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Episode Four | Meghen Jones

July 17, 2020

[guitar music]

Allison Alexy: Hello and welcome to Michigan Talks Japan, a new podcast from the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. I'm Allison Alexy. In each episode I’ll talk with a scholar working in Japanese Studies – across academic disciplines, across time periods.

Today it is my pleasure to talk with Dr. Meghen Jones, an associate professor and Division Chair of Art History within the School of Art and Design at Alfred University. She is also Director of Global Studies. Her research focuses on the history of ceramics, modern art, and craft theory in Japan and in international perspective. Her publications include Ceramics and Modernity in Japan co-edited with Louise Allison Cort, and published by Routledge in 2019.

Our conversation today focuses on her research examining tea bowls in Japan and globally. Dr. Jones has very generously shared images of specific pieces and examples of styles or genres that we discuss. Please explore the image gallery linked to this episode on the Michigan Talks Japan homepage. The images are organized in the order that we discuss them so you can follow along as we talk. The gallery also includes alt-text for any listeners who use screen readers.

Dr. Jones, thank you so much for sharing those images and talking with me today.

Meghen Jones: Great. It's fantastic to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

Allison: Could you tell us just a little bit about your research and the projects that you've completed over the years and the research interests that you have?

Meghen: Sure. Yeah. So my research has really grown out of training as a ceramist. So after my undergraduate studies, I went to Musashino Art University in Tokyo and I studied the processes of ceramics. What is clay all about? What are kiln firing and various technical aspects of ceramics all about? It's that grounding in materials and techniques that got me thinking about entering more of the historical and theoretical aspects of ceramics writ large. Did a master's in Art History at Boston University and that led to a PhD. So my research centers on the study of ceramics globally and the study of ceramics and craft theory in Japan. I start with the study of ceramics globally because my teaching at Alfred University over the last six years has led me into new directions in terms of thinking about transnational issues, globalization issues, and really thinking about ceramics in Japan and beyond. At Alfred, I teach a course called “Ceramics in Japan and Beyond.” We cannot understand the history of ceramics in Japan without knowing its global iterations.

Allison: Japanese ceramics has been global for centuries, right? So it's not just that it's recently globalized with say the internet or something like that.

Meghen: Right. And we might even go further back and say, you know, if we're thinking about the first human beings living on the Japanese archipelago as coming from the continent. Know-how to work with clay, came from the continent, perhaps, that's a subject of some debate. Then we can speed up to the 16th century and consider all the Korean potters who were kidnapped and forcibly brought to Japan, sparking this creative moment that we know as the Momoyama dynasty in the history of art. It's an incredibly dynamic period for Japanese art making generally. And within ceramics, we get these genres such as oribe and shino and so forth. So certainly yes, to understand the history of Japanese ceramics in the modern period, which is the focus of most of my research, and to understand this history more broadly, we have to account, as we do in so many fields of Japanese studies, for Japan's relationship to the continent and beyond.

Allison: Would you mind describing a little bit of either the shino style or wabi sabi styles or trends in different ceramic styles in Japan?

Meghen: Sure. So when people talk about what is an indigenous style of Japanese ceramics, they tend to look to, again, this Momoyama period of intense creativity and ceramics making. And they tend to look at raku, which is considered the foremost genre of tea bowls in Japan today. And they tend to look at shino and oribe. So raku, shino, and oribe are good genres of ceramics to focus on in trying to discern what is Japanese ceramics. But the question is not as simple to answer as that, because who is considered the first maker in the raku lineage? A man called Chōjirō, we think, who came from Korea.

Often when people are trying to identify what is Japanese about Japanese ceramics or within the history of tea bowls, what are some of the most valued styles of tea bowls in Japan? People look to raku, shino, oribe, these genres that developed in the late 16th century. And so when we're trying to think about how do we talk about their aesthetics? The word earthy comes to mind, muted, natural colors that resemble minerals of the earth. Wabi is a really important term to understand and use in discerning various aspects of Japanese art history. But particular to tea bowls and ceramics, wabi is incredibly important, particularly in the context of the tea ceremony. Sadako Ohki, who is a curator at Yale and put together an incredible exhibition some years ago of tea related arts, defines wabi in really great terms. I recommend her introductory essay to that catalog as a reading to introduce students to wabi and tea. She says “wabi rouses our positive empathy toward the imperfect and irregular.”

