Art form fuses man and na­ture

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - North Hat­ley

Al­most five hun­dred peo­ple vis­ited the home stu­dio of artist Toshiro Tsub­okura dur­ing last month’s Cir­cuit des Arts Mem­phrem­a­gog and, judg­ing by the small num­ber of pieces of Shino-glazed pot­tery that was left in his stu­dio ear­lier this month, many

of them didn’t go away empty-handed.

Born in Ja­pan, Mr. Tsub­okura stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy and lithog­ra­phy at Seika Univer­sity, in Ky­oto, then worked in pho­tog­ra­phy, graphic de­sign and gar­den de­sign be­fore dis­cov­er­ing his pas­sion for pot­tery. “When I de­cided to start do­ing pot­tery, I had my favourite: Shino pot­tery,” said Mr. Tsub­okura in an in­ter­view at his home in North Hat­ley.

Shino glazed pot­tery is made with a glaz­ing tech- nique first cre­ated dur­ing the Mo­moyama Pe­riod in 16th cen­tury Ja­pan. “Tea cer­e­monies also be­came very pop­u­lar dur­ing the same time; it was a very rich, artis­tic pe­riod, known as the ‘Ja­panese Re­nais­sance’. One very old tea cup that is con­sid­ered a na­tional trea­sure in Ja­pan is Shino pot­tery,” ex­plained the artist.

The Shino glaz­ing method cre­ates a unique fin­ish on both hand-shaped or wheel thrown pieces, from milky, satiny white in colour to pink and orange shades and much deeper, al­most me­tal­lic tones on some of Toshiro’s work. The glaze of­ten fea­tures speck­ling in vary­ing de­grees, adding to the tex­ture of each piece.

A self-taught pot­ter, mem­o­ries of Toshiro’s child­hood came flood­ing back when he be­gan work­ing with clay. “I be­gan re­mem­ber­ing play­ing with clay when I was a child of prob­a­bly three or four. My mother’s fam­ily pro­duced clay roof tiles.”

The learn­ing process wasn’t with­out its hur­dles. “In pot­tery, the clay chooses the glaze. I needed to find the right clay for Shino. I tested a lot of clay but of­ten the colour and tex­ture wasn’t right. Af­ter two years I found the right clay in a pot­tery store in Laval. I did a lot of fir­ing of clay and threw away a lot of pieces, but I was de­ter­mined,” said Mr. Tsub­okura. Many ce­ramists ac­tu­ally avoid the Shino glaz­ing tech­nique be­cause of the high fail­ure rate dur­ing the fir­ing of the pieces.

Not only has Mr. Tsub­okura im­proved his glaz­ing tech­nique since he first took up pot­tery al­most fif­teen years ago, he has also moved from work­ing man­u­ally to us­ing a wheel. “At first I made pinch pots; three years ago I started us­ing an elec­tric wheel,” said the artist as he showed me around his stu­dio.

“Ev­ery time you fire a piece in the kiln you get a dif­fer­ent re­sult. In­side the kiln, the piece is af­fected by the weather out­side so you must be aware of all the weather. It is still chal­leng­ing and I’m still learn­ing. I’m chang­ing, get­ting bet­ter.” The in­te­gral con­nec­tion with na­ture is what this artist seems to value most about his art. “When I cre­ate a piece, I put my mind, love, pas­sion, sweat and time into it. Then it goes into the kiln and I can’t do any­thing more but pray; it’s up to the fire, wind, earth and rain. I can­not sleep well when I have a piece in the kiln.”

Mr. Tsub­okura’s most re­cent works have been very light, milky white in colour, with sim­ple lines and tex­tures. “I felt like I was in mourn­ing af­ter the earth­quake in Ja­pan. Peo­ple had dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions to the work and some were sur­prised, but they could un­der­stand why.”

Many of the peo­ple who vis­ited the stu­dio dur­ing the art tour got an ex­tra treat dur­ing their stop: a tour of the en­chanted gar­den sur­round­ing the home of Toshiro and his part­ner, award-win­ning im­pre­sario Uriel Luft.

Asked if he liked liv­ing in the East­ern Town­ships com­pared to Mon­treal, where he first lived af­ter com­ing to Canada, Toshiro an­swered: “Yes, very much so. I needed to be in na­ture. The peo­ple here are very nice and it’s very con­ve­nient, close to Mon­treal, Sher­brooke and Len­noxville. I was a pho­tog­ra­pher first so I’m a watcher. I’ve seen that peo­ple liv­ing in na­ture live a calm, sim­pler life. That life­style keeps me calm and gives me a good feel­ing. I’m very happy to be a part of that cul­ture. If we were still liv­ing in Mon­treal, we wouldn’t have that.”

The next ex­po­si­tion that Mr. Tsub­okura will be tak­ing part in is the “Chant de la Terre” ex­hi­bi­tion, this fall, in Baie St. Paul, the fa­mous Que­bec Mecca for artists.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Artist Toshiro Tsub­okura draws inspiration from the nat­u­ral beauty sur­round­ing his home in North Hat­ley.

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