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japanese aesthetics

updated thu 17 jun 99


Peter Atwood on fri 11 jun 99

Hi Everyone,

I've been warned by my significant other not to post excessively negative
comments about people and subjects on news groups as it will only cast
myself in a poor light. That is probably very wise advice and since it comes
from someone with far more years of online experience than mine I will do my
best to heed it. It is difficult at times to keep my mouth shut however.

I have been reading the posts recently regarding the merits of Japanese
aethetics. I think there are many many beautiful Japanese pots and at times
I find their viewpoints to be very intriguing. But, that said, I do not
think there should be a slavish attitude that everything Japanese is to be
revered. Some of what I see is also very ugly.

The same thing could be said of Japanese culture. I am not an expert but
something I saw in the paper last week gives me cause for reflection. Japan
has finally approved use of birth control pills!!! Gee, haven't they been
around for thirty years? In my opinion, any culture that treats women like
that should be regarded very warily.

--Peter Atwood

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Ray Aldridge on tue 15 jun 99

At 05:52 PM 6/14/99 EDT, you wrote:
>----------------------------Original message----------------------------
>Hi Ray and all watching...
>Ray, you completely misunderstood my point.

Probably not. Please don't take my remarks too seriously, Elise. I just
like to think about these things, and wonder out loud.

I certainly agree that it would be nice if Americans as a culture would
think more about integrating art into daily life, especially the forms of
art that you and I regard as important. No argument there.

But I question the idea that life would be better for potters if Americans
adopted Japanese attitudes toward pottery, because then I might be more
limited in the kinds of pots I could make and still hope to sell. Of
course, it might be to my personal advantage, because most Japanese would
probably find my work inoffensive, or so I suppose, since it to a certain
extent has evolved from Leach and his values. But still, I prefer to work
in a more open society, one less bound by tradition, so from my viewpoint,
it would be sad if Americans were to somehow be indoctrinated with values
from any single culture, no matter how admirable it might be in some respects.

Again, my apologies if I've given offense.


John Baymore on wed 16 jun 99


Was it really =22American=22, in the strictest esthetic sense? I'm a big
MacKenzie (and disciples) fan, but it's clear his esthetic is derived
fairly directly from the Leachian assimilation of Eastern values. So it
isn't surprising that he would be appreciated in Japan-- it's not as much
of a stretch for the Japanese as it would be to appreciate pots originating
largely outside the Leach tradition.


Well........ I think a lot is =22lost=22 in the translation of two times
removed from the actual source, for one thing =3Cg=3E. (The game of
=22telephone=22 again.)

An interesting situation happened to me that sort of relates to this
question. While in Japan, I had the opportunity to see a number of
American potters works displayed THERE whose works ..... here in the US
........ are proclaimed to be =22very Japanese=22 looking. Prior to being =
Japan...... I would have agreed.

THERE....they stood out as very =22not Japanese=22 in the context of scads =
scads of actual Japanese pottery=21 I include my own work in that =
.....which truly suprised me.......but shouldn't have (hindsight is always

Were there single pots that, had I not known were made by a non-Japanese, I
might have mistaken? Of course. But when seen as a body of work in
general...... it was clear that the viewpoint of the makers was somewhat

I think we are back to that cultural upbringing issue again.


If the well-established Japanese xenophobia extends to experimental
barbarian work, I would imagine that Japan is not a good market for
American avant garde.


Even experimental JAPANESE works are JUST beginning to be more acceptable.
Because of cultural background..... experimental
non-conformist...... non-traditional.......... works are not comfortable
for many Japanese to accept. Also ....what many Japanese look at as
=22experimental=22 and =22out there=22 works are not all that far from more
traditional forms.

We tend to look at those works that they might think are progressive and
say ......... Whats the big deal? Looks pretty much like the
other stuff.=22

One of the favorite pieces I saw while in Japan in a show in Shigaraki, I
think, was a GIANT chawan (teabowl) and giant tea wisk. In a photograph
you'd not pick up the scale issue. The bowl had to be 4 feet across.
Clearly a statement on the dominance and power the tea ceremony holds over
ceramics in Japan.

I have a potter friend in Japan who says that where Japan went WRONG was
with the influence of the tea ceremony. As you might expect..... his work
looks a bit more western than the average =3Cg=3E, particularly when THERE.

As the Japanese become more westernized..... they seem to be embracing more
westernized ceramic traditions. As is witnessed in the =22contemporary
school=22 (as opposed to the =22traditional school=22) exhibitions.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA


=22Earth, Water, and Fire climbing kiln firing workshop Aug. 20-29,1999=22

John Baymore on wed 16 jun 99


Only the rich and powerful could afford 'aesthetics' and only the
dilletantte could practice.


Pretty much true in America too. Probably most everywhere. The =
are busy making enough money to simply survive.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086 USA


=22Earth, Water, and Fire climbing kiln firing workshop Aug. 20-29,1999=22