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Ceramics News Briefs International

Land on the Moon 7 21 1969-repair

A girl holds The Washington Post of Monday, July 21st 1969 stating 'The Eagle Has Landed Two Men Walk on the Moon.' By Jack Weir via Wikimedia Commons

ENGLAND: Wedgwood Museum closure condemned by Unesco, The Guardian– Considering the effort England has been making to restore its battered pottery industry, I was surprised to see that it was willing to close a UNESCO site based on the same industry…especially, since the museum is located in Stoke-on-Trent. Boggles the mind. The museum’s collection houses “one of the most complete ceramic manufacturing archives in the world,” according to the story. Evidently, the decision pivots on something that is about as far removed from our minds as it  can get: pensions. Click on the link to read more….

INDIA: It’s a big story. It involves business magnates, labor, poverty, violence, death, and South Asia. (And the West’s reliance on cheap goods and the social cost involved.) I cannot begin to tell you the full extent of the story, but can piece together a few things. I am not sure what new sources to trust, which “voice” to trust and don’t know the story behind the story. Here are some links for you to read if you want to know more about what has happened with Regency Ceramics:

UNITED STATES: A Kiln That Fires, and Teaches, New York Times – This particular wood fired anagama kiln holds 300 to 500 pieces and, when fired, reaches 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. “The 14-foot-long tunnel-like oven, made mostly of brick and concrete, is the only one of its type on Long Island.” The director of the ceramics program at Adelphi University helped build the kiln. Pieces by students from four different institutions were fired in this kiln, work now on display in an exhibition at Adephi that runs through Feb. 20th. The article outlines the trials endured as the kiln was readied and remedied.

ENGLAND: Emmanuel Cooper, The Telegraph – Born in December, 1938 in Derbyshire, Cooper set up his first studio in London in 1965. He said the setting suited him, as it was “redolent with all the fervour and excitement of the swinging sixties, and the alternative society.” After making utilitarian pieces for restaurants for 20 years, Cooper decided to give up “series production and concentrate on the individual pieces for which he is now best known.” Openly gay, some of his work could be considered gay activist art. Also a writer who penned many books on ceramics, Cooper was the recipient of many awards and was appointed OBE in 2002.



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Japan: Earthquake, Tsunami, Pottery & Disaster Relief

Ceramics shop owner checks his wares. It is heartbreaking to see such beautiful pieces reduced to shards.

Natural catastrophes can strike at any time. People faced with such calamity were going about their daily business moments before. What has happened and is happening is almost unimaginable. Japan’s earthquake has been upgraded to 9-points on the Richter scale and there have been more than 300 aftershocks. Given the earthquake, the tsunami, and the dire food situation, the death toll is expected to exceed 10,000 in just one region and untold thousands are missing. Hundreds of thousands are homeless and over one million are without transportation in the downtown core, as Tokyo’s transit system was halted. As of yesterday afternoon, PST, the temperature in Tokyo was 4 C/39 F and throughout Japan millions are without electricity. In addition, more than 200,000 have been evacuated from the area near the damaged nuclear reactors. We live within the Pacific Ring of Fire and we aren’t nearly as advanced as the Japanese in earthquake preparedness. Save for the technological advancements the Japanese have made and the sea walls that were built, tens of thousands of people would have been killed. Yesterday, I posted about two new books by Japanese ceramists. In many ways, there are few things that are as mundane as ceramics. We drink from ceramic mugs, cups, bowls; eat from ceramic bowls or plates, and use porcelain spoons. It is no coincidence that many new reports about the earthquake and tsunami also touch upon ceramics. Japan and ceramics, two words that are very nearly synonymous. I started thinking of all of those anagama kilns, those vats of celadon glaze, finished and unfinished pieces. I decided to look at experiences with the quake. I was not trying to experience things vicariously or making light of a nation’s misery. Things can often be best understood when put in perspective and hearing about people’s movements, listening to them talk, makes us feel more compassion and empathy. “First the earthquake, then the disaster.” Nothing could be more true. Therefore, please consider donating to the disaster relief organizations listed after the following quotations.

