Visions of Shigaraki, Japan


To see ceramic destinations in Shigaraki, Japan, and other sites worldwide, check out Ceramic World Destinations (CWD), MoCA/NY's interactive map listing over 4,000 destinations!



En Iwamura, a ceramic artist currently residing in Shigaraki, shares his experience working in the cultural heritage site and the benefits and challenges of living in the region. This essay is part of our three-part feature on the cultural heritage site Shigaraki. GET TO KNOW SHIGARAKI written by Michio Sugiyama provides insights into the historical, cultural, and traditional aspects of Shigaraki, and Hitomi Shibata shares a personal essay, Shigaraki - Our Journey in Clay, reflecting on her time living, working, and making art in Shigaraki.
Miho Museum: photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Local train station - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

I was born in Kyoto, Japan, and received my BFA and MFA at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft in Kanazawa. I decided to study in the US and received my second MFA at Clemson University. After living and working in the US for six years, I returned to Japan and moved to Shigaraki. 

Shigaraki is not far from my hometown (about 30-40 min driving distance) and I found myself missing time spent with my family while I was abroad. I also want to raise a family with my wife in Japan.

While traveling and working at residencies, I felt like a nomad. Every time I moved, I had to also transport all my studio equipment, tools, and glazes and I found this to be too burdensome and prevented me from developing a consistent studio practice. I wanted to find the perfect place to settle and Shigaraki was the place as it not only has an international ceramic reputation but also because of the quietness and peace of the atmosphere necessary for my practice. I moved to Shigaraki in 2018 as a resident artist at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park.

Shigaraki is a small village located in southeast Shiga prefecture, and known as one of six ancient ceramic kiln sites in Japan. The environment is pretty calm, surrounded by mountains, and the population is small. The image is like a picturesque Japanese traditional old village. My first impression was “What a beautiful and peaceful place!” It was nice to stay away from the business of the city and have a place to focus solely on my work. I quickly fell in love with the city.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Palace ruins Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

Of course, even with the positive aspects of Shigaraki, there are issues with this small village in the countryside of Japan. A key issue is the low population density. Getting to know the community and communicating with local people, I began to realize the reality of this place. After many years of shrinking demands for Japanese ceramic industries, there are so many factories and businesses that are closing, risking the future of this cultural heritage site. The younger generation of local people is leaving Shigaraki for a bigger city to seek their own life therefore, their heritage, passed down from generation to generation is disappearing. So, there are many empty houses and factories but people have no idea how they should approach these challenges.

En Iwamura in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki
En Inwamura's ceramic in his studio in Shigaraki

As an artist who works at this cultural heritage site, I would like to use existing resources and am thinking about the potential of the town. Thinking about all the empty factories, and houses, I would like to see the younger generations of people utilize the opportunities Shigaraki provides and create their own creative and innovative community here. For instance, I bought an abandoned gift shop and renovated it as my studio. I hope to see some kind of new creators’ community here in the future to preserve Shigaraki and its culture, traditions, and history.


CONTRIBUTOR:

En Iwamura

En Iwamura was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1988. Under the influence of both parents who are painters, he grew up in an artistic environment. After graduating with a BFA in craft at the Kanazawa College of Art and Craft, he began to be interested in the international Art world. he considers that ceramic has the potential to be one of the international languages, that can cross different cultures, people, and countries. En Iwamura's current research investigates how he can influence and alter the experience of viewers who occupy space with his installation artworks.

WEBSITE


A Beloved Collection - Kathy Butterly at James Cohan Gallery

James Cohan Gallery - Tribeca, NYC 
48 WALKER ST
NEW YORK, NY 10013

photo courtesy: James Cohan Gallery

For over three decades, New York-based ceramic artist Kathy Butterly has ventured into the realms of color, form, and the intricacies of ceramics. Her relentless dedication and mastery of clay have solidified her position as a prominent and revered figure in contemporary ceramics. Butterly's remarkable body of work comprises small-scale sculptures characterized by meticulous and whimsical details, evocative colors and compositions, and unparalleled technical expertise.
Recently, Butterly showcased her tenacious commitment to ceramics in an enthralling mini-retrospective titled A Beloved Collection presented by the James Cohan Gallery. Concurrently with the exhibition at their Tribeca location, the gallery also exhibited Butterly’s latest sculptures at the ADAA: The Art Show. Although the exhibitions have concluded, selected works remain available for purchase. View MoCA/NY's President, Judy Schwartz on-site video interview with Kathy Butterly, Elizabeth Harvey Levine, and collector David Kirschenbaum.

A BELOVED COLLECTION, 1994-2022

Works from the private collection of Elizabeth Harvey Levine

Upon entering the viewing room at James Cohan Gallery, visitors are immediately enveloped by a vibrant ensemble of sculptures spanning from 1994 to 2022, offering a comprehensive voyage through the evolution of Kathy Butterly's artistic vision. The thirty-six petite sculptures arranged chronologically, are sourced from the private collection of Elizabeth Harvey Levine, an ardent and longtime patron of Butterly’s work.

The space unfolds with delicately adorned and opulently ornate sculptures positioned on the left side of the gallery—the genesis—and crescendos to Butterly's most recent lively and gestural creations. Despite their demure scale—excluding two exceptions—each sculpture exudes a grand energy, brimming with vitality, distinct personalities, and animated expressions.

“It is a beloved collection because each piece in this magical collection is such a magical gem. They’re infused with her sense of humor, they all have sensuous body folds, they’re meticulously executed, and the details are beyond what people are willing to explore in ceramics.” - Elizabeth Harvey Levine

Humor imbues the exhibition not only in the cheeky and amusing configurations of the sculptures but also in their titles, setting a tone and offering a glimpse into Butterly's intentions and interpretations. For instance, a lemon-yellow glazed figure adorned with oval green forms on its lip and hip emanates refined elegance with polished gold accents, yet it comically bears the title "Nancy Beans," adding a playful twist.

Associating these titles with the sculptures is almost as enjoyable as experiencing the pieces themselves, inviting speculation, contemplation, and insight into Butterly’s mind.

This collection, akin to a personal diary, exemplifies Butterly's artistic innovations in composition, color palette, and treatment of glaze while documenting significant and pivotal periods in both her personal and creative life.

Pointing to a piece named "Knititation," Butterly reminisces, “I was pregnant. [I remember] just the waiting and the knitting." She elaborates further on the show, "It’s my diary, my diary is on display. I knew exactly what I was thinking and what I was doing and each one is very specific to a time period of my life.”

"Knititation" beautifully encapsulates Butterly's earlier works—the lyrical pastel and shocking neon color palette, skin-like folds, intricate line marks, and fine carvings, complemented by a whimsical and playful "pedestal." It vividly showcases her technique of painting with and on clay.

Her painterly treatment of clay can be attributed to her early studies as a painter when she was drawn to ceramics but was reluctant to fully accept the medium as she viewed ceramics as functional pottery ware. It wasn’t until she met Viola Frey, an artist known for her non-functional, figurative, animated ceramic sculptures and painterly expressions, that she embraced ceramics.

Intuitively created, Butterly starts with a ready-made cast, molding it into a functional vessel before sculpting, folding, denting, and smoothing the clay. Subsequently, she applies glazes and subjects the disfigured vessel to multiple firings, often reaching up to 20 to 30 times. The layers of clay and glazes illustrate Butterly’s devotion and profound connection with each piece imbuing them with a unique history and seducing you into a portal awaiting exploration.

Tiny pearlescent beadings, crackling and crystalline glaze textures, sharp and fluid surfaces—the porcelain and earthenware amorphous sculptures gift us with a splendid visual orgasm. They not only serve as pages from Butterly's diary but also as testaments to her exceptional technical skill and artistic aspirations.

With their diminutive scale, the sculptures beckon viewers to draw closer, inviting a magnified appreciation of every minute and intricately carved detail, cultivating an intimate relationship with each piece. They entice, hypnotize, surprise, and inspire a desire to explore and decode their narratives and language—a journey into their portal, into their distinctive universe.

“[Butterly’s sculptures] are irresistible,” Elizabeth Harvey Levine states, “and Kathy, herself, is the most genuine person I know and her pieces are straightforward and honest, complex, fused with humor and that is what Kathy is. They are just an embodiment of her.”


