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Monday, 29 April 2013

You don't own gold. Gold owns you.

When we saw Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum some weeks ago, I noticed one thing survived intact. Gold. Everything, furniture, bread, fruits became carbon. A dog and humans were steamed alive and left as void as the ashes rained down on them.  There was one display for a wealthy woman who wore lots of pure gold jewelry. She seemed to return her house to take more gold jewelry after the eruption. But she was killed at the entrance of her house with the gold.

There was another display of not-so wealthy woman. She wore some metal jewelry with beads, they were all carbonised.

This month there was a big fall in the gold price. It hit a two year low. Then I again remembered Pompeii.

We don't own gold, but gold owns us.

Last year my own mother frantically tried to sell her gold, which she bought in 1980's at the height of the previous gold boom. I don't know if she actually sold it or not.

I don't hold a position in gold. I think gold is too dangerous, too powerful and too risky for mere mortals, like myself. It is the only metal that doesn't corrode, as you know. There is something very special about it. The story about dragons collecting gold must be a cautionary tale to us.

I wear it. I enjoy it. It only goes to someone else after I die. But I am not going back to home to retrieve it in fire. It will stay there after the fire is put out, probably as it is.


We are slowly getting better at the pace of two steps forward and one step backward. Mike felt better during the weekend so he did too much. He took a sick leave and had stayed in the bed this afternoon. I started a little bit of clay work yesterday, but found it exhausting, so I have rested and done desk work today.
Hellebore, narcissus and primura

Here are some garden flowers. Apple blossoms started. Most spring flowers opened. It has been bright recently, still temperature has been quite low. Saturday was 9C. Sunday and today are just 12C maximum. (That's about 50F) The sun makes a big difference to me, especially because I have stayed inside except for quick dog walks (poor dogs!).

The first apple blossom
Watching flowers, birds and the sunshine from the window makes me feel good. Little birds are busy. We had a chaffinch. They only come to the garden once a while. They are one of my favourite garden birds.

Mt favourite Lilly flowered tulip.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Dream and celadon bowl

Hello everyone. Last night I had a strange dream. I was in the meeting led by my former Japanese architect boss (I used to work as an interior designer in an architect's office in Tokyo). There were one of primary school classmates and two former colleagues in the room. I felt sick, so I told them that I would go home. I was in an elevator going down. There was a high school classmate who became graphic designer. She didn't seem to recognize me. But when I was about to get out, she said 'You don't look well.'  I walked around the vast building and found a white room with a girl lying in a simple steel bed, and there was another bed. I lay on the bed. Then I woke up with incredible thirst and fever. I don't need Freud for this one, do I? I just wanted to go to hospital!

We had a warm day today. It was warmer outside than inside. Pumpkin, our chicken, slept under the raspberry bushes (no leaves yet). Our dogs slept in a sunny spot on the lounge. I also took a peaceful nap this afternoon.

When I woke up, I had an email from a lovely lady in Singapore; a sculpture and a rabbit cup have arrived safely. What good news!

I have listed one celadon bowl in my shop today. This is from my latest reduction firing. The small bowl fired in March was so good that I have glazed a couple of pots with same celadon this time. Alas, only this was properly reduced; the other one was only half reduced, so it has to go to re-firing in June.

'Peppermint choco chips ice cream bowl' in my shop
It is 6 2/5 inches wide (16 cm), and  3 1/3 inches tall (8.6 cm). It is versatile. Mike threw this pot with coarse grey clay. We call it 'peppermint choco chips ice cream'. Instead of dipping the pot in the glaze, I brushed the glaze, so that brush marks could be seen.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

My Red riding hood

Hello everyone. It was my fourth day of resting. Mike drove me to the studio to collect test tiles in the morning. When I went to the kiln room, there were three students. I said 'Hello. Don't come near me. I have got a cold!' They pulled back literally. Funny!

I found my Red riding hood was already fired. So I brought her back. I love her. I made her on the spur of the moment. So I haven't planned any mounting. I imagine wood would be suitable. Mike looked at her, and said 'She is oriental Red riding hood'.

