About – Aomori International Woodfire Festival – 2002

Lee was one of 80 potters and ceramic artists from 17 countries who were invited to attend a unique, international wood-fire festival. Ryoji Matsumiya, President of the Festival, chose the slogan “World Ceramic Art from the Heart” to emphasize the desire to establish a place “where a community of international potters can reside as artists in residence and work together in an atmosphere where ideas are exchanged freely.”

Ryoji believes by promoting a creative environment for an international group of artists we can also find ways to promote world peace. To this end, he sought a wide range of attendees, from young unestablished potters to senior master teachers from all over the world.

For ten days the participants worked together at shared tables and wheels in their own style (using unfamiliar clays). They traded experiences and techniques, and they challenged each other to try new things.

Some potters arrived at the Doma “Big Wing” Sports Center as early as 8 am every morning to prepare for the public opening at 9:30. Thousands of Japanese visitors came to watch them throw forms and hand-build sculptures. The audience marveled at their evolving greenware and enjoyed more than 200 finished pieces that had been brought to donate to the Goshogowara Museum. Each day also featured slide presentations by the potters on topics ranging from kiln construction and person clay philosophy to overviews of current ceramic trends in specific countries.

The evenings were filled with performances of traditional or modern Japanese dance, music, and song by well-known entertainers. Participants then drifted off into smaller international groups to talk, drink and sing.

Lee recalls the people most:
“Maro Kerassioti from Greece, who shared a worktable and quiet insightful ideas with me; Kim Yong Moon, the Korean “team leader” who presided over production potters making 6-inch bowls and 5-foot-tall kimchi jars; Daniel Lafferty from Australia, who threw large pitchers and jugs with such free ease; Gabriella Kuzsel, a Hungarian sculptor with a quiet refined porcelain sense; Masakazu Kusakake from Japan with his fanciful work; the finely detailed, 3-foot-diameter bowls of Shirsuke Iwani also from Japan. He enjoyed learning from them all.”

This experience has already begun to influence and alter Lee’s work. He will be forever grateful for the opportunity and experience gained.


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