Ceramic Pleasures

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. Continue reading “Ceramic Pleasures”

See You Later

It can be heaven for some or bordering on hell for others.  I learned how to shop at my mother’s knee. I know what I like and easily make decisions about items, their value and appropriateness for me.  No internal struggles.  “When in doubt, count it out,”I learned from Mom as well!  It’s never led me wrong.

By the way, please touch the towels. The colors are never better, the weave never softer, anywhere!

You can always fill the need to restore vitality in the restaurants in department stores

Shopping is seemingly ingrained in the Japanese pursuit of leisure.  You see young couples, teens , new mothers, and befuddled tourists all enjoying the pursuit. Each depato houses several restaurants so in case hunger strikes, that can be  easily satisfied without leaving the building.

show stoppers!

My pulse rate quickens when I walk into a sophisticated Japanese depato (department store). Welcome to fantasy land for anyone who likes to shop. This world exists to coddle, support and take away barriers that might make it difficult to separate you from your money.  The best in the business create displays guaranteed to make you stop, gaze and consider.

 

Salespeople here have learned how to hover discretely; there to help when needed, but almost never intrusive.  That’s a skill not see in the West too often.

I can be expected to make a pilgrimage to a favorite depato soon after arriving in Japan.  It just comes with the territory.  I must see what the treasures of the day await in the Exhibition Hall.  Often,  I discover a wonderful ceramic artist. I seek out special displays of Japanese made objects, often finding the artisans themselves at work in the store.

charming and clever window display.

Here, form=function and materials shine. Seasonal displays are always varied,fun and engaging. I must browse through the basement food floor, hungry or not, just to gaze at the art of the possible. Presentation of food is always taken to a new level of beautiful (if unnecessary) packaging and gastronomic allure.

Time and cares have a way of disappearing on these outings.  It’s escapism at its finest for those of us who appreciate such things.  For American spouses, not so much.

Depato shopping for me is usually best for me as a solitary pursuit, prefaced by an airy and indeterminate “See you later!”

The Wonderful World of Eye Candy

I can easily be distracted by visual displays of color and pattern.  I relate to infants watching a mobile; their eyes are bright with excitement and their chubby little legs  kick with glee.  If I were a bird, I’d be right after the mate with the most colorful and hypnotic plumage.

So I guess I was ready made for Japan.  On my first visit there I was immediately attracted to…..almost everything.  So much eye candy (for lack of a better description).  I was fascinated by it all.  Pity anyone who was with me.  They were required to move VERY s l o w l y, so as to savor and attempt to consume it all as I pointed out each thing that caught my eye, foolishly hoping my companion would get the same jolt I did. I clearly did not  trust their own abilities.

eye can·dy
/ī ˈkandē/

noun

INFORMAL
visual images that are superficially attractive and entertaining but intellectually undemanding.
“the film’s success rested on a promotional campaign showcasing its relentless eye candy”
California super bloom 2019
In our culture, the term eye candy seems mostly used to define a buxom, brainless young woman.  For me, it  means something visual that I can take pleasure from.
Think of the current superbloom of wildflowers in California. Possibly,  a once in a lifetime treat. If this isn’t eye candy, what is??  Add to these floral enticements the staggering beauty and gasp- inducing wonder of a mature Japanese cherry tree in blossom, probably made more magical by its ephemeral nature. Certainly more bittersweet.
Japanese cherry blossom in Kyoto, Maruyama Park, night illumination.  This tree brought me to tears the first time I saw it.

 

Japanese munchkins, vintage photo. irresistible.  They’ve cornered the cuteness market.

 

Hot weather matcha sundae. Irresistible layers of flavors and textures and coolness. ( I eat it all.)

 

contemporary patterns in Japanese umbrellas. Raised to an art form. Rainy season wonders.

 

more sakura

 

Seasonal Japanese postcards. Glorious.

 

matcha latté

 

Sakura in Rokkokuji Temple. A neighborhood wonder.

 

New chocolate shop in my neighborhood. Note seasonal designs. Help yourself.

 

Japanese ceramic vessels. Be still my heart.

The diversity, power and beauty of Japanese ceramics and its long tradition make this art form one to be savored.

spring ikebana arrangement

 

someone loves frogs. Display in coffee shop.

 

Autumn in Sanzen-in garden.

 

seen in arcade. The power in numbers!

 

Child’s drawing in Miyajima.

 

 

 

sake container
Tower of fresh peas
Clouds!!!
In the course of writing this blog, I realize that most of what I consider eye candy in the West, is found  in nature.  In Japan, it can be man-made and intentional as well as natural.  The Japanese seem to have an innate artistic sensibility that  can raise my heartbeat. What is the magic formula that allows this ability?
I have thousands of photos of things that inspire me when I’m in Japan.  I’ve shared just a small slice of them to give you a sense of my encounters!  I imagine on an Eye Candy Sensitivity Chart, I might be off the chart.  Don’t know. What is clear is that these visual delights bring me great pleasure.
Sometimes, I wonder how many more years I’ll be able to make this trek.  Unknowable.  But, for now, I’m gearing up for another round, leaving this world on May 1!

