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obituary for shimaoka in today's n.y. times

updated mon 24 dec 07


Bacia Edelman on sun 23 dec 07

Hi, all:

I really don't go to the obit page particularly. I was flipping the
paper when
I saw a picture of a wood-fired pot and the title: Tatsuzo Shimaoka, 88,
Master of Pottery, is Dead.

A fascinating story. He was student of Hamada and teacher of Randy
The article talks about Mingei and his philosophy. I am sure the
author of
the obit showed it to someone like Randy J., but one word seemed strange
to me for non-potters to read. Mr. S. "... washed the vessels with a
white liquid clay, wiping
away the excess and leaving a painted tracery in the braided

Oh, well, maybe I am a nit-picker but a non-potter might get the
picture better if
he used the word "coated."

Anyway, I do recommend that you get hold of it on the NET to read.
It does say that his
philosophy was that beauty was to be found in utility.


Bacia Edelman

Marta Matray on sun 23 dec 07

Tatsuzo Shimaoka, 88, Master of Pottery, Is Dead
Tatsuzo Shimaoka, a potter who was designated a =93living national treasure=94=

in Japan for his mastery of his craft, died on Dec. 11 in Mashiko, Japan,
where he had maintained a studio since 1953. He was 88.

The cause was a stroke, according to Ken Matsuzaki, a former apprentice.

Mr. Shimaoka=92s pottery, primarily tablewares, expressed the philosophy tha=
beauty was to be found in utility, and art in humility. The work was
characterized as =93mingei,=94 a term created from =93minshuteki kogei,=94
or =93craft of the people.=94

The term reflects an appreciation of the Japanese folk traditions that
artisans like Mr. Shimaoka=92s teacher, the potter Shoji Hamada, began to
look to early in the 20th century in the face of rising industrialization.
Mingei philosophy stressed the connection between the quality of a craft
object and the spirit with which it was made.

=93You can=92t make beautiful things unless your character is also that,=94 =
Martha W. Longenecker, founding president and director emerita of the
Mingei International Museum in San Diego, speaking of Mr. Shimaoka. Ms.
Longenecker studied pottery making with him in 1962 in Mashiko. The museum
exhibited a retrospective of his work in 2000.

=93Shimaoka was a very humble man,=94 Ms. Longenecker said. =93He was a heal=
real person, in body, mind and spirit.=94

She said Mr. Shimaoka=92s achievement was to distill more than 5,000 years o=
pottery making in Japan into something unique, often amounting to great
art. His work is included in the ceramic collections of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He
was designated a =93living national treasure=94 by the Japanese government i=

Tatsuzo Shimaoka (pronounced TAT-soo-zo Shi-MAH-oh-kah) was born in Tokyo
in 1919, to a family of ornamental braid makers. Rather than have him enter
the family business, his mother insisted that he be educated. He studied
industrial ceramics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, inspired by a
visit to the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in 1938, where he encountered mingei
philosophy, and its objects, for the first time. In interviews Mr. Shimaoka
compared its impact on his future to rain on soil.

He graduated in 1941, served in World War II in Burma and returned to
Japan, moving in 1946 to Mashiko, a town with a tradition of pottery
making, an hour north of Tokyo. He became an apprentice of Shoji Hamada,
one of mingei=92s founding proponents.

In an interview with Clay Times, a ceramics journal, Mr. Shimaoka said he
learned from Hamada that craft =93is not to be learned by intellect, but wit=
the body.=94

=93Technique is not to be taught, but to ambitiously acquire,=94 he said.
Hamada encouraged him to develop his own style of work, beyond the basic
tenets of mingei. Mr. Shimaoka turned to his own father=92s craft, braid
making. He began using elaborate braid to decorate vessels by pressing it
into the clay when it was still wet. It was an original technique that made
a deft reference to a tradition: the rope decoration of prehistoric
Japanese Jomon pottery.

Mr. Shimaoka washed the vessels with a white liquid clay, wiping away the
excess and leaving a painted tracery in the braided impressions, a Korean
decorative device introduced to Japan in the 16th century and popularized
by tea masters on tea bowls. He called his style Jomon Zogan.

Louise Cort, curator of ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M.
Sackler Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, said that Hamada and
others had a special interest in Korean craft tradition.

=93It represented a kind of purity and antiquity that had disappeared from
the Japanese craft movement by the 20th century =97 a pure world before
industrialization,=94 Ms. Cort said. =93Shimaoka took Korean craft tradition=
plus the particular patterning of the cords that his father had made, to
make a contemporary version of old techniques.=94

Mr. Shimaoka=92s reputation grew quickly as his work was exhibited in
department stores in Japan and then abroad. In 1964 he went on a three-
month teaching tour of North America and began accepting apprentices.

One was Randy J. Johnston, now a potter and professor at the University of
Wisconsin, River Falls. He studied with Mr. Shimaoka in 1975. Mr. Shimaoka,
he said, told him that in taking students he felt he was repaying a debt to
his master, Hamada. Mr. Shimaoka himself would go on to serve as master to
several generations of apprentices.

=93Shimaoka was a very driven person,=94 Mr. Johnston recalled. =93We worked=

seven days a week. He pushed himself hard, with the large number of
exhibitions. But he was not dictatorial or oppressive. He always seemed to
find time, graciously taking in students, or welcoming visitors to the

Mr. Shimaoka is survived by his children, three of whom live in Mashiko: a
son, Kei Shimaoka, who will take over the studio; a daughter, Yoshiko
Fudeya, a glass artist; and Ryuta Shimaoka, another son. His other
survivors include his daughters Kyoko Sekita Nomura and Chizuko Kuroda,
both of Tokyo, and eight grandchildren. Mr. Shimaoka=92s wife, Fumiko, died
four years ago.

Ms. Longenecker observed that, true to itself and to the spirit of mingei,
Mr. Shimaoka=92s work evolved over the years, as he himself might have in

=93It becomes more spontaneous, without thought, a fuller expression, more
natural,=94 she said. =93Continually with more ease. Skillful, but with a fl=