Allison: It’s a wonderful definition.

Meghen: Wabi is impossible to translate in one word. Simplicity is sometimes used. Irregularity, austerity. But there is a Zen influence that has informed why wabi has really risen to the surface of such prominence within Japanese aesthetic discourse. For example, in that shino national treasure tea bowl, Unohanagaki, which has a very muted image of a fence with deutiza flowers below. And you're looking at the fence as if it's shrouded under clouds. It's a murky image. It's difficult to discern at a glance and it's painted atop a bowl that has an irregularly shaped rim, an undulating surface overall. It's the type of object that just invites touch. It exudes a sense of warmth. So that's, as you say, one of the 14 ceramics that are national treasures, that have been designated in the postwar period of Japan. The only other Japanese national treasure tea bowl is a famous bowl called Fuji-san by the artist Honami Koetsu. So the warmth and irregularity and all these wabi aesthetic qualities that these two bowls exude really stand in stark contrast to the symmetry and smooth surfaces of the five Chinese tea bowls that have been designated by Japanese government authorities as National Treasures, also in the postwar period.

Allison: That’s incredible. I really love the definition you shared because she's absolutely right. Rather than pitying or being dismissive of something that's imperfect, that it's really a positive reaction to it. The joy that imperfections can bring or can induce in the viewer.

Meghen: Yeah. I think it's a really great quote because wabi is so difficult to define. The effect that wabi has I think that's really important to convey, especially to students. On a related note, the term kintsugi has gained a lot of currency in the last few years. A lot of my students are asking, what's kintsugi? This tendency for a cracked and repaired and painted over with gold [both laugh] pot to exude a sense of beauty is very much in this same discourse. So I don't want to suggest that there is a sort of monolithic definition of what Japanese ceramic aesthetics are. It is this plurality, this multivalence that's at the heart, I think, of defining the history of ceramics in modern Japan and before.

Allison: That's really helpful. You were talking mostly about tea bowls. I keep stopping because I almost want to say teacup, which betrays all my cultural baggage, right? But tea bowls, as a key element in tea ceremony, but also, as you mentioned, touch. So that the tea bowl is the thing that would be passed from the host to the guest. The tea bowl becomes this connection between people, right?

Meghen: Some observers have described it as a point of heart contact between host and guest. I mentioned a little bit about the ways in which the tea bowl could be considered an icon. I think it is best conceived of as a cultural icon, not obviously a religious icon. But it invites these questions about its iconic attributes. It's something like the chalice in a Christian communion ceremony is at the center of one's attention. The holder of the tea bowl moves it in a prescribed way. There is no improvisation within chanoyu, doing things in an individualistic kind of way. It's entirely prescribed according to the major schools of tea. And you raise the tea bowl to your lips. You literally kiss the tea bowl. So it is an iconic experience in a sense. I don't want to make the suggestion that the tea bowl is a religious object. This history of chanoyu for hundreds of years really is what's at the foundation of Japanese ceramics being understood as different than ceramics from other parts of the world. So chanoyu, ikebana the history of the use of ceramics in Japan is distinct from other parts of the world.

Allison: And it seems like part of what you were saying too is that the tea bowl in particular is the object that, ceramicist – am I saying that correctly?

Meghen: Sure.

Allison: No, you can please correct me.

Meghen: Either is fine. Cera-mist or cer-ram-ist.

Allison: Okay. Ceramists are always trying to make, it's sort of the iconic piece. And therefore, presumably one of the hardest precisely, because it's one of the simplest or something like that.

Meghen: Right, right. So yesterday I had conversation with Dr. Kevin Carr.

Allison: Oh, wonderful.

