Tag Archives: disaster relief

Ceramics News Briefs International


Today’s post comprises articles and a video about the first anniversary of the Japanese earthquake. Some of the articles focus on pottery, some on fundraising efforts, while others fill us in on what is happening in affected areas generally.

Kasama-Yaki (Made in Kasama)” by Yuki Kokubo, “An intimate look into the lives of two Japanese potters, and their reflections on life after the earthquake and tsunami disasters.”

England: Quake-hit village is boosted, This Is Cornwall –  An earthquake appeal by Leach pottery has raised more than £34,000 for Mashiko pottery village which sustained much damage from Japan’s earthquake that year ago.

Japan:  The Ides of March, Euan The Potter – A potter’s retrospective and update about the situation in Japan as it affects him. Euan Craig evacuated his family to Minakami… “Yesterday, Tochigi prefecture announced that harvesting of Shiitake mushrooms has been prohibited in Mashiko, Ichikai, Haga and Mohka due to unsafe levels of radioactive Cesium 134 and 137. ”

Japan: Tatsuzo Shimaoka Workshop Damage In Mashiko, Japan, Mashiko Pottery – “Our town is popularity known as the center of Mashiko-yaki pottery. Those of us engaged in pottery here have sadly seen our climbing kilns, electric and gas kilns, our various works that are our pride and joy, and our workshops sustain serious damage. We at the TSF firmly believe that, in order for Mashiko to regain its vigor, we should priority efforts to help repair and/or rebuild the damaged kilns. When the news of the damage Mashiko suffered spread overseas, many potters, who had once trained here under my later father Tatsuzo Shimaoka as their master, kindly offered to make contributions to help Mashiko. ”

Japan:  One-year anniversary of the great East Japan earthquake and  tsunami, Handmade for Japan – Anniversary post for an artist’s fundraising organization formed to aid the rebuilding effort in Eastern Japan.  “More than 320,000 people are still living in temporary shelters with little prospect of gaining access to permanent housing anytime soon. This is equivalent to the entire population of St. Louis, Missouri. These people have also had to endure one of the coldest winters in recent years.”

United States: Tohoku earthquake anniversary, MadSilence – General commentary about the state of the areas affected by the earthquake. “Reconstruction has been complicated by disagreements over whether villages should be rebuilt as they were or, in some cases, abandoned or consolidated with others.  Japan is still striving to help the thousands of pets that were abandoned after residents were forced to quickly evacuate areas around the Fukushima plant.”


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Fundraising effort for Japanese potters expands

Noborigama (Climbing) kilns in Mashiko before the earthquake.

The Mudflat Studio and the Pucker Gallery, both in Boston, Massachusetts, are fundraising for the Mashiko Potters Fund. This much-needed initiative benefits the potters from Mashiko, Japan, who were so affected by the March 11 earthquake. Donations will be used to help potters rebuild their kilns and potteries which were destroyed. Your donations can be made by secure transactions through Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover or PayPal. (Mudflat is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which means your donation is tax-deductible in the U.S.) Soon after the earthquake, Mashiko potter, Ken Matsuzaki, created the foundation. Noborigama kilns in Mashiko, as shown in the photo above, were destroyed by the 9-point earthquake and  subsequent aftershocks. A variation on a wood-burning anagama kiln, nabori kilns are built on a slope and are chambered. Such kilns were used by Shōji Hamada, a Japanese National Living Treasure, who died in Mashiko in 1978. Influential world-wide, he and his and colleagues, Bernard Leach and Sōetsu Yanagi , spread the Mingei philosophy, art by the people for the people. Hamada Museum in Mashiko has been badly affected by the earthquake. Hamada’s apprentice, Tatsuzō Shimaoka, a Japanese National Living Treasure, died in 2007. He created the Jōmon zogan style, a form of rope inlay. There is word that his daughter, glass artist Yoshiko Fudeya, is organizing a relief drive, but I have yet to learn the nature of it or contact information. The natural disaster so affected this potter’s heartland, I believe it is our duty and responsibility to help. The longer time elapses, the greater the likelihood that people will feel the earthquake and tsunami are a thing of the past. Out of sight out of mind. However, we are talking about catastrophic proportions, living history and current life and art. It is laudable to donate to Red Cross, so families throughout Japan can be issued jerry cans and buckets. But, most people have never heard of Mashiko and might not be interested in broken down kilns. Will those associated with ceramics help support Mashiko, its potters, and this living history and art? I know we have all experienced economic downturns which may have affected us directly, but good will and compassion must win the day. The Japanese government has enough on its hands; the Arts Community outside the disaster area steps in to help fellow artists. Please donate today. “It seems reasonable to expect that beauty will emerge from a fusion of the individual character and culture of the potter, with the nature of his materials.” — Bernard Leach

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Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami: What you can do to help!

What does Japan’s natural disaster have to do with ceramics? Japanese ceramics has enriched the world for centuries and its artisans are among the world’s greatest gifts. Imperiled artists at risk in Japan are in great need of help, along with all Japanese people. No segment in Japanese society is untouched there or abroad. People within Japan are suffering directly, while their friends and relatives elsewhere are experiencing great anxiety about their loved ones. My teacher, Mr. Takehara, introduced me to Japanese and Korean ceramics and, in part, because of him and his influence, I keenly feel for the Japanese today.

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. Millions are without electricity and temperatures are cool. In addition, more than 200,000 have been evacuated from the area near the damaged nuclear reactors. The International Atomic Energy Commission( IAEC) is posting updates about the nuclear reactor situation on its site.


Information from news sources is often conflicting, at present. At first, I felt alarm and read sensational stories, but I’m not doing it now. Instead, I think we must, with compassion and empathy for those affected, people and animals, open your pocketbooks and donate to disaster relief organizations. Many organizations are working to help. For instance Global Giving is working with the International Medical Corps and Save the Children is working with traumatized youth, offering psycho-social support. Dog Bless You is taking search and rescue dogs to look for missing people. Find out whether a charity is legitimate through a Guide Star search.

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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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