The Japanese influence on Danish Design. The Design Museum, Kobenhaven

It isn’t often that one gets to shut out the world and deal with a single passion, but for the next month I will be in Denmark (with a skip over to France for the Third European Woodfire Conference at LeBorn) doing just that.  While there are many influences on 20th century and contemporary ceramics, two are the Japanese and the Scandinavians.  In fact, during a conversation with Bob Archambeau, several years ago, he reminded me that he, too, was influenced by the work coming from Scandinavia and that people often forget about their superb ceramics.   He is right.  Most books and exhibitions, in Canada, if not North America,  focus almost entirely on the impact of the British Studio Pottery Movement or the Japanese.  It is difficult to find books on Scandinavian or Danish ceramics.  One of the things I am trying to unearthing this summer is the difference in the aesthetics in Japanese and Danish wood firing.    I am searching for images and ideas to encapsulate these two traditions in a comparison that can more easily be understood by my students who will, no doubt, become bored by thousands of images!

You can imagine what a treat it was to look at the current exhibitions in Copenhagen and find a show at the Design Museum focused entirely on the Japanese influence on Danish design.  Several rooms contained ceramics, textiles, Danish furniture and lamps inspired by origami, wood, and metal.  One has to consider the minimalistic character of 20th century Danish modern and its relationship to that of Japan.  The featured image is of tableware inspired by Japan.  Notice the clean lines and then look at the use of colour.  Everywhere I look in Denmark there is some colour.  In other instances, it was difficult to see the relationship.  Large tsubo (storage containers) might also be kin to those found on the Greek islands, the ones with lugs used to hold olive and walnut oils.  Still, how lucky to be able to spend an entire day wrestling with one’s mind to understand and follow the logic of the curator who, after all, had to deal with works that were in the museum’s collection.

DSC03046

Annual Ceramics Sale in Yamashina

If you are thinking about being in Japan – in or near Kyoto – during the third weekend of October, seriously consider going to the annual ceramics sale that takes place in Yamashina.

The kilns used to be up Dojo-dori along the mountain.  You will know this if you have stepped into Kawaii Kanjiro’s house and studio near Kiyomizu-dera.  But the smoke sent the big kilns out into the countryside, not far, in Yamashina.  The third weekend of October every year has hundreds of shops and stalls open to the public.  Free transportation is provided.  Just ask at the JR Station on how to find it.  You can wander for an entire day.  If you plan to buy, take some strong tote bags with you and an extra suitcase!  Leave the suitcase in your hotel.  There are food stalls and places to even make a pot if you desire.

The work is excellent and much is reasonably priced.  This is why I mention the extra suitcase.  You might also want to consider bubble wrap.  Take a small piece and go into the nearest office supply or yen store and show them the sample.  They will come running back with a roll.  Remember packing tape.  Wrap so you can toss it like a baseball, insert into the luggage so it can’t roll around or bag against something else and there you have it – the beginning of your obsession to be there every year!  I should mention that if you are lucky, it is also leaf changing season.  There is no better place to be!