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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.