29 July 2010

flower power!

These sweetpeas were cutout from our garden. To get this photo, it wasn't a easy-ride. Maybe you could help?

Must admit I am not a green-finger. I was brought up in the city in Japan and am used to live in a small house with no garden. Now I am living in a sort of country town in North England. It’s only been the last four years that I've actually experienced so-called “gardening”. Anything to do with gardening are all new to me. Plus, I am quite bad at growing any indoor plants. I either forget to water or over-water them and usually end up with killing them. It’s just so easy to look after, you may say. But it’s just so easy to kill them when coming to me. This is how bad I am sadly...

Up until now I was given quite a lot of potted plants on many occasions. Somehow I did the same mistakes and those poor plants looked dried up or no energy, including this white orchid and hydrangea that my mother bought for me when she was over here. So I’ve left the orchid pot in the bedside table and hydrangea in the corner of our garden. For some reasons, maybe due to the lovely summer this year, I have noticed the new green buds were shooting out from “looking-dead” hydrangea and orchid. I was surprised that they have survived for a few years like that! So I located the orchid on to the staircase window sill and replanted hydrangea in a garden pot. Then guess what? They both started to bloom! Oh, how lovely to see your face again, flowers! You must have toughened up by me! Now I enjoy viewing them everyday. Nice to have a sense of living around. They have a magic power to add a positive energy to our soul, don't they?
Sweetpeas are my first trial this year. I love their beautiful scent. I really enjoy having them at home as well as watching them grow in the garden. They seem to flower well after cutting some too.
If you know any tips for keeping them well, please let me before I do wrong again! Your kind advice - much appreciated! (both for me and poor plants!) xm

26 July 2010


I am so scared to tell you this but I have just received a confirmation of my stall for FLARE, contemporary arts and crafts market in this coming November! I am going to show and sell (well hopefully that is) my work to the public for the very first time in my life! OMG! (I’ll be doing only Ripley one)

When I come to think about it, I am actually getting worried a lot. Because I will be back on the course in September which means I will be ultra busy like the last semester. I haven’t got a proper working space at home either. I will be still working on my normal job. I don’t even have much stock of my work! I have concerned if I could possibly make stuff in this situation. However, the main reason I have applied for this event was because of all of these excuses. If I started to say, “when I get my studio done” “when I finish my course” “when I have more free time from my job” “when I practice more” “when I feel more confidence” etc etc, I will never ever get there! So I thought I must put an aim and work toward it. I need to do so now. Yes, I am busy but that is the same as everyone else. Yes, I need to practice more but everyone starts somewhere. Yes, I lack in confidence and it is absolutely nerve racking but who does really care? It’s all up to me if I really want to get out there, try and do my best. My aim is simply just to experience. So that was why. I’m trying to keep focusing on this goal and be positive. I can do this!

I have 15 weeks to prep. I have done a brief planning of what sort of pieces I would produce. I got a public liability insurance, which was totally new to me. I have been listening to other makers for advice, which was great. (Thank you!) I will need to think how to display the stall, pricing, packaging, marketing and so on. Everything is new learning. PDF from Kelly’s E-course will be super useful for this now I am sure. But if you have experienced a similar event and would like to share any tips and advice, please please do! I would really appreciate it.

Woooooo I am going to work hard, but must remember to enjoy myself too! Everything is learning! Hopefully I can keep updated here. Wish me luck!

(p.s. just to note that the above image is the last year's flyer)

24 July 2010

HANETSUBO on process

Last night I turned some of the pieces that I thrown on Wednesday. So I can show you an image of work in progress. I was going to do this on the night before. However, as working in this temp site, I was not sure how much the work would get exposed to the sunlight and drafts. So I covered with a plastic sheet as you do, but when I returned home from work it wasn’t ready (too wet to turn) so decided to leave till morning. Of course, I couldn’t get up on time, could I? I dashed to work failing to turn on time and on my return home it was too dry. When the piece gets over-dried, you can actually moisten again to the right condition, but it requires a careful approach. I was rushing in between our Friday evening shopping routine and this task. Started to lose the light under the tent. I could hardly see what I was doing. Making more mess on the surface. mutter! mutter! mutter! In the end I ruined the base of some work, I broke a piece of stem and what not! But hey, it is a start of my “tent” routine. I need to sort the timing, working surface, light in the night etc. Now I need to think how I carry the green-ware (unfired, which means fragile) to a kiln miles away... that would be interesting!

