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Simon Manchester (1958-2019)

We of the clay community should note the passing of the well-known ceramics collector, Simon Manchester.  Often a larger than life figure, Simon made some impact upon the scene from when he first became interested in collecting in the late ’80s and continued to do so as an animated presence who would give his opinion readily and whose passionate views on who he felt was important as an artist carried weight for many. He ‘adopted’ various ceramists and supported them and their work by not only buying it on primary or secondary markets but aided their work gaining credence via his knowledge of how the secondary market worked for contemporary artists. He made a number of those artists into personal friends. His collection was a fluid thing as he bought and sold constantly working to improve the quality of his holdings, knowing at the same time that the secondary market affected values for the primary and that those he supported gained from his activities. Something he loved explaining. He was a businessman who gained wealth via commercial property and once acquired he turned his attention to art and while he began with antique tourism posters once he began to learn about ceramics he took it up with great relish and over the latter years his collection generally held about 2000 works. This fluctuated with occasions such as earthquakes and adjusted property values and there was a time when he had to sell a large number but, always positive, he soon recovered and began adding again. 

One of his great friends, potter Paul Maseyk writes, “Simon literally exploded through the front door of a studio/shop I maintained and began talking, gesticulating, fizzing
and saying I’ll take that, that and that – all at once. I had never seen anything like it (or him) nor will again. After this initial introduction, we steadily grew to become great friends largely through our mutual symbiotic relationship of maker/collector.
He was a lot of different things to a lot of people. I found he could be a polarising figure as is often the case with passionate people. However, with me, Simon was always such a generous, interested, gentlemanly figure. He supported me by buying my work and promoting me to anyone he thought could give me some help with my career. He would
lend works of mine he owned to any institution who asked.” … “Of course being a larger than life character and always interested in living life to the full Simon had dabbled in his fair share of stimulants – shall we call them. He was always open and frank with me about any of his past and I grew to learn a hell of a lot about him and his life. I found this side of his life fascinating too. Like everything he did – his work, his collecting, his voracious appetite for knowledge, his other varied interests, he indulged in “living his life” to maximum effect.” … “For many people like me Simon will leave a huge hole. There will never be anyone like him again .”

Another friend, Rick Rudd, said in eulogy at the memorial service, “Simon’s collection was not just for his own enjoyment. He wanted to share it. There can have been few major curated historical ceramic exhibitions organised by museums that have not included works borrowed from him. … When I set up a museum in Whanganui, he offered to lend a group of works. I didn’t have to ask. He wanted to be a part of what I was doing. … Simon has given so much  to New Zealand’s ceramic community and environment; as a patron to living potters, by respecting and attempting to raise the desirability and values of works on the secondary market, his involvement with the Blumhardt Foundation and of course, by building a collection of national significance.”

Simon Manchester has left that collection in the care of Rick Rudd and his Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics in Whanganui. In Rick’s words, “…the collection will quietly educate and be enjoyed by as many people as possible. My fellow Trustees and I intend to create a space where his contribution can be contemplated, remembered and celebrated.”

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An Exert fromThe Guardian newspaper…

If street protests are too shouty, craftivism may offer an alternative and still powerful means of political expression

A cross-stitched mask on a mannequin in a shop window in Shoreditch, London.
 A cross-stitched mask on a mannequin in a shop window in Shoreditch, London. Photograph: Robin Prime/Robin Prime/Craftivist Collective

 

Since the dawn of time, humans have been compelled to make – just think about all the pots and jewellery you see at the British Museum.”

According to the(British) government’s Taking Part survey, all forms of craft – be it pottery, embroidery, lino printing – have been undergoing a revival in the UK at the same time as art and design education has fallen off a cliff; since 2010, the number of people crafting has jumped by 24%, while the number of students taking art, design and tech GCSEs has fallen by 57%.

People are aghast at “the weird dichotomy between the creative industries being the fastest-growing sector in the economy but so undervalued in education”. The broader picture is more encouraging. “What is interesting is the huge rise of people engaging with craft now,” says Melton. “Since 2014 it’s been a 25% jump for white people and a massive 70% for those from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Craft is growing at a faster rate than any other creative discipline.”

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Merilyn Wiseman.

October 25, 1941 – June 13, 2019.

