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If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics.  Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied. 

This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s.  I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics.  It was one of those aha! moments.  I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand.  I was hooked, astounded, excited.  This was new territory for me.

I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist.  How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign.  Follow your bliss, if you remember that!  I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college.  I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances.  End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair.

Over the years, my guide and guru for all things ceramics, is Robert Yellin, gallerist, man about town and connoisseur extraordinaire here in Kyoto.  He’s introduced me to contemporary Japanese ceramic artists and brought me to their studios.  Pure delight.  I’ve purchased some wonderful pieces of art as a result of these experiences.  The works live with me and continue to inspire me and bring pleasure. Most of the ceramicists I’ve met go back several generations! Their apprenticeships and studies have gone on for decades.

Kawai Kanjiro

When I learned that the Nat’l Museum of Modern Art here in Kyoto had a very large exhibit of Kawai Kanjiro’s work, it became a must see.  Kanjiro is probably one of the most famous of Kyoto ceramicists.  It’s impossible to overstate this man’s talent and influence here.

“Kawai’s output was so tremendous that it almost seems as if some supernatural force was guiding him. The Buddhist term tariki refers to such a reliance on grace, and it appears that Kawai had embraced it.  ” R. Yellin

The museum gallery was quite large.  Kanjiro’s pieces sat on shelves as far as the eye could see.  I want to give you a taste of his work that I saw yesterday, obviously a poor substitute for seeing the original, but still compelling, I hope! (In the interest of keeping things simple, and not scholarly, I’ve omitted the dates, etc. for each work.)


Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.


  • Gregory Howell says:

    Dianne thanks for sharing this extraordinary story and how to live with art. All I have to do is touch one of the works and they speak to me on so many levels. Robert has been and will always be my go to person when it comes to all things ceramic. GH

    • devapnek says:

      Gregory, you’re part of my history here! I am always grateful for the adventures we had together. The fire continues!

  • Julie says:

    Pure genius! Loved his house but sorry I missed this amazing show. Thanks for documenting it.

    • devapnek says:

      We’re thinking of visiting his house again! Glad you liked the post!

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