Shiro Shimizu’s (b.1979-Present) work possesses an audacity, grace, refinement, and natural warmth. How can such seemingly contradicting qualities live together in a piece? Part of the answer lies in how...
Shiro Shimizu’s (b.1979-Present) work possesses an audacity, grace, refinement, and natural warmth. How can such seemingly contradicting qualities live together in a piece?
Part of the answer lies in how he prepares his clay and bakes his works. For the past hundred years or so, modern potters have bought various materials from specialized stores, turned the wet clay into pottery on an electric wheel, and baked it in readymade electric or gas kilns. This method is convenient. All of the fail-safe precautions are built-in, like the auto-correcting camera of the newest iPhone.
Shimizu refuses it. He searches for clay by traveling through various regions of Japan. Sometimes, when he finds a perfect patch, he constructs a kiln right there and creates his works. Other times he brings the clay back to Kyoto, where he works at his family’s studio and kiln. It is one of the reasons that his work has the quiet vigor of ancient pottery while still possessing utterly contemporary energy.
Shimizu communicates directly with the clod of earth, and they collaborate with him. This tea bowl tells the tale of one of Shimizu’s intimate conversations with his clay. Called a hira chawan, meaning “flat tea-bowl,”- bowls like these are used in the summer tea ceremony. They have a wider lip than the winter tea bowl. While there are hundreds of protocols and rules on using the bowl, you can respectfully ignore them and use it for yourself.
If you look closely at the tea bowl inside, you begin to feel the earth is alive and breathing there. The backside of the bowl suggests a different feeling. You can feel the intense fire baking the clay and can hear the sound of logs cracking in the kiln. The work is a manifestation of Shimizu’s long relationship with clay and fire.