Meghen: He teaches Japanese art history here at the U of M and he was comparing the tea bowl to writing ichi calligraphy, the character for one, which is a horizontal line, [laughs]

Allison: And presumably quite simple!

Meghen: So the simplest things are the most difficult to achieve. You ask a chef what's one of the most difficult things to correctly make? An omelet. So simple, but yet so hard. Essentially a tea bowl is the most kind of universal form. It is a bowl. It is the size of your two hands cupped together. That is a tea bowl. The most difficult thing to execute well, right? And there's an incredibly interesting discourse of the tea bowl outside of Japan, particularly in Europe and North America, that is at the heart my investigation and preparation for this exhibition I'm curating for the Alford Ceramic Art museum to open in 2021.

Allison: Oh, wonderful.

Meghen: Curators of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum and I are looking at how the tea bowl rose in prominence to become a kind of global icon. And when we look at the history of ceramics making in North America, we find the influence of the potter Bernard Leach, the British potter, quite prominent in influencing how people approached the study and making of pottery, really from the publication of his Potter's Book in the 1940s and since. In essence, I think it boils down to the tea bowl being an inspiration for others. In the United States, we have this history of art pottery. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we have a number of people turning to the medium of ceramics as a means of artistic expression. We have the rise of a lot of small scale workshops throughout the US. Rookwood, for example, in Cincinnati, is a great example of that. And I'm getting on a sidetrack maybe a little bit.

Allison: No, it’s wonderful, please.

Meghen: Maria Longworth Nichols Storer traveled to the Philadelphia Centennial exposition in 1876, was so inspired by the Japanese art, including ceramics she saw that she eventually founded her own pottery. When we're considering the 20th century history of the tea bowl in the North American context, there is a Japonisme at play in those motivations for turning to Japan. And there's a history of art potters being entranced by Japanese arts, including ceramics. But I think more fundamentally there is a motivation that we find amongst American potters involving seeing the tea bowl as a kind of aspirational object. Knowing that the tea bowl as an idiom has been revered for so long in Japan has prompted a set of interests that sort of goes beyond the objects. It's complex though, because there's also the influence of actual objects on postwar American ceramics. For example, Ken Price has spoken and written about a Japanese black raku tea bowl that he had in his collection. He said, “look at that drip, that drip is great.” I'm not quoting him directly, but he says something to the effect that, “that object had presence.” So Ken Price went on to become one of the foremost ceramic artists in postwar American ceramics. You don't see the direct stylistic influence of Japanese tea bowls on his work. But I would say that the influence of Japanese ceramics on American modern and contemporary studio pottery, particularly, is so strong that it's almost like it's so present we're blind to it. So part of the motivation for taking on this complex set of global questions surrounding the tea bowl has been to try to account for the influence of Japan on American ceramics history as well.

Allison: I wonder when you have students come to work with you and to learn from you, do they already have strong backgrounds? Are they interested in Japanese ceramics or art in particular? I'm thinking about the influence that they might have encountered, in the US, not quite realizing that it came from Japan. Do people know that there's Japanese influence there?

Meghen: Yes, I should say that at Alfred University I'm in a unique environment. Our program has been prominent in the education of Americans ceramics since its founding in 1900 by Charles Fergus Binns. So the students who come to my ceramics history classes are very savvy. They tend to be very savvy in terms of knowledge of ceramics broadly. There are some English words that are used in the world of ceramics in North America that derive from Japanese ceramics terms. So shino glaze. If you go to most college studios of ceramics, if you go to your average adult education center, chances are you will find a shino glaze and oribe glaze. You will find people making yunomi and you'll find people making chawan, maybe even guinomi. There are competitions and exhibitions involving chawan and yunomi in North America. So it's quite interesting to engage with students about the processes through which, these elements of Japanese ceramics discourse have entered the American discourse. I teach a ceramics history seminar to the incoming MFA students at Alfred every fall. I call it “Global Flows: Ceramic Art, Craft, and Design.” I think it's one way to really tackle understanding the history of world ceramics. So understanding it according to its global flows. So we look at the Song dynasty and it's influence to today amongst studio potters who were steeped in the histories and theories of Bernard Leach. We look at the what's arguably the world's biggest early global commodity: porcelain. My current research on tea bowls, which is still ongoing, in preparation for the exhibition next year is very much informed by thinking about ceramics as important forms of global flows.