Visit James Cohan Gallery at 48 WALKER ST NEW YORK, NY 10013, or explore and learn more about A Beloved Collection and Kathy Butterly online: James Cohan Gallery

Organic Reflection: Steen Ipsen at HB381 Gallery

HB381 Gallery - Tribeca, NYC 
381 Broadway, New York, NY 10013

HB381 Gallery window
Lighting up the corner of Broadway and White Street sits HB381, Hostler Burrow’s contemporary art gallery in Tribeca, exhibiting recent works of Copenhagen-based ceramic artist Steen Ipsen. Ipsen's immaculately crafted, vibrant, and dynamic biomorphic sculptures draw the attention of passersby, captivating onlookers through the gallery's glass windows.
 Entitled Organic Reflection, the exhibition, running until December 22, 2023, marks Ipsen’s debut solo exhibition in the United States, albeit not his first collaboration with the gallery.
In 2021, Hostler Burrows collaborated with Copenhagen Ceramics—an exhibition platform showcasing contemporary Danish ceramics. Ipsen, along with co-founders of Copenhagen Ceramics Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl and Bente Skjoettgaard, co-curated and participated in Bend, Bubble and Shine: Copenhagen Ceramics, showcasing nine contemporary Danish artists. Subsequently, Hostler Burrows began representing Ipsen and Kaldahl, both of whom held solo exhibitions at the gallery this year.

Organic Reflection

On one side of the gallery, nine pieces from Ipsen’s Ellipses and Tied Up series are presented equidistantly on plinths. Upon first viewing, the earthenware, monochromatically glazed pieces exhibit a shared polished and bulbous sensibility, eliciting admiration for their expert craftsmanship and vibrant colors. However, a closer examination reveals the individuality of each sculpture. The blobjects (a word that defines curvilinear flowing shapes - a portmanteau of “blob” and “object” - as described in Garth Johnson’s catalog essay) adorned with PVC or leather strands, offer distinctive characteristics and expressions–provoking an idiosyncratic experience. 

Organic Reflection - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

For instance, Ellipse 8 and Ellipse 13 resemble a croquembouche, enticing and delectable, while Ellipse 12 and Ellipse 15 evoke the appearance of konpeito candies. In contrast, Ellipse 9, Ellipse 11, and Tied Up 3 exude a biological, cellular essence. Despite the association with smooth, glazed surfaces that evoke confectionery, Ipsen draws inspiration from growth principles like crystallization and cell division. Notably, Ipsen’s titles–Ellipse, Balls, Bubbles, and Tied Up, emphasize the physical form over the conceptual context, demanding subjective interpretations while highlighting the significance of design. 

Ellipse 8 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 13 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 12 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 15 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Ellipse 11 - Glazed earthenware, PVC, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Tied Up 3 - Glazed earthenware, leather , photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Steen Ipsen has devoted decades to studying and mastering ceramics, exploring myriad shapes and compositions, leading to recognition by the Danish Arts Foundation as "one of the most gifted ceramic artists in Denmark."

His expertise shines through in meticulously crafted forms devoid of flaws or imperfections. Ipsen casts and sculpts ellipses, balls, and spikes from earthenware clay, refining their surfaces through sanding and polishing. He then applies layers and layers of glaze–pouring, spraying, and painting until perfection is achieved.

Contrary to the appearance of the sculptures being held together by the PVC or leather threads, the clay spheres are sliced to the most accurate angle to join seamlessly together. The addition of PVC comes last as he ties the strands, creating an abstract, spatial net resulting in a vibrato of tension, stability, complexity, and simplicity.

Steen Ipsen in studio - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Juxtaposing and situated across the Ellipses and Tied Up sculptures are six works from Ipsen’s Black Organic Movement series. The animated forms, liquid in demeanor, defy gravity with their undulating, concaving curves—suspenseful and seductive. The stark purity of the glazed surface mirrors the surrounding environment and forces the viewer into a psychological confrontation as they discern reflections of themselves. The inkblot-like sculptures are akin to a Rorschach test.

Black Organic Movement at HB381 Gallery

Intuitively sculpted, Ipsen coils from one side of the piece to the other, a divergent approach from his other series which are precisely methodological. Still, Ipsen’s unwavering commitment to flawless surfaces, reflective glazes, and masterful design is a consistent throughline in his impressive oeuvre. 

Black Organic Movement 4, 2023, glazed earthenware, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery
Black Organic Movement 3, 2023, glazed earthenware, photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Organic Reflection encapsulates both the physical and psychological essence of reflection. The glazed, reflective blobjects serve as a distorted yet captivating mirror, inviting viewers to delve into a hypnotic and visually opulent world. Each piece not only mirrors its physical environment but also prompts a reflective introspective experience.

The exhibition stands as a testament to Ipsen's artistic odyssey. The Ellipses and Organic Movements series signifies a notable evolutionary shift from his earlier geometric explorations in clay (Moduls (1996) and Spikes (2005)). These newer series represent the pinnacle and embodiment of Ipsen’s decades-long commitment to mastering the art of ceramics and design, showcasing his enduring dedication and growth throughout his career.

Steen Ipsen in his studio - photo courtesy: HB381 Gallery

Visit HB381 Gallery at 381 Broadway, New York, NY 10013, or explore and learn more about Organic Reflection online: hb381gallery.com


Ceramic Highlights at ADAA - The Art Show 2023

The 35th Annual Edition of the ADAA (Art Dealers Association of America) - The Art Show 2023 was held at the Park Avenue Armory, featuring 78 booths in the grand Gothic building. MoCA/NY sent a reporter to this year's fair to highlight ceramic artwork and we're pleased to present a list of seven galleries representing notable and established ceramic artists.

1. David Kordansky Gallery

Betty Woodman (1930 - 2018)

Betty Woodman's mixed media works are on full display at David Kordansky Gallery's booth. Woodman's colorful and playful deconstructed reconstructions showcase her brilliance and expertise in collaging clay, drawings, and paintings. Woodman's inventive forms and pioneering experimentations remind viewers why she was, and still is, considered a leading figure in the ceramic field.

2. James Cohan Gallery

Kathy Butterly

Another remarkable ceramist who uses vibrant colors and painterly expressions is Kathy Butterly whose intricate, ornamental, petite sculptures were on display at the James Cohan Gallery booth. In addition to being featured at The Art Show, Butterly is currently exhibiting at the James Cohan Gallery (Nov 1-11, 2023). Make sure to visit the gallery at 48 Walker Street to see the incredible show spotlighting Butterly's work spanning from 1994 to 2022.

3. Yoshii Gallery

Taizo Kuroda

Yoshii Gallery presents White Porcelain, an installation with works by one of the most important artists in Japanese contemporary ceramics: Taizo Kuroda. The minimalistic and elegant forms "evoke an infinite world beyond the realm of earthly limitations" and illustrate Kuroda's mastery in expressing strength and simplicity.

4. Sperone Westwater Gallery

Bertozzi & Casoni

The Italian team Bertozzi & Casoni, shows new hyperrealistic ceramic sculptures at the Sperone Westwater Gallery booth. Brillo boxes full of trash, decaying eggs, watermelon rinds, and banana peels on plates and in bins contemplate modern-day consumption and waste - a criticism of contemporary consumerism.

5. P·P·O·W Gallery

Ann Agee

P·P·O·W Gallery presented an incredible solo installation of fifteen ceramic figures and two ceramic wall pieces by Ann Agee. Agee's powerful Madonnas of the Girl Child series, subverts the canonical symbol by portraying the child as a female, scrutinizing the propagandistic use of the Madonna and Child motif. She masterfully uses a variety of techniques - incorporating pigment into slabs of stoneware clay, screen printing, spraying, stenciling glazes, and directly painting on the surfaces).

6. Marian Goodman Gallery

Tavares Strachan

Tavares Strachan's new body of ceramic sculptures and paintings from his Galaxy and Galaxy Mandala series were exhibited at the Marian Goodman Gallery booth. Strachan's ceramic vessels with a human head atop illuminate overlooked histories and address themes of identity and belonging.

7. Thomas Colville -Fine Art Gallery

Elie Nadelman

Elie Nadelman's small figurines were present at the Thomas Colville Gallery booth. Although two of the three sculptures by Nadelman are made of polychromed papier-mache, Two Women (the figures on the left of the image) is made of polychrome terracotta.


To explore more New York-based and international galleries representing ceramic artists, visit our CERAMIC WORLD DESTINATIONS MAP!

Don't forget to check out our past coverage of ceramic highlights at the Armory Show 2023: Ceramic Sightings at the Armory.

