There’s always something wonderful waiting at the end of the drive when you’re lucky enough to join Robert Yellin on a visit to a few potters.
I met Robert many years ago when he helped to guide tour groups to ceramic areas. We’ve remained friends, and each time we visit Kyoto,I look forward to meeting up with Robert. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call him one of the country’s leading authorities on contemporary Japanese ceramics. He runs a wonderful gallery in Kyoto close to the Philosophers Walk. I believe anyone serious about contemporary Japanese ceramics should/must visit. It’s always a showcase for both established and emerging potters. Robert easily shares his passion and seemingly limitless knowledge of ceramics with his visitors.
This visit, he drove us to the ancient pottery area of Tamba. The potters he visits are overjoyed to see him and that is part of the fun. I enjoy seeing the work of each potter in her/his own gallery, as they chose to display it. There are always an abundance of riches to savor, admire (and occasionally purchase!)
The galleries in Tamba line the roadside bordered by mountains just beginning to show color.The kilns hover above the galleries and above that, looking out over the Tamba plain are the homes of the potters. The homes fit effortlessly into the rural landscape. Some of their ceramic lineages go back 14 generations. It’s an astonishing legacy by American standards!
It’s a lifestyle that looks very appealing as a visitor, although I know the realities are more challenging.
Young people in Japan aren’t buying as many dishes as did earlier generations I can only hope that somehow the old traditions survive because the richness of the ceramic traditions here contributes greatly to the quality, pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction of daily life.
Take it from one who knows!