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Gotanbayashi Kama 「五反林窯」is the name of the kiln and studio of Michael Martino in the district of Taku, Saga Prefecture, Japan. Originally from New Mexico, USA, Mike has been training with veteran potters in the Karatsu tradition of this region since 2002.
I am a native of New Mexico, but have lived in Japan since 1990. Although I developed an interest in pottery as a child from visiting ancient ruins and surrounding pueblos, I didn't start making pots until 2002 when I met veteran Karatsu potter Tsuruta Yoshihisa who mentored me in the Karatsu tradition.
After an initial period of renting and borrowing kilns, I built Gotanbayashi studio in 2005 and installed a gas kiln. In 2008, I began showing work to the public, participating in shows, and conducting workshops. 2010 saw the construction of the Gotanbayashi anagama/noborigama hybrid wood kiln next to the existing studio, and this is the kiln in which most of the work is fired today.
Much of the work is teaware for the Japanese tea ceremony, but I also make Japanese and western style tableware, ware for drinking sake, sculptural work, and collaborative pieces with artists from other mediums.
It is an interesting thing to be a foreign potter in Japan. I've met customers that were surprised and pleased that my pots looked Japanese. I've also met customers who were disappointed that my pots looked Japanese. I've even met customers who were surprised I could make pots at all. To all of my customers who inquire about my creative intentions I say this: I am not trying to make Japanese or American pots, just pots that I think are beautiful and functional. I want to make MY pots.
Because much of my work is in the style of Karatsu, there is naturally a Japanese flavor to my work. One of my major goals is to successfully incorporate both ancient and modern American influences into the Karatsu tradition. One main reason Karatsu ware is attractive to me as a potter is that its simplicity and refinement reaches beyond trend and fashion. A good piece of Karatsu ware will be functional and aesthetically relevant, not just for months or years, but for generations of use. My goal as a potter is to produce work with a Karatsu flavor, but at the same time crosses national and cultural borders. Karatsu as a living tradition encompasses an enormous range of work, representative of both Japanese and Korean culture. It seems entirely natural to me that the future of the Karatsu tradition come to include other cultural influences as well.
I want to make pots which will enhance your life functionally and aesthetically. Pots which will slowly change over time and years of use, becoming more beautiful to you as they come to reflect your unique lifestlye. Pots that are not only beautiful to the eyes, but which are also pleasing to the fingers, lips, tongue, nose, and ears. When you use my work, I want you to feel the 500 years of Japanese and Korean tradition and technology, the local flavor of Saga in my pottery materials, the spirited interaction of foreign and Japanese culture, and my devotion to studying and making simple, beautiful ceramics.