SHIGARAKI - Our Journey in Clay

Hitomi Shibata, a ceramic artist and author of the book Wild Clay, shares a personal essay about her time living, working, and making art in Shigaraki. This essay is part of our three-part feature on the cultural heritage site Shigaraki, aiming to provide the most robust coverage of this historically rich and significant region. Read the first feature - Get to Know Shigaraki written by Michio Sugiyama, which provides insights into the historical, cultural, and traditional aspects of Shigaraki. Stay tuned for the last essay written by Shigaraki-based ceramic artist En Iwamura which will be published later this month. Subscribe to MoCA/NY and follow us on social media to keep up-to-date on upcoming features and interviews!
Takuro and Hitomi in front of our Shigaraki style Anagama plus a chamber wood kiln in Seagrove, NC. Photo taken in 2022 - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
Wheel Throwing studio at the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute. This research center provides pottery training programs to support succession planning in Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Mr. Hiroaki Takahata, A Chief of Ceramics Design Department, Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute

I first became involved with ceramics in 1990 as a craft education major at Okayama University in Japan. I found ceramics to be the most challenging medium, so I worked diligently to become proficient. In 1996, after earning a master's degree in art education with a concentration in ceramics, I became an artist-in-residence at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, which is the most prestigious international ceramic art center in Japan.

Shigaraki, a small town steeped in a thousand-year legacy of pottery, was one of the few places in Japan where young potters who were not from pottery families could learn how to make a living, and this experience led me to pursue a career as a professional potter.

During my time in Shigaraki, I held a variety of positions, from employee at a local pottery studio to sales representative at retail and wholesale pottery galleries, but my most educational and useful job experience was as a research assistant at the Ceramic Research Institute.

My thirst for knowledge and practical experience was insatiable, but as a young female potter, I faced numerous challenges. It was during this period that I met Takuro Shibata, who would become my lifelong partner and teammate.

Takuro had earned a degree in applied chemistry at Doshisha University in Kyoto and had been working as an engineer in his hometown of Osaka. However, in 1997, he seized an opportunity to become an apprentice at Tanikan Gama, one of Shigaraki's oldest pottery studios.

His apprenticeship not only allowed him to hone his craft but also facilitated interactions with numerous other potters and ceramics businesses in this historic pottery town.

Together, we leased a modest studio space in Shigaraki's historic kiln site area and embarked on our journey as independent potters. While we sold our pottery in galleries, we also juggled various other jobs. At times, we engaged in mass production for the commercial market, although it wasn't our preferred path, it was a necessary step to make a living. Our true passion lay in the Shigaraki style of wood firing, and we took advantage of every opportunity to participate in wood firings and refine our craft. Despite being young and strapped for resources, we poured our hearts into chasing our dreams.

Old Noborigama’s details - photo courtesy: Takuro Shibata
Old Noborigama on the pottery trail - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

Shigaraki has a flourishing ceramic industry, supported by a diverse range of auxiliary businesses. These encompass local clay companies, clay cooperatives, tool manufacturers, kiln builders, glaze producers, machine workshops, box makers, freelance wheel throwers, wholesale enterprises, and a multitude of shops and galleries. 

Additionally, the town hosts several educational ceramic art organizations such as the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park. These institutions offer programs for ceramic material research, pottery training, and cultural exchange, regularly hosting lectures, workshops, and events that foster connections between professional ceramic artists and potters from local, national, and international communities. This exposure inspired us to seek opportunities abroad as we aimed to further our careers in ceramics.

The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s International Clay Studio accommodates about 10 ceramic artists from Japan and abroad. The artists work together to create a diverse atmosphere in the old pottery town by sharing studio space, accommodations, firings, information, and cultural exchange. photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
One of the biggest clay companies, Seido, in Shigaraki. There are many filter press machines in their huge building - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
A view of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s Clay studio from their wood kiln site - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

Today, Shigaraki is a unique pottery village that blends the old and the new, tradition and innovation, and toughness and kindness. While it was not our permanent home, it was a place where we honed our skills, deepened our understanding of materials, and expanded our knowledge. It is a powerful and special place that attracts people from all over the world. Now, there are many new businesses, shared studios, and interesting events taking place in Shigaraki. They are seeds for a new era and a hope for the future of the ceramic field.

Tanikangama was one of the oldest and biggest pottery studios in Shigaraki, and Takuro studied there as an apprentice for several years - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata
One of the remaining old kilns in Shigaraki. This old Noborigama was well maintained and tourists can see it on the pottery trail - photo courtesy: Takuro and Hitomi Shibata

CONTRIBUTOR:

Hitomi Shibata

Hitomi Shibata is a Japanese ceramic artist based in Seagrove, North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor of Education in Art and Craft, and a Master of Education in Fine Art, Ceramics from Okayama University in Japan. In 2001-2002, she received a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to study at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. She has been a member of the International Academy of Ceramics since 2017, and is a co-author of Wild Clay, published by Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK in 2022.

WEBSITE

Instagram: @studiotouya @hitomishibataceramics

GET TO KNOW: Shigaraki, Japan

MoCA/NY asked three Japanese ceramic artists and academics to collaborate on our feature exploring the traditions, culture, and history of the significant cultural heritage site Shigaraki in Japan. Stay tuned for Hitomi Shibata's personal essay about her time working and participating in the artist-in-residence program at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, and En Iwamura's essay about his experience working as an artist in Shigaraki.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Michio Sugiyama, who formally worked at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, currently operates as Director of “Shigaraki Share Studio.” Sugiyama, with his extensive knowledge of the region, answers critical questions about the cultural heritage site. 

HISTORY OF SHIGARAKI

Shigaraki, one of Japan’s Six Ancient Kilns Sites, is one of the oldest pottery-producing regions in Japan. Shigaraki was a crossroads for transportation between Nara and Yamashiro of the central Kinai region and the Tokai region (Nagoya area).

Since Shigaraki is near Kyoto and Nara, where the tea ceremony was born, Shigaraki teaware developed naturally. With rich deposits of high-quality clay, Shigaraki is an ideal location for potters.

Shiga Prefecture on MoCA/NY's Ceramic World Destinations Map
Old Shigaraki Ware from 15th C. - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

The Koka region (the southernmost part of Shiga prefecture), where Shigaraki ware is fired, is adjacent to the Iga region (Mie prefecture), and it is said that Shigaraki-ware and Iga-ware are very similar, but this is because they are made from the same clay layer of the Old Biwa Lake layer, which gives a unique clay flavor known as "Old Shigaraki.'' The rustic and warm feeling of the clay is due to this Old Lake Biwa layer.

By the end of the medieval period, Shigaraki potters were making jars, vats, and mortars and firing them in anagama kilns. Shigaraki had begun to develop its unique style as one of Japan’s pottery-producing centers.

Shigaraki-ware is known for the special quality of its clay. By firing in anagama or noborigama wood-firing kilns, effects such as warm, reddish hiiro flashing, deep green natural ash biidoro, or burnt black koge can be achieved. As a form of art using the media of clay and fire, Shigaraki pottery communicates the Japanese aesthetic of wabi and sabi to the present age.

Old Climbing Kiln - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Firing Anagama N. Shinohara - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

The rusticity of Shigaraki ware expresses the emotions of the Japanese people. For this reason, since the Muromachi (1338-1573) and Momoyama periods (1573-1603), Shigaraki teaware evolved along with the tea ceremony and was prized by tea masters and people of culture. Charcoal braziers with namako glazeware for tea ceremonies became increasingly popular through the Muromachi, Azuchi, and Momoyama periods. 

In the Edo period (1603-1867), tea jars were produced in large numbers, and as a commercial infrastructure developed, daily cooking ware such as plum jars, miso jars, sake bottles, and flameware began to be produced in mass quantities.

In the Meiji era (1868-1912), Shigaraki potters began to produce hibachi charcoal braziers glazed with the newly developed namako mottled blue glaze. These hibachi proved to be extremely popular, at one point garnering a more than 90% share of the market across Japan. In addition to hibachi, Shigaraki produced small wares such as ritual vessels, sake vessels, and tea ware, along with large wares such as storage jars in ever-increasing levels of both quantity and quality.

In the Showa era (1926-1989), particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, one result of Japan’s rapid economic growth was the development and popularization of electric and oil heaters. The rise in the standard of living along with changes in the Japanese lifestyle meant a severe decline in the demand for hibachi, a catastrophic development for the Shigaraki economy.

