Glenn Lewis studied ceramics under Bernard Leach, the well-known studio potter whose practice combined Western and Eastern crafts and philosophies. He was co-founder of Vancouver’s first artist-run space, Intermedia, as well as the historic artist-run center, the Western Front.
Glenn Lewis, suite of six limited edition photographs, Banff, Alberta 1953
The pottery was made in Bizen and Shigaraki when I was resident for three months in each place in 2015. They are both included in the so-called six ancient kiln sites in Japan. It was as if I had stepped back before the eighteenth century when art and craft were integrated both physically and conceptually, but in actuality it was stepping back to perhaps the twelfth century. Both these places have completely different local traditions and materials, but they each still use the same clays, methods and kiln firing that they did in the twelfth century. Many people appreciate the work and collect it and it is clear to see in the present day work, the same unglazed wood-fired-marked clay and distinctive forms that you see in the twelfth century antecedents. There is no question that it is art but it can also be used. Why not, it’s a bonus.
The clay couldn’t be more different in each case. In Bizen it's smooth, dense and dark reddish-brown, dug up from the rice paddies. The clay in Shiaraki is white and very rough with a lot of free bits of feldspar in it. In Bizen the pots were wood-fired along with several hundred other ceramic pieces in a traditional noborigama two-chamber kiln for eight days and then cooled for a week. In Shigaraki it also took a week to wood-fire and another week to cool the anagama (large single chamber) kiln. I also fired a small wood-kiln there. Traditionally no glaze is used, but shows the effect of the wood ash and flame, rice straw wrappings that leaves red marks, and masked bare areas. All this is part of a Japanese aesthetic of transience, pathos, imperfection, naturalness and a balance of simplicity and complexity.