By a chance meeting, I stumbled across a potter named Gon chan. He volunteers with autistic teenagers and adults who are interested in pottery. And it so happens that he is also an award winning potter!
He seemed friendly enough, so I decided to be thick skinned and ask if I can visit his studio because I really wanted to see where and how potters work! Happily for me, he agreed without a moment’s hesitation and we arranged to meet for lunch together with Naoko san today.
I brought along some black sesame Japanese cookies that I sampled at the sake museum. Naoko san, on the other hand, came with a huge pot of steaming, fragrant curry!
We arrive at Gon chan’s place, and heave a collective “waaaa“. Before us stands an ancient-looking, traditional Japanese house; a big gas kiln sitting in a nearby shed and benches of clay and tools out in the sunny garden. The living room slides open to reveal shelves and shelves of books, and the season’s flowers tastefully arranged in large vases.
Gon chan takes us to the adjourning studio where his wife Nanae works. She is also a potter! Pixie-like with sparkling eyes and an ultra short fringe, she sits with her potter’s wheel facing the open garden. What a fantastic way to work! We take a look at her creations and I fall in love at once.
Melding different colored clays together, she creates these beautiful vases, cups and bowls and polishes them till they give off this natural sheen that makes you just want to keep holding them. She also works off another unique potter’s wheel which has long entered the history books – the kick-wheel.
Manually operated using the right foot, it is immensely different to control the speed and how the pieces will be formed as the wheel turns. I get to try it out for myself, and it is as difficult as it looks!
Next, we visit Gon chan’s studio space, littered with lots of original glaze samples and beautiful pieces of work. He shows us one of his award-winning pieces and it is absolutely stunning. The pictures simply don’t do it justice!
While Gon chan is off preparing miso soup for lunch, we sit at the guest room browsing their large collection of books. I spot some of my favorite guys like Lee Ufan and Tadao Ando and 半泥子. A moment later, the best miso soup in the world arrives at the table. Even Naoko san, a born and bred Japanese is impressed by its unique taste and promptly asks for the source of the miso paste. Eating curry rice and drinking world’s best miso soup on hand made tableware is a memory I will remember for a long time. From now on, I will seriously make all my own tableware!
When I pass the cookies to Nanae, she stares at them with pure joy and exclaims, “Ureshii, I love senbei!” She continues to gaze lovingly at them for a few moments while my heart dances with pride at having made a good choice for my hosts.
It is soon time to go and we bid our hosts a reluctant farewell. I don’t know when I would see them again but I know I will remember them for a long time. Such beautiful hands, such beautiful hearts.