Kaiseki cuisine served in Shigaraki ware bowls (UOSEN)
Kaiseki cuisine served in Shigaraki Ware (UOSEN)
Small sushi served in Shigaraki plate (UOSEN)
Cooking rice in the hot pot (UOSEN)

However, the innovation of local craftsmen combined with traditional techniques resulted in the adaptation of the namako glaze to ceramic planters. The emphasis of production shifted to planters for high-quality bonsai and other plants. These new products were well received by consumers.

Shigaraki ware was designated as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese Government in 1976, and in April 2017, Shigaraki ware was certified as a Japanese heritage as one of the "Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.'' 

Product of Shigaraki with Flower Arrangement

Flower Vase - N. Shinohara
Flower Vase - N. Shinohara

SHIGARAKI TODAY

Organizations in Shigaraki today include the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, the Shigaraki Ceramic Research Institute,and the Shigaraki Pottery Industrial Cooperative Union,which is comprised of over 100 manufacturers.

The Shigaraki Pottery Wholesale Commercial Union has over 40 wholesalers, and the Shigaraki Art and Craft Ceramists Association is made up of over 80 ceramic artists.

By fully utilizing its high-quality clay and technological tradition, Shigaraki ware enhances our enjoyment of life. Shigaraki is now striving to become a world center for ceramics, creating a new culture of ceramic art based on historical tradition.

Tanuki Figures - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

Shigaraki today produces utilitarian ware such as planters, flower vases, and tableware, as well as exterior ceramics such as architectural tile, garden furniture, and decorative ornaments such as tanuki (raccoon), dogs, and frogs. 

Shigaraki ceramics are rooted in our daily life and new technologies are developed in response to demand. Shigaraki clay is highly refractory, and while high in plasticity, it is also strong, making it ideal for both large-scale ceramics and small work.

The ability to develop and construct in a variety of ways is one of the unique characteristics of Shigaraki ware.

Anagama Firied Bowl(Y.Sako)
Vase (N. Shinohara)
Mizusashi N.Shinohara

There is also a characteristic phenomenon of kiln change that is often seen in old Shigaraki. One of its characteristics is that the surface of the vessel is rough and contains many fine stone grains (quartz grains, feldspar grains, and silica sand).

In addition to ash glaze, there are many types of glazes, such as the “sea cucumber glaze'' seen on flower pots and braziers, probably because there are few painted products, and the molding, drying, and firing techniques used to create large items are also typical of Shigaraki ware. 

Another characteristic of Shigaraki ware is that you can enjoy a wide variety of pottery, such as yakishime and kohiki, depending on the artist. Therefore, it can be said that modern Shigaraki ware is unique and uses a variety of techniques.

Vase N. Shinohara
Work of N.Shinohara

Like many traditional craft production areas, the recent annual production of Shigaraki ware is around 3.5 billion yen. This is about one-fifth of its peak in 1992 (16.8 billion yen). The number of establishments has also decreased by about three-quarters.

The lack of successors is especially serious. There are no living national treasures among Shigaraki ware potters. This is because "We have made everything without specializing in one thing'' (President Takahara). There are both advantages and disadvantages of Shigaraki ware. However, if one technology is not inherited, it will simply die out.

Large Bath Tub made in Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

However, looking at the modern history of Shigaraki ware, even if an item no longer sells, new items are always created. Current hit products such as bathtubs is an example of this.

Even in the world of traditional ceramics, there are no Living National Treasures in Shigaraki ware, but many potters, from veterans to young potters, are taking on the challenge of creating the natural glazes produced by firing in anagama kilns.

Although the pottery industry generally has a difficult time finding successors, younger generations are gradually increasing in number, drawn to the charm of this Shigaraki production area, and it is a hope that they will become the bearers of a new Shigaraki tradition.

Factory Uzan - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Factory Making Large Bath tub Okuda - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
View of Pottery town Shigaraki - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Factory making table ware Hinomigama - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama
Tea plantation - photo courtesy: Michio Sugiyama

CONTRIBUTOR

MICHIO SUGIYAMA

Michio Sugiyama has MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland California. After graduating, he moved to Montana to attend the AIR at the Archie Bray Foundation. In 1989. He returned to Japan and worked at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga Pref. He has been organizing and operating the Artist in Residency at the SCCP until 2020. In 2018 he established a private rental ceramic studio, in Shigaraki named SHIGARAKI SHARE STUDIO and now he is the Director of the Share Studio. He is a member of the IAC and the Japan Ceramic Society.

READ MORE ABOUT SHIGARAKI

Ceramic Guide to Faenza, Italy

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

WHERE TO STAY?

In Faenza, there are several Airbnbs, apartments, farmhouses and hotels where you can stay and find a nice room at a reasonable price. Check this link for options. The oldest and most famous hotel in the city is Hotel Vittoria, a medium-high-range Art Noveau hotel at a fair price, which is located in the center of town and was designed in the early twentieth century.

TRANSPORT

The city is not very big and easily accessible by foot, however, there's a free eco-friendly public mini bus service in case you are staying a little outside the center or want to visit studios further away.

Furthermore, there is also a free public bicycle service C’entro in Bici or several private rental services with a good variety and selection of bicycles.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

DAY 1:

10:00am: International Museum of Ceramics

When you're in Faenza, the first thing to do is visit the International Museum of Ceramics with its large exhibition spaces dedicated to Italian and European production from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. It also boasts chief examples from pre-Columbian America, Classical Greece, the Roman age, the Near and Middle East, and Islam. Specific sections host some of the most important twentieth century and contemporary Italian and foreign artists.

There is a specialized library and a workshop dedicated to the Bruno Munari method of “Playing with Art,” and a restoration laboratory to maintain the collection and more broad conservation efforts - an essential point of contact for the highly specialized technical and technological requirements of ceramics. The Museum has published the magazine "Faenza" since 1913.

In the bookshop, you’ll find all the Museum's publications, a wide range of ceramics books, and a selection of ceramic objects produced by Faenza artisans. The Museum is huge and the visit, depending on your interests, could take the whole day. We recommend taking a pre-visit virtual tour here

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari
Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

1:00 PM: LUNCH

Near the Museum, there are some restaurants serving traditional Romagnolo cuisine. Lo Zingarò, located in the historic Ferniani Palace, with outdoor dining in summer is a favorite. For a quick lunch, with vegetarian options, try Frankie in front of the Museum.

6:00 PM: Ready for a snack or aperitif? 

Go to the main square, “Piazza del Popolo”, for a great selection of bars and cafés serving typical “aperitivo”, or ice cream shops, for delicious gelato. It’s a perfect opportunity to see the beautiful town square, the Cathedral, the clock tower and the monumental fountain.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari
Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

7:00pm: Dinner

Also in the main square, you can opt for a relaxed bite to eat either at the Bistrò Rossini or at the Enoteca Astorre. For a more complete dinner, you can go to the Osteria della Marianaza (Via Torricelli 25) - a rustic tavern where the Faenza tradition of homemade tagliatelle and grilled meat has been maintained since the 19th century.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

In the evening, the square is a pleasant place to stay for an ice cream or a drink. From June to September, there are events and concerts. In June, the medieval Jousting tournament with the flag-wavers is not to be missed, while in September, be sure to check out the street artists festival and alternating ceramics fairs “Argillà” or “Made in Italy.” In October, there is an independent label music festival called MEI. Listen to music at the disco: Le Scimmie Di Faenza is open from November to May.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari

Day 2

10:00 AM: Zauli Museum

On your second day, fully immerse yourself in ceramics with a visit to the laboratories, studios, and shops in the center. Begin at the Zauli Museum in via della Croce, (closed on Sundays and Mondays). Be sure to check out their website for opening hours. This Museum is interesting because it offers an impressive anthology of one of the 20th century’s greatest ceramic sculptors, Carlo Zauli.

Zauli has been internationally known since the late 1950s and his work can be found in thirty-six museums around the world. The Zauli Museum is located in the artist’s actual studio, which has also been a mecca for other great artists, in the latter half of the 20th century. 

Visitors to the Museum will discover the process of an artist who transitioned from ceramist to sculptor without ever betraying his roots. The studio-workshop portion of the itinerary is not to be missed: from the clay storage area to the glaze room, from the kiln room to the large relief room, where a clump of earth became a sculpture.

