Handmade For Japan dish and mamezara with origami crane pattern

Handmade For Japan dish (mamezara) with folding pattern of an origami crane

After a productive residency in Montana, I’ve been busy this July with multiple projects in the studio. This little dish, inspired by the many antique mamezara in my cupboard, is something I made for Handmade For Japan for our coming September fundraiser and as a thank you present for all the individuals on GlobalGiving’s Leadership Council and some Martha Stewart staff (click here for more info about this  meeting). The pattern is the folding pattern for an origami crane which traditionally is a symbol of longevity, though recently as come to symbolize peace as well. What I learned from folding and unfolding a crane is that origami is not my god-given talent:) Like us on Facebook for more info on how to get a hold of a crane dish this fall to continue with rebuilding efforts in Japan.

Detail shot of red birds drawn in porcelain with sliver background

Red birds with a background of silver luster and a preview of the porcelain pots that will come in September

These love birds are a little preview of the porcelain that I’ll be posting in September along with the token. Lots of red drawings, pink drawings, and drippy cobalt drawings with silver luster knots, animals, and golden cherry blossoms to boot. Yum! If you don’t want to miss this sale, sign up here.

In Montana, with the generous help of many people (Andy Brayman, Jen Woodin, David Reid and James Klein to name but a few), a rough mold was milled out of plaster for a porcelain token the size of a quarter which will read “GOOD FOR 1 TENDER MOMENT”. The gist of the project is to make a social object that functions similarly to a piece of pottery. It’ll be an object full of symbolism that will hopefully bring people together and facilitate something sweet between them. Look for those this fall too.

Lastly, I was assigned the Tiger Paw Aster for the Hudson Valley Seed Library Art Pack, which was for me a challenge because the multiple petals on the asters didn’t jibe with my natural inclination for quick gesture. Drawing on pots (into the final piece) and drawing for an object (mediated through the computer) that will be reproduced thousands of times is a different exercise and asks for a different state of mind. In some sense, illustrating for the pack gives me much more leeway and more options, yet the risk involved with drawing with sgraffito keeps me on my toes. Images of the pack will be released in September and until then are top secret!

Happy Summer to you!

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thumbnails of japan

There are many realities in Japan right now. We at Handmade For Japan and the media have largely been focused on the disaster area in Tohoku, but I also want to share images from a recent trip to Japan showing another side. It felt very important for us to go to Japan during this time to show our support economically and morally. In many places we went, we were the first foreigners they’d seen post-earthquake. On top of the obvious economic impact of the disaster, millions of tourists canceled their trips during what is normally a peak season for the tourism industry. Outside of the disaster zone and apart from a slight undercurrent of anxiety in the national psyche, our trip went smoothly and the Japanese were their usual gracious, generous, and kind selves. Please consider supporting Japan by visiting.

Ken Matsuzaki's shard pile grew twice as big after the earthquake

The trip was a much needed vacation but it was also a chance to see first hand some of the damage caused by the earthquake. Near and dear to the hearts of many potters worldwide is Mashiko, a town made famous by National Living Treasure, Shoji Hamada, one of founders of the Mingei/Folk Art movement who established his pottery here in the 1920′s. It’s still home to hundreds of potters who were struggling in the recession pre-earthquake and who now have the daunting task of rebuilding destroyed studios and kilns. Ken Matsuzaki was kind enough to show me and writer/translator Naomi Tsukamoto around his studio and the town, including the Hamada estate which was very hard hit with 40% of the collection broken, kilns destroyed, and major structural damage to buildings. It was both heartbreaking to see the extent of damage and inspirational to see the potters and town rallying to move forward. To donate to Mashiko’s rebuilding efforts, the Mashiko Pottery Relief Fund has been established by Ken Matsuzaki, the Pucker Gallery, and Mudflat Studio and to volunteer in person, visit this website. From April 29- May 5, Mashiko has their annual spring pottery festival so if you have friends in Japan, encourage them to go. See pictures on Flickr.

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Just when we thought that the flow of money had sadly come to a trickle, a very, very generous benefactor has come forward with an incredible offer. We’d been thinking all week about how to continue raising funds for disaster relief in Japan, despite the fact that the auction was so much more successful than we ever imagined. Recovery costs are estimated at 235 billion dollars and the images coming from Japan continue to be heartbreaking. During the course of the auction, we heard over and over that people who really wanted to give and participate were priced out after a certain point, so we were sure that we wanted to offer some sort of t-shirt after the sale. Besides that, we love our disaster bear logo drawn by illustrator Dave Gordon and weren’t quite ready to retire him.

What our anonymous benefactor has offered is to match Cafe Press’ production cost dollar for dollar and donate it to our charity of choice, GlobalGiving. Say a t-shirt costs $25;  the mark up of $5 is what we’ll donate to GlobalGiving and $20 is what Cafe Press takes in production and profit and what our benefactor will match with a donation to GlobalGiving. Click here to see all the great gear whose purchase will continue to help the Japanese people.

Also see GlobalGiving‘s nice write up on Handmade For Japan and many others here.




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Thank you to all our artists for donating such amazing work, the galleries for believing in our auction and giving us choice pieces, and the donors for thinking creatively about how they could contribute. The support we’ve gotten for our efforts to raise money for relief efforts in Japan was has been overwhelming from the start. Thousands of people help spread word of our auction, commented on Facebook, and others jumped into the bidding to raise more money than we ever dreamed of making. Our small team volunteers worked until late hours and under a lot of pressure to get the listings ready for the opening of the auction and without them, this could never have happened. Dave “Emergency Illustrator” Gordon came up with our logo overnight on the second day after our inception and Kelly Severns Curtis, my long-time web designer, put aside paying jobs to donate her expertise in putting up our website and customizing Facebook to our needs. Most of all, with all three of us working 18-20 hour days, I want to thank our families for their support, especially Robin who put up with my crankiness, exhaustion, and monkey mind. I hope this project can continue in some form since recovery in Japan will be a long process. First though, we have to get some art out to the eager winning bidders! p.s. notice how Poncho is looking at Butchie across the screen :)

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