30 September 2012


Print. Art. Salvage. Handmade. 
PASH is a breathtaking treasure island and has always been my favourite shop. Since the closure of their shop in Harrogate last year, the fabulous duo owners were readying to fly much further, and finally PASH reopened this Saturday! The new shop near Easingwold (on A19) is absolutely massive that once used to be a flax mill and the way they renovated is, ah... UTTERLY GORGEOUS! I just could not hide a grin on my face. And what’s more…? They are displaying and selling a full series of my 'mazekoze' ceramics and print for the opening. Such fortune to be within this ace space! I am so delighted and excited. 
(please click images to enlarge)
my 'mazekoze' tableware display at PASH
nibbling chocolate from the gorgeous display :) 
full rage of 'mazekoze' available at PASH till the end of October

If you have never been to PASH, now you know you must go go go! xm 

for the direction click here

25 September 2012

Mercer is Open

Mercer Gallery, the largest gallery in Harrogate and run by the council, provides the local artists an fantastic opportunity to exhibit their work every summer. This ‘Harrogate Open’ exhibition showcases around 200 selected art work from huge numbers of entries. 

I have applied for the first time this year, with 2 pieces of my porcelain lily pad and mazekoze screen print. I was well chuffed when I heard all of my entries were selected. 

Photography was not allowed so unfortunately I haven’t got any images from the private view. (above is one of my entries) The exhibition is open till 20th January 2013. If you are coming close to Harrogate, please do pop over. Direction to Mercer is here (although its council run gallery, their website does not show it, which is rather strange… so found this instead!) 

Another good news about this lilypad. I only found out this week that one of my favourite blog “A plate a day” has shortlisted my work here! Well chuffed again! 

More exhibition is coming up on the weekend, so will keep you posted. xm 

23 September 2012

think before you eat

Somewhat the last minute call I had earlier this week did not meet the expected temptation. Yorkshire Best today was not the best for me. In fact, many other stall holders said the same as there were not much footfall. The Hospitium, the building itself was a beautiful venue right next to Yorkshire museum. What a shame. It was the first event so I guess it was difficult. Oh well, lessons learnt. 

Nevertheless, I have made a good clear out of the old stocks, which is always good, because who wants to look at a pile of old work stuck in the studio for ages whilst trying to move forward? I also received kind contributions toward ongoing HELP JAPAN. Plus, I met a lovely customer who has been seeing my blog for two years! How sweet to meet someone like that! It was also great to meet other artists in person like Helen Peyton the printmaker, whose work I have adored for quite some time. (Check out her website here) Maybe not too bad after all? 

Back home, before preparing for the coming week, I had Julie’s homemade bakewell tart to cheer me up. Always nice to have a friend who can bake well. xm

22 September 2012

Sunday Show!

This is a very short notice but I am taking a part of this new event Yorkshire Best on this Sunday 23rd at the Hospitium in York. My new range of ceramics and print are on sale, as well as last stock of HELP JAPAN items. If you are near by, why not popping in? Looking forward to seeing you. xm 

for more info, click here

for direction, click here

16 September 2012

Visiting Euan Craig

Whilst we were in Japan, we had a wonderful opportunity to visit someone I always wanted to visit. Today I would like to share the memory of the trip to Euan Craig pottery studio and his family in Minakami, Gunma. 

Euan working on his kick wheel
A master potter Euan Craig is originally from Australia and has been working over 20 years in Mashiko. Mashiko is a well known pottery region in Japan, where Shoji Hamada was based at and became a friend with Bernard Leach. Euan was trained by a Living National Treasure Tatsuzo Shimaoka, who was trained by Shoji Hamada. You may think it is not surprise that he has built a successful career, but what really attracted me wasn’t those great names but his being and sensibility that I deeply felt from his words. 

