pot sherds revealed from Bryggens' own collection.

Over 2000 years of history is illustrated in a vibrant mix of textures and voices culminating with the present day conflict in Syria.

It has been a very rainy June in Bergen (even for Bergen standards) so seeing the space begin to fill up with images of the desert and items that look as though they have just been plucked from the sand is appealing. 

I think about all the layered journeys involved in this exhibition: the lives of the ancient  Palmyrenes (Tadamera in Arabic) nomadic and yet settled in the oasis in the desert; the project team of Eivind, Birgit and Håkon who have stood on that desert and now have rain on their shoes; the museum staff who handle the material and produce the pathway for visitors through the space; and my own contribution, dreamt up over several restless nights late in 2015 thinking the unthinkable in unfired clay.

But increasingly as the days have passed here and the sculptures have taken shape, with their patient, watchful presence, I have been conscious of the plight of present day Syrians and wondering when the conflict will end.


Professor Eivind Heldaas Seland from Bergen University's Archaeology and Religious Studies Department with the 2nd century funerary bust 'Atenatan and Salmat' .


Birgit van der Lans and Håkon Fiane Teigen from Bergen University. My stay here has been made very pleasurable thanks to their hospitality. 


An amazing day when this bust arrived from the Glyptotek with its own truck. It was carefully enshrined in a glass case by Eivind and Håkon. 


Exhume - now completed and waiting patiently to be lit. Re-building this piece in Norway has told me so much about the balance of process and chance. 


Bryggens Museum - built around the original foundations of the medieval town  - an inspiring location to make my work each day. The staff have been amazing.

Nature at the centre

I took a walk to the nearby mountain of Fløyen this evening which forms part of a ring of seven (or some say nine) summits that surround Bergen.

It's a route I have now walked a few times and each time the weather has been slightly different offering a new way of seeing things.

This evening I walked in the rain and into the mist line hovering above the summit. When I returned the cloud was lifting and slowly the landscape revealed itself in silver sunlight. 

The pine trees and moss covered undergrowth reminded me simultaneously of Tolkien and the books I had read as a child inspired by Scandinavian sagas. But also inevitably of Japan and its mountain woods.

I have a strong sense of nature at the centre of things and it's one of the reasons I have been drawn to Norway and Japan.

I have also been listening to the words of Raku Kichizaemon XV a renowned chawan (tea bowl) maker from Kyoto and his views on nature and art.

He describes the importance of 'committing yourself to chance' as part of the creative process and also the idea that 'the whole of nature is contained within each of us'.

He is being interviewed by the late cultural commentator and teacher Kato Shuichi in the NHK series 'Japan: Spirit and Form' from the late 1980s - whose response was this:

 'That’s quite modern. It is not always possible to have nature and chance move as you would like. But when these uncontrollable elements fall into place, then you have a work of art’.


On the summit of Floyen, Bergen, Norway.

Cloud lifting and sun setting

Cloud lifting and sun setting


The pine wood on the mountain side at Gero,  Gifu Prefecture in Japan.


Raku Kichizaemon XV (Image: NHK series 'Japan Spirit and Form')


Kato Shuichi  (Image: NHK series 'Japan Spirit and Form')

A tacit understanding

Non-verbal communication was a key aspect of life for me in Japan.

It may appear on the outside to be a challenging prospect when working abroad, but I found recalibrating communication methods invigorating - and it confirmed to me that less, is often, more.

The importance of making yourself understood in a culture where you can't always explain your actions creates a determination to be positive on both sides. After all, who wants to risk a break down in communication or to cause offence with no way out? This was civilising. 

I also found that the connections made with people with little English to be some of the most poignant and meaningful, with both parties taking a leap of faith. This was rewarding.

So it was an immense relief to be spared the trials of my native language and experience another way.

It occurred to me later that our encounters with art, history and the natural world are similar in that they are largely non-verbal - which might explain why they are often so potent and memorable - with sight, sound, scent and touch all coming to the fore.

Now, as I build the sculpture ‘Exhume’ I find it is very much an exercise in silent negotiation. A settlement will be reached, but only if I commit myself to chance and allow the clay to respond, until we finally reach a tacit understanding. 


(Image: Birgit Van der Lans) 


I have arrived in Bergen, Norway to take part in a collaborative exhibition with Bergen University and Bryggens Museum - Journeys to Tadmor (Palmyra).

This exciting opportunity comes hard on the heels of my Japanese adventure and I'm aware of the multiple, layered sensations this is creating. 

The work I am producing will form the basis of a two week residency when I will build the sculpture installation 'Exhume' which I produced last year in response to the attack on Palmyra in Syria in 2015.

Since returning from Japan I have been keen to retain a sense of hope for the future. 

I was aware on leaving England how tense and full of angst my work had become. 

In Japan I lost this anxiety and a lightness entered my thinking, freed, not least, from a turbulent political time in the West. 

In particular, the 'ground culture' in Japan resonated strongly with me. It is humbling and perhaps submissive but also elemental. 

To remove your shoes and make contact with 'the earth', to sit on mats with others to eat or share tea from hand made bowls - this lowering calms the senses and opens up a fresh perspective for the Westerner. 

Now, handling my clay again, in a very different setting,  reminds me that whilst I am back, dealing with subjects of conflict again, the clay in my hand gives me hope. Perhaps it always did.

And I've also taken my shoes off!