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It’s with great personal sorrow that I record the passing of Merilyn Wiseman.

Merilyn was for many years, one of our most prominent makers in clay which she always called, ‘hands-on, hands-in stuff’. As a maker she was pretty well supreme, a perfectionist who could do almost anything with her beloved ‘stuff’ from small, immaculately thrown works through to large scale press-moulded pieces and a lot in between.

Following what she sometimes said was a ‘pretty priviledged childhood’ in Auckland’s eastern suburbs, she experienced a memorable journey. As a young woman, in 1960, at the end of an amazing few months travelling, with her twin sister and her younger sister under guidance and leadership of their redoubtable mother (known to family as ‘the Ayatollah’), through much of North Africa, the Near East and Europe, she undertook a period of study majoring in art teaching at Goldsmiths College in London. Those travels stayed with her for the rest of her life and she often referred to some of what she encountered from that rich period.  After Goldsmith’s, she embarked upon a work experience at a pottery in Ireland and seriously ‘caught the bug’ for working with clay. By this time she had more than adequate resources banked as a result of those travels around many of the best archaeological sites and museums of the countries they had visited and she returned to NZ to set out to be as good as she could be.

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Merilyn with her ‘Fletcher’ winner.

This was very good indeed as she was the most honoured and very possibly the most successful of all of her generation. She came to national prominence winning the Premier Award for the 1984 Fletcher Brownbuilt Pottery Award, and the judge of that year, American Don Reitz, referred to what attracted him to her piece by explaining that her decoration – slip trailed – touched the edge of the wood-fired dish rim and this was something also practised by Native American potters, ‘so that the spirit might escape’. She was, in 1988 a member of the only national symposium in clay ever undertaken in NZ, where the self-styled ‘Lucky 13’ lived and worked together for three weeks in Otago School of Art, with all found: accommodation in student quarters, food, transport and all the clay that could be heated toward being unofficially groomed for the Faenza event as country of focus – that eventually did not transpire due to funding, or lack thereof. I shared a workspace with Christine Thacker (as the two most junior members of the troop along with Philip Luxton), and Merilyn and Ann Verdcourt were also in the same large room. I recall being impressed with Merilyn’s ability to concentrate on her work when the rest of us were too easily, willingly distracted.  The experience was memorable, if less for the ‘new work’ expected than for the close working quarters shared with artists from all over NZ,  often known only by reputation. There developed a sense of collegiality that for most has never departed. We learned so very much on every front.

Shortly after this, Merilyn was the clay artist selected to represent NZ at an international ceramics symposium held in Australia where she observed much about the international scene and reported back with useful information. Following this there came a fertile time of experimenting, making, developing, firing and exhibiting at highest levels in NZ and off-shore.

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In Dunedin at Otago SofA.

In 2005 she won The Portage Award where the judge was Robert Bell – Decorative Arts and Design Senior Curator of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, and who loved her Arctic Rim piece that flared gracefully to more than 1.1metres wide (and by then she was in her mid-60s!)  I was ‘Production Assistant ‘, that year, and so at the award ceremony positioned myself so I might see her face at Robert’s announcement. She was so genuinely surprised she almost dropped and I thought I’d have to pick her up from the floor! She made more work in that series  – lyrical dishes, elegant candlesticks, handsome lidded boxes and large moulded vessels on a scale, combed, slip trailed or finger modelled in her characteristic style, with sumptuously rich, colour charged, turquoise and green glazes. The clay responded in rhapsodic fashion to her stroking and persuasion of touch so that edges of dishes and attachments of feet displayed such distinctive flourishes that they could be by no one else, while she made slip trailing her very own.

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‘Arctic Rim’. Portage winner.

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Meri with the ‘Rim’ Series mould.

In 2007, she was the first ceramic artist to receive the prestigious Laureate Award and with the (then) $50,000 free-from-tags gift she was able to invest in converting a newly built double garage into a very functional studio that came at a propitious time when she had made the decision to be a solo, self-supporting artist.