I first found his blog probably soon after I started mine two years ago. I stopped at his for a while as his beautiful wood fired work caught my eyes. Once started to read his words, it drew me in. When Euan writes about work, it is super informative. Accompanying with images of stunning work, he shares so many great techniques, knowledge and skills that he earned over many years. Such a generous artist who does that so openly. Euan often writes about his life and family too, how the nature connects to us, how much he appreciates it and embraces it. The way he writes is always beautiful and calm. At the same time, strong and courageous. His words are like life lessons or reminders of our being that echos in our soul and stays for good. His wife, Mika also writes Japanese version, which I ultimately familiarise more easily. I soon became an online admirer.  
the stillness in the studio tells story behind how far they come
Since Japan’s great earthquake last year, their life took a huge turn. Not just trying to rebuild his broken kiln and family home in Mashiko, facing unknown fear of radiation from Fukushima nuclear power plant. With children of 4, the Craig family decide to move away from the long nested town Mashiko and started a new life in Minakami, Gunma. Starting out from almost a zero based on Mika’s late uncle’s house, a massive old silk farm in a dilapidated state. One by one. Day after day. Working non stop before winter arrives. Withholding uncertainty of future, they only hoped for family’s safety. I read many episodes on his blog as they went through, and felt sometimes overwhelmed by their strong family bond beyond such a hardship in life. 

welcoming sign of Euan Craig Kiln open!
Just before we set off to Japan, I read Euan has finally restarted his business, after rebuilding his kiln to a stronger structure to stablise from earthquake and all his firing materials are proved to be safe from radiation. It was a good timing. We wanted to congratulate his fantastic start. The craig family’s house stands within a beautiful country side, surrounded by mountains and fresh air. He and his family welcomed us with a great hospitality. 

a new kiln is now working after a long journey
Euan kindly showed us around the house, studio and fantastic kiln he designed and built. Watching him throwing on a kick wheel that used to belong to Shoji Hamanda Pottery studio and given from his grandson Tomoo Hamada, hearing about his techniques and ideas behind the decorations. What a fortunate and soothing sensation it was. In upstairs, a number of his thrown pots were waiting for firing. “These are about a day work” he says, pointing at huge numbers of perfectly thrown and decorated pots. Wow. Beautiful light coming through the window twinkles the texture of kanna on the bowls. I take a deep breath with admiration.

stunning ‘tobi-kanna’ decorations
Among such a dream-like scene, Euan says calmly but surely “I want to live life in a simple way. As much ecological as possible.” There are still lots to do with the house and studio, but he looks back and appreciates happiness of how much they came. “We could not have come this far without all our friends’ support.” His sensibility is so pure and his attitude is so humble. Something I have imagined from his writing, and there he was, such a down to earth and honest man who can simply embrace the life. 

their youngest son surrounded by magic creations in upstairs
Watching their children running around in the garden, I could tell the great comfort in this family home. They must have had a tough and anxious time to get here, too. Mika recalls the journey saying “Many people supported us in a lots of ways. Just kind words when going through hard time helped us keep going.” Must be such a relief for a mother to see children’s smile. 

We have brought back two pieces of his work. One, in particular I love, is this vase. It has a tiny dent on the base, which you wouldn’t notice it if you weren’t told. It survived from the earthquake he said. The little mark of the day we will never forget. I felt as if it was a destiny to survive and to encounter a new life. As if it is a reminder of our nature, beautiful yet harsh, and most importantly an appreciation of our life. Every time I see this vase, I feel like a little bit of purity was shared with a great honour. 

Thank you so much, Euan san, Mika san and family. xm 

You can enjoy his beautiful work and stories here

13 September 2012

back to studio

My first day back work in the studio this week has started off with a beautiful Indian summer day. Outside was sun shining gorgeous weather and bumblebees being busy around blooming lavenders, but my North-facing studio (shed) was really cold. Now it all went back to normal English cold weather, the studio has become much colder. I mean, unbelievably unreasonably freezing cold for September. I put a down jacket on and forcefully ignored the gas heater I could see behind me. Not yet. If you have a nice bright warm studio, you are so lucky. I cannot even start to think about winter…. brrrrrr.