Red riding hood by Midori Takaki

A handmade bunny button

Curious eyes and a little nose 

Mike, who is also recovering from the same cold, took a day off. He baked fantastic hazelnut biscotti. We have already eaten at least one third!

At four, I had an appointment with my tutor. It was an assessment of my presentation. I went with Mike a bit early so that we could see the exhibition in the gallery where the assessment would be held. There was my lovely classmate, Harriet, in the reception. She told me that my and her assessment were cancelled. We looked at the exhibition, and Mike walked to Wholefood to get organic peanut butter. I had waited him on the street. I felt too tired to walk any more steps in the middle of the street! Then I saw a strange man. He had a bluish floral house dress with a cardigan. He had beard and mustache! There was a real Little Britain in Canterbury High street!

I have passed Art critique class this evening. I must fully recover before attending any classes. Mike's cold seems a couple days ahead of me. He encouragingly told me that I would feel better in a few days. I hope so. I have lost strength from continuous cold/flu. I am eating and sleeping well. I guess I should have rested now and then for the last four weeks. I now know it, but it's a bit too late for this little Japanese green riding hood (midori phonetically means green in Japanese). Take care and look after yourselves, everyone.    

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Fresh from the kiln

Hello everyone. There had been lots of news over the world last week. Although I was aware of the headlines, I only read them in detail on Friday when I finally found time at home. Then another earthquake happened in China. I hope rescue will make progress to save more lives in both Iran and China. I'm Japanese. I know how devastating earthquakes could be.

My reduction firing went well. I had two and a half hour sleep the night before, so it was a long tiring day. After I came home, I had dinner and shower, and then went to sleep early. I had slept nine hours. I went back to the studio to unload the kiln after lunch. Most of them were experimental. They looked promising. There were several pots re-fired. They have improved in general. One of them, a plinth, became so attractive and seductive, I have to make something to go on top. (It was initially made for 'Witch without name', but the colour unexpectedly turned to olive green. So I had to change a plan.)

Yesterday morning, I went in the studio to prepare glaze tests for a couple of hours, and caught a cold again. The heater has not worked properly since the power cut a week ago, and it was very chilly in the glazing room. The term will start tomorrow, and it will be even more hectic. So I have rested yesterday afternoon and today very well. Mike has also caught a cold. We kept catching something for the last four weeks.

These are reduction fired sculptural pieces and parts. One of them, which looks like Pompeii's bread that we saw in the Pompeii exhibition, is half baked. Some parts of the kiln don't get reduced well, they are not always the same place which makes it difficult.
Reduction fired sculptures

I made this pot in hurry. I had problem with clay (too soft) and it was knocked around while I was removing excess clay from its lower part after throwing it. But I liked the shape and ancient feel, so I fired it. It is not symmetrical, as you can see. It will be my Ikebana vase.

My asymmetrical Ikebana vase

After reduction firing was scheduled, I became off-colour again. It was not only a long day from nine to six, but also I had to endure fever and discomfort. But when I came home, Mike pointed the sky. There were beautiful double rainbows. A half of tiredness disappeared. They were the most beautiful ones we have seen for a long time. The sky gave me a lovely gift.

Double rainbows


Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ready for reduction firing

Hello everyone. I spent a nice afternoon in the studio. I have finished everything I had planned in good time. I felt much better after resting for three days. 

My cracked pots are ready to be glazed.
 I will do a reduction firing tomorrow. This time, I didn't put any work in the ghost part of the kiln where reduction is weakest. Reduction firing takes about seven hours and I will have sit near the kiln, and record data every 15 minutes. It will be a long day. The studio has no WiFi; I will not be able to do any day-work. So I am planning to finish off some bisque pieces.    

 A nicely packed kiln! 
Final year undergraduates were back, but they have been quietly working today. Good for them! You can't make art whilst chatting.  

