Pathway

Arrivel in La Borne and travels to Japan
After having engraved a series of etchings and aquatints for a limited edition of the Illuminations of Arthur Rimbaud- 70 copies of a work translated into Danish for the first time by a firend – I arrived in La Borne in 1972 to visit Christine Pedley, an English potter who introduced me to ceramics.
   The permanent exhibition of the La Borne Potters Association (APLB), with seven or eigth different exhibitors, was at that time housed in what was known as ‘Hélène’s Barn’. My memory of my first visit is of a collection of archaeological pieces.
   In La borne at that tim,e there was Ivanoff, a bohemian artist of Bulgarian origin and Denise Roux, an intellectual, and they often invited us over for ‘apéretif’. The ceramic scene was relatively dominated by Jean Linard (because he had the loudest voice) and by Pierre Digan’s enterprises. There was also Pierre Maestre and his libertarian studio. The last Bornois potter, heir to an ancient tradition, spent much of his time in the bistro.
…Anne Kjærsgaard, one of my compatriots, and Jean Linard were still married. I remember Anne’s pottery very clearly… Jean's pottery was also made with talent and enthusiasm. Their large kiln with three chambers, built by a crafstman at Anne’s request and based on the plan of the kiln used by Bernard Leach (1887-1979), at St Ives (Cornwall, UK), worked perfectly.
They were assisted at all their firings by Père Numa, a retired steam train driver.
   Anne’s pottery, employing oriental type glazes based on ash, stone and clay, was unique. Her Nordic roots, combined with an innate talent gave her the qualities as a ceramist which Japanese potters revere. Quite simply, it just came naturally to her. For Anne herself, it was all of her identity.
   In the village of La Borne a traditional rual way of life still remained. The period was strongly influenced by the Bernard Leach school and the group of Japanese ceramists – Hamada, Kawai, Tomimoto – all poets and potters – who under the patronage of the intellectual and philosopher Dr Yanagi, were founders of the ‘Mingei’ movement.


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In 1974, Christine and I  set off for Japan in a Citroen 2CV. With a letter of introduction from Richard Batterham (an English potter who, like Anne, had also been a student of Leach’s) we were welcomed in Shōji Hamada (1894 – 1978) pottery studio in the village of Mashiko, 90 kilometres north of Tokyo.
I returned to Japan in 1977 with a reference from ceramists Jean Biagini and Setsuko Nagasawa, to meet with Takashi Nakazato in Karatsu, on the island of Kyushu in the south-west of the archipelago. The aim of this second trip was to find a different way of firing clay to that used in La Borne, where many ceramists had begun to move towards increasingly quick firings.
Working with a potter who shaped his pottery with the elegance of a virtuoso, I found myself confronted with the spirit of yakishime firing. This was a journey of discovery and an unforgettable opportunity to witness the essence of ‘noble’ ceramics. This encounter had an enduring influence on my relationship with ceramics. The firing technique which Takashi practiced, know as Tanegashima, was exactly what I was looking for. Through this initial phase of learning, my path as a ceramist became clear to me. Complemented by a short apprenticeship in the studio of Tsuneo Narui, in Mashiko, I was able to acquire throwing skills and a firing technique.
Upon my return to La Borne in 1978 I built my teppō-gama¹ª, type tunnel kiln (first version of this ‘riffle-barrel’ kiln, approximately 5 m in length), designed for Tanegashima firing. I then began my apprenticeship in throwing and made pieces with a traditional Japanese aesthetic, that of ceremonial and domestic ware. I practised Mishima decoration with inlaid white slip.
Four years later, Christine and I exhibited at the Centre d’Art floral Ikebana of Marcel Vrignaud, in Paris. This was the turning point.
I modified my kiln twice, around 1980-81 and in 1984-85. In 1982 the number of this type of  kiln around the world could be counted on the fingers of one hand: three in Japan, one in La Borne and the fifth, built by Richard Bresnahan, in the United States.
In all, I worked for eight years with the one I have called KO NO YAMA (Le Garçon de la Montagne – The Mountain Boy or God in the Mountain), before closing it down during the winter of 1985-86 to go to live in Sweden. The film Histoire sur le vent (Tales in the Wind), written and directed by Gérard Gendrau, documents the last firing, in September 1985.

Talks collected by Christophe Lemarchand. 2009