Anyway here are some snaps from the week. 

now i just want to eat jelly…  xm

9 September 2012

53 Degrees

Yesterday was the 53 Degrees exhibition opening. I haven’t had a chance to mention this in the blog up to now, but my lilypad installation was selected for this group exhibition at The New School House Galley in York. Remember last year’s show (click here)? I was delighted to be involved in this show again among such wonderful artists at such a beautiful gallery. 
my thrown-porcelain lilypad installation

And what’s more? My work has received “Highly Commended Award”!!!!  So so pleased with myself :) If you would like to see more details of this lilypad installation, please click here

I felt this year’s selection was a much higher standard and found so many great works. Here are some of my favourite pieces from the exhibition. 

“Repaired Ceramics” by 3rd Prize winner Nigel Matthews
really eye catching oil painting “Human Needs” by Bartosz Beda
I fell in love with this work at the first sight. “Traces” by Becky Gee
stunning Kumihimo silk thread “Flowing” by 2nd Prize winner Deborah Mills
look at this intricate skill! such work of art and I LOVE it!

The exhibition will be open until 27th October. If you have a chance to come to North Yorkshire, please do call in. (For direction, click here) Work are on sale there too! xm

2 September 2012

HELP JAPAN PROJECT 2 result & visit to Minamisanriku Cho

It’s been so hectic since we back from Japan. Much waited … but finally it is the time to share the result of HELP JAPAN PROJECT 2. I would also like to share the story of Minamisanriku Cho, the town we donated to. (click images to enlange)

Thank you so so so much 
for people who have contributed to and supported this fundraising project. This time round was rather harder, I must admit. When the news has disappeared from the screen, it is difficult to get people’s attention. As if people assume that the things were all back to normal, this may be a reality of the world we live. Nevertheless, we have managed to raise a total of 417,000 Japanese Yen (approx. £3600). Thank you so much! The donation was delivered directly to the town mayer in Minamisanriku Cho in August. 
handing our donation directly to the town mayer
We stayed at Minamisanriku-Cho for two nights and joined the volunteer group for one day. On our arrival, we headed to the town hall (emergency relief centre), all that was left was a damaged steel structure. I read about the story of the lady who lost her life but raised her voice till last minutes to help the residents to evacuate, and also the survival story of the town mayer on the roof top whilst many lost their life in front of his eyes. I prayed for those who lost their lives. Looking up from the bottom of this building of three storey, you really cannot imagine the tsunami was that high. Really high. 13 metre or more. Who could possibly have guessed this would happen? 
the skelton of the town hall (emergency relif centre) today
The town appeared to be not much different from what I saw last September (you can view here), although there were more electric lines and accessible roads than it was before, and the town hospital was now demolished. You can still see the mountain of cars, broken flood defenses and tons of debris piled up in the distance. Sea water from tide was left on the ground since the land sunk after the earthquake. 
seawater stays inland after tide as the land sunk since the earthquake
overgrowing summer weeds covers the foundations.
in a muggy air, you see the mountains of debris in the distance.
even huge flood defences were overwhelmed
Where is the sign of recovery? It is an irony to feel this huge gap between the life of people in Tokyo today, or anywhere that was not touched by the tsunami for that matter (except Fukushima of course), as if nothing had happened. The real view of this town strikes my heart so much. Hard to explain in words. Hard to bear this devastation. You really have to see this for yourself.

But then you see people in the town. Farmers working in the fields in the early morning, to crop their vegetables. Fishermen and builders rebuilding the ship deck area. A school girl working in the convenient store, temporarily built in the middle of nowhere. An old lady accessing the new hospital near the current town hall. They all living today, for today. Small changes are happening. We must acknowledge this. I thanked the girl in the convenient store and headed to the inn we booked. 

new Shitamini-so's front sign  'kizuna kansha' (bond of friendship, thank you)
I found this inn, Shitamichi-so, via Minamisanirku-Cho’s blog link. The tsunami took this inn, too, completely. (you can view it here) Must have been such a tough decision making period, for anyone who lost ‘main theme’ to their business. The land was ‘it’ and it has completely changed. Would people ever come to this land? But they have decided to rebuild it in the town and opened the new inn on the high land this February. I was simply overwhelmed by their strength and belief. The belief in this towns beauty. The belief in this towns spirit. A city girl like me would not easily comprehend. I take my hat off to their heart. 
beautiful sea view from the Shitamichi-so
Shitamichi-so provides fresh sea food from the morning sea by the fisherman son of the house, serving with home grown vegetables and local rice. Soothing sea breeze from the window whilst viewing the sea eases the soften skin after a hot bath. The moment that you feel the most appreciated. There is so much to learn from these people. 