After wood firing for many years then to a gas kiln and finally to electric with its computerised controls she turned, again with the use of moulds, to making decorative vessels of two and a half dimensions, most often in a simple pearly white glaze that offered a serene surface for her carefully applied textures. Always stylishly varied, these vessels demonstrated her continued ability to adjust the variables she sensed, based upon simple generative forms. Sometimes their stance was defiant with arms akimbo while others’ postures were quietly demure. Without doubt, Meri was always a vessels girl but her vessels, from the looser, wood and ash-flashed early work to the more recent, crisply linear late pieces, could be as expressive as sculpture when she chose.

But alongside the many dishes that carried her familiar rich palette and with pale green and soft blue later developments, I only ever knew one teapot and it was a cracker! Ovalled, soda’d copper blue and straight sided while tacitly elegant, like much of her work, it nevertheless demonstrated that she knew how to get a good pour and prevent a lid dropping out! I am unsure what happened to it – but hope it’s in a good collection somewhere.

We discussed at length, several times, the prospect of a survey show covering all her series and variations of work as I, and several others felt sure there should be ample interest. We even, once, got as far as loosely planning the show’s layout. Always, she had ideas and opinions. She eventually disagreed and thought there would be little support and decided that she would not, even with the temptation of a well-illustrated catalogue to record her achievements and work. It’s hard to understand why she was apprehensive of the prospect, for of the many members of this senior generation and their various survey shows that have graced a variety of venues, she, as possibly the most rewarded and awarded of all, surely deserved an opportunity for close engagement with her total body of work, more than most. It would have withstood any challenge with grace.

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She disliked and could be scornful of displays of ego, particularly where she sensed it evidenced in work. Over a number of years, we went together, often with others, to exhibitions and events and no one could match Meri in scorn, on the way home again, when she discerned that it manifested. She could rage, like no other, on what she considered missing opportunities presented in work and no carefully articulated counter-arguments could persuade her of merits when she saw none, or too few. Her opinions were always worth considering and it was very possible to agree that priorities could differ hugely no matter the acknowledged conjoined passions. But when she liked something, some work or some aspect of a work, she was generous and unstinting in her praise. Ever engaged, her standards were high.

There was always a warm welcome and a cuppa, if one dropped in, and sometimes a showing of perhaps part of a film she had watched and kept just to show something she thought wonderful (such as the opening shots of ‘The English Patient’ with its cave drawings, or a written passage to share, like part of ‘A Room of 0ne’s Own’), for her interests were manifold and discussion points various and intelligent. However no matter how receptive she was, we knew we had to be gone before 5pm, or if she was out she always left in good time, prior to five, because that was family calling time and that was always a priority. When her son, Paul, was playing cricket for NZ she kept the TV on inside while throwing in the shed with the radio turned to the match coverage. As soon as his name was mentioned she hopped off the wheel and went inside to watch him play and only returned once his innings was over.  When her Kate was due to give birth we knew she’d be in Christchurch. She held family close and most dear as her family also clearly held her, and our sympathy must extend to them in their loss.

She will be greatly missed by all.

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Any who would view her service,  Go to Dils Funeral Services, Oneroom and click on Merilyn Dawn Wiseman. Held on 21st June. password: ONUNOV

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and the other coast…

 

On my last day in the USA, I spent in Los Angeles with Bari Ziperstein – most recently our juror for the 2019 Portage Ceramic Awards. She had helpfully arranged some visits for us. We had three, in different parts of the city – about all that’s possible in such traffic. Following a visit to her studio,  we visited Brian Rochford in east LA and his spotlessly clean enormous studio space with many displayed completed vessels. Arrayed in sizes I could not be clear if I was viewing glaze/texture tests or if the mug-size bowls and small vessels (slip cast) were actually pieces for display/exhibition and sale. The two larger sizes were clearly destined for exhibition somewhere and it seemed there were a number of shows lined up at galleries around the world in various cities. That appeared to be his main interest – travelling to various places for exhibitions of his work and who could blame him? (He’s been making pots, he said, from age 14). Colour and texture are his principal concerns for the work while form and the foundational clay/ceramic, often made for him, serves as simply a support medium.  He certainly appeared to have reached maximum potential in both surface categories, which are also requisites for a few NYC white cube galleries, I spoke with, that are currently seeking ceramic artists.

 

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Bari’s studio in east LA. Clean, well-lit and efficiently laid out.

