Lee Loveis creating Clay As A Zen Way
ABOUT LEE LOVEI was Born in Shichido neighborhood of Sakai, Japan, in same neighborhood that Sen No Rikyu was from. I went to school in Michigan and moved to Minnesota to study with Dainin Katagiri Roshi in 1983. I moved to Mashiko, Japan to do 3 year apprenticeship with National Living Treasure Tatsuzo Shimaoka in 1999 and established my own kiln and pottery in Mashiko. I came back to Minneapolis the summer of 2007. I was awarded a McKnight Residency for spring of 2008 at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. In 2008 and again in 2018, I was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board Artists Initiative Grant. I am currently working at my studio in Minneapolis.
My original introduction to functional ceramics was through Warren Mackenzie and the Minnesota and Wisconsin potters associated with him. I learned to make functional pottery for everyday use. It wasn’t until my first visit in 1993 to the town where I was born, Sakai, Japan, just outside of Osaka, that I learned that the 16th century tea master Sen No Rikyu was also from Sakai, and had lived very close to my Japanese relatives’ neighborhood. After realizing this, I knew I had to learn more about tea ceremony and the ceramics used in it.
Warren MacKenzie and Tatsuo Shimoka at the Hamada Museum
When I was eventually introduced to my teacher, Tatsuzo Shimaoka, by Warren Mackenzie, I was enabled to study tea ceremony and tea ware more directly. During my three year apprenticeship with Shimaoka, who was a National Living Treasure in ceramics, one of my duties was to take care of the garden around his 17th century tea house, which included things like raking the tea house garden and cutting charcoal by size according to the season, for the tea fire. I learned from my uncle on my second trip back to Japan in 1998, that before WWII, our family had such a tea house in their garden, and it was frequented by tea master Sen No Rikyu over 400 hundred years ago. I realized that my working class family once had a historic connection to the tea ceremony and Sen No Rikyu. Also had a close connection to Korean pottery in medieval times because it was the only port in Japan that provided Korean ceramic ware to the rest of Japan. Korean pottery is not only important to tea ceremony, but it was also important to Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach and Warren Mackenzie in realizing their approach to the functional.
My Favorite Munyeong Potter Couple
From 2011 to 2015, I was a guest potter at the Mungyeong, South Korea Traditional Tea Bowl Festival. I have extended my knowledge of tea ware in the Korean tradition by visiting with Korean potters, Tea Masters and Zen Monks in the mountains of Korea.
In the catalog for my McKnight Residency show at Northern Clay Center, Robert Silverman wrote in relationship to my work:
“The tea ceremony bowl is the ceramic equivalent of a sonnet: a small-scale, seemingly constricted form that challenges the artist to go beyond mere technical virtuosity and find an approach that both satisfies and transcends the conventions.”
One of the special advantages Japanese culture has in the area of the appreciation of the arts and crafts, specifically in the area of ceramic appreciation, is the legacy of connoisseurship that is cultivated by tea ceremony practitioners. What the tea ceremony makes so apparent is the importance of use, and the value of the collector in completing the creative life of functional pottery. Through tea culture, I share this attitude with my patrons and students. Also, because of the diverse Asian communities in Minnesota, it is a way to make connection with these communities which all share a tradition of tea culture but are often not connected to one another.
Because tea appreciation is becoming more popular in our community, it is also a way to share Asian culture with the community as a whole. For me, tea ceremony and tea ware gives an added dimension to both my everyday ware, but also to my exhibition work. My everyday Minnesota approach helps me make tea ware and an approach to tea that is not so foreign to modern midwesterners. The relaxed nature of Korea culture is also informative.
Raku With Enso
The German philosopher Max Scheler called man Homo Faber, “Man the Maker.” Human beings are not content with only being consumers. We like to see some positive results from the life we live. Thinking of things with our minds and then making them with our hands is an essential way for humans to feel self-worth. Where functional pottery is concerned, the user of the work is as important to the ceramic craftsman as the musician is to the composer. Use is a way for people to become a part of the creative process. Pottery is a way to bring the basic elements of Nature: Air, Earth, Water and Fire, into our lives. Its use allows us to be present and appreciate beauty in a primal way.
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.” –W.B. Yeats
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