AdamMY wrote:Heres another question, this one possibly a bit more personal. How did you get started with your art?
Way back in high school days, I was fortunate to have a strong art program and a good art teacher. As a kid, I had always been interested in art.....and was a "maker".
When I was 13 years old, I had the good fortune to be invited by a good friend's parents to spend the whole summer camping with them in the southwestern USA. Being an eastern boy, I'd never seen Mother Earth "naked". The rugged rocky and earthy landscape just fascinated me. The amazing colors and textures were absolutely fantastic. I chewed up roll after roll of Kodachrome. The muted earth tones with the occasional light greens where a bit of water allowed growth was stunning.
I graduated from high school with one of the art awards, but being a bit "practical minded" and following the "expected course", I headed off to college (UMass, Amherst) to study a nice science field major; Marine Biology. That all changed when I had my first elective course slot open second semseter. I took Ceramics 1.
I touched clay and it was as if I had discovered a long lost friend (see below
). Additionally, I had one of those inspriational teachers that makes a difference in your life, a wonderful ceramist and sculptor named Brenda Minisci. The combination of the two was powerful, and by the end of second semester, I had taken the BFA major examination in order to change my major into the BFA ceramics program. I never looked back. And to their credit, my parents supported that seemingly absurd decision.
In Ceramics 1, Brenda showed an old black and white 16 mm film by Robert and Edith Sperry called "Village Potters of Onda
". It documented the life and work of a tiny pottery village called Onta Sarayama near the city of Hita on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. I was totally blown away at the simple but rewarding lifestyle and the naturalism of the work. (It certainly resonated with the 60's "back to nature" and simple lifestyle viewpoint.) And I also saw the practical use and appreciation for those earth-tone colors and textures that I so loved as a 13 year old kid.
Bang! That single film started a love of Japanese pottery and culture that was to direct my study and life for the past forty years. That film also started a love of woodfire and specifically the noborigama style kiln. After only one semester I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
As a young potter learning the craft in the late 60's and early 70's, I soon became aware of "A Potter's Book
" by the the English potter Bernard Leach; the "bible" for clayworkers at the time. That quickly lead to finding out about Leach's friend, Hamada Shoji. Once again I hit upon something that just "connected"; I was totally taken with Hamada's work. I then began to study all I could about him and the town of Mashiko. That interest eventually broadened to studying about other Japanese potters and pottery centers.
A long rewarding path has ensued since then, all with an orientation to Japan and a shared aesthetic with the Japanese. This interest eventually lead me to travel to and live for periods in Japan..... and also to actually winning a rather major award for my work in the town of Mashiko, in a competition juried by Hamada Shoji's first son in pottery, Hamada Shinsaku, and Ningen Kokuho (Living National Treasure) Shimaoka Tatsuzo amongst other major figures. I realized the true significance of that award when I arrived to find Joan Mondale repsesenting the US Ambassador to Japan (her husband Fritz) and the Cultural Atachee' from the US government there at the award cceremony. That honor lead to friendships and associations in Japan that continue to this day.
So...... back to that "long lost friend" idea I mentioned above. In a way, clay was
a long lost friend. It was only well after I had changed my major to ceramics that my mother mentioned to me that our family had a long history in pottery! I never knew it. A number of generations on my mother's side of the family had worked in the traditional pottery industry that was located in the Trenton area of New Jersey. These were the Mercer and Cook potteries. So I am technically an Xth generation potter...... with a little gap in there of one generation.
So there you have "the early days".