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New production work under development and below, Bari’s personal work in storage.IMG_0575 - Copy (2).JPG

Below, Bari and Brian Rochford in his studio…IMG_0579.JPG

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The cup shelves.

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Two cup close-ups.

Approx 12-13cm H. x 8-9cmDia.

 

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Brian Rochford and a piece still warm from the kiln.

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I asked how many kiln shelves get ruined in a month and he said he had that pretty well under control now! This work approx 24cmH.

Two final close-ups…

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Next we visited Stan Edmondson in Pasadena whose studio roamed in varying measure all around his large garden and into his large house (wherein was his almost 100 year old mother!) Many are the memories of Voulkos, Frimkess and Mason playing cards there with Stan’s father who also was an artist.  While Stan’s personal work concentrates, currently, on painting, his clay work is a lot about facilitating other artists, trained mainly outside ceramics, to achieve their vision in clay.  He has large kilns, a Soldner clay mixer,  a unique slab roller plus ample space and lots of experience as assistant for artists, such as the late John Mason, so I’m sure they receive the best of support. One recent client was our own Robert Rapson who was in LA for an exhibition with South Willard Gallery which has carried his work for some years.

Stan with one of his small kilns and that’s his slab roller at his feet!

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The trusty Soldner where clay bodies are made to order or individual requirement.

 

 

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A piece left behind by Peter Voulkos some years ago….

Currently some large scale figurative work is happening. This young artist,  preparing for a white cube gallery show, is working to a time-honoured technique – carving and modelling through slip painting on terra-cotta cylinders. These measure about two metres high.

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Again, surface seems to be the primary concern and supporting form kept simple and basic.

Our last call of the day was to Los Angeles’ far-to-the-south/west Long Beach College campus where Tony Marsh has taught for close to thirty years. Apparently each summer break, for many of those thirty years he has gathered the best talent he can muster for an intense workshop session where, ‘ having the person next to you making great work is a major spur!’ This was a philosophy that had certainly worked as it was warm and sunny, beaches were nearby and it was vacation time but inside the very spacious ceramics department were over a dozen artists drawn from many quarters all working away with great energy and enthusiasm. Everyone did not want their work imaged yet and others had not developed work to where it could be photographed, while others’  situations made it difficult to get a shot that might do it justice. However here are a few of the works in progress…IMG_0629.JPG

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Then I flew home! Some more about what was in between will come shortly…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On…. a tale of two coasts

A recent journey to both coasts of the USA offered some insights into some of what’s happening there. Here are a couple of highlights of all that I viewed, with images where possible. First however a scene with no images as ‘not allowed’! I went to The Frick Museum – that turn-of-the-century NYC robber baron’s home in uptown 5th Avenue and now part of New York’s celebrated ‘Museum Mile’.

The Frick is a grand mansion with many large imposing rooms and elegant furniture scattered around as though a (well servanted) family still resided there. Lush carpets cover floors and ormolu vitrines line walls displaying, among other ceramics, Chinese porcelain from the original imports into Europe back in the 16thC and a piece by Bottger – credited with being the European alchemist who found the secrets to porcelain manufacture for Europe due to his imprisonment, until he discovered it, by the mad Augustus, in Dresden.  European sculpture, by such as Michaelangelo, Cellini and Bernini, is displayed in entranceways and along corridors. Prime among such fabulous and extraordinary riches is a range of old master paintings by such as Rembrandt, Hals, Goya, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Bruegel, Durer, Rubens, Van Eyck and Van Dyke, Turner, Titian and Tintoretto and on and on and on to the three incomparable Vermeers with their glorious side-lighting. This shrine to the power of wealth and the prevailing taste of the times is cause for much pondering of value systems while wandering among the contained treasures. Imagine, this used to be a family home!