Photo courtesy: Cristina Bagnara

11:00 AM: La Vecchia Faenza

In Via Sant 'Ippolito, 23/A (just steps from the Zauli Museum), there is the La Vecchia Faenza workshop. Since 1968, it has been producing hand-painted artistic majolica with traditional Faenza decorations, as well as one-of-a-kind "Raffaellesca" pieces and paintings with floral patterns. Beyond the beautiful exhibition, you can also visit the actual laboratory where various types of artistic ceramics are made.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari 

12:00 PM: Atelier Antonella Cimatti

Nearby, in Corso Garibaldi 16, be sure to make an appointment to visit artist Antonella Cimatti’s Atelier. Cimatti’s light installations using porcelain with advanced ceramic materials, LEDs, and optical fibers are described as elegant and weightless as she perfects a harmonious balance of porcelain and light.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari 

1:00pm: Lunch

Just minutes away on foot, you can go to the market in the Piazza del Popolo, great for vegetarians alike.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari 
Photo courtesy: Ceramica Gatti

2:30 PM: Ceramica Gatti

Continuing on with our workshop itinerary, about 20 minutes away (by foot) from the center, is the historic Ceramica Gatti workshop, which is a must to visit (Via Pompignoli, 2/4).

Founded in 1928 by Riccardo Gatti in Faenza, this ceramic art workshop has been characterized by its diligent search for innovative techniques and approaches and by its prolific production of unique works. Distinctive features of the workshop's activity include its dedication to hand-crafted majolica production, interaction with various artists and designers over the years, and fruitfully enriching all of the artisans involved.

These rewarding collaborations have bolstered their capacity for listening and interpreting fundamental qualities to guarantee fruitful alliances between creators and artisans. The list of collaborations is long and precious, from the first collaborations with the futurists to those with Bruno Munari and then Gio Ponti, Ettore Sottsass, Carla Accardi, Luigi Ontani, Ugo La Pietra, Mimmo Paladino, Alessandro Mendini, Liliana Moro, and Stefano Arienti.

Just as precious is the mark that they have all left and continue to leave on Gatti’s ceramists. As any authentic artisan workshop, Ceramica Gatti is a versatile reality, a place of cultural transmission and values, of intersections between disciplines, of views on reality, of passion, and a meeting point between different expertise.

In 1998, a permanent museum was inaugurated in the historic premises of the workshop, where the public can admire an invaluable retrospective collection of the rarest ceramic works created by Riccardo Gatti starting from 1908.

Returning to the center: continue along Corso Mazzini where you’ll find four ceramic studios, all very close to one another. You can also visit the shop Spazio Ceramica Faenza, via Pistocchi 16, where you can see a collection of all the Faenza ceramists, even those whose studios are further away.

4:00 PM: Fiorenza Pancino

Via S. Filippo Neri, 2 - While Fiorenza Pancino loves ceramics, she is also known to dabble in other mediums such as video, photography, and materials such as paper and fabric.

Photo courtesy: Fiorenza Pancino

4:30 PM: Elvira Keller

Corso Giuseppe Mazzini, 63 - Elvira Keller works with stoneware and majolica, producing functional wares, personalized pieces, ceramic sculptures, and site-specific private and public installations.

Photo courtesy: Chiara Casanova

5:00 PM: Mirta Morigi Bottega

Mirta Morigi Bottega’s laboratory is in Via Barbavara, 19/4, and her Gallery Mi.Mo is in Corso Mazzini 64/B. Mirta Morigi produces highly communicative hand-made ceramics pieces, characterized by an unmistakable pop flare. Her objects have bright and provocative colors typical of majolica.

Photo courtesy: Federica Cioccoloni

5:30 PM: Ceramiche Lega

Corso Mazzini, 74/c - Carla Lega began modeling and decorating ceramic objects in 1975, alongside her father Leandro, inserting her skillful manual ability into the Faenza tradition, but with a distinctly modern and individual signature - spiced up with the use of reduction luster. In another area, just outside the center, you can also find the Lega Ceramics Museum.

6:00 PM: Care for an aperitif?

Not too far from Ceramiche Lega, you can stop by Infantini Cafè or Nove100 Caffè in Corso Mazzini 69/A to have a drink or a tasty snack.

7:00 PM: Dinner

For dinner you can eat at Osteria Ristorante La Baita for an exceptional food experience, accompanied by an excellent selection of wines.For a vegetarian or vegan dinner, you can go to Il Clan Destino, right next to the International Ceramics Museum.


Day 3

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari 

9:00: Faenza Art Ceramic Center

The FACC space aims to be a space for experimentation and creativity, without the distractions of everyday life. It’s a hub of internationals and professionals and a center that organizes courses and residencies, for both local and international artists.

While you are in the area, you can take the opportunity to visit Palazzo Muky Matteucci. Muky (1926-2022) was a painter, sculptor, ceramist, and poet who dedicated her life to art and the promotion of the arts. Born in Trento, she moved to Faenza in 1955 where she attended the School of Ceramic Art and met Domenico Matteucci, the man who would radically change her life. 

The two shared an artistic partnership that would last until Matteucci's death in 1991. Muky brought vitality and a new artistic voice, linked to the informal and black-and-white stylistic features of those times. 

At the end of the 1960s, she started a cultural cenacle in the Loggetta del Trentanove, a unique space for artistic, literary, intellectual, musical, and theological meetings, breathing new life to the city of Faenza.

When Muky left this world on 7 January 2022, she left her home in Faenza, including the Loggetta del Trentanove and the Rotonda Gall, to the MIC Foundation with a very specific goal: the creation of a House Museum, dedicated to the history of the two artists and a Palace of Art, dedicated to international Artist Residencies.

Currently, the structure can be visited by reservation only. (Call MIC Faenza – 0546 697311 to schedule an appointment)

10:00 AM: Bottega Martha Pachon Rodriguez 

Via Antonio Laghi, 51 A - In Bottega Martha Pachon Rodriguez's studio, you can see works on display and the production process. The artist works with porcelain to transform clay into delicate and colorful objects.

Photo courtesy: Raffaele Tassinari 

11:00 AM: Museo Leandro Lega

Via Fratelli Rosselli, 2 - Continuing for about 20 minutes by foot, you’ll reach the Museum containing the works of Leandro Lega.

11:30 AM: Museo Tramonti

Via Fratelli Rosselli, 8 - Not far from the Lega Museum, you can find the Museo Tramonti, which collects the works of Guerrino Tramonti who worked in Faenza from the 1920s-1980s.

Three options for your last day in Faenza:

1. Palazzo Milzetti - National Museum of the Neoclassical Age in Romagna

This stunning Neoclassical building is worth a visit because it’s the most extravagant and complete example of the decorative architecture which flourished in Faenza, making it a heritage treasure. Count Nicola Milzetti started its construction in 1792, with Faenza architect Giuseppe Pistocchi.

Palazzo Milzetti - National Museum of the Neoclassical Age in Romagna

2. Train to Brisighella

Alternatively, you can take a 20-minute train ride to spend the afternoon in Brisighella, a quaint medieval hamlet in the hills just outside Faenza (info for trains).

You can visit Via del Borgo or Via degli AsiniIt, an elevated road that receives light from the characteristic arched windows of different widths. Famous for its unique characteristics, it’s an architectural preciousness unique in the world.

Furthermore there is a walking path that leads from the center of the village to the clock tower.

3. Ravenna

Otherwise, just an hour away by train, you can spend half a day in Ravenna visiting the mosaics from the Byzantine era.

Visit San Vitale Church and with the same ticket, in the same area, you can also visit the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, one of the most precious treasures of the city.

With the same ticket, you can also see other monuments in the city.

To explore more galleries, museums, design stores, and other destinations in Faenza and the rest of Italy, go to the CERAMIC WORLD DESTINATION MAP!

Contributors

Antonella Cimatti, former Professor at the Gaetano Ballardini Institute for Ceramics, is a ceramist artist who bases her poetics on creative, aesthetic and design research, in particular on
innovative experimentation with contemporary techniques and advanced ceramic materials.


In 2011 she was invited to the 54th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, and in 2016-2017 to the Triennale Design Museum in Milan.

Claudia Casali received a Degree and PhD in Conservation of Cultural Heritage at Udine University. She was appointed as the Director of the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza (MIC) in February 2011 and in 2022 she became the manager of the Muky Matteucci House Museum.

Opinion leader for contemporary ceramic art, she participated in lectures and symposia for international realities and in museology masterclasses for museums in Central South America.