“‘I have no idea how I’ll get home,’ said an 18-year-old woman waiting outside Ginza subway station. She described how ceramics shattered around her in a department store when the huge quake hit mid-afternoon.” — ABC

“Earthquakes of a large magnitude do not necessarily cause the most intense surface effects. The effect in a given region relates to the geological conditions. For example, an area of sand or clay would suffer a greater impact than an area of granite.”   — Global News

“Not yet accounted for is local ceramic artist Kelly Cox, who is backpacking on an island off the coast of Japan.” — MPR

“Tiffany Chong, a British Columbia native living in Kunitachi, Japan, said she was in a pottery class when the ground began to shake. ‘We all ran outside to get to an open space and crouched down,’ she said in an email. ‘The ground was rolling as if we were on a boat in choppy water. I kept looking up at the telephone poles with all the electrical wiring and hoping they weren’t going to fall on me.'” — National Post

“The earthquake smashed one of my wife’s nicest pieces of pottery, but that’s the worst it did to us.” — CBC

Furimono occurs when kiln materials fuse to pieces. At high temperatures when the ash deposit is molten, pieces of ceiling brick may fall onto the pieces and fuse. This may occur during an earthquake or when a kiln is old and worn.” — Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics

“The students are all art students at CSU. The group was studying ceramics in the foreign country. CSU spokesman, John Lester said the students have even been able to do a little social networking during the chaos.” — WRBL

“Inside her apartment, pottery, glasses and other items were thrown from the shelves and damaged.” — Georgia Strait

“As the earthquake and tsunami ripped through Japan, my thoughts turned immediately to my friend, Buddhist priest Shiho Kanzaki, who makes exquisite wood-fired pottery in Shigaraki. He is fine, thank goodness, but devastated by what’s happened to his country.” — Huffington Post

“A ‘beautiful fish’ his teenaged daughter, Julia, made in pottery class snapped in two.”  — Sault Star

‘I’m so sad. I hope,’ said Atsuko Nakanishi. She has tried calling her 86-year-old mother, Hide Kumaga, who lives in a senior center in Japan, but there is no phone service. ‘I didn’t talk to anybody,’ said Nakanishi, a sales clerk at Utsuwa-No-Yakata (‘House of Pottery’), in Edgewater, New Jersey, who admits she is ‘very worried about it.’ A moment later she shares a note of optimism: ‘I try to call tonight. I hope she will be safe.'” — CNN

Should you feel motivated, here are some international aid organizations that are helping with the crisis in Japan:

  • On your cell phone, text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation help earthquake and tsunami victims. Canadian, US
  • SAVE THE CHILDREN — text JAPAN to 20222 to donate $10. Canadian, US
  • GLOBAL GIVING — text JAPAN to 50555 to give $10 or donate online.
  • SALVATION ARMY: text ‘JAPAN’ or ‘QUAKE’ to 80888 to make a $10 donation. USA, Canada
  • Convoy of Hope : Donate either online or via text message by texting TSUNAMI to 50555.


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Gordon Hutchens Fires his Anagama Kiln

What an amazing community project: the firing of an anagama kiln against a backdrop of rainforest! Coming across this is perfect timing, as I am unable to make it to a raku firing that Gary told me takes place this Sunday. While it’s no substitute for the actual experience, this presentation is truly grand. The setting is the wilds of Denman Island, the project was spearheaded by Gordon Hutchens, the year was 2010. You will witness a bisque firing of the kiln that took him two years to build. Hutchens’ site says that at “age 14 he saw several examples of the real thing in Japan and has continued to carry those images in his mind ever since.” This slide show is nearly five minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee and sit back and enjoy it without hurrying. It’s such a pleasure to see the range of pieces, the animated faces, the primal nature of the fire, and the finished pieces. An umpteen centuries-old method of firing takes place before your very eyes. It is a special opportunity. I like the feel of the slide show…a hint of  the length of time, the constant need to feed the fire, the lengths of wood. Community members chat, nibble, work overnight, and evoke an intense sense of excitement and anticipation. Enjoy!

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