I have visited previously but high on my list, this time, was the exhibition (installation?  intervention?) called, Elective Affinities,  by Edmund de Waal, of his contemporary works into the spaces there. Not the first contemporary artist to show amongst the constellation already acquired, nor the first in ceramic – De Waal has clearly been allowed to choose where his works might gather, accompanied by music of his choice (Bach to Britten, Philip Glass to Steve Reich). Somewhat dazzled by what was adorning the walls my first encounter was a surprise. In the middle of the huge West Gallery were two over-lapping, simple, dark vitrines upon a large oak table that made up one install in variously deep to mid-grey porcelain and stacked steel rectangles. Their lack of colour amongst the panoply of hue in surrounding works had at first disguised their presence but then it occurred that this was deliberate by De Waal. I found other works by being more aware of unlikely situations as well as the obvious placings – one even beneath a library desk. De Waal has added to his porcelain cylinders – from white to darkest grey in tone – glazed and unglazed, other media such as stacks of patinated steel slices and shards, plexiglass strips, marble, then aluminium and alabaster with applied gold leaf in places, positioned so that reflections cast a golden radiance onto furniture or porcelain.

De Waal is not the first ceramist to group his cylinders and bowls into still life arrangements. Probably, and arguably, earliest were Gwyn Hanssen Pigott pairing bowls in a FCCA entry in memory of dead friends and our own Ann Verdcourt in response to an invitation to complement still-life wall works at Manawatu Gallery,  both back in the late ’80s). Since then the trope has come and gone – after all what else can a vessel maker do when elevating works into an art context?  De Waal, however, has really turned the concept into something inestimable with his ability to command ever more precious situations for his works from British Dukedom’s country houses to the V+A’s bell tower to Gargosian gigantic vitrines in NYC, Basel and Hong Kong.

These installations, for me, were justified in taking themselves so very seriously. In such a locale how might it be otherwise – despite my gut feeling that Verdcourt would not have been able to resist a sly bit of sabotage, somewhere. There were also distinct contrasts in the finish on the clay cylinders – slight wobbles or asymmetry to rims here and there – and the precision that served cessation to the cut plexiglass or steel stack – that bothered me a tad initially but knowing how difficult can be the material, made it matter less. De Waal must be aware and can live with it after all. Further, there was the frustration attached to not being able to weigh elements of the works in the hands made ever more compound by their being behind glass. The fingers itch, for the information they could transmit. But cylinders, matte and glossy, leaning slices and open, stacked bowls can pull this viewer in as close as the carefully watching grey-suited minions will allow – not even a hint of breath on the glass is permissable.

To see the installations and their situations – although too far away to see clearly and in detail as we are used to, it’s possible online by going to The Frick Collection and entering Edmund de Waal. Or try https://youtu.be/9wbafe1M_k  which is the introductory video. Better, if heading NYC way go see it for yourself – allow several hours at least.

Next instalment to follow shortly.

 

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Just arrived….  A Chinese Ceramics Competition – short notice. However, if you have work you consider good and it fits the requirements for this competition and you have, or can get, good images of it (them) it might be worth entering as there is no entry fee. Just fill the forms and send the images. By end of this month.

The Blanc de Chine International Ceramic Award (ICAA)

Aim (of the ICAA) is to promote international communication within contemporary ceramic art and encourage integrated and innovative development of contemporary ceramics.

It is organised by Quanzhou Porcelain Road Art Development Centre – which could mean anything but total prize money comes to 165,000 Euros which is almost NZ$ 280,000 (but there will be tax off that – always is).   1x Premier prize of E50,000, 2x E30,000, 3xE10,000 and 5xE5,000.

The organising committee is large in full Asian and European fashion and comprises… As usual it comprises folk with impressive job titles and who sit near or around ceramic art but probably only Bai Ming is a ceramics practitioner. The rest bring what they can to the processes… probably are consulted very little but they will all be there for the Award event at the end.

Bai Ming – Dean of Ceramic Department at Tsinghua University, China

Claudia Casali – Faenza Museum Director, Italy

Catherine Chevillot – Director Musee Rodin, Paris

Christine Caol – Member Board of Directors, Musee Rodin, Paris

Christine Shimizu – Director Musee Cernusci, Asian arts, Paris

Geraldine Lenain- Dir. Chinese art and ceramics, Christies

Prof. Lu Pinchang – Dean of Sculpture, China Central Academy of Fine Arts

Romaine Sarfati  – Director Sevres Museum, France

Prof Wang Luxiang – Academy Arts and Design, Tsinghua University

Xu Jie – Curator, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA

Zhao Meng – Associate in research in Chinese Studies at Harvard Uni. USA

Some of these will be the selectors for the exhibition and the prizes.

Exhibiting Requirements:

Entry by multiple images of each work.

