Michio Sugiyama (Section Chief of the Institute of Ceramic Studies, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park)
As you may know, AIR (artist-in-residence) programs are not original to Japan. I understand them as one of support systems for art, which was introduced from the West. Wikipedia mentions that early residential programs already existed in the US by1900.
Prototypical Artist-in-Residence Programs
Approximately 18 years have passed since Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park adopted the imported system of artist residencies in the filed limited to ceramics. When the residency program was first implemented 20 years ago, the program was simply called “taizai-gata kobo” (workshop with residency) instead of “artist-in-residence” program, then. After several different names were applied to the program over the years, the term “artist-in-residence” has gradually taken root in Japan in the late 1990s.
In the rather unique environment of this pottery-manufacturing town, Shigaraki, artist residencies in a broader sense already existed substantially in the mid-1900s.
It is said that in older times, ceramic artists from Kyoto frequented Shigaraki’s yakiya (ceramic manufacturers). The artists would produce molds for products like flower vases for the yakiya, and in return were permitted to use the yakiya’s kilns to produce their own original works. The yakiya and ceramic artists had an informal, yet firm relationship. This system may be also regarded as a prototypical artist residency in the field of ceramics.
Strengths of a Pottery-Producing Town
The most prominent advantage of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in a word is its location in Shigaraki, one of the famous pottery-manufacturing sites in Japan. Having a local pottery industry means that Shigaraki has the following strengths, although it is subject to economic fluctuations:
● Ready and plentiful access to raw materials
● Ready access to various equipments and tools, which can be lent and borrowed
● Ready contact with people in the same profession, at different career levels and with various styles
● Ready contact with people who can provide objective assessments of produced works
● Proximity to a sales network base
I think many Japanese and overseas ceramic artists come to work at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park because of these environmental advantages. In this sense, the Park is inseparable from its local pottery industry.
Acceptance of more than 800 Resident Artists from 48 Countries in Roughly Two Decades since Opening
At any given time, approximately ten Japanese and foreign ceramic artists are producing their works at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park’s Institute of Ceramic Studies. The Park seeks ways to promote networking among artists of different styles and nationalities, and has accepted over 800 ceramic artists from 48 countries since its foundation in 1992, providing the artists with unrestricted creative opportunities at this location of Shigaraki.
The residency program has roughly two categories. One is for “studio artists,” who go through an application and selection process before staying and working at the Park. The other is for “guest artists,” who are invited by the Park. Since 2008, some of the guest artists have been selected from the public.
Nowadays, when we explain the residency program to young artists, we tell them how to make best use of the program.
Firstly, candidates should be certain about what they want to produce at the Park. They should then estimate the production time and cost before making an application. If they have questions or need advice prior to making an application, we encourage them to contact us. Our curators and staff members will be available for consultations.
Artists of diverse nationalities and styles come to the Institute of Ceramic Studies, challenging to create works that represent new departures for them, using equipments that are new to them, in a new environment. The residency provides a rich learning opportunity: with the kiln alone there are numerous types to choose from. It would also be possible, for instance, to fire your own test pieces in a kiln that is being fired by another artist. Clay is a material that has great expressive potentials. It may also be a good idea to experiment with techniques and materials you do not normally use.
One of the features of the artist-in-residence program at our site is that artists can choose their length of stay. The most advisable way to use this opportunity is to do studio work in the most concentrated way possible.
In any case, the most basic principle of the residency program at the Institute of Ceramic Studies is to help artists take their works to a higher level by making full use of the equipments available at the Institute of Ceramic Studies and by interacting with many fellow ceramic artists.
Promotion of the AIR Programs Leads to that of Local Industry
The title “Ceramic Wonderland” means that a pottery-manufacturing town is or should be a “wonderland” to people who come to produce, appreciate, or buy potteries. Naturally, artist-residency programs should be wonderlands, too.
Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park believes that promoting its artist-in-residence program will lead to realizing such a ceramic wonderland, which in turn will lead to revitalization of the local pottery industry.
Reference: AIR_J>SEARCH>Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park Artist-in-Residence Program