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Ceramics and AI: Tech Fusion with Adam Chau

MoCA/NY's President Judith Schwartz speaks with Adam Chau about his ongoing commitment to embracing innovative technologies into his studio practice. He creatively challenges technology and reimagines images that have satiric and subversive commentary using mechanical brush painting or 'fake' images generated from Artificial Intelligence. His education in industrial design led to his seamless inclusion of technology in his clay works - using 3D clay printing techniques and AI to influence and direct his subject and style. 
Adam Chau has exhibited and lectured internationally and in 2018, he was awarded the NCECA Emerging Artist Fellowship. Chau also hosts a podcast on the Brickyard Network called Trade Secret where he talks with artists, writers, or curators each week to discuss contemporary issues in art, craft, and design.



To explore and learn more about Adam Chau and his work, CLICK HERE

Portals to Mouros - Tracing Identity with Isaac Scott at Lucy Lacoste Gallery

Isaac Scott’s political mixed-media sculptures are on display at the Lucy Lacoste Gallery in Concord, Massachusetts from September 16 to October 14, 2023. Scott is a Philadelphia-based artist, curator, and photographer, whose provocative ceramics explore the lineage of the Slave Trade, the history of social, cultural, and racial exploitation, and how contemporary people and land carry the wounds of past generations' traumas.
In 2020, during the global pandemic, Scott, working primarily with clay, lost access to his studio and sublimated his artistic energy to taking photographs of his neighborhood in North Philly and the protests and marches on the streets following the death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. 
In 2022, Scott traveled throughout Portugal during an artist residency where he (re)discovered that Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, was the city where the Slave Trade originated. Mouros, the title of his first solo exhibition, responds to his research and reflections on the Slave Trade—manifesting into six powerful stoneware and inkjet-printed Dibond pieces.

“Every now and then one comes across a new artist whose work excites and is worthy of the highest accolades. Realizing the content and the art in this completely new series, I knew I had to do everything possible to bring it to light in the fullest possible way.” - Lucy Lacoste

ILSY JEON (IJ): The inspiration behind your exhibition, Mouros, is rooted in your discovery and research on the Slave Trade and its origins in Lisbon, Portugal dating back to 1455. Can you describe the pivotal moment when you became aware of this history? Also, can you explain why you titled this show Mouros?

ISAAC SCOTT: When I arrived in Lisbon I was drawn to the older parts of the city.  I immediately wanted to know more about the city's history. I learned about the African Lisbon Tour through my friends’ parents. The tour is organized and led by Naky Gaglo. That’s where I first learned about and experienced some of the places that I referenced in the exhibition. 

The show title “Mouros”, translates to Moors in English. The title comes from a few different references. The first was the Moors who occupied the Iberian Peninsula from 711 to ~1249. Next, the people taken from the coast of West Africa who were called “Mouros” by the Portuguese. Lastly, the ancient myth of the Mouros from northern Iberia. This myth sometimes describes Mouros as Giant beings who collected treasures and lived underground.

I see my Mouros series as beings who dwell in different places that I visited on my travels through the country and they collect the stories of Africans who came through those locations throughout history.

Photograph by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
IJ: The tragic death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, which you comprehensively documented, occurred just two years before your awareness of the Slave Trade in Portugal. 

Considering the racial tensions in the US, how did it feel to conduct research in a foreign country and recognize that racism is pervasive in all lands? How has your research evolved to highlight your understanding and relationship to your ancestry, identity, and art practice?

ISAAC SCOTT: I’ve known for a long time that racism is pervasive throughout the world. We have seen Western colonization and the damage it has done throughout history. I think I had learned at some point that Portugal was the country to start the slave trade but it was never something that I thought much about until I was actually there. 

One thing that stuck with me during my trip to Portugal, was how comfortable I felt. Here in the US, I feel like my identity, my race is something that is always looming over me. I never felt that way in Portugal. But when I talked to Afro-Portuguese about this, they explained to me how they face many of the same problems around race that we face in the US. And that the reason I felt so comfortable and welcomed in Portugal was because people recognized I was a tourist and they wanted my money. This hadn’t occurred to me because I’m used to people following me around stores because they assume I will steal something.

This made me think more about power dynamics here in the US around race. We in the black community are constantly reminded how we are not valued or appreciated for our essential contributions to the founding, growth, and success of this country. 

Through my research, I found how the catholic church played such a major role in the start of the slave trade. It made me think of the parallels between protestant Christians in the US and how they used scripture to justify their use and dehumanization of African slaves in a “free” country. I also thought of how in both Portugal and the US, Africans used the church to free themselves and fight for their rights as human beings. 

There is a bitter irony to the fact that the Africans who had their freedom, religion, and culture stripped from them by Christians, behave more like Christ than the Christians themselves.

I think about my own relationship with spirituality a lot. I grew up in a very religious household and was even confirmed Catholic. I’m not religious anymore but I do still feel a longing for some kind of spiritual practice that makes sense to me. 

Photograph by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
IJ: Your sculptures evidence extensive research about the Slave Trade and the history of the Moors during the Middle Ages. The photos you’ve taken are sites in Portugal that symbolically refer to the history of this region and the ceramic portraits beautifully respond to these images. Can you elaborate on your experience walking around Lisbon, conducting research, documenting, and taking photographs? How did you come to the decision to select the six photographs that are on display in relation to these particular busts?

ISAAC SCOTT: I was immediately in awe of the city. The ornate architecture, tiled walls and streets, the massive monuments, and marble sculptures all made for great photos. At first, I wasn’t sure how I would use the photos. I always have my camera on me when I travel, so taking photos as part of a sculpture or installation wasn’t my first intent. As I came up with my ideas around the Mouros heads and the narrative behind them, I felt that I should use the images to give more context to these locations. I felt the images and stories I made the work around were the ones I felt the most connection to personally.

Photograph by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
IJ: The ceramic heads depicting Black faces each have a distinct personality and characteristics that respond to their corresponding images. What was your approach and process for creating these ceramic portraits?  Who are these people that you are paying homage to?

ISAAC SCOTT: I wanted to make portraits that fit the mood and energy of the stories connected to each piece. Some of them are more specific than others. The “Igreja de São Domingos“ piece has an expression of the figure singing. This comes from my connection of Black Spirituality to music as well as the hymns and chants that take place in a catholic mass. The expression of the “Mouro do Graffiti” speaks to the bravado and confidence in oneself that is celebrated in Hip Hop Culture. 

I don’t see these sculptures as depicting anyone in particular.

IJ: Following up on the previous question: how has your research about the African diaspora and Hip-Hop culture influenced the formal and conceptual aspects and features of these ceramic forms?

ISAAC SCOTT: Something that I have focused on capturing in my work is the idea of resiliency. In both the Mouros series and past work around Philly, I have often used these motifs of decaying architecture paired with reference to monuments and vibrant colors.

I enjoy the duality in a form that is both broken yet exhibits strength and beauty. 

In Hip Hop culture there is the idea of “making something from nothing” or creating value out of the scraps we find around us. I think the work I make is often a response to my own questions about having hope for the future. I see what many of my ancestors had to go through and how we got here. I think those stories give me hope for our generation to figure out the challenges in front of us.

Igreja de São Domingos, 2023 - Glazed Stoneware, 18.5h x 10.25w x 10.75d in, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print mounted on Dibond, 36 x 36 in
Mouro do Graffiti, 2023 - Glazed Stoneware with Gold Luster, 17.75h x 9.25w x 9.75d in, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print mounted on Dibond, 36 x 36 in

IJ: The way you’ve combined ceramic and photography is refreshing and avant-garde and is the perfect amalgamation of the two mediums you use to express your creativity. How did you come to the decision to integrate both mediums in this series and how did losing your studio during the pandemic act as an impetus to take up photography? Since returning to ceramics, after a few years of hiatus, how has your relationship with clay evolved?

ISAAC SCOTT: The photos in this series were important to add context to the heads I was making. They act as portals that bring the viewer to the exact place where these Mouros dwell. They also create halos around the heads, further pointing to the theme of Christian symbolism that runs through the show. 

When I lost access to my studio during the pandemic I was taking a photography class so I ended up turning to photography as my source for creativity. It really got me out of the house and kept me sane during that time. Then when the BLM protests started I really got more serious about documenting what was happening around me.  

Coming back to clay, I feel what happened in that summer of protests changed how I interact with the clay more than anything. The things I captured in the protests and the energy in those moments I began to express through the clay. Bringing both mediums together in different ways is exciting and gives me more options to bring my ideas to life.