Next day 8:30 am. My husband, his son and I joined the local volunteer group. We were 130 all together from North and South. Some were repeaters and some were on a group trip for a week or so. The task of the day was to divide the debris in one particular area, which was at the far end of the town. In general, the news is that there is no more debris, it is now all sorted and moving onto the local business support. It does not seem to be that case here. Minamisanriku appears to be much behind other towns. The 130 of us continued to tackle buried debris of all sort, broken concrete, glass, ceramics, toys, shoes, you name it. These need to be divided first, otherwise the authorities won’t collect them, even if they have space to collect them. (This is another huge problem in Japan at the moment, as there is no means to clear this amount of debris in a short space of time, it is said to take 10 years) 
debris devided by types
Working under 38˚C heat and humidity is hard. The organiser gave us frequent break time. I have never seen 2 litre of water gone so quickly. The volunteers weren’t allowed to take photos while working, a mark of respect. There were farmers working alongside the empty land we cleaned. They must be living in the temporary housing near the field. 
we worked around the foundations and foudations, clearning the debris
(this image was taken at 3pm)
3pm. We ended the work. Relief and fatigue mounted. At the same time, another mountain of divided debris been produced. One day passed. Another day to clean this land. One step closer to the recovery. 
On our way back to the inn, I noticed many pink thin flags tied with bamboo sticks here and there. I remembered I read somewhere that the red flags were marked where the dead body was found. A year and half has passed since the earthquake. I could only wish that what we did was meaningful to those people and future of this town. 
praying for the red flags.
brown trees behind tell us how far the tsunami reached

Prior to visiting the town, I prepared some photograph banners. These were taken from the children’s workshop "A Bird in the Hands" at POTFEST in the Pens. Over 200 images and messages were gathered and I put them together in English and Japanese to be able to show school children in Minamisanriku. We wanted to send our thoughts to the children, next generation of this town. 
The school was on summer holiday, so I asked the head of education in the town to pass the message on to primary schools. Minamisanriku Cho has three primary schools and I visited one of them, Sizugawa primary school, which was joined with Tokura primary school that was destroyed by tsunami. Luckily I managed to meet the deputy head of the school and explained my intention of this banner. He kindly explained the situation of the school pupil briefly. Most of them living in the temporary housing, some in the next town, commuting by school bus for 50 minutes or so. I cannot imagine 6-7 year old kids does that everyday, but I guess it is nicer for them to be with their old friends. I gave him a small batch of my HELP JAPAN birds that I had, to hand them to their younger pupils when the school restarts. 

The night before we left the town, we just managed to briefly visit the town festival. Newly set market area next to the destroyed concrete building. Many local businesses have reopened there. The festival was filled with locals and visitors. Children’s laughter echos among the fair stalls. Beside the line of lit fire stand (kagaribi), drum band attracts kids and adults. Fireworks displays in the sky. Everyone watching with smiles and recalling the summer they know once more. 

Every Little Helps. What I believe is hopefully somethings you can do too. There are so many ways to help the town like Minamisanriku-Cho directly and indirectly. By visiting (Seeing is believing!), by joining volunteering, by purchasing local products, by ackowledging and by spreading the word (more people knows, better result it gets!)… or maybe more! 

I have some stock of HELP JAPAN Birds and Light of Hope candle holders. They are back on online sales while the stock lasts and the donation will be sent to the town again. If you are interested in, you can see how to order here. Or simply email me at makikohastings@gmail.com

Thank you for reading this. xm