Bernard Leach was instrumental in helping with the revival of English slipware ceramics, producing large and compellingly designed dishes that referenced earlier traditional work by the renowned Staffordshire makers, Ralph and Thomas Toft. He gave his slipwares in the 1920's and into the 1930's powerful, swiftly conceived, designs. They could show scenes of Japanese landscapes or English folklore imagery. One plate, with a deep Cornish resonance, is the Mermaid of Zennor plate. It probably draws on the legend of a mermaid who was enticed from the sea by a chorister, Matthew Trewhella, singing at the Church of Senara at Zennor. The dish is one major work in the outstanding craft art gallery at the Ohara Art Museum, in a room devoted to Leach's work, and adjacent to a gallery full of significant works by Leach's great friend Shoji Hamada. Seeing this work which I have only known from catalogue photographs felt like the end of a ceramic pilgrimage: it is certainly the longest distance I have travelled to see a specific work. But connecting his pots to works by Tomimoto and Hamada was enthralling.
A strictly contemporary note was then made, with a visit to the rigorously modern Toutou Gallery in Kurashiki. Here I was privileged to meet again one of UCA's fine alumni, Tami Ishada. Tami is combining her work at this commercial gallery with the development of her own glass practice, renting studio space at the nearby Okayama University, and beginning to experiment with new work. This was a very inspiring narrative.