Big news today. I won a display spot in Nishinomon Kan, a gallery in Karatsu, run by the city of Karatsu. Being permitted to display at Nishinomon is a big validation for me, in that the city of Karatsu is allowing my work to represent Karatsu ware to the public.
(Nishinomon means “west gate” or “west entrance” and is so named because of its location, at or near what was once the west gate to Karatsu Castle. Kan means “building, castle, chateau, etc…)
Nishinomon Kan has 12 display spots which it keeps for showing the work of Karatsu potters. It gets a lot of traffic, including tour buses, etc… so displaying there gets you a lot of exposure. Getting a spot there is hard, because spots are rarely vacated for one, also it’s hard to know when a spot has vacated before someone else has taken it. Luckily for me, my mentor’s wife’s little brother is a friend of the manager at the gallery, and put in a good word for me when he heard about the open spot. Got me a meeting with the manager to show her my work and discuss things. I owe him a nice bottle of sake and a cup or two…
As I mentioned, Nishinomon gets a lot of traffic. Much of it is tourists, so most of the work that sells is souvenir/keepsake type of stuff. Most of the ware displayed is table ware and sake ware, with few larger pieces. When I did a quick run through of everyone’s prices, 90% of everything was priced at $60 or less. So, while this is not the place to sell expensive pieces or specialty pieces like tea ceremony ware, it is a great venue for ‘bread and butter’ stuff like tea cups, rice bowls, small plates, sake cups, etc…
I ran up yesterday to drop off work to be displayed, and sat down at a corner table to unpack and price everything. Gave me a chance to watch the customers coming in and out, and listen to them talk about the pottery. While I was still pricing, one man came up and asked me about my work, ended up buying one of my mugs before I even got it to the shelf. I hope that it is a good indicator for the future.
Here are the display spaces they gave me, sorry, taken before everything was set and arranged, but shows the space.
Half of the building is for pottery display and Karatsu information, the other half is for maintenance and repair of the Karatsu Kunchi yama, here’s a link:
City of Karatsu, Karatsu Kunchi
if you scroll down to the individual pictures, the one shown being repaired below is No. 9, the Takeda Shingen Kabuto, made in 1864.
There are large windows into the room so people can view the proceedings. Right now the whole thing is dismantled and is having the lacquer removed, then re-applied. They’re using real urushi lacquer, which contains the same stuff as Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac. The craftsmen are fairly immune, having spent a long time building up resistance. The room is carefully climate controlled, because Urushi requires a specific temperature and humidity range to harden. Budget for repairing each yama is about $250,000, and is conducted every 20 years. Hey, that’s more than a million bucks per century, times 14 (there are 14 yama), ouch!