Work by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
Photograph by Isaac Scott
IJ: The art world has shifted dramatically in the last few years where history is being re-evaluated and re-visited from a post-colonial lens. Despite ceramics being globally practiced by all genders and races for centuries, you’ve noted how in the US, the ceramic field is a White space that is inaccessible to Black, Brown, and low-income communities. 

How have you been navigating the predominately White spaces of clay and what challenges have you experienced? Have you seen sufficient progress in the American ceramic field within the last few years? Are there new artists or movements that inspire you?

ISAAC SCOTT: There are so many layers to this issue. In some ways, I have seen a lot of recent progress when it comes to the visibility and resources allocated to Black and Brown ceramic artists in the US. This has come from the rush institutions to Black and Brown artists after the summer of 2020. I am skeptical of this trend holding up though. 

I think real progress only comes when there is a higher diversity of voices on boards of major art/craft institutions but also, and more importantly, institutions that are built, run, and owned by a diversity of voices. I have been serving on the Collaboration and Engagement Committee of NCECA’s Board for a few years now and I have gotten a better picture of why change is so slow to take place. 

I think the things that excite me the most about the future of ceramics are organizers like Yinka Orafidiya, Osa Atoe, Ife Williams, Mapó Kinnord, and organizations like Kaabo Clay and The Color Network. These organizers and organizations have done amazing work in creating communities, resources, and opportunities for Black and Brown artists and artists of color.

IJ: You state how artists of color are “continually faced with the question of why ‘WE’ do what we do. […] It seems we are left to explain why ‘WE’ create what we create.” 
Can you elaborate on what you mean by “WE” and how White ceramic artists aren’t subject to the same questions, prejudices, and mis- and pre-conceptions that artists of color face?

ISAAC SCOTT: When I say “WE” I mean people of color in general. Many minorities who have different racial and cultural identities are aware of how our identities are mixed up in the lens through which people see our work.

As I mentioned before there has been a trend of searching for Black and Brown artists among major art and craft institutions around the country since the murder of George Floyd. I have seen people's lives completely change during that time. It wasn't the artist's work that changed. Just the cultural relevance of the artist's identity. 

I believe that many institutions made certain changes or created programming around DEI initiatives out of self-preservation and not from a sincere connection to those issues. As an artist of color, I am very aware of how my work and the lens people see my work is attached to my identity as a Black man. So often, when dealing with juries, applications, critiques, and museums, my work is viewed through the white lens. 

I often feel, as do many artists of color I know, that this brings an extra level of explanation, education, and misunderstanding around my work, which is directly tied to my identity. However, when I share my work with the black community or with people who have a similar lived experience the nature of the conversation or the critique around the work shifts dramatically.

Caravel, 2023 - Glazed Stoneware, 17h x 10w x 10.25d in, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print mounted on Dibond, 36 x 36 in
Pombo (Pigeon), 2023 - Glazed Stoneware, 17.75h x 9w x 9.5d in, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print mount
Castelo Dos Mouros, 2023 - Glazed Stoneware, 18.75h x 11w x 11.5d in, Archival Pigment Inkjet Print mounted on Dibond, 36 x 36 in

To learn more about Mouros at Lucy Lacoste Gallery, CLICK HERE

To explore the works of Isaac Scott, CLICK HERE

Ceramic Guide - Rome

In this edition of 36 Hours, we give tips to key ceramic destinations in Rome. Rome has more than 120 museums and over 200 galleries so there’s an abundance of choice. Make sure to check the Ceramic World Destinations Map for more destinations in the city!

This list is based on Lori-Ann Touchette's experience living as an expat in the city for the past twenty-five years. Touchette is the Co-founder and Director of CRETA Rome.
Piazza Venezia e il Vittoriano

Before your trip, you should do some research on the many temporary exhibitions in important sites such as Palazzo delle Esposizione, the Chiostro di Bramante (both with great cafes), MAXXI, and Scuderie del Quirinale.  

For galleries, Mattia De Luca Gallery, Anna Marra, Valentina Bonomo, Lorcan O’Neill, Francesca Antonini, Gagosian, Sant’Andrea de Scaphis - Gavin Brown, and T273 are a good start. 

Our international ceramics center, CRETA Rome hosts exhibitions of current resident artists 8-10 times a year. Check our website to see what is on or contact us for an appointment to stop by our studio.

Exibart, the database of current exhibitions in Italy will also list shows and any other openings each day.

Of course, mix it up as you wish!

For accommodation, there are a myriad of choices, from 5-star hotels to hostels and Airbnbs. We recommend monasteries for an authentic experience in the city. Try the Monastery Stay website and contact them directly for the best price. Be aware that some have curfews.

C.R.E.T.A. ROME - image courtesy of Lori-Ann Touchette
C.R.E.T.A. ROME - image courtesy of Lori-Ann Touchette

Day 1

The Heart of the Historical Center

3 PM: Palazzo Venezia + elevator of the Vittoriano

Begin in the heart of historical Rome with the Museo del Palazzo Venezia. In the section dedicated to ceramics, a long corridor of Asian and European porcelains leads to the area dedicated to Italian Renaissance maiolica including a complete set of pharmacy albarelli

Beyond is an extraordinary collection of terracotta maquettes by the Baroque masters Bernini, Algardi, and later 18th-century sculptors. Don’t miss the ceramic pavements produced in the time of Mussolini’s occupation of the palace that conjoin Renaissance and Fascist imagery. 

Museo del Palazzo Venezia
Museo del Palazzo Venezia

4 PM: Secret Garden

Relax in the “secret garden” of the palazzo before taking advantage of your ticket that includes access to the panoramic views of Rome offered by the elevator to the top of the Victor Emanuele Monument (last entry 6:45pm).

Diagrams serve as guides to the monuments spanning centuries that extend in every direction: to the south: the Forum, Colosseum, and beyond to St John Lateran; the imperial forums and the Quirinale palace to the east; straight ahead, the domed roof of the Pantheon and the northern entrance to the city at Piazza del Popolo; the square dome of the synagogue, Trastevere and the Janiculum hill to the west. 

Secret Garden
Secret Garden

5 PM: Musei Capitolini

Take the side stairs from the Victor Emanuele Monument to the Piazza del Campidoglio, the center of the Musei Capitolini complex, the oldest public museum in the world (last entrance 6:30pm). Alongside the important bronze and marble works, you will find Greek, Etruscan, and Roman pottery, including the oldest complete signature of a Greek artist, Aristonothos (“best bastard”) dated to 650 BC.

18th-cent. Volpato biscuit - Musei Capitolini

Terracotta architectural elements and sculptures are scattered around the oval exedra that houses the Marcus Aurelius bronze equestrian statue and several of the original donations of Pope Sixtus IV that constituted the foundation of the collection. 

The last room of the Pinacoteca (picture gallery) on the first floor houses an extensive collection of Asian and European porcelains including Volpato’s works after the antique created for 18th-century Grand Tourists. 

On your way to the Terrace cafe for a quick coffee or a Prosecco/Spritz don’t miss the reconstructed 2nd-century BC terracotta pediment. 

TIP: A combination ticket includes the Centrale Montemartini, where antique statuary meets industrial archaeology in the first electrical plant in the city. Leave time to explore the Ostiense and Garbatella neighborhoods for street art and abundant restaurants. 

2nd-cent BC terracotta pediment
terracotta architectural elements from the temple of San Omobono

8 PM: Dinner

From the top of the Capitoline Hill, wind your way down to the via dei Fori imperiali. The walk offers vistas over the imperial forums and extensions. As you walk towards the Colosseum, note the Renaissance kiln in the Forum of Trajan on your left. 

Halfway down, turn via Cavour and keep your eyes peeled for the outdoor seating area of the pizzeria Alle Carette, tucked in an alley on the left. After an appetizer of suppli (fried rice balls) and fiori di zucche (fried zucchini flowers) indulge yourself on a Roman thin-crust pizza. Walk off the carbohydrates by heading to the illuminated Colosseum nearby. 

If you prefer a restaurant meal in the historical center, there is a range of economical and selective options for dining including wine bars (the oldest, Cul de Sac, or Enoteca Corsi), or restaurants such as Renato e Luisa, il Ditirambio, La Quercia. For old-fashioned Italian food head to Settimio al Pellegrino, Da Tonino behind Chiesa Nuova, or d’Augustarello in old Trastevere. 

Open Baladin, where craft beers were introduced to Italy, is a good choice if you are dying for a hamburger. If you want a fun place to stop for a glass of wine before/after dinner (most restaurants open at 7:30 p.m. at the earliest), il Vinaietto offers an extensive list of wines by the glass at reasonable prices. Not much seating, so clients spill out into the street.

