Shozo Michikawa

7 July - 6 August 2004

The Poetry of Pots

I first met Shozo Michikawa last summer at Higham Hall near Cockermouth. I entered the building where my students would be working from the model. It was deserted but my attention was immediately drawn to a tiny teapot containing two small vivid yellow flowers and a sprig of fine yellow stems. The irregular shape and granular texture of the pot with its rich earthen hues accentuated the symmetry and purity of the flowers within.

The teapot sat on a sunny windowsill and next to it lay its cover, a plug of fired clay which shared the same richness of surface as the vessel it was made to seal. I was struck by the simplicity of these artefacts and by the arrangement. So small and concise, yet so potent a haiku in clay.

Shozo had asked to attend the evening lectures which I present as part of the course. At these I relate what the students are doing in the studio to the work of relevant artists from the past. I analyse the images to explain their construction and examine the motivation and inspiration which led to their creation.

Shozo enjoyed the first session and we sat up late talking about our different disciplines but shared aesthetic interests. Shozo’s passion and commitment was evident. I remember much expressive gesticulation when his English or my non-existent Japanese posed a hindrance to our discussions. The first evening set the pattern for the duration of my stay at Higham. Our conversations ranged widely: from the pottery of Paul Gauguin, the tea ceremony, vessels depicted by Giorgio Morandi, to the finer points of kiln construction.

During the day, as I came to and from the studio I would see Shozo working intently, and over the course of the week the tiny teapot was joined by a veritable treasure trove of ceramic marvels, many of which evoked for me natural forms like seashells, pollen grains or the roots of trees.

I remember particularly a twisted gourd shaped pot. Its surface gouged by a series of helical furrows. These spiralling troughs and ridges had the look of a freshly ploughed field. The rhythmic lines and broken texture created a sense of tension and potential energy like a coiled spring. When I picked up this pot I was amazed at its lightness; a testament to the many hours Shozo had spent patiently paring away its surface.

Each pot, whether a vase or one of his gently dished chargers with their subtle curves made me think about the Buddhist reverence for the natural world. Time passing, leaves falling and the sound of water wearing rock all came to mind. Under Shozo’s dexterous hands, the elements of earth, air, fire and water are fused together in harmony. The prospect of joining him later this summer for the first firing of the wood burning kiln he has built at Higham fills me with excitement and anticipation.

Michael Stewart

All works come in a hand-signed wooden presentation box*
*except nos. 9, 11 and 12