Anyway, here are some trials of HANETSUBO (winged pot) pieces, in a form of YUNOMI (Japanese tea cup), goblet, jug and trinket box. I will explore more and with a glaze finish, then will see which one I’d like continue to produce.

Blue sky here today. Back to building work on the studio-to-be. Happy weekend everyone! xm

21 July 2010

a solution to work-space-less

OK. If you are doing any creative work, having a work-space is important, isn’t it? Otherwise your house gets endless mess! Well, sometimes I enjoy the mess but those who handle clay regularly would understand how awful it is to work on the dining table or in the kitchen area! It’s not very safe to the health, and not fair to the family especially having my step kids around. Some of you have already known that we have been working on my pottery studio-to-be (was originally a garden shed!). It’s a very slow progress and frustrating but last week we managed to put the electricity through, finally! Yey! This is one step forward but there are still tons of jobs to complete. In the meantime I am basically work-space-less. And this has been a major struggle.

My creative journey only started in the recent year after having a huge gap since I first studied ceramics. I am currently studying back at college. But during the summer holiday, there is no access to the studio. Most of the weekdays, I teach at a local craft centre, but this is for them, not for me. So I still am work-space-less. Doing clay work in such situation is actually hard. That was why I often got frustrated with the progress of the studio-to-be.

But good news! I got this small temp space in our decking area covered with a massive tent. This was utilised as a storage space for lots of on going jobs for the house and the studio. (we haven’t seen the decking floor for a long time!) But we cleared that out tonight, brought a second hand wheel and there I went. I know it’s not great (and still mess!) but at least I can work with clay at home on my spare time. Thanks to my darling husband again for helping me out for the space. Tonight I worked on my another angel winged pieces, which I will turn tomorrow hopefully.

17 July 2010

happy time

I have been waiting for this day. Last night was the opening exhibition of my HERO ceramic artist John Maltby, and it was held at my favourite local gallery owner’s home. Oh it was such a heartwarming happy time.

John Maltby is recognised worldwide as one of the finest British ceramic artists. I absolutely adore his work. Last April I went to his 5-day workshop course in Wales. It was such an inspiring opportunity in my life. Having direct teaching and insight of his work and life were a fortune of experience. At that time I knew his next show will be on near where I live, so I was longing for since. The gallery, Godfrey and Watt, had been an absolute paradise to visit. I was sad when the owner Alex told me that he was closing the gallery that gave us a joy for over 25 years but I felt there were much more happiness from him. He must have had this new idea, of doing the show like this, including the online show etc. As Alex himself an artist, I imagined his house must be full of beauty by him and others that have been collected over the years. This exhibition was the very first event since he closed the gallery.

Well, I am sure you can tell how excited I was to see John’s work, also to see how the exhibition “at home” would be like. Last night, two of these agendas fitted perfectly. John’s individual hand-built pieces were so comfortably sat within Alex’s tasteful home ambience. Maybe this is a new way of viewing arts?

To be surprised, I also bumped into a co-student from John’s workshop. She lives far far from here but drove for three hours to see John’s work. (How lovely!) I was so happy to see her again. It was like the moment that our love to this artist have got together one more time. I also met many visitors including local artists too. It was such a lovely gathering within such a lovely space and lovely art work. What can you have more?

I was given a lot of inspiration, energy, spirit and love last night. Unfortunately I could not show the image of space here, but hope you can view John’s work at Alex’s website. If you have a chance to come to the North England, I Do recommend to visit! But the show only lasts till 24th July so hurry!

