When John took his first ceramics course in college the Ceramics I instructor, Brenda
Minisci, showed a well
used, grainy black and white 16mm film called
"The Village Potters of Onda" which was shot in a
ural Japanese pottery village by Robert and Edith
Sperry. This wonderful film documented the lifestyle
of the people of Onda Sarayama and the Mingei (folk
craft) pottery they produced for daily life in Japan.
This film had a profound influence on John at that time. The work spoke of a deep
tie between people and process, life and work, material and object, form and function,
nature and beauty. The straightforward pots for living were striking in their simplicity
and yet showed great sophistication. Strength and subtlety evident all at once. The
simplest of techniques these potters utilized produced the most stunning results.
That old film seemed to resonate with something lying
deep and unnoticed in John's being. In fact, it really
started a career and a search for an aesthetic
understanding that continues to this day.
As a student of ceramics in the 60's, John soon encountered the "bible" of potters
at that time..... "A Potter's Book" by the English potter Bernard Leach. There was
not the plethora of books on ceramics which we tend to take for granted today, and
technical information was somewhat limited. Leach's book contained all manner of
useful, straightforward information needed by a new potter, and it was a treasured
In it, Leach opened with a chapter called
"Towards a Standard" that was inspirational
in it's approach to living life and the making of objects.
Leach's standards and ideals were harsh and demanding.....
but broad and empowering at the same time. Bernard
Leach himself was greatly influenced by Japanese pottery,
art, religion, and culture, and his book was permeated
with aesthetic standards and philosophy that came
from Leach growing up as a child in China and then living
many years in Japan as an adult.
In "A Potter's Book", Leach
spoke highly of many Japanese
potters with whom he had the opportunity to work.
But one person stood out in his descriptions most particularly;
Hamada Shoji, from the small town of Mashiko in
Tochigi prefecture. There were a few small pictures of Hamada's
work contained in Leach's book, and John was particularly
taken with their casual looseness yet great strength.
In this way, John was first introduced
to the work of Hamada Shoji.......
which actually started a long convoluted journey that would
eventually lead to John visiting Mashiko in 1996.