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Discover Takeshi Shima: An Iconoclastic Potter, Looking at Pottery through the Eyes of Nature

By: Marie W. Conway

Date Posted: 1999-12-17

As soon as one enters the gates of well-known potter and ceramist Takeshi Shima’s residence, there is a sudden overwhelming feeling that one is intruding upon the privacy of a forbidden sanctuary. Tucked away on a hill not far from the ancient ruins of Nakagusuku Castle, Shima is surrounded by nature at its loveliest - tall trees, lush greenery, mountains, and the sea. A perfect place for the artist to indulge in his daily dose of earth’s beauty. Shima, an Okinawan native, creates exotic works of pottery that cannot be easily forgotten. After seeing Shima's work, novelist Tsutomu Mizukami was quoted as saying that it is "majestic." Shima told Japan Update that "shizen", which means nature, is his greatest source of inspiration. Shima grew up in a small fishing town, Motobu, where he developed a sense of appreciation from early age for the intricate and endless boundaries of nature.

As a young man, Shima learned and mastered traditional ceramic making in Tsuboya, one of the most famous and historical areas for making Okinawan pottery. While he was in Tsuboya, he met Fujio Koyama, a ceramic researcher, who made a lasting impression on Shima. After partaking in research with Koyama, Shima realized that he wanted to duplicate kilns made over 500 years ago. Shima moved on to Shuri for 10 years where he yearned to learn more about ancient ceramics. He then traveled as a gypsy for the next 10 years through parts of mainland Japan like the Kyushu, Togichi and Kyoto collecting shards of ceramics. Since then Shima has helped design over 10 kilns modeled after the traditional kilns. Shima has lived in Nakagusuku for over 20 straight years ever since he returned to Okinawa. One of Shima’s dreams is to make Okinawan pottery a permanent cultural legacy, and his current 25 year old apprentice, Shinbone Mirage, is anxious to help that dream come true. Miyagi has only been Shima's understudy for the past couple of months, but is deeply moved by the passion Shima applies to his artwork. The apprentice is in awe of him and says, "Shima makes his source of inspiration extremely visible in his art." He also believes that Shima's style and technique is "undeniably different from that of all other potters." The subtropical weather of Okinawa plays an integral role in Shima's work. He uses 5 or 6 different clays from the local area, and shapes them into magical pieces of art. About his unique identity, Shima stated, "I like to make pottery that no one else has made. A good artist must feel inspired to create works of art, which are not often produced overnight.”

Many of Shima’s pieces take 10 to 14 days, and sometimes longer, to be completed. The artist revealed that some requests of his artwork that were made a year ago still have not even left the drawing board. Shima's heart must be into the project, or else it never leaves the ground. Shima has had only 3 solo exhibitions in the past and is planning the next one for 2001. His work is not sold in stores, but directly to serious art collectors on order.

Those interested in acquiring Shima’s exclusive objects can order directly by calling him at (098)-895-3174.

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