“In Mashiko, nearly all the Nobori kilns fell down, and Mashiko’s firing is
about to go out. We, potters, cannot help being shocked because the kiln is the soul of us.
We cannot turn off this fire in “Mashiko, the Sacred Place of Mingei”,
“Mashiko, Town of Handcraft”, which Shoji Hamada established. We must keep
the smoke coming out of chimneys in Mashiko.”
Ken Matsuzaki

Around the world, Mashiko is almost a synonym for Mingei, the “art of the people” or “folk craft” movement started in the 1920′s in Japan by Sōetsu Yanagi, Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai. It was the potter Hamada who centralized Mashiko as the place for the production of these “functionally beautiful” pots, bowls and cups. The earthquake on March 11, 2011 has devastated the town, the kilns and the museums. Artist Ken Matsuzaki quickly sent out an appeal for help, worked with the Mayor of the town and NPO’s to establish the Mashiko Pottery Fund. In the USA, tax-deductible donations to the Mashiko Pottery Fund are made via Mudflat Studio, as they are serving as the fiscal sponsor. Long ties also bind the Leach Pottery in Cornwall to Mashiko as it was founded in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, and as a result, they were also early to launch a Mashiko Earthquake Appeal.

Locally, Gallery St. Ives in Setagaya is holding a Mashiko Earthquake Appeal exhibit from today, Saturday, April 16th until Sunday, May 8th in support of their own Mashiko relief fund. The Gallery is open 11-6, from Wednesday through Sunday.  The five person exhibit includes work by artists Ken Matsuzaki,

Ken Matsuzaki via Pucker Gallery

Tomoo Hamada,

Tomoo Hamada via Pucker Gallery

Euan Craig,

Euan Craig via Oakwood Ceramics

Minoru Suzuki

Minori Suzuki via Rakuten

and Yuchiko Baba.

Yuchiko Baba via Selfridge Ceramic Art

Since the earthquake I have been following Euan Craig’s emotionally riveting account of his family’s life changes on his blog Euan The Potter. He writes, “Houses can be repaired or rebuilt, kilns too. Pottery can be replaced, remade. Stuff doesn’t really matter. We’ll manage somehow. My family, my loved ones, are safe and sound. They sleep in the next room as I write this to you. I thank God. We are the lucky ones, and my heart and prayers go out to those who are not.” I am hoping to meet him as he, Ken Matsuzaki and Minori Suzuki will be at the exhibition on Sunday the 17th.

On the internet, the handmade community has geared up as Etsy potters have set up mudteam4mashiko and participating artists are donating 100% of the proceeds from their sales to the Leach Pottery fund. Additional potters are donating proceeds to the Red Cross and other relief agencies. Other non-pottery artists are also collecting funds from sales for earthquake relief charities. Searches such as “”earthquake relief” on Etsy yield over 3000 handmade items for sale. One of my favorites for sale is this Namaste bowl by an artist named Antonia. It has one of my favorite yoga sayings, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you,” which is the literal translation of namaste and a sign of deep respect. It is exactly how I am feeling about the Japanese people right now. Their courage and patience in this last month have been so truly extraordinary that it defies my ability to write about it.

I urge everyone to donate a little (or a lot!), whether you donate directly to the many funds set up or do it while shopping!