Allison: Can you tell us more about the exhibition?

Meghen: Sure. I'm working with Wayne Higby, the director and chief curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, and Susan Kowalczyk, the curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, to bring together objects from Alfred's own collection. The museum has around 8,000 pieces in the collection. To my knowledge that constitutes the largest collection of any ceramics museum, probably in the Americas. There's only a few ceramics museums, you see. We’re going to showcase some of the North American and Japanese objects from Alfred's collection and then also hopefully borrow from some regional collections. And show Japanese objects, Chinese objects, Korean objects, and North American objects, and, you know, encourage viewers to leave with an understanding of what a tea bowl is. The simple question, what is a tea bowl? What is a chawan versus a meshi-chawan? Does a tea bowl have to be used within a tea ceremony? Who defines what a tea bowl is? And so on and so forth. So hopefully our students who are going to be the prime audience for this exhibition will leave with a more nuanced understanding of the multi-valence of this key idiom in world ceramics history.

Allison: You were saying that tea bowls, one of the potential markers was that it was something that was only for tea as opposed to a kind of universal or flexible eating, kitchen product. Could you talk more about that?

Meghen: Yeah, sure. Because a bowl is a bowl.

Allison: A bowl is a bowl.

Meghen: And if you went to a Japanese department store in any city, you would find a rack of bowls on a shelf for rice. Because essentially a tea bowl that's used in the ritualistic drinking of tea, or chanoyu, is the same shape and form as a bowl for steamed rice. Before the early modern period chawan was a generic term referring to any vessel of porcelain. That's one of the reasons we refer to rice bowls as meshi-chawan. But of course the form is essentially the same. It's important to note too, that it's only in the late Edo period that ceramic bowls began to be used widely for rice. Before that it was wooden bowls. So that's another reason we find the use of the term meshi-chawan.

Allison: So before that moment, if you had a ceramic bowl it was necessarily a tea bowl. And then it shifted that ceramic bowls could also be used for rice. Am I understanding that correctly? 

Meghen: Yes.

Allison: Okay. Interesting.

Meghen: There's wider cultural associations that people have with meshi-chawan and the links between chawan and rice bowls. The ceramics historian Kita Fumio, for example, has recounted how a typical eating style in the 20th century has been after the rice is eaten to place whatever beverage was used for the meal – water, hot water, ocha – inside the bowl, thus rendering it a chawan for the moment. And then you drink any last remnants of rice from the bowl. Kita Fumio writes about this as an act of mottainai seishin or the spirit of preventing the wasting of things. So there's an incredibly rich reservoir of cultural contexts surrounding the tea bowl and ceramics utensils generally in Japanese culture.

Allison: Can we talk a little bit about your research methodologies? How do you do this research as an art historian and as an art studies scholar? And I think you've also done some research here in University of Michigan museum, right?

Meghen: Sure. So I think like so many ceramics historians, first and foremost, it’s about the objects themselves. So getting into proximity to see and handle objects is foremost. And I've been able to handle some amazing tea bowls in the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s collection, thanks to Dr. Natsu Oyobe.  For contemporary ceramics, interviews are essential, visits to studios are essential. So when I was based at, Nichibunken in 2017 for seven months, on a Japan Foundation grant that was the start of this project. And that was the beginning phase of this current curatorial project on the history of the tea bowl. During that time, I was able to visit several artists in their studios. And one highlight was traveling to the studio in the mountains of Nara prefecture. The studio of Tsujimura Shirō who is one of the most prominent tea bowl makers in Japan today and whose works are in collections worldwide. A tremendously satisfying element of being a researcher of modern and contemporary art is being able to talk with practitioners. It's really essential and to see them in situ. So for example, visiting Tsujimura’s house and workshop was just like entering a magical realm. He has several buildings in his compound, in which he's making pots, storing pots, making calligraphy, and then living with his art. So he prepared a feast using his own pots. His wife, I should say, prepared the feast. Two of them, were incredibly warm and generous in kind of sharing how the pots are supposed to be used. Pots hold food. This is part of the experience. I should add as an important element of this, getting to Japan is important and hopefully more and more as years progress, the amount of digital resources will make it such that frequent trips to Japan are not such an element of being a Japanologist. But at the moment, getting to Japan is essential. I actually came to Ann Arbor to use your libraries a couple of years ago, also on a U of M library research grant, which I'm really grateful for. So you have incredible resources here.

