Yoshio and the Magic Bowl


Years ago, after a period of exposure to the culture of Japan, I wrote a story set in ancient Japan. I had visited the climbing kilns at the pottery village of Mashiko in Japan in 1994, on a kind of pilgrimage to the home village of Shoji Hamada, a potter I admired very much in my own pottery days. Later we had a wonderful Japanese exchange student, Gakuji, who we all loved very much, and taught a unit of Japan to my Year 5 and 6 students at Two Mile State school where we made 1000 paper cranes for Hiroshima Day. I have been working with my wonderful daughter in law, Clare,to bring this story to publication.

IN the way of these things, I recently heard of Mr Ichino’s gift, a climbing kiln built at Cooroy by Kadsuke Ichino, master potter from the Tamba region of Japan in 1998. He was invited to the Cooroy Butter Factory to run a series of master class workshops.

A friend directed me to

where I disovered that it had been Mr. Ichino’s lifetime dream to combine two traditional kinds of kiln in one (anagama or hill-climbing kiln with nobodigama or cave kiln). In Cooroy he was encouraged to realise his dream and the kiln, the only one of its kind in the world, was built. It was an aesthetically beautiful and wonderfully functional kiln, used regularly by Cooroy ceramics artists, ceramic students at the Cooroy Butter factory and also a powerful symbol of innovation. As a totally unexpected bonus, during firings that could be several days in length, the kiln made all sorts of strange and beautiful sounds. As Zoro Thomas, a young artist experiencing aspbergers syndrome, succinctly said of the kiln, “It’s singing to us, listen”.

Sadly, this kiln was destroyed to build the Cooroy library, which is right next to the Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Centre, where I showed paper works in July as part of the Carnevale exhibition I curated with Papermakers of Queensland. My friend told me she had been in a performance at the Wataboshi Music Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse in November 2003.

The resultant “performance” was a highly innovative, multi-layered event, bringing together visual and ceramic arts, text, movement, sound sampling technologies, video treatment and projection including live Internet streaming from the Powerhouse and Cooroy Butter Factory directed by Mark Bromilow.

This story makes me even more determined to get Yoshio published, as it features a magic bowl from the kilns of old Japan, which has magic properties and transports a rather spoiled young child back in time to learn some important life lessons.

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Susan Zela Bissett (Zela) is an educator, writer and artist with a lifetime involvement in environmental education and advocacy. Zela was born on Butchulla Country in Maryborough and has worked as an artist, educator, permaculture gardener, studio potter and consultant. She is passionate about sustainable lifestyles, maintaining habitat for wildlife and about unleashing the creativity in all of us.

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