“Come to my village, build yourself a house, a studio and kiln, find your way”.
These were the words spoken by Kabumoto Nobuo, my patron to be. And this was the offer he made; to come and live under his auspices in the fishing village of Hamasaka on the Japan Sea Coast. For me, it was as if I had fallen down the rabbit hole into an enchanted land, and I was offered a charmed life as if from some Japanese historical novel. But it did not stay this way for long. I would be in for a rude awakening.
This is the personal story of the bond between artist and patron , a convoluted relationship that challenges western perception and understanding. It began on the Japan Sea Coast in 1974 and has evolved, and developed over the years. It has become a living saga that continues today, some 40 years later.
Besides being a ceramic artist, I have become somewhat of a story teller and have chosen to write in the manner that I tell stories. The compelling narrative account of this artist/patron relationship is the backbone of the book, but it is intertwined with poignant vignettes and anecdotes that help the reader to understand the ensuing situation as it unfolds. The book spans the time period leading up to the relationship as well as the aftermath and up to the present. It is compelling because it transcends the delineation of east and west. And yet it speaks to the notion of societal distinctiveness and offers those who have not had the opportunity to spend time in a foreign culture such as Japan to viscerally live through the experience.
Kabumoto san was a charismatic man with deep piercing eyes, jet black hair, and an ageless face that was reminiscent of the ever youthful John F. Kennedy. He was a company president; a consummate business man, the head of a building company with hundreds of employees. His face was often filled with consternation, and yet his heart and spirit were that of a philanthropist. He was an enigma to me, larger than life, powerful, strict ( he had spent time in a monastery when he was young and lead a very ascetic and strict lifestyle). He would write Buddhist sutras every morning, the same sutra over and over day after day. He had the spirit of a samurai. Awakening each morning before dawn, he would retreat to a small room and draw the family heirloom sword and meditate upon the first rays of sun to reflect off the perfectly honed blade. He was a surrogate father to me while I was in Japan, and finally after numerous visits to my studio to watch and learn about ceramics, he became a consummate potter as well!
And so began the convoluted relationship that was to ensue for the next 30 years and continues to evolve and to reveal the layers of complexity that are continually being discovered. Whether it is a matter of destiny or synergy or fate, I believe the relationship will continue to evolve, until one of us passes on.