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Reiko Miyagi Storytelling Ceramics

April 22, 2019

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you are having a great break and time off. The UK has been amazingly warm and not what we’ve come to expect from Bank holiday weather at all so it’s a welcome change for us who are having a few days break. I’d like to introduce you to a wonderful ceramist today, who is also a skilled illustrator and artist.

Reiko Miyagi‘s decision to be a potter came while she attended college in Tokyo.

She says:- “I studied, contemporary art and museum curation. It wasn’t pottery related so after I graduated, I went to a ceramic school called Bunka-Gakuin, where there were great teachers who had studied under National Treasure-level potters. I was able to study a variety of outstanding styles and skills there. I also learned functional pottery making skills for two years and then took an apprenticeship in the pottery town of Mashiko.  Mashiko had a very open and diverse atmosphere compared to other traditional pottery towns in Japan, probably a result of the folk-art movement there in the 1920’s lead by Shoji Hamada.  I enjoyed interacting with many excellent artists who lived independent life styles in Mashiko, including quite a few people from overseas who came to learn pottery making. ”

Reiko works using white stoneware with free hand-painted black slip and sgraffito decoration. Sgraffito is the technique where a layer or numerous layers of glaze are painted onto the hardened clay, before being scratched away in a design or pattern to reveal the surface of the clay beneath. It can create quite crisp imagery. You can see this technique in progress below. Reiko says:- ” I use all kinds of scratch tools, mostly made from metal, such as a needle tool, scratch board tools and an exacto knife. It really takes them all to make my work but since I’m also a metalsmith I like to modify my tools. For example, I like my loop tool because I was able to customise the shape for my needs by forging and filing.

There ia an ancient Japanese belief that all beings and objects have a spirit and divinity within. Being born and raised in Japan, Reiko’s aesthetic sensibility was largely influenced by the traditional art and crafted items that reflected this philosophy. Using black slip on white stoneware, Reiko creates her own sense of inner spirit and with the moments of bliss she receives whlst working with the clay, she expresses her belief in idea that all beings are connected and the appreciation for our surroundings, make us what we are.

I love the folk art element to her work.

Her studio name “Tabula Rasa” comes from the latin expression meaning to start with a clean slate. ” I was first exposed to this expression when I bought the music CD, “Tabula Rasa” by Arvo Pärt thirty years ago. I chose it for my new studio name when I moved to the US because I was making a completely new start. I have interpreted the words in my own way which is, “every moment is unique and a chance for a fresh start,” just like in Zen philosophy. We are easily distracted by thoughts of the past or future rather than being fully present in the moment but when I make my art and am having a good flow, I truly enjoy the feeling of this moment of “bliss.”

“I draw a lot of animals, trees and flowers. My culture has an animistic philosophy that all beings and objects have a spirit or godess within them. Animals and flowers have complete beauty and it’s like having a universe within so I never get tired of drawing these “millions of gods.” I also draw a lot of musicians, too”

“The pieces below are some of my “Tree of Life” plates. It’s an image in use for a long, long time in many places. I’m very interested in the patterns and imagery that you can see in different areas of the world and throughout a variety of time periods. Some images have literally travelled through time, whilst some are very similar but it cannot be explained why they have this similarity without any communication between them. Perhaps it comes from something humans are born with. Either way, I love looking at images and patterns that appear in historic and tribal work that play with my imagination and make me question what the artists went through to express these images”

Birds are a common theme and stem from mythology, stories and folk imagery.

Beautiful shapes and couplings.

I love these little Owls, they definitely feel like pottery discovered from Greek mythology.

Cups and vases with great little feet.

Her whimsical character-driven ceramics, almost suggest stories and create strong emotive responces to their narratives.

Nowdays Reiko is living in North Carolina with her partner and you can follow her work on her Instagram account over @studiotabularasa.

Happy Holidays.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2019 8:19 am

    Great article, great artist, great start of this second day of Easter.

  2. Sarah Anderson permalink
    April 22, 2019 9:51 am

    Thanks so much for a wonderful introduction to this amazing work

    • April 22, 2019 4:57 pm

      Thanks Sarah, always a pleasure to show work that my readers havent seen. So pleased you liked it too.

  3. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia permalink
    April 23, 2019 3:04 pm

    Her divine images are all the things I love! Hares, deer, owls, birds, horses – Bliss! I also love the smooth, organic, asymmetrical shapes of the actual clay pots – not a hard edged piece of geometry in sight!
    Another happy discovery for me – thanks ever so, Craig!

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