My Japan

Sue Maufe, Potter

Sue Maufe’s fascination with figures and multiplicity stems from her involvement  with the Institute’s 2010 exhibition, unearthed, held at SCVA

Sue Maufe’s fascination with figures and multiplicity stems from her involvement
with the Institute’s 2010 exhibition, unearthed, held at SCVA

Sue Maufe has been a generous friend of the Institute since collaborating for the unearthedexhibition held at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA) in 2010. The exhibition which was a joint project between the Sainsbury Centre and the Sainsbury Institute brought prehistoric figurines from Japan and the Balkans together for the first time in the UK. Figurines are often excavated as fragments with marks that suggest deliberate breakage before being discarded. For the exhibition, the organizers wanted to recreate the sensation, both haptic and emotional-of deliberately damaging objects in the shape of a human. Sue, through her expert skill and craftsmanship, was called on to create thousands of figurines, all unique and handmade which were given to the visitors who were supposed to break them and leave them behind after their visit. We know that many visitors did not dare to break them and just took them home! Sue is now set to travel to Japan for two months to further her knowledge in pottery. In this issue, we asked Sue on her involvement with the Japanese pottery circle and what she hopes to achieve over the coming autumn in Japan.

Notes on my reasons for travelling to Japan:

In September 2009 I was asked if I could help Dr Andrew Cochrane with a workshop for families looking at ancient figurines from the Balkans and Japan at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA). Andrew was curating theunearthed exhibition opening in June 2010. He asked if I was up for making a few figurines inspired from the Japanese original ones called dogu which are from 10,000 years ago. These figurines were to be given out as entrance tickets for the exhibition. I accepted the challenge and made over 5000 dogu. All were different and I fell in love with the way they seemed to take on a life of their own.

She continues to experiment with the idea of fragments and deliberate breakages

She continues to experiment with the idea of fragments and deliberate breakages

The exhibition opened my eyes to a new world of archeology and human communication through ancient artefacts. After the exhibition I carried on developing the ideas from working with figurines and began to work with flint as well. This year I have been working on a new project for Cley14, a group exhibition held in the village of Cley Next-the-Sea in North Norfolk. For this show, I have been developing the idea of figures in multiples. This resulted in making over 400 small ceramic heads which have been placed on the shingle beach for the month of July for people to find and keep. A concept much like the one in thedogu project for the unearthed exhibition.

After the unearthed exhibition and getting involved with the Sainsbury Institute I began to nurture the idea of going to Japan. In 2013 I visited Iceland and met a ceramicist working in her studio. During our conversation she suggested that I apply for an artists residency in Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Shiga Prefecture where she had stayed and worked in 1997. It sounded like a new venture and I was delighted when my application was accepted for a residency to start in October 2014 for two months.

Her most recent body of work was exhibited in the group exhibition Cley14 in  Cley Next-the-Sea

Her most recent body of work was exhibited in the group exhibition Cley14 in
Cley Next-the-Sea

I am now planning for my stay in Japan. I am preparing to create a new body of work at the centre and look forward to allowing myself time to experiment with new techniques and ideas that are influenced by my discoveries of being in Japan for two months. For instance, I have recently seen the Boro exhibition at Somerset House, London of the indigo dyed patchworked fabrics from Japan and want to find out how I can add streaks of blue to my otherwise natural coloured works. I will also be spending some time exploring the Japanese countryside, culture, archeology and making contacts with people I have meet during my time at SCVA and the Sainsbury Institute. And of course, I look forward to making new contacts during my residency.