P.S. John Maltby has no direct online access of his website but you can search him for more images and info.

our love to our hero!

13 July 2010


I made a slight change on my blog header because of the ultimate mistake I made. I used two Japanese KANJI without thinking well as I took a baby step on my blog, I just typed Japanese like I normally do. It was meant to be looked like this.
Now I realised that some of your screen (in fact most of yours) wouldn’t show up like this, would it? Instead, it probably looks like this! Argh! gibberish sorry!

When I decided to start my blog, first I thought of something to do with ceramics for a title as this to be a record of my creative journey. But of course the journey would include all sort of topics, so I had another pondering what my priority would be. Then what came up was “honesty”. This key word has always been important to me. Part of my name (MA for maki) also has the same meaning. It seemed just right to use. Then I put the word together with “heart” to make SHIN SHIN. In Japanese we usually pronounce it “MAGOKORO” but I wanted it to be something easier for everyone to read. So I changed the pronunciation and SHIN SHIN came along. (sorry I’ve cut in short, hard to explain how Japanese works... if anyone could help, it would be lovely.)

By the way, another exciting news(?)(well it was to me). Two Japanese Hankos (name stamps) that I ordered a while ago have arrived. One is the title name SHIN SHIN, another one is my name MAKI. Both have got a symbol of honesty. I wanted to use them like signatures of this page. (although they are purely for blog use only at the moment) Combined with an amended version, here is the result. (as you can see above) A bland new heading! Yey! What’s the difference? Well,it’s only “a slight change”. I am still learning how to use illustrator and photoshop, so please be patient with me. May get better one day?? At least you can see Japanese Kanji this time. (I hope!)

Anyway this is just a very little note. Have a nice rest of the week everyone!

11 July 2010

today's findings: a quote and wings

I found two things that tickled my heart when I went to my regular karate training this morning. We share the dojo (place you practice martial arts) during a week with another martial art group and the local scout group. There is a black board in the dojo, which I reckon one of them uses. I am not sure who actually wrote this quote but on that it said:

You can acquire a lot in your life, if you are prepared to give a lot.

I was thinking the meaning of the word during the training and at back home. I wrote in my sketch book and discussed with my husband and step-son for a while. How would you take the meaning of these words? My interpretation was in two ways.
One was to give out others what you have regardless the outcome. You won’t expect any return. Others may take over what you give, but you don’t regret or get upset about it. If you can accept that, then your mind become beyond what it is. You broaden yourself. You gain self-worth by giving. In a way, it’s “sharing” I suppose. The word of “sharing” immediately reminds me what I’ve leant from Kelly Rae Roberts’ E-course. She was so generous in sharing her thought, energy and everything she found worth in her life. I could imagine how hard it would be to give away what you have established for a long time as an artist, but Kelly was opposite and truly believes the value of sharing. I respect her open attitude gratefully. It is a bit tricky thing when it comes to the creative business, sadly as the fact that lots of people DO take over and steal the genuineness. Stealing is totally unacceptable but being inspired and sharing are positive things. And if you can go beyond that, you are in a total free spirit, fearless and worth. Am I making a sense?

Another way I understood was to give yourself 100% to what you want to achieve. In your creative business, work, home or whatever in your life, if you are giving 100%, you will gain. Say it’s a commitment to my karate training, my career, my degree course study, my home life etc. We all know that it is easy to say but difficult to do. Because at times you run down, doubt, overwhelm and on and on with lots of reasons. But we can all give our best shot, can’t we? At the end of the day, it is up to us if we really want to do so. I am learning this everyday. How about saying what you want to achieve is “to be you”? That is another thing I thought about. Mmmm... it keeps me going so I will stop here. What is your understanding from this quote?

