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Cory Lum, a ceramic artist from Hawaii

(I had submitted the following article to the local daily for publication. Unfortunately, it must have got canned because I never heard back from them. Now since the main event has passed I feel free to share it here among my readers. - Niraj Lama)

Pottery is integral to the art and philosophy associated with the Japanese Tea Ceremony. In the Japanese language it is referred to as Chanoyu or Chado “the Way of Tea”. The creation of pottery for the Tea Ceremony can be a rigorous ordeal, and for many, as mysterious as the ceremony itself. For local art lovers and those with a passion for Eastern culture, the visit of Cory Lum, an expert in Tea Ceremony ceramics, from Hawaii next month will provide a unique opportunity. Mr. Lum is teaching a workshop at Genesee Pottery on Monroe Ave. Saturday & Sunday March 2nd-3rd, 10am-3pm. This Workshop will provide an opportunity for the Greater Rochester community to learn more about this style of pottery.

Informed by the “Wabi-Sabi” aesthetic - a Zen Buddhist interpretation of life as imperfect and incomplete yet full of phenomenal of beauty - Japanese tea ceramics is a startling departure from Western aesthetics. Pieces that appear gnarled and roughly hewn, at first glance, not at all “beautiful” are upheld in this tradition as being the most prized the most aesthetically pleasing. The textures can be rough and natural, you’d be hard-pressed to find symmetry. This aesthetic looks more for asymmetry and imperfections as being the ideal for its beauty.

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When you hold one of these works in your hands and look at it closely, you would be shocked by the intimacy and beauty that are invoked by its austere forms. Initially, the mind struggles to find points of reference. The geometry of the western mind fails to accommodate for the lines and textures that wind around and across the surfaces of a tea bowl. There is a point that you suddenly realize what you hold in your hands is your very own life – imperfect, incomplete, yet beautiful and inexplicable.

About the form’s creative process Lum notes, “Ceramic artists making vessels and functional wares all are inspired by Japanese teaware in both Japan, US and the rest of the world. The Japanese sense of 'wabi sabi' and 'shibui' would take several lifetimes to explore.  Rustic is a word that often comes up when viewing Japanese ceramics, like any art form, we as artists keep pushing and moving past what we've created to see what the next steps are. This constant quest to make a great works keeps us moving in a direction.  Serendipity is a huge factor.”

It is no surprise that Rochester, a town with incredible support towards art and culture, isn’t a stranger when it comes to the austere, and somewhat esoteric, world of Japanese ceramics. There are even local artists who specialize in this style, and have fielded their work in national exhibitions. For the local art scene it is a matter of great enthusiasm that Lum who has earned his name in this field is coming to town with a workshop.

Lum will the conduct workshop on March 2nd & 3rd from 10am - 3pm at Genesee Pottery located at 713 Monroe Ave. in the City of Rochester. He will be focusing primarily on Japanese ceramics & Tea Ceremony vessels. The first day will be throwing vessels the second day will be trimming along with tool making & a walk through of the tea ceremony, including vessels associated with the tradition as well as their functions. Cory will be donating all of the work he creates during his visit as a fundraiser for the on going Genesee Pottery Kiln Fund to help in paying for a new gas kiln.

“Honored” to be headed to Rochester, Lum feels, “ceramic artists and artists in general need to travel and learn. I am looking forward to sharing my humble knowledge of ceramics and my views and philosophies of creating clay / ceramic art.”

Cody Kroll, owner/operator of Kumagama - Clay Studio & Gallery at the Hungerford Build. Suite #228, who specializes in Japanese tea ceremony vessels, says Lum is a rising star in Modern Japanese Ceramics. Kroll has corresponded with Lum for several years, and considers him a mentor and close friend although the two have yet to meet in person. “Cory has generously helped me in refining my art by providing critiques of my work, sharing tips and even on occasions sending me tools he made for me,  that is hard to find,” notes Kroll.

Lum was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lum fell in love with the ceramic medium over 10 years ago and has attended ceramic workshops with Takashi Nakazato (karatsu, japan), Ah Leon (Taiwan), Gu Mei Qun (yixing teapot maker), Joel Park, Lee In Chin (South Korea) and is a student of Omote Senke (chado). In the late 1990s, Lum saw a Japanese magazine containing the work of Kato Tohkuro and humbly tried to make a chawan like Kato sensei's free flowing and spontaneous chawan. Finding the process impossible to create a piece similar with the same spontaneous aura, Lum strives with each piece with his own personal creative spirit into each piece.

But Lum is not just a talented potter. He is also a Pulitzer-nominated freelance photographer. He’s worked for White House Press Corps, New York Times and USA Today among others. Although he’s not planned any workshop on photography, he surely will have no trouble finding kindred souls with his camera in this town.

To view more of his ceramics

Lum's photoblog

Lum's online shop on Etsy



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