John Baymore at River Bend Pottery

River Bend Pottery   © 1995 - 2011 All Rights reserved

 

 

Hamada Shoji and Barnard Leach were greatly responsible for the resurgence of the handcraft pottery movement in the middle of the 20th century in much of both the East and the West. Japan, recently opened to the world, was at the time going through what England had already experienced..... the industrial dehumanization of life. The return to handcraft ideals was a reaction to this.

 

Mingei

 

Hamada and Leach were part of the founding fathers of the "Mingei" movement in Japan. Mingei can be loosely translated as "folk craft". This movement placed great value on the unselfconscious volume production of day-to-day objects by anonymous handcrafts makers. They recognized the rare, true and enduring beauty in many of the objects these people made.

This is not to say that either Leach or Hamada themselves actually were "mingei" producers in the purest sense. Both of them were highly trained artists, and so could never be that unselfconscious simple craftsperson. But they borrowed heavily from the aesthetic standards of those folk craft works, and incorporated those ideas and techniques into contemporary studio claywork that was distinctive and individual, yet also born of the ages of human endeavor.

 

Hamada and Leach traveled around the world sharing ideas and techniques based in Japanese philosophy and Mingei aesthetics. During their visits to the USA, they had a huge impact on American ceramics in the 50's and early 60's. That influence continues, since most of the teachers of ceramics that John's generation encountered were steeped heavily in the Hamada/Leach tradition. John continues to share those traditions and ideas with his students.

Hamada Shoji

 

John studied from afar every detail he could find on Hamada Shoji's work. Research in the library, traveling to exhibitions, collecting pictures, and reading books helped to supplement his more formal education. The best two books he found were "Hamada, Potter" by Bernard Leach and "The Way and Work of Shoji Hamada" by Susan Peterson.

In 1971 a major broadcast film about Hamada, "The Art of the Potter", was released and that excellent documentation of his life and work was the best material that John could ever find on Hamada-sensei in the West. Viewed repeatedly, John absorbed all that the film had to give. Here were images of Hamada throwing, glazing, and firing, with Bernard Leach talking about the philosophy behind Hamada's work and the Mingei movement. Not having resources at the time to actually travel to Japan, this vicarious approach to study had to suffice. John hoped that he would someday get to Mashiko and meet Hamada.

 

In late 1978, word of Hamada Shoji's death reached the United States.

 

This interest in Japanese aesthetics gradually broadened, and John studied everything he could find here in America on Japanese pottery and pottery techniques. He also looked a bit at sumi brush painting, and the wood arts. He learned many Japanese cooking techniques. He took formal college-level Asian art history courses, and went to workshops featuring Japanese-related techniques.

 

American ceramics terminology is peppered with Japanese language names for techniques because of the influence of Japanese potters over the years, including that of Hamada Shoji. Because of this, in 1995, John began to study the language a little.

 

Was this foreshadowing for later events?

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