Continue reading “The Wonderful World of Eye Candy”

Things My Mother Taught Me

It’s impossible to overstate the role that ceramics plays in daily life in Japan. It’s equally impossible to deny my obsession with it. Another impossibility is to give a comprehensive overview  of the role ceramics plays in Japanese history and culture. There are books and experts on this subject.  I consider my self an admirer. A slightly obsessed admirer.

It’s all my mother’s doing.  She loved dishes!  She loved good china and antiques.  One of the strongest memories of my childhood is going antiquing with her while we were away at the beach on a rainy day..  She came across an antigue epergne made of cranberry glass in a small antique store. It was instant infatuation but very expensive for an independent grocer’s wife.  No Matter.  She bought it and made me promise never to tell my Dad what she paid for it. It graced every special dinner table at our home for the rest of her days. I doubt that my Dad who had little interest in such things, even noticed it. Her secret was safe.

cranberry glass epergne, Bess Kaplinsky’s pride and joy centerpiece.

 

If only she had been set loose in Japan. the land where dish mix and match has been raised to an art form! Today’s young people might go in for only one set of matching dishes now, but they’re missing out,in my opinion.  Many districts in Japan have their own style of pottery, some adorned and some extremely simple.  It’s a matter of local tradition, clay and taste.  There are pottery traditions within families that go back a dozen or more generations! It’s quite remarkable.

You could spend a lifetime studying Japanese ceramics, but I don’t have that sort of brain. For me, it’s just like my taste in wine, I know it when I taste it, but don’t ask me for its provenance. 

kyo-yaki (made in Kyoto ceramics) teapcups

Tea cup towers:  John Derian eat your heart out!

With all this in mind, I made my way to a pottery sale yesterday, astonished at the low prices and feverish with desire to try to make a ceramic sculpture. Kyo-yaki (pottery made in Kyoto) can be quite decorative, some to my liking, some not. Most of what was on sale was functional. There was a fine selection at the sale and I left feeling very satisfied with myself (yet again). Nothing that seemed of collector’s quality, but ceramics I can use daily with no qualms. Or experiment with (see above).

Prices are often high here for high quality ceramics. A lot of thought goes into choosing ceramics for dinners and tea ceremony  Serious students of ceramics apprentice and study for years and years.

I think a lot on sale was surplus stock, but there were bargains to be had, for 200-300-500 yen. My mother also taught me to like a bargain. That’s approximately $2-$5 per dish for pieces that originally sold for up to $200 each.

At the other end of the local pottery spectrum, I visited an off the beaten path museum, the Kansetsu Hashimoto Garden and Museum. Unexpectedly I found a splendid display by the Kyoto Ceramics Assoc. of Kyo-yaki ceramics in a old building adjacent to the early autumn garden.  Many works were made for the tea ceremony, I’m sure.http://www.e-yakimono.net/guide/html/kyo-yaki.html

kyo-yaki (made in Kyoto ceramics) teacups.  purchased at the sale.

I also found the ephemeral beauty in the garden’s lotus pond mesmerizing.

Nothing tops Nature.

There’s Still Time

I wanted to love it, and I occasionally did almost enjoy it.  It had its moments.  Just not enough of them.  It was a blockbuster digital art show presented by the Mori Art Museum called Tokyo Lab Boundless.  It is state of the art of digital technology.  Tickets were scarce, but I got one.  I waited in line to enter as my anticipation built, while knowing instinctually that I might not like the manipulated world that awaited us.

How to describe the encounter?  It was an encounter, because the visual overload was close to overwhelming. Visualize many large overlapping spaces contained within a huge hangar. Within the hangar are rooms with different visual displays, mostly relating to nature.  Rooms ultimately morph into other rooms and the spaces purposely become “boundless,” constantly moving, shifting and reappearing. Hints of eternity?

Envision being in a space where every surface is covered with some of the following in a digital rendering; flowers of all kinds and shapes, a waterfall room where people lounged on a large rock as a digital waterfall cascaded over them.  Butterflies flitted and birds flew, thousands of straight strings of l.e.d. lights  changing colors were the Ultimate Christmas Display in my opinion, alluring and transfixing. At the top of a long flight of stairs waited a room with hundreds of suspended  lantern lamps changing colors as well.

Most of the projections were symbols of the natural world. The images covered every surface including ceilings, floors and visitors.  MIrrors added to the illusion of infinite space.IMG_1092

The spaces were crowded. Optimally, I would have liked being the only visitor. Disorientation was part of the experience, but after a while, looking for a way out of this manipulated world became a distraction as well.  There were moments when I thought “how cool, or how beautiful” but they did not outweigh the discomfort I felt at this whole idea.

With our planet in the throes of seemingly unstoppable and accelerated climate change, was this display the way of the future?  An idealized manipulated version of what was the natural world? Is this what will remain when nature collapses?  Just memories lacking the realness of texture of scent of birth and decay?

Was I the only one to interpret the dark side of this extravaganza?  Maybe to most visitors, this would be a more than acceptable substitute for the real thing.  Just as some climate deniers are suggesting we could all move to another planet?

Suddenly I wanted to be released.  Not so easy to find an exit though the endless rooms. I had to first find a worker who slipped me out of an unmarked back door, after I was insistent about wanting to leave.

Relief!  Light!  A genuine, living, glorious flower presented itself.  There’s still time. There’s still time. There’s still time.