Allison: Can you, or can an art historian, do work from a digital image? If there is, say, a tea bowl in the world, how much does it help to physically see it or to be able to touch it or to be able to walk around it? Or is seeing a picture maybe not sufficient, but okay?

Meghen: It depends. I would never want to devote, for example, an entire academic article revolving around the interpretation of one object without having at least attempted to see it, if that was in the realm of possibility. For tea bowls, the kōdai, the foot is so important in understanding it. Looking at the base of ceramics can reveal so much in terms of the artist's motivation. Just a couple of days ago, students in my modern and contemporary ceramics history class did a study session at our museum. And we looked at number of works by Charles Fergus Binns, the founder of our school in 1900. And who is regarded as, in some respects, the father of American studio pottery. His influence was so vast. There's a green vase. From a distance, it looks like it could even be made of bronze. But you get close and say, “Oh, okay. I realize it's ceramics.” But you turn it over and then you see, Oh yes. He was really interested in making that look like a Chinese bronze. You see his signature C.F.B. He combines it to look like archaic Chinese. So looking at the object from all angles is really essential. But more and more, there are museums that are posting really high resolution images of objects from all angles. And I think that's something that we'll see increasingly as years progress. 

Allison: Maybe I was misinterpreting what you were saying, but I was wondering if you were talking about sort of the environmental impact of going back and forth to Japan, is that what you were referring to? It'll be interesting to see how cross-cultural research is shaped by environmental discourse.

Meghen: I was thinking about one of the things you mentioned in your email before we met here in Ann Arbor about the future of Japanese study.

Allison: Oh I see.

Meghen: It's really exciting to think down the road what's around the corner. I think one of the things that we'll see the increase of digitization of resources. 

Allison:  You had mentioned that you found a really interesting Japanese documentary film about ceramics and tea on YouTube of all places.

Meghen: It's really fun to just do searches once in a while to see what's cropped up on YouTube. So just last week I discovered this film Shino and the Old Man. That's the English translation. Ima ha mukashi shino to okina. A film by the director Matsukawa Yasuo of 1968. It documents Arakawa Toyozō, the man who received the designation of Jūyō Mukei Bunkazai Hojisha or living national treasure, for his work in shino and setoguro in 1955. These films that we can find in unexpected places are gems because in this film we see him in his habitat talking about the things that mattered the most to him. There's a series of films that the producer based in Toronto, Marty Gross, has also been digitizing and working to present to wider audiences. For some time. He has the original films that Bernard Leach, the father of the Euro-American studio pottery movement, shot in Japan and in Korea and elsewhere. And those equally are just fascinating windows into the past. For ceramics it's essential. Praxis is key to understanding what it's all about, you know, what are the theories of practice that are at play. And so observing potters at work can be incredibly important in assessing why the things look the way they do. And photographs just don't show enough. On YouTube, you can also find some examples of Hamada Shoji at work. Those are easily accessible and others.

Allison: I really didn't expect that YouTube would have – I guess it's full of all sorts of stuff. And yet it's wonderful to be able to find things like that, just googling around.

