Friday, 18 July 2014

The more things change the more they remain the same

Ando Mura, Yamato, Japan (about 1939)

Dear L,
How your family and your work getting on?
Nearly everyday we talk about you but it is too far Yamato and St Ives... Here plum blossom and nightingale came, harbinger of spring. I think you remember this best season of Japan.
This year I had five kilns but only five good works (not good, ordinary) and we wish to break up all the others (50) but if we break up all of them we must ask 100 yen each for the five works. Then who will buy? Can they buy? Well if they cannot buy how shall we live? Think! Only five pots out of 100 pots, two months hard work, 150 yen gone.
I will stop. You know well.
Plum blossom, nightingale and the rain of Yamato -- poor, but we enjoy so much. I feel the plum blossom and such kind of flower deeply coming into my mind year by year. Last year I did not feel as I enjoy this year.
I wish to speak to you in the quiet room but I cannot explain well. Bah! English!
Please write to us.
Yours
Kenkichi Tomimoto


Handthrown bowl by Bernard Leach



Extracted from Bernard Leach, A Potter's Book, 1940.
Here, Leach reproduces a letter from a potter friend with whom he had worked for many years in Japan in the 1930s. By 'five kilns' Tomimoto is referring to five kiln loads full of pottery. He means to destroy the 50 pots he considers imperfect. In the present day asking 100 yen would mean roughly 770 USD.
Leach's book was for many years a reliable resource for potters and people interested in pottery. Leach wrote that the perfect pot was one which possessed "that right relationship of parts which gives vitality -- life flowing for a few moments perfectly through the hands of the potter."

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