Collections: Ceramics

My $7.99 Goodwill find. I saw a similar plate in a shop in Sedona for $275.

One of my lucky $7.99 Goodwill finds. I saw a similar plate in a shop in Sedona last month for $275!

I became smitten with hand-thrown pottery at an early age. One of my aunts was a potter, and as a young girl I marveled at her creations, at the individuality of each piece and her craftsmanship. No two pieces she made were alike, even if they were part of a set. Each spoke to me in a different way.

The main pottery cabinet (which also holds my lacquered wood soup bowls and wood trivets)

One of the pottery cabinets (which also holds some wooden soup bowls and wood trivets). On the top shelf are the red and green “tea bowls” my son made for me when we lived in Japan.

I took pottery and ceramic classes when I got older, but found I had no talent for it, nor did I enjoy having my hands messed up by the rough clay. Still, I sought it out and went through a long phase where if I had to choose between a piece of pottery or eating, there was always a good chance the pottery might win.

Some of the other pottery cabinet with our "everyday" dishes. There's a few pieces of Chinese porcelain in there as well, and my Japanese glass salad bowls.

Some of the other pottery cabinet with our “everyday” dishes. There’s a few pieces of Chinese porcelain in there as well as YaYu’s egg cup and our Japanese glass salad bowls.

Living in Japan was like being a kid in a candy shop when it came to pottery. Ceramics in Japan is a tradition and medium that is used and enjoyed everywhere, every day. Affordable handmade pieces can be found in any dish shop, no matter how humble. I visited Mashiko, the pottery village made famous by artist Shoji Hamada, more times than I can count, and also made many visits to Seto, one of Six Old Kilns of Japan. I dream of visiting Bizen and Shigaraki some day; their distinct styles are my favorite.

Some of my Mashiko pieces

Some of my Mashiko pieces

These days, additions to my collection typically come from thrift shops and yard sales. Pieces found at art shows or shops, while beautiful to look at, are priced too high for our budget these days. My two big display plates (15″ and 17″ diameter) were both found at Goodwill for just $7.99 each. At a show or in a shop they would retail for $175 and up.

Some of my Seto pieces. The fish plates are always used when we have pizza!

Plates from Seto. The fish plates are always used when we have pizza! I usually bought Japanese dishes in sets of six, but for some reason have seven of the round plates on the left, and eight of the fish plates. My Japanese dishes never cost more than $1 or $2 per plate or bowl.

My pottery is more than a collection though. All of it gets used regularly. Pieces come and go, lost through daily use and breakage, or for other reasons. One bowl that my aunt gave me slipped away when my tea ceremony instructor in Japan remarked that it would make a beautiful tea bowl. I gave it to her. Brett dropped the stack of Seto scarecrow plates one evening when he was putting them away; only the two in the picture remain. Other pieces were not used for a variety of reasons, so were eventually given away or sent to Goodwill for someone else to (hopefully) enjoy.

Big pieces hiding out in one of the hall closets. The big bowl on top was another wedding present from my aunt.

Big pieces hiding out in one of the hall closets. The big bowl on top was another wedding present from my aunt.

I think I’d rather eat these days than acquire another piece for my collection, but pottery still grabs me in the same intense way.

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4 thoughts on “Collections: Ceramics

    • Laura says:

      My aunt was an inspiration to me. Her table was always set with her beautiful pottery, nothing match-matchy (it also helped that she was a fantastic cook).

      I started with a standard set of pottery dishes that I bought before Brett and I were married (Mariner by Otagiri), and he and I added to it, but the pattern was basic enough that lots of other pottery pieces fit well with it. Living in Japan I accumulated all sorts of extra plates and bowls, and when we downsized for our move we ended up donating the original set of dishes and just kept the add-ons we’d accumulated, along with the rice bowls from the original set.

      Like

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