Meghen: I think we need to be documenting crafts makers at work as much as possible now. So to that end, there's a number of videos that have been shot through the Google Cultural Institute. Maezaki Shinya who's based in Kyoto has spearheaded this project. I did a couple of brief translations for it, but some of these entries in the Google cultural Institute project that's called “Made in Japan” really provide an incredibly, dynamic, visually stimulating window into craft making processes. This has been an ongoing interest of documentary filmmakers for some time. But there's still a need. It's great to know that that's going on. 

Allison: Is there some gatekeeping going on? In Japan, if you want to contact somebody who, say a professor at a university, because you read something they have written and you want to talk to them as a colleague, it's actually really hard to get their email addresses, right? You have to know somebody who knows them, basically, like you have to do kind of social networking to get to some of the – emails aren't public in Japan, university emails, aren't public in Japan. I was thinking about structural gatekeeping or protection, it could be a positive thing. And I was wondering if that is something that you encounter, or if artists are really open and excited to get attention from anyone who is interested.

Meghen: Oh, that's an interesting question. I've never experienced anything of that. Of that nature, generally speaking, I think contemporary artists are eager to share information about their work. And in the field of ceramics, I think there is this tradition of potters opening up their studios to people who are interested, particularly perhaps foreigners who are interested. So the mingei potter Hamada Shōji, for example, was famous for spending hours with visitors from overseas. It's not something I've encountered, but it's interesting you mentioned that. Yeah, indeed, it requires some asking around sometimes to figure out someone's email address.

In meeting to Tsujimura Shirō I was lucky to get his contact details, his phone number and the fax number. I don't know if he uses email. But the world of art and the world of craft and the world of ceramics is fairly small. So once you enter that realm, it generally means that it's possible to get someone's contact when you need them. What is a challenge is still for young people, for undergraduates, for example, who are really curious about Japanese craft, Japanese arts, to just land in Japan and figure things out. I've had several students who've been really interested in Japanese art and Japanese ceramics history, who've made their way on their own to Japan. I think it'd be great if we had more programs for foreign students in Japan who wants to study art. There's a barrier in language. To my knowledge, there's not an art university in Japan that offers instruction for foreign students in English. Maybe that will change. That's one of the things I would love to work on in the future, establishing some sort of relationship with a Japanese university, such that students from universities like Alfred can go overseas in Japan and learn. And that it's not necessarily an apprenticeship-based private style of instruction but within an art university. I'm director of Global Studies at Alfred. I think about what are the best pathways for our students to get to Japan? Well, for students in our school of art and design, they need a certain number of studio credits to receive their BFA degrees. If they can't take studio classes during study abroad, that could delay their graduation.

Allison: So if there could be more classes in Japan, possibly also in English, that would be the perfect combination, at least for Alfred students.

Meghen: Yeah. I think this could be a really exciting next phase of the study abroad programs in Japan and perhaps there's something out there that I'm just not aware of.

Allison: You've talked a lot about challenges as you encountered them and students encounter them. Was anything particularly challenging for you in the course of the research you're doing now, or research that you've done previously?

Meghen: Uh, time.

Allison: Hey, yeah.

Meghen: Finding time.

Allison: Yeah.

Meghen: Finding time within the complexity that is academia.

Allison: I hear that. [both laugh]

Meghen: So compressing work into summers and winter breaks is something that I've tried my best to do.

Allison: Is there any kind of annual cycle for ceramic production where, say, more production happens in cooler months or warmer months?

Meghen: [laughs] That's an interesting question. My mind went to tea like, oh, there’s certain times of the year where the best tea.

Allison: The tea’s better.

Meghen: Can be plucked from the plants. Uh, not really, no. But as everyone who's ever been to Kyoto in August knows it's just incredibly, so terribly hot, certain times of the year. When I was a teaching fellow at Earlham College some years ago, I was encouraged to think about a Japanese style garden space on campus and to develop an experiential education project with students involving that. So I went to Kyoto in August to research gardens.

Allison: Oh, no.

Meghen: Never again.

Allison: I feel like this is a horror movie and I'm like, “Get out! Get out!”

