Issue 8 - 3 September 2012 enews home

Artist-in-residence brings Japanese touch to ceramics classes

By Patrick Nelson

Artist-in-residence Miki Oka turns a vase on the electric wheel at Alice Springs campus

Visiting ceramics artist Miki Oka has turned her hand to most things Australian while in Alice Springs – even trying a good cup of billy tea.

Miki, who spends most of her creative time in a studio near Hiroshima in Japan, was the artist-in-residence at CDU's Alice Springs campus for the past two months.

She worked alongside several ceramics students, turning sake cups, rice bowls and vases on the electric wheel, as well as building a variety of non-utilitarian objects, such as a dog and a chicken, by hand.

"First I found it hard to use the wheel because it turns anti-clockwise [in Australia], opposite [to that] in Japan," she said.

"And the clay is different. We have terra cotta clay too, but I am used to red clay which is stronger and sets in a hotter kiln."

Miki described her body of work as a representation of the friendships and associations she makes in life, with people, places and things.

"Dogs are an important part of life in Alice Springs and I have befriended the dog 'Gus' where I am living. I have made a large sculpture inspired by Gus, that is part Gus and part me. Perhaps it is really a self-portrait."

This is the fourth trip to Australia for Miki, who undertook English language studies in Canberra in 2005 after having graduated from the Kyoto Saga Art University of Fine Art with a ceramics major.

"I came to Alice Springs to investigate Indigenous art. I like their dot paintings and their use of colour … and their style inspires me.

"The environment is extraordinary too. I went camping under the Milky Way and saw shooting stars. We cooked on an open fire and I had some billy tea" – a far cry from the tea-drinking drinking experience in Japan.

Miki said high tea ceremonies in Japan involved a special preparation and presentation of powdered green tea.

"We use special ceramic cups and high quality tea," she said.