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Ryubo holds Tadashi Takaesu pottery exhibition

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-03-26

It's not surprising that Tadashi Takaesu enjoys his life as a potter. His father, one of the great Tsuboya potters and one of only a handful of Japanese to be declared a "living national treasure," taught the young Tadashi to be an accomplished potter. Through his father's strict guidance, Takaesu developed the necessary skills to mold and bake clay into fine works of art. He also attended the Aichi Prefecture Pottery Academy, where he successfully graduated in 1972. His early years, however, have made way for a craftsman filled with new ideas, his own distinctive style. At 47, and with 25 years' experience behind him, Takaesu has reached new heights in creativeness, and his work will be on display at the 4th floor of Palette Kumoji's Ryubo Shopping Center from March 23 until March 29.

At his workshop in Tsuboya, Naha, Takaesu showed me some of his latest creations. Climbing out from behind his work space he reached up to produce a wall-hanging vase. "I made this on the wheel," he said simply. The vase, rectangular in shape, was the result of experimenting with new ways to use the wheel for making objects other than cups and bowls. As I followed him to the kiln, he mentioned that he had visited the United States in 1981, where he taught and exhibited his own work at Matthews County in eastern Virginia.

"Before I went to America, it was very tough trying to be a potter. I was mostly doing the same thing everyday," said Takaesu, who had been making "awamori" holders by the hundreds while in Okinawa, simply going through a routine. "I remember going to the Smithsonian Museum and was surprised to see so many different cultures. I was really impressed with the crafts of Native American Indians, and the connection with similar work by the Ainu and Okinawans. I realized that I needed to learn much more about Okinawan culture." The trip gave Takaesu new inspiration for creating more original designs.

Takaesu removed a small piece of pottery from the kiln, testing the temperature as we continued our conversation. He showed me some large urns decorated with dragons and ocean waves. Much of his work features drawings of fish and other images of Okinawa. "I think of the design before I start, but it usually changes as I go along," he said. "Before, I was doing much of my work with the wheel, but now I am also creating 'shiisa' and other pieces that need to be cut and molded."

At another part of his workshop, Takaesu pulled out some clay ice buckets and pitchers, each with a natural earth color to them, the color and texture Takaesu says he likes best. Some pieces had been purposely made to look imperfect - giving them more character. A few of the pitchers had rocks imbedded in them. Takaesu actually threw the rocks into the shaped clay, where they stuck before entering the kiln. He explained the procedure as simply being "a lot of fun!" Outside, one of his staff was busy preparing some rectangular plates to be fired. The plates each held the imprint of a leaf, which Takaesu explained were actually made by pressing real leaves from nearby trees onto wet clay.

The award winning potter feels that creating new designs keeps many traditional Okinawan objects very fresh. By adding different colors and drawings, Takaesu manages to change the entire feeling and character of many traditional pieces, such as urns and tea pots.

"Okinawa is small, but it is very big in culture. It has many wonderful things - music, dance, weaving," remarked Takaesu. "I didn't think of this before I went to America, but I do now."

If you would like to see Takaesu's work, you can visit his exhibition from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. everyday from now until Sunday. The last day of the show, Monday, will be held until 5 pm. Ryubo Department store is located at the southern end of Kokusai Street in Naha. You can also visit his shop "Iku Toen" in Tsuboya. *Japan Update is giving away a free gift of pottery made by Tadashi Takaesu to the first reader who either sends us a fax or e-mail. Our fax number is 934-5690. Our e-mail is classifieds@japanupdate.com. We can not send the gift by mail, so be sure you are able to come to the office in person if you should win.

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