I was delighted to see Claire's ink painting. Ink painting is my hobby. She was using Indian ink and ordinary brushes. I would suggest to her to try Japanese/Chinese brushes and ink, also with red or green as an accent on it. It would take some time for people who have never used Japanese brushes to get used to them, but they would be more suitable for her style, I think.    

Claire's ink painting
Next to Claire, Carolyn was putting a corset together. Her work is unglazed porcelain and very delicate. She looks feminine, so does what she makes.

Porcelain corset

Claire gave me a little box of sweeties today. How nice of her! Of course, I gave them to Mike. He was the one who carried the logs for her. I only pointed to them!

Mike's sweeties. 


Monday, 15 April 2013

Netsuke, Jomon pot and Do gu

Hello everyone. We had another spring day. In order to get recover, I didn't go to the studio today. Even a short dog walk made me tired. Mike and I have got some viral infection, and a GP told Mike to rest before he feels exhausted. Besides, final year undergraduates are back today. So the studio would be crowded. It is the time for me to start to create at home. But I have booked a reduction firing later this week, so I will need to prepare for it.

So this is the last part of our experience in the British Museum after seeing the Ice Age art exhibition. We kept seeing the themes and motifs that appeared in Ice Age had continued to modern age. There were Picasso, Brassai and other modern artists' works were displayed along side the Ice Age art in the exhibition. We also finding ancient civilization had same motifs like lion and deer as Ice Age art.

We went to see the Japanese section where Mike had never seen. They have a small collection but its quality is good. When I saw small Ice Age animal objects in the exhibition, I was thinking about netsuke. So I had looked at them in detail. Netsuke were made during Edo period, about 400 - 250 years ago in Japan. They were used to hang a little container with a string on a Japanese sash belt. They are mostly carved in ivory, but also in woods. Japanese, especially women, still hang little objects, often animals figures, on their wallets and purses, recently on their mobiles.



A part of roof tile


Lion dog

Kirin, mythical animal

I also wanted to see Jomon period (about 16,500- 3000 years ago) pot and Do gu (where my blog title came from). I love dynamic Jomon pots. I think they were used for special occasions. 


These figures are Do gu. They often have unusual large eyes. Apparently when I saw Mesopotamian eye figures, I immediately thought about them. 

We also saw a small exhibition of African textiles. We had no knowledge about them. So it was really interesting.   

 'Textiles are the most obvious visible signifier of culture throughout the African continent.'

In 1995 after we got just married, we used to see African ladies in colourful fabric in a local supermarket. I used to think that they look wonderful in it. Each ;lady has different coloured textiles. But they wear same design from literally head to ankle. But I had never imagined that the fabric had so much meaning. There are political propaganda, wisdom or some witty description about wearers, or anything on them! We both liked this most.

'Mangos are ready'
  Mike said that they are like T-shirts. He is spot on!

This was something like, be careful with prickly outside

When we were ready to leave, we realised that it was raining steadily. I threw an empty water bottle into a rubbish bin at the main door. I saw a broken folding umbrella sticking out of the bin. I looked back the rain again. I told Mike that I was going to take the umbrella. Yes, from the bin! It had one broken arm, but it prevented me getting soaked whilst walking to the bus stop, and also in Canterbury, once we got off the train. I felt it was a god-send! (the museum shop had a folding umbrella with a price tag of £26! That's a rip-off!)

The rescued umbrella


Sunday, 14 April 2013

The reminiscence of Ice Age art in Mesopotamia and Greek civilisation

Hello everyone. Suddenly spring came to Canterbury. It was 22C. We did a bit of gardening. We both have virus infection with dull back pain. So it was the day of rest today.

Continuing yesterday's story, after lunch we walked into Mesopotamia display. We kept finding the reminiscence of Ice age art there. It backs the assumption that Ice age people share the same brain with us. We both, therefore, have similar imagination, similar aestheticism and similar thinking process. Despite of the lack of tools except for flint stones, the homo sapiens who used to live in Europe during Ice age, made such beautiful objects to look at, to wear, to use, and to protect themselves with. And after 40,000 years, we are looking at the artifacts made by their hands, made me feel to connected to them in the deepest way.