Day 2:

Museo Nazionale Romano 

(5 museums in all, a combination ticket gives you access to 5 different museums in 7 days, check the website for possible closures for restoration)

Elisabetta Benassi "Empire" from above - Palazzo Altemps

These museums open a bit later than most, so have a leisurely breakfast. Depending on where you are staying, opt for Caffè Greco (Spanish Steps), and Caffè Doria Pamphilji (the Corso). Our favorite is I Dolci di Nonna Vincenza (Campo dei Fiori) for Sicilian specialties and the plus is that there is no charge for seating.

Or if you are in Rome for the weekend, make a quick stop at the Mercato di Campagna Amica off Circus Maximus. This former’s market offers organic and local fares in a pleasant setting. From there you can walk back over Capitoline hill and down onto the via dei Fori Imperiali on your way to the first museum.

11 AM

The 2nd-century Roman bath complex of Diocletian (Terme di Diocleziano) has sections that focus on inscriptions and the early history and protohistory of Rome declined in terracotta ash urns in the form of vessels and huts. It includes a selection of terracotta votive sculptures, from body parts to 2/3 life-size seated females to larger-scaled busts of goddesses. 

Make certain to visit the ancient halls of the bath filled with Roman sculptures and monuments and the cloister designed by Michelangelo. 

Terme di Diocleziano

12:30 PM: The Museo dell’arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art)

You need to exit to visit the newest museum, founded in 2022. 

The Museo dell’arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art) has changing exhibitions of works exported illegally and then repatriated. Most recently, the terracotta Sirens and Orpheus returned by the Getty Museum were a star attraction.

The Museo dell’arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art)
The Museo dell’arte Salvata (Museum for Rescued Art)

1 PM: Lunch break

Check out the Mercato Centrale in the Roma Termini train station with an array of choices from pasta to burgers to pizza washed down with a range of beverages.

Palazzo Massimo

3:00 PM: Palazzo Massimo

PALAZZO MASSIMO is across the street from the station, dedicated to important marble and bronze sculptures from the Republican and Imperial ages. Contemporary frescoes and mosaics fill the top floors. No ceramics here but an alternative to the Crypta Balbi (see below).

Head back to piazza Venezia and then wind your way through back roads to the Crypta Balbi (currently closed for restoration (2023), on the site of an Augustan-period theater that became a center of trade and production from the 5th through 9th centuries. 

Excavations here changed the history of Medieval Rome as demonstrated by a range of storage jars (amphorae), fine wares, and a chronology of glazed pottery from the 7th through 18th centuries. The Mercati di Traiano Museo dei Fori Imperiali also has a splendid collection of amphorae displayed by typology.

MNR Crypta Balbi
MNR Crypta Balbi

4:00 PM: Hungry again? 

Head to Campo dei Fiori where you can find filled focaccia sandwiches at the Forno di Campo dei Fiori to savour while seated on one of the fountains in piazza Farnese or if you prefer air-conditioned tables, order made-to-order sandwiches at the Ancient Pizzicheria Ruggeri.

4:30: (last entrance at 5pm, closes at 6pm)

The walk to the site of the seats of the National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps, will take you through piazza Navona. This museum’s focus is on private collections from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. 

In addition to famous Greco-Roman works from the Ludovisi collection and others, the ‘encyclopedic’ archaeological collection of Evan Gorga is of interest for its terracotta architectural elements and pottery. Don’t miss the excavations on the ground floor with the display cases filled with maiolica pottery. 

Pass by the Pantheon on your way back to your hotel. Two of the best coffee spots are nearby: Sant' Eustachio Il Caffè for espresso or cappuccino; La Casa del Caffè Tazza d'Oro for granita di caffè (sugared iced expresso plus whipped cream). 

Or if you prefer gelato, try Fata Morgana (Campo dei Fiori), Corona (Largo Argentina), Gelateria al Teatro (piazza Navona)

National Museum of Rome

8:00 PM:

The Jewish “Ghetto” is a perfect place to have a meal that transports you back to the origins of this community that considers itself the oldest in Europe. Tucked in a quiet piazza behind the main street of touristy restaurants, you will find Sora Margherita (reserve in advance). Try the “Carciofi alla Giudea” (fried artichoke) and pasta with ‘cacio pepe e ricotta’ (pecorino, black pepper, and ricotta). Their ricotta and visciola (sour cherry) cake is to die for (or do take away from Boccione in the main square.

Jewish “Ghetto”
Jewish “Ghetto”

Day 3:

From the origins of Rome to the 21st century

8:30 AM: Breakfast

Get in the mood with a quick coffee or leisurely breakfast at the Caffè Tadolini Canova, just past the Spanish Steps via del Babuino. 

In January 1818, Antonio Canova (at the height of his European fame) signed a contract for property destined solely for the practice of sculpture for his favorite pupil Adamo Tadolino. This caffè in the former sculpture workshop still houses the plaster working models of this neo-classical sculptor. From there, walk through the Villa Borghese Gardens to the Villa Giulia.

entrance of Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia

9:30 AM: MUSEO NAZIONALE ETRUSCO DI VILLA GIULIA

The countryside villa of the Renaissance Pope Julius III houses the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia Villa which contains pre-Roman finds from throughout the Latium, southern Etruria, and Umbria. 

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 2 to 7 PM, with the exception of the first Sundays of the month and holidays, you can also visit the Villa Poniatowski nearby with important works repatriated to Italy.

On the ground floor of the Villa Giulia, the focus is on grave goods of the Villanovan and Etruscan periods with an abundance of terracotta pottery and ash urns, imported Near Eastern and Greek pottery and Etruscan bucchero ware. Wealthy Etruscans re-created Greek culture, filling their tombs with all the accoutrements of the Greek symposium: imported Greek vases take their place beside bronze vessels, armour and local wares. 

A highlight is the terracotta “Sarcophagi of the Spouses” with the couple reclining on a kline (the bed used for dining). The Greeks would have been shocked by the inclusion of a woman in what was traditionally a male domain in the Greek world. Other sections are dedicated to the chronology of Greek vase paintings, inscriptions, and an extraordinary collection of architectural terracotta sculptures, including the 6th century BC statues of Apollo and Herakles from the sanctuary at Veii.

Sarcophagi of the Spouses - Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia

12 PM

Have a light lunch at the Ristorante & Caffetteria Belle Arti 1938 (in the tennis club) near the Villa Poniatowski or head straight to the caffè of the Galleria d’arte Moderna which is your next destination.

1:30 PM: Galleria d’arte Moderna 

Founded just after the unification of Italy (Rome became the capital in 1871), the museum has been situated in the Valle Giulia since the early 1900s as the repository of modern and contemporary art of the time.

The display of the works, presented chronologically in a traditional museological fashion, was transformed in 2016 by a new conception of the museum which juxtaposes works from diverse periods linked by a common theme. 

In “Time is Out of Joint,” Fontana and Canova share the same room; neo-classical sculptures rub shoulders with paintings of various centuries; other rooms focus on modern art movements. Look out for the ceramic works of Leoncillo and Arturo Martini.

Arturo Martini - Le Stelle
Galleria d’arte Moderna
Leoncillo San Sebastiano 1939

5 PM: MAXXI MUSEO NAZIONALE DELLE ARTI DEL XXI SECOLO

The last stop today transports you from the neo-classical period to the 21st century. The MAXXI Museo Nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, designed by Zaha Hadid, opened to the public in 2010. A small permanent collection is enhanced by a broad array of more than a dozen temporary exhibitions. 

Currently, the show of Italian transavanguardia artist Enzo Cucchi includes a selection of important ceramic works.

8 PM: Enjoy a glass of wine

After a rest in your hotel, Il Tiberino on Tiber Island is the perfect place to enjoy the views of Rome by night (book a table outside) accompanied by traditional Roman fare and fine wines.

To explore more galleries, museums, design stores, and other destinations in Rome and the rest of Italy, go to the Ceramic World Destination Map!

Lori-Ann Touchette

Lori-Ann Touchette is a classical archaeologist and art historian with degrees from Brown, Princeton, and Oxford Universities. She is the author and editor of articles and books on Greco-Roman art and 18th-century Grand Tour. She has also contributed articles to Ceramics: Art & Perception, Ceramics Technical, and Ceramics Ireland. In 2012, she co-founded CRETA Rome with the Italian artist Paolo Porelli.


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