For the newest artist at Menlo Park’s Portola Art Gallery, it was a sign of new life. “It was almost exactly a year after I’d undergone a liver and kidney transplant that I got accepted to the Gallery,” she recalls. “It was a new beginning.”
That was in January. This month, Misako is having her first show featuring ceramic art, very different from the craft she learned as a young woman in Japan. In her 20s, she joined a traditional Kimono studio in Kyoto, where she apprenticed in stenciling (paper cutting) for two years. That training is apparent in her ceramics, although she says “stenciling killed my creativity.”
“Now, I have the freedom to design and express myself,” she says.
Misako moved to the United States with her husband 14 years ago, and they settled in Menlo Park. She learned ceramic art at Foothill College from Bruce George, who she calls “a wonderful artist, mentor and teacher.”
Spending about four days a week working in her home studio, Misako creates her unique designs by free-hand carving with an X-ACTO knife on the surface of the clay. She uses many different firing methods, including Raku-firing, pit-firing, high-firing and wood-firing. She also works with wood-soda firing techniques at “Hikari-gama kiln” in Elkton, Oregon to add a more rustic collection to the exhibition.
“I splash the glaze to add a color accent,” she says. “Each piece comes out differently depending on where I load the pot in the fire.”
Misako’s exhibit at the Portola Art Gallery, which runs through April 30, is titled Passage from Silk Road to Japan and features ceramic creations inspired by traditional Japanese and Chinese designs. There will be a reception for the artist on Saturday, April 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 pm. The Gallery is located at the Allied Arts Guild, 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park.
Photos by Gillian Bostock