It was a bit of a culture shock, says Kazuko Young, when she and her husband moved from Tokyo to the Applegate Valley a few decades ago. But, she adds, “We love it!” However, they do return to Japan occasionally to visit family.
While attending Women’s Art College in Tokyo, Kazuko studied oil painting. But it wasn’t until she came to Oregon that she learned how to make pots—at Rogue Community College. Now, pottery is her passion.
Young works in her home studio near Williams, where she specializes in the most spectacular of ceramic techniques, known as raku. In Japanese, raku means “comfort” or “ease.” But the process of doing raku is anything but easy. Ms. Young first heats the bisque-fired pots to 1800 degrees. Then she reaches into the kiln with long tongs and pulls the orange-hot pots quickly out of the heat. Immediately, she plunges the glowing ware into a bed of combustible material, such as shredded newspaper, pine cones, sawdust, straw, or leaves, to create an oxygen-poor atmosphere that brings out textures and colors that can be achieved in no other way.
Part of raku’s attraction for potters is the drama, and part is the unpredictability of the process. Abrupt temperature changes—from the fire to cool air to sawdust—can cause pieces to crack, or even explode. But when it works, the result can be bright, sometimes iridescent, colors. Some raku glazes will “crackle” on the surface of the pot, producing a jigsaw-puzzle look, against a rich black background of unglazed clay.
She notes, “The designs come out of my imagination.” Her inspiration, she says, comes from the natural beauty of trees, flowers, animals, fish, rivers, mountains, the ocean, and the sky. Currently, she is also experimenting with sculpture, particularly small animal pieces.
Young’s work is featured at Gallery One in Grants Pass and at Touchstone Gallery in Yachats. But, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, you can meet her in person at the Clayfolk Show and Sale, November 18-20th, 2016—perfect timing for holiday shopping. Before you go, you may want to peruse images of Ms. Young’s work, at the Clayfolk website: http://www.clayfolk.org/project/kazuko-young/.
With more than sixty-five clay artists, the Clayfolk event is the largest all-clay art show in Southern Oregon. Most of the exhibitors live and work in Southwestern Oregon—but some hail from as far away as Bend, Portland, and Northern California.
Holiday shoppers at the Clayfolk Show will find both decorative and functional pottery, including dinnerware, jewelry, tiles, sculpture, and garden art, crafted in porcelain, stoneware, earthenware, along with Ms. Young’s raku.
This year the Clayfolk Show moves to a new, temporary location in Talent: the Brammo Building, (the old Talent Wal-Mart) located at 300 Valley View just off the freeway at exit 21. The doors will be open Friday from 4:00-9:00pm, on Saturday from 10:00am to 7:00pm and on Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is free.
The best selection, of course, will be available when the Show commences on Friday afternoon—coincidentally, when the live music begins. Then on Saturday and Sunday, shoppers will see pottery-making demonstrations by several ceramic artists. Also on Saturday (10:00am-5:00pm) and Sunday (11:00am-3:00pm) children can work with clay, under the supervision of Clayfolk members. See ad this page.
For further information and images of Clayfolk members’ work, please visit Facebook and www.clayfolk.org.
Featured image above is Kazuko Young in her studio.