I met the renowned potter Shiro Tsujimura in a Kyoto office quite by accident, as I admired a flower vase of his, a rugged, raw column that looked like a cascade of poured cement frozen in mid-stream. As I was saying how much I loved this dramatic work, Mr. Tsujimura himself popped in. The Japanese have a word for this, "en" -- fate. I asked him about his work so Mr. Tsujimura fetched his catalogs from his car. Through my translator he explained that he was self-taught and influenced by many traditional Japanese pottery styles, from Raku to Shigaraki to Iga to Karatsu, as well as Korean ceramics. As he got up to leave, he turned to me suddenly and said "here" -- and shoved something in my hands. He had given me a piece of his pottery, a chocolate-toned tokkuri, or sake flask, finished with thick brushstrokes of buff-colored glaze. Before I could say thanks he was gone.
A week ago I got a package in the mail from Mr. Tsujimura, with a bright red catalog inside. This time it was in English: Mr. Tsujimura was having a show in New York. I visited the gallery today and got to thank the artist, at last, for a gift that I treasure, and check out a retrospective of his remarkable work -- both functional and decorative -- which is also in the collections of ten museums in the US (including the Met). Mr. Tsujimura left New York today but the show runs until June 20th. I urge you to check it out, too.
You can see Shiro Tsujimura's collection at the Koichi Yanagi Gallery, 58A East 66th Street, between Madison and Park. Phone is 212-744-5577.