Updated: Dec 12, 2022
While working on my film about Joy Brown in Connecticut, I heard the name Shige mentioned many times and by multiple sources. Joy will undoubtedly mention his name every time she speaks of her early years as a ceramic apprentice in Japan, and Paul Chaleff wrote about him in a recent opinion piece.
"In 1976, I was a guest at Shige Morioka's clay studio in Wakayama, and at that time, Joy was Morioka's apprentice. We became friends, and when Joy moved to the U.S., I invited her to be our guest in Pine Plains, NY. She lived with us for two years, helping in the studio until she established her first American studio not too far from here."
At first glance, there is two-way traffic between potters on both sides of the Pacific Ocean trading experiences with each other. According to Jack Try, potter writter and educator with a kin sense of humor, "The big winner in all this was Japan Airlines, with potters from both nations passing each other in the skies." in his article Sharing the Fire: Woodfiring Among North American Studio Potters, he goes on to mention Chaleff, Brown, and Marioka among many other artists taking part on this ongoing transpacific dialogue:
"(...) Paul Chaleff, Joy Brown, Peter Callas, Rob Barnard, Malcolm Wright, and many others took on apprenticeships with various teachers. In contrast, Shiro Otani, Takashi Nakazato, Katsuyuki Sakezume, Shige Morioka, and others built kilns and led workshops in the U.S., fostering a level of interest that has grown exponentially in recent years."
"Shige Morioka’s pottery is located in Amano, a small farming village in the mountains of Wakayama Prefecture, a few hours south of Osaka. He is one of many young Japanese potters who entered the field out of choice rather than family tradition. He has studied hard through travel, books and studio practice, slowly building and incorporating a philosophy into his work, a profound respect for the history of pottery combined with an at tempt to affect its future.” Paul Chaleff
Dispite the fact that his work was recently acquired by the MOMA, there is not much information available on the web regarding Shige Morioka, and it seems I'll be adding to the wins of Japan Airline by soon traveling to visit the enigmatic master of Joy Brown. Perhaps the visit will allow me a closer look at the cosmogony that has shaped Joy's approach to sculpture, and it will enrich my delivery of a more "connected" documentary to its subject. In other words: Shige Morioka of Amano in Wakayama is now of great interest to The Art of Joy Brown, and I can't wait to get across the ocean to meet the legend and smell the burning wood.