Work must be original and never exhibited nor published in any form previously.

The work must be 50%, or more, white porcelain – interdisciplinary work is encouraged.

Two entries – single pieces or sets are permitted.

Deviations from this will mean disqualification.

D/L is  30th April 2019. Late entries or late arrival of work also disqualified.

No entry fee

Entry – Online at www.blancdechineicaa or email icaa@blancdecineicaa.com

PROCESS

Jury will select a short list by vote on images submitted

Works transported and insured by organisers if selected.

Venue for selection still to be announced

Award ceremony and exhibition of finalists in either Nice or Paris, France, October 2019 and finalist exhibitors will be travelled and accommodated at expense of organisers.

Exhibition will comprise winning works along with short-listed works selected by Jury committee and the curator.

Prizes are acquisitional – they call it ‘donation’ and forms must be signed at outset that your work, in receipt of a major prize will be retained by the organisation.

So, if your work fits there criteria and you are confident about its originality etc and comfortable with the conditions applied, then why not give it a go. You have a week – go for it! I shall publish the winning works if I again get notice.

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Loewe Craft Prize Finalists

The Loewe Craft Prize today announced that they had selected 29 artists from an entry of over 2,500 submissions. The finalist’s works will now be shipped to Japan (as will the artists involved) for the final judging process and on 25 June the winner will be announced by the panel of eleven (it is European…) judges including architect Wang Shu, industrial designer Patricia Urquiola and Loewe creative director Jonathan Anderson… The principal prize is 50,000 Euros,  there are also interesting residency opportunities…see my blog of September last year.

The Moon Jar, The life of..., Akiko Hirai. Photo LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize THE MOON JAR, THE LIFE OF…,  Ceramic. AKIKO HIRAI. PHOTO LOEWE FOUNDATION CRAFT PRIZE. One of this year’s entries.

The international cohort of finalists – revealed by LOEWE today – work in a broad spectrum of media, from metal to paper, and include everyone from fairly recent graduates to well-known names.

The LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize, now its third edition, champions artists who have ‘made fundamentally important contributions to the development of contemporary craft’ and ‘whose talent, vision and will to innovate promise[s] to set a new standard for the future’. The work of the shortlisted makers will go on show at Isamu Noguchi’s indoor stone garden ‘Heaven’ at the Sogetsu Foundation in Tokyo (26 June – 22 July 2019).

Mandala bowl, Giovanni Corvaja. Photo LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize MANDALA BOWL, Spun Gold. GIOVANNI CORVAJA. PHOTO LOEWE FOUNDATION CRAFT PRIZE. Another entry in this year’s Award exhibition.

Here is the list of finalists

Akiko Hirai (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Andrea Walsh (United Kingdom)

Annie Turner (United Kingdom)

Deloss Webber (United States)

Elke Sada (Germany)

Gentai Ishikuza (Japan)

Giampaolo Babetto (Italy)

Giovanni Corvaja (Italy)

Harry Morgan (United Kingdom)

Heeseung Koh (Korea)

Henar Iglesias (Spain)

Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley (United Kingdom)

JingFeng Fang & Mi Dong (China)

John Eric Byers (United States)

Jokum Lind Jensen (b. Denmark, lives and works in Sweden)

Junko Mori (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Kazuhito Takadoi (b. Japan, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Koichi lo (Japan)

Kye-Yeon Son (b. Korea, lives and works in Canada)

Youngsoon Lee (Korea)

Masanori Nishikawa (Japan)

Mayu Nakata (Japan)

Michal Fargo (b. Israel, lives and works in Germany)

Minhee Kim (b. Korea, lives and works in United Kingdom)

Ruudt Peters (Netherlands)

Sachi Fujikake (Japan)

Shozo Michikawa (Japan)

Sophie Rowley (b. New Zealand, lives and works in Germany)

Tomonari Hashimoto (Japan)

So, of the finalists, 10 are Japanese,  4 Korean,  5 U.K., 2 each from Italyand China, one each from Israel, Netherlands,  Germany, Spain and Denmark plus one from New Zealand. However, a number are nationals of one country yet resident elsewhere. Who knows where they received training? Interesting to see a New Zealander included. Anyone know her and her work?

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