My own inspiration comes from our memory from primeval time. Everyone has it, just they don't know they have got it. I follow my intuition when I make my art. I listen to myself and to the clay. Clay is one of the oldest material known to homo sapiens (another is stone). When I touch it, it brings back the old memory to me. I shut out the outside world, which is irrelevant to me. When I communicate with spiritual being, I will start making it. My art is my soul and philosophy. At Ice Age art exhibition, I realized that same thing did happen to those ancient artists in caves. It was my Eureka moment.

Pendants, from  late Uruk about 3000BC
Those fishes are similar to the Ice age pendants. In Ice Age, pendants were hung upside down. It is thought that wearers had them that way so that they could see animals the right way up.

Eye figurines from Eye temple foundation, late Uruk, 3000-3300 BC, Syria

This relief below reminded me of the sculptures I saw at Nemurt Dagi in Eastern Turkey. It was one of the most mysterious places I have ever visited.

Goddess Kubaba, 9th century BC, Neo-Hittites, Syria

 These are also form same area, about same time. You can see they had large noses.

This is one of female figurines. Ice Age art have lots of female figurines. And yes, we still make them, too. I was again interested in their eyes.

I like these figures because they are so simply stylized, yet full of character.

Lion and antlers are motifs frequently used in both Ice Age and Mesopotamia. This lion headed eagle is the symbol of the god Ningirsu.
God Ningirsu
 Next are female figures from south-western Turkey. You can't make humans simpler than this. Late Ice Age artists made lots of stylised female figures. They were displayed along side Brassai's sculptures. They didn't have heads; they just looked like thin violins.

Female figures, Bronze Age

One of my favourite displays in the British Museum is the Assyria wall reliefs. A half of section is closed right now. Mike had never seen them. When he saw this, he pointed 'It's Lion Man!'.

Lion man from Assyria wall relief. 
Replica of Ice Age Lion man

When we finished the section, we went to see ancient Greek section. Stylised female figures kept appearing. They are famous Cycladic female figures

Different versions
 Little animals figures reminded us of Ice Age animals carve in stone as well as Japanese Netsuke.

To be continued.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind at the British Museum

Hello everyone.We finally made it! We saw Ice Age art: arrival of the modern mind at the British Museum. Today we arrived there 5 minutes before opening to buy tickets to avoid the repetition of the disappointment we had last week. It is so popular, and there are only 100 walk-in tickets every day.

The first known art homo sapiens made some ten thousand years ago still echoes to modern art due to the same process of thinking (they had a same type of brain as we do). It is truly amazing. My main focus and interest has been primeval energy and thoughts. This exhibition is, therefore, so relevant to my own work. I have taken lots of notes and bought a book about it. I am considering writing a essay on this, too.
Entrance to the exhibition
Taking photos was not allowed in the exhibition, but I share an image from the book with you.

From Ice Age art exhibition book

Our slot was 10:40, and we spent 1 hour and 40 minutes to see all. So when we finished, it was already
lunch time. We went to Court restaurant. It is only a proper restaurant in the British Museum. I ordered.... 
The glass roof is reflecting. 

Yes, steak. But this chunky heavy knife could be used as a real weapon, I thought.

Cranberry juice.
Those who know me would be surprised that I didn't order a glass of red wine. In fact, I was a bit feverish; so I had to restrain myself. Shame!

Marinaded steak.
 It was lovely, and quinoa salad was unexpectedly good. Desert was pannacotta.

Pannacotta with espresso
 Mike had pasta with chicken with rocket and courgette in a creamy basil sauce.
He said the sauce was really good.
 Then his true nature surfaced.  He had chocolate fudge cake and espresso. He loved it (he is chocoholic).
Chocolate fudge cake. very rich and really good, he said.

 After relaxing, and resting our tired feet, we went to see other parts of the museum. I will report you it another day.