Enter Pottery

March 02, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

If you asked me before I turned thirty whether I'd ever consider pottery as a hobby, I'd give you a "sure," while thinking to myself, "meh". After all, pottery is for the elderly, the old retirees with their lack of mobility and surplus of time. Right? I was young(er) then, working as an engineer by day, unwinding with exercise and video games by night. I didn't have time for new hobbies; it was difficult enough just to get out on a weeknight and meet up with some friends. The thought of sitting down at a wheel for hours at a time, pushing clay to and fro? It never crossed my mind...until it did.

An ornately decorated porcelain cup at a ryokan I stayed at in Kyoto. A nice, hot green tea to welcome me.What's in a cup?An ornately decorated porcelain cup at a ryokan in Kyoto. A nice, hot green tea to welcome me.

ceramics, pottery, bowl, japan, ryokan, foodWhat's in a Bowl?An simply decorated porcelain bowl holding a small morsel of deliciousness.


As a mechanical engineer by profession, I spend a lot of my time thinking about design, manufacturing, and assembly, making sure my parts can be put together into functional, reliable products. I travel often to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and of course, China, where virtually everything in the world is made. Seeing how things are manufactured on a global scale is eye-opening, but it can lead to a bit of disillusion. For example, humans have created billions metric tons of plastic, making everything from tooth brushes to TVs. With modern industrial tooling and automation, today's manufacturing is the epitome of bleeding edge technology. Right? Well, what you don't see are the masses of people sitting in rows on the factory floor, assembling almost everything by hand. Right now, the latest and greatest smartphone is being put together by a young worker, clocking in and out daily to ship out the next generation of products -- products that are designed to become obsolete within one or two years. And the cycles goes on. Have I properly set the mood?

 

pottery, ceramics, ryokan, japan, food, kaisekiThe SpreadAmazing foods on amazing wares

So back the frequent traveling -- it was exhausting. Being just one engineer in an unfamiliar land, trying to solve an endless list of problems as deadlines loomed in the back of my mind...I can say I've built enough character, and gray hair, for two lifetimes. With the stress, I became strategic in the ways I would unwind after a busy week. I needed to spend my downtime wisely. One method: tea houses. After a day in the office/factory, I'd muster up the energy to venture about the city, dine on some local eats, and maybe make some new friends. Asia presented a nice opportunity to discover various tea houses, and I quickly became fond of them. Many tea houses are living works of art from the ground up. Not only are the teas hand-picked and locally grown, but the interior design and ambiance is carefully crafted to invite a pleasant experience. Walking through the doors, I step into a place, frozen in time, shut off from the rest of the busy world. Trees and plants outside and in, artwork adorning the walls, rustic wooden tables along the floor. And on those tables? Tea ware.

jioufen, teahouse, tea, decor, interior, design, pot, wood, rustic, brickSetting the MoodSavoring my time at one of my favorites: Jioufen Teahouse Pottery, studio, ceramics, shop, karatsu, kyushu, japanA Master's HomeVisiting Monohanako, an esteemed potter from a very long line of esteemed potters. Her studio/shop in Karatsu. pottery, ceramics, karatsu, japan, stoneware, tea, matcha, snacksShopping SnacksVisiting a pottery shop in Karatsu, where each piece is labelled with the potter, date of creation, serial number, and more. Our shopping was interrupted by a short matcha tea and sweets break as we chatted with the storekeeper.

 

It wasn't hard to fall in love with tea houses. Visiting a new city, I began checking to see if there were any around to stop by for a sip. Each new tea house had its own personality that aroused all of the senses. The decor as I enter. The banter of a foreign language. The scent of old wood and brick. The weight of a warm stone cup, raised to my lips, and then, the taste of freshly steeped tea. This went on for a bit, until one day, as I came home from Japan, I wondered if pottery existed near my home. The answer, of course, was "yes".

pottery, karatsu, japan, manhole, porcelain, cultureHardcore PotteryIn Karatsu, where pottery as a way of life is depicted on their manhole covers and brick-lined streets pottery, stoneware, ceramics, bowls, pots, plants, designLatest CreationsSome of my favorite pieces that came out last month. Red stoneware with a simple white glaze. plant, pot, pottery, ceramics, stoneware, amazon, danbo, snakeplant, New Pot New JobCelebrating a new job offer by bringing home a new pot and filling it with some life

I found a class offered not 15 minutes away, signed up, and showed up. On one dark autumn night in November, I stepped into my first studio, into a class of about 6 beginners. For the first half hour, the teacher walked us through the basic rules and process, then told us to go and get started. When we broke apart to get our clay, I felt a rush. I know right? The person rarely ever excited about anything, getting a high while picking up a back of wet dirt! I don't know what was so special about that day, but I knew then that pottery would become my new thing, one of several that defines who I am.

 

 


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