Meghen: Ah, I didn't know. It's too gross to comment on [laughs] in polite company, but the sweat that can pour from the body during Kyoto in August, this something that one remembers. In terms of cycles of doing research in Japan involving ceramics now, I mean, we’re in the 21st century. So there are potters who are really inspired by these stories of farmer potters. Louise Cort writes about this in her book on shigaraki ceramics. But no, one of the marks of a modern or contemporary potter in Japan is access to virtually any material one would want using any techniques that one would want and doing that at any time.

Allison: So do you have any particular favorite books or articles or films or pieces that you could, you would like to recommend to people listening to this of things about Japanese art or Japanese ceramics that, that you would recommend? So I'm wondering if you have a favorite book or article or film or piece that you would recommend to our listeners?

Meghen: Sure. There's a lot out there. In preparation for this tea bowl exhibition project, and in the lead up to, completing the book that I recently co-edited with Louise Cort, Ceramics and Modernity in Japan, I've become increasingly more interested in the craft debate that's happening in Japan right now. So I would recommend there's an article that Yuko Kikuchi wrote for the journal World Art in 2015 that, examines in part the current craft debate within Japan. She looks at this notion that, some recent scholars of craft or kōgei are positioning kōgei as the foundation for all Japanese arts. In terms of introductions to Japanese ceramics histories, in English, everything by Louise Cort, and Andrew Maske, and Richard Wilson, Bert Winther-Tamaki, Nicole Rousmaniere and probably some others whose names I'm forgetting. But those are authors who are putting forth some of the most insightful, comprehensive interpretations of Japanese ceramics. Work by Brian Moeran on Japanese ceramics and tradition. I think his writings on Onta are essential reading in Japanese ceramics history. Amongst Japanese scholars, the work of Kida Takuya, is really important at a number of levels. He wrote a recent book on kōgei and nationalism. And might I recommend Ceramics and Modernity in Japan?

Allison: I was actually just about to recommend that, to be honest, I really was.

Meghen: Because our authors put forth a set of interpretive approaches towards this fascinating history within Japanese, ceramics. So it's a set of analyses covering ceramics made from the Meiji era to the 1960s.

Allison: And this was published last year by Routledge, right?

Meghen: Yes.

Allison: Okay. So it's available, you have it, your library has it. You can get it and read it and see lots of beautiful pictures too.

Meghen: Yes. Multiple images in color. It is the outgrowth of a workshop at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. From the time I was a Lisa and Robert Sainsbury fellow there in 2013 and 2014.

Allison: What an accomplishment. Congratulations.

Meghen: Thank you. The book took several years to come together but we're glad it did.

Allison: Single author book is hard. A team project book is hard. All books are hard. 

Meghen: I was lucky to be working with Louise Cort, who is curator emerita of the Freer Sackler of the Smithsonian and has published extensively on Japanese ceramics. It was a wonderful experience to work with her.

Allison: Oh, good. It's a great book and we can highly recommend it.

Meghen: Thank you. And there will be some form of publication in conjunction with the exhibition. We look forward to welcoming you and everyone interested to Alfred and this has been my pleasure to talk with you, Allison. Thank you.

Allison: Thank you so much.

[guitar music]

Allison: Thanks for listening to this episode of Michigan Talks Japan. If you're interested, please check out other episodes, which are available where you found this one and through all podcasting platforms. We're always interested in your reactions or comments, so please reach out on facebook or twitter @umcjs. I want to thank the Center for Japanese Studies and Kiyo Tsutsui for green-lighting the project, the Shapiro Design Lab staff, and our listeners. Thanks also to Reggie Jackson for our theme song and David Merchant for IT support. This podcast was recorded with assistance from Jordan Cleland, co-produced by Robin Griffin, Justin Schell, and myself, and edited by Robin Griffin and Justin Schell. It was recorded in the Shapiro Library’s Design Lab in Ann Arbor before the Covid-19 restrictions. I’m Allison Alexy and I hope you’ll join us for the next episode, a conversation with Dr. Morgan Pitelka.