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Posted on Tue, May 18, 2010 : 7:37 a.m.

Explore tradition, history of Shigaraki at ceramics demonstration at University of Michigan Museum of Art

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

A few years ago, I helped a Shigaraki potter set up for a short demonstration at the University of Michigan, but all I could think about that day were tables and tarps. I did not notice the connection between Shigaraki and Shiga Prefecture, Michigan’s sister state in Japan, nor did I remember that Ann Arbor’s sister city, Hikone, is also in Shiga Prefecture. Shigaraki is renowned for its long, 1,250-year history of ceramics, and Shigaraki ware has been designated one of Japan’s traditional handicrafts.

This weekend, we have an opportunity to explore this art, history and tradition more deeply at the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA), in conjunction with the new exhibition, Turning Point: Japanese Studio Ceramics in the Mid-20th Century. From the UMMA:

"Ceramics demonstration with Shigaraki potter Kôyama Kiyoko Saturday, May 22, 2 pm Multipurpose Room A leading female potter from the renowned historic kiln town of Shigaraki, Kôyama Kiyoko will demonstrate her clay throwing and building techniques that combine old traditions with innovative approaches. Kôyama recently donated nine pieces to the Museum, and her work is featured in the Turning Point exhibition.

Curator’s Talk
Saturday, May 22, 3:30 pm
A. Alfred Taubman Gallery II
Directly following the ceramics demonstration with Kôyama Kiyoko, UMMA’s Research Curator of Asian Art and curator of the exhibition Natsu Oyobe will introduce visitors to the exhibition.

Film: Days of Fire (Hibi) (2004) film screening and interview with Kôyama Kiyoko
Sunday, May 23, 2 pm
Helmut Stern Auditorium
Kôyama Kiyoko’s (b. 1936) life and career is an eloquent story that is also fully representative of what female potters struggled for and achieved in the field of ceramic art. As was the case with many female potters, Kôyama started as a painter who drew designs on pottery. Today, she is considered one of the leading Shigaraki potters both nationally and internationally. The feature film Days of Fire (Hibi), starring well-known Japanese actress Tanaka Yûko as Kôyama chronicles the potter’s dramatic life and the trajectory of her artistic career. The screening is followed by an interview with Kôyama Kiyoko by Natsu Oyobe."

Turning Point: Japanese Studio Ceramics in the Mid-20th Century
May 15-August 22, 2010
Contemporary Japanese ceramics are currently highly prized, avidly collected, and frequently exhibited. UMMA became actively engaged with the medium in the 1960s, and thanks to astute acquisitions made with the help of John Stephenson, Catherine B. Heller Professor Emeritus, School of Art and Design, the Museum has a priceless selection of ceramics dating from the 1930s through 1970s by leading figures and “living national treasures” such as Hamada Shôji, Kawai Kanjirô, and Yagi Kazuo. The collection of approximately 50 works offers a focused look at the Japanese studio pottery movement at a moment of exceptional creativity and lasting influence.

This exhibition is made possible in part by the University of Michigan's Center for Japanese Studies, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Charles H. & Katharine C. Sawyer Endowment Fund, The Japan Foundation, New York, the Japan Business Society of Detroit Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

Guided Tour
Turning Point: Japanese Studio Ceramics in the Mid-20th Century
Sunday, May 23, 1 pm (note time)"

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is at 525 South State St., Ann Arbor.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for, and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at