Wali Hawes 1952 - 2014
                          pottery and more!

Wali Hawes Potter's Diary

Seto Ceramics Festival

During the weekend of the 9th-10th of September the Annual Setomono Matsuri was held in Central Seto, Aichi-ken. The festival follows the same pattern as many other ceramic festivals here in Japan. Organized by the Tonya-san Association (Pottery Wholesalers Association), the streets lined with stalls with colourful banners and thronged with customers bargain hunting for cheap pottery. It is very much a free for all and anybody wishing to pay the booth fee can have a stall. I would hazard a guess that around 90% of the wares on display are from ceramic factories and small manufacturers. Nothing is done to control the quality of work on display so a certain monotony can be found amongst all the ceramics on display. There were studio potters sprinkled among them. As can be imagined Oribe continues to have a major presence and made to a consistently high level. It was great to see the emergence of other types of pottery. Painterly style tiles, sculpture and Yes! even Raku.!!! I was invited to show at a new gallery just opposite the Setogura Kaikan and which was actually still being renovated. I was happy to collaborate because I do agree with the vision of the gallery owner which is to renovate the beautiful old buildings and keep the feel of the traditional aspect of Seto. We participated with several young potters from Seto which allowed me a peek into their world and the problems they face trying to make a living from their work. One of the things that has caught on very strongly is the "MY CUP" concept. Punters on the lookout for unique and one-off pieces that they can use daily and is special to them. I also noticed the beginning of the "Free Cup or Bowl" that has a multi use and is not restricted to just one thing. The festival is evolving more towards an event where people come to be entertained rather than just a sales thing.  This has seen a decline in the number of pottery stalls (due to a decline in sales!)and a growing number of non-pottery businesses like the ubiquitoue yaki-tori, okonomiyaki, dango-yaki and tako yaki and things for kids (amongst an array of other businesses-It is incredible what people will think up to make a buck!). Even saw one guy doing a roaring trade in live baby quails. At the beautiful old temple in the middle of the city even the priests had pottery on sale. Bought some beautiful wood fired pieces from Mino at a throwaway price. All in all an eye-opener and we have still to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not sure if that will ever happen unless real change takes place and people at the top start to listen, are more aware of what is going on and can free themselves from the tight grip of fear that pervades anything that might be different or lead to change. I suggest they take a trip abroad and learn from the Ceramics Festivals in Europe. The organizers trumpeted the fact that many foreign visitors came to the event yet Seto must be one of the festivals with the least amount of foreign potters (NONE!) and with the least amount of foreign potters living and working in the city. Compare that with Tokoname, Mashiko, Bizen or Shigaraki!) One group of Canadian potters started a "Maple Studios" some years back which ended in abject failure to nobody`s surprise.  And yet we are talking about a place with the Seto Ceramic & Glass Art Centre, museums galore and within a pot`s throw of other ceramic centres like mino, Tajimi and Toki-shi. Still, I do look forward to the next festival and will certainly gorge myself on "okonomiyaki". I still can`t undertand how a glass of beer can be flogged for 500 yennies and people will haggle over the price of a bowl at the same price!


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