Flying into Bergen.


My neighbourhood for a few weeks.


A wonderful welcome meal from my hosts at Bergen University  - thank you Birgit, Håkon and Alessandro.


Work began on 'Exhume' today.


Lucky Cat is with me! 

Image: Birgit Van Der Lans

Hai - The Culture of 'Yes'

As I prepared to leave the U.K. yesterday for my next project in Norway, the work I made in Japan arrived after its land journey across the world.

Miraculously, most of it survived, including some very fragile pieces.

Having described the journey of their creation in Japan in some detail it seems odd that this part has been shrouded in mystery and silence. But I like that.

In the interim I have had time to reflect on my experience. Initially this took a while to coherently form itself as I was barely conscious for the first few weeks of what I had undergone - it was so rich and detailed.

Several themes have since emerged which I will explore in the next few posts.

The overwhelming experience was one of positivity.  It was very unusual to ever be confronted with 'no'.

As I later understood more about the cultural emphasis on group harmony and the reasons why systems and infrastructure work so well in Japan - I could see why my own experience went so smoothly.

I was grateful for the quietly understated environment geared toward productivity.

This was evidenced by the dedication of the artists around me, many of whom worked around the clock to produce their work.

But also by the tireless efforts of the staff to support the process and find solutions. 

I also had a very strong sense of Japanese 'luck' - that somehow this positivity was rewarded by the gods.

On leaving I was given several gifts that symbolised this: an origami crane, a ceramic frog and the little wooden spirit of Jizou.

And when I returned to England I was able to make more sense of the nickname I was given by my Japanese friends:

'Hai! Hai!'


Packed in Shigaraki, collected at Patchway depot! 12 June 2017.


Everything had been carefully wrapped and placed on its side (smallest surface area) to prevent damage. Yoshiko gave me her collection of empty gift boxes which greatly helped. 


Every piece is now layered with the memory of how they were made.


This piece came from the wet day when the studio was closed and I sat on my own with the kerosene heater.


Finished works and sketches.

Conversations with fire

Last night I helped to stoke the annual firing of the Oxford University Anagama Project.

This project was established to research and build ancient methods of Japanese wood firing kilns. The team at Oxford, led by Anthropologist Dr Robin Wilson and Jim Keeling at Whichford Pottery, invited support from Japan’s National Living Treasure Isezaki Jun and Bizen potters Ishida Kazuya and Takikawa Takuma.

Together, two Anagama kilns were made at the University’s research site at Wytham Woods and are now providing ceramic wares for projects and exhibitions in both the U.K. and Japan.

I arrived at 3.30pm yesterday afternoon as the rain fell steadily and spent the next 8 hours sheltering under the warm kiln roof taking part in what felt like a ritual going back many centuries. 

There were periods of intense activity when visitors arrived to moments of silence broken only by the sounds of birdsong and the splitting of pine in the fire box.

This project is helping me to develop my experiences in Japan - and in many ways sitting outdoors in England as the evening fell and turned toward night reminded me of the wood firings at Shigaraki - the heavy scent of the pine wood, the soft sounds of wood chippings under foot, bird song and running water.

However this time I learnt how to read the pyrometer and take responsibility for gauging the correct amount of wood needed to reach the desired temperature allocated for each hourly segment. This process of feeding the fire was balanced with watching, waiting and listening. In many ways it reminded me of conversations I had with the Japanese. - offering something up, maybe adding an extra gesture and then waiting for the response - always with a sense of excitement and joy!

It was particularly nice to meet Takuma san last night who helped to build the kiln. Together we shared many words, looked at photos, talked about food, found translations for kanji.

He reminded me that on the other side of the world in Japan, night was drawing to a close and a new day was about to begin.

Takuma san looks on as visitors arrive at the site.

Takuma san looks on as visitors arrive at the site.

Local school pupils watch Kazuya san stoke the kiln.

Local school pupils watch Kazuya san stoke the kiln.

Taking responsibility for the fire - wearing gloves bought in 'The Hardware Store' in Shigaraki!

Taking responsibility for the fire - wearing gloves bought in 'The Hardware Store' in Shigaraki!

The afternoon / evening shift! - a lovely group of ceramicists and kiln enthusiasts.

The afternoon / evening shift! - a lovely group of ceramicists and kiln enthusiasts.

Takuma san's first test pieces - beautiful lions inspired by the Shinto shrines of Japan.

Takuma san's first test pieces - beautiful lions inspired by the Shinto shrines of Japan.

Journeys to Tadmor (Palmyra)

My sculptures in unfired clay - 'Exhume' -  will form part of a collaborative exhibition in Norway this Summer. 

 'Journeys to Tadmor (Palmyra)' is an exploration of the historic site in Syria: its significance as a trade and cultural centre over 2000 years ago to its current position as a site of conflict and war.

It centres around Bergen University's four year research programme -'Mechanisms of cross cultural interaction - Networks in the Roman Near East' - and together with Bergen City Museum they will host an exhibition of artefacts, art and heritage that tells the story of the people and their pathways across this extraordinary region. 

I will be working as artist in residence in the lead up to the exhibition, re-making my temporary clay sculptures 'Exhume' inspired by the destruction of Palmyra in 2015.

The exhibition will run from 30th June - 17 September 2017 and is funded by the Research Council of Norway.

More details will follow shortly.

Image credit: Max McClure

Image credit: Max McClure