It was very windy today. Outside the dojo I found lots of sycamore leaves that snapped off from the tree. I love watching sycamore seeds ‘flying” in the air, just like angel wings. I picked a bunch from the ground. This is another finding of the day. Back home I played with my collection of heart stones. (I am sure many of you collect them too! I am absolutely addicted!)
A big smile on my face. Such a simple thing makes a day so happy. I would love to share this feeling with you. Hoping each of your heart (whatever you want to achieve in your life) will fly high.
hope your heart fly

8 July 2010

how to play BBB

I am very pleased to show you this video clip of my work, which was kindly filmed by a talented young man I know. Do you remember BLUE BOX & BOOKS: Chagall’s Above the Town REMIX? Well, it was the first assignment work I made last year and when it was displayed at the end of year show last month (featured in this post), quite a few people asked me how it works. I hope this video clip would help you visualise how to "play" the box....

Just a brief note about the assignment. It was like this:

To pick one artist work, expand the story behind the picture and then create a narrative box of yours....

What would you do? I started pretty slow and it took me two weeks just to think how I go about it. (It was a three week project!) On the third week, I made a cardboard mock-up piece and after that, I just couldn’t stop. I used many materials laying around at home, only the materials I bought were blue demim and zippers. Lots of sewings, drawings, collagings and having so much fun! (I used ceramic only for a bit, but if the time allowed I would like to make a whole piece in porcelain which was my original idea...) I chose Marc Chagall’s painting "Above the town". I decided a story of the couple on the painting to take a fantasy journey from place to place. (Each time a girl complains of where she is because of this and that, and her super boyfriend flys to the other places she would like from Tokyo to Caribbean ocean. And finally they return to.... and what she has leant from the journey...?) I made a sort of pop-up 3D box that opens up with buttons and zippers. In the clip I self-directed so it may look a bit cheesy but I hope you enjoy. I would love to hear what you think!

Filmed by Loui Hvejsel Bork. Thank you Loui! You are a super star!
Music by my favourite buskers, Abraxas string quartet. Check out their fabulous performance at Covent Garden!

P.S. If you like to view quickly, please click here for an exhibition guidebook and some detailed images.

4 July 2010

brightness over the blue

It’s the end of our week off. Where did the time go? We decided to take afternoon off today. But I was feeling BLUE.

E-course has finished. I felt like I’ve lost some kind of routine to get a tap on my back. I felt suddenly alone. I was suffering from this “withdrawn” syndrome from the big event. Where do I go from here? As for my pottery studio-to-be, we didn’t quite complete what we planned, despite the physical fatigue that has mounted over the week. I felt helpless for not being able to do much without my husband. It was supposed to be “my” studio. I felt bad. What could I possibly do by myself?

The sky went cloudy. As if it was spreading inside my head with those negative questions.Then it started to shower. My heart went tearful. Does anybody feel the same? I wonder. Despite all the support, energy and effort, you still feel blue. When I am like this, my self value will go fragile.

Looking at tons of “untouched” to do lists and thinking what I could do, there was my husband calm voice from behind. “You’ve done lots. You are allowed.” He relaxes in a garden and smiles, “Happy Sunday Night!”

I told myself that it is important to accept what you have done little by little, didn’t I? Well, did I do it? No? Then, why not now?
So far we.....Completed the decking where needed to be rebuilt. It’s achieved. Painted the iron gate and old BBQ stand. It’s done. It’s good. Helped out neighbour’s garden and his 80th birthday party went well. It’s good. Sorted meal for my step daughter’s graduation. We had a great time. Visited the RHS garden. Enjoyed and been inspired. Popped over to my work for the open evening of the exhibition. Sold some work, which I am proud of art-makers as an instructor. Blinds all washed and cleaned. Went back to karate training that I neglected. Studio gutters completed. Re-felted the roof. Have 2/3 of ceiling insulated and plaster boarded. We almost there. We worked hard and worked as a team. That IS GOOD. We have done OK. Actually we have done more than OK. I must remember this.

The shower has gone and the bright sky came back. I know it’s ok to be blue at times, but now I am ready to say good by to the blue-ness. A new start tomorrow. I went to join my husband for a fresh air of happy sunday night.
happy sunday night to you!