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Interview with Hiroshi Sueyoshi, January 21, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Hiroshi Sueyoshi, January 21, 2008
January 21, 2008
Interview with Hiroshi Sueyoshi, recipient of the 2006 North Carolina Living Treasure Award. Sueyoshi works and teaches at the Cameron Art Museum's Pancoe Education Center as master artist in residence. The pottery and sculpture forms of Hiroshi Sueyoshi have been exhibited nationally in private, corporate and institutional collections, including the Renwick Gallery in the National Museum of American Art.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Sueyoshi, Hiroshi Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview:  1/23/2008 Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


Hayes: This is Sherman Hayes, university librarian, and today's date is Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008. I'm interviewing Hiroshi Sueyoshi. Did I say that right, Hiroshi?

Sueyoshi: Well, that's pretty close.

Hayes: Pretty close. How would you say it?

Sueyoshi: Sueyoshi Hiroshi.

Hayes: Su-- what? That's good. And we're at the Pancoe Center?

Sueyoshi: We call it Pancoe Clay Studio.

Hayes: Play Studio, which is an extension of Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington. Hiroshi is a master potter and ceramist and well known. We're interviewing him as part of our artist series. Before we get going with your various accomplishments and so forth, why don't you take us back to the start and tell us a little bit about where you grew up and where you came from?

Sueyoshi: I came from? I hope I can remember. It's been many, many years. I was born in Tokyo and grew up in Tokyo. I was about 22 years old, and I interested more in art. Well, to go back, I was more interested in art, but previously, I went to aeronautical engineering school.

Hayes: Airplanes?

Sueyoshi: Yes, engineer. If I go back to childhood age, I used to love to make airplane models with my big brother. My brother was better, but I was interested in helping and also I think it really led to more art and craft type of things. My father was a civil engineer, so it never occurred to me to make a living as an artist. I went to high school, and college, to be an engineer. I think when I was 20 years old, I was kind of a-- I don't know exactly what triggers anything of that nature, but I started doing a little more art, an interest in art and crafts.

(phone rings)

Hayes: Phone, Hiroshi. Go back. You were saying 20 years old.

Sueyoshi: Twenty years old, and some reason, I'm more interested in art, and I have some friends who are artists. So I was looking for something different, but my background being an engineer, I thought I would try to go in industrial design. So I went to some kind of design school. But design school design, it's not exactly going to impress your opinions and your things, which means you have to work for somebody. So that's kind of very rewarding, and meantime, I have some friends, they're going to see a new pottery, Mashiko, which is about 80 miles north of Tokyo.

Hayes: And that's a city?

Sueyoshi: It's just a small town, making pottery for 300, 400 years. I went there, and I just thought it was very interesting working in that area, and that living style.

Hayes: So you just went to work there?

Sueyoshi: I went to see it first. I probably went to design school or something like that. In the meantime, in Japan, it's so much the pottery country, which means people use it for flower arrangement, ikebana, tea ceremony, and also even cooking. Every time you see Japanese food, about ten different small round and square dishes comes with it. I think that's kind of a background. Also, the department store always has show of pottery, and also the railroad station, you always have some corner with a nice display of flowers and probably some--

Hayes: Even individually made pottery?

Sueyoshi: Yes, yes. Anyway, that kind of stuff I think it eventually grew on me. Then I decided one day I would try pottery. That's the beginning, which is back in 1968 or so. Then I spent a couple of years and met some friends there from Memphis, Tennessee. They were apprenticing there. So we became friends, and we did a lot of things together. They had come back, because it's very different. This in Japan, is already crowded, the country. In the meantime, they asked me to come over to the United States and work together. So I said, "Why not?"

Hayes: Did you have any English at all?

Sueyoshi: We studied in the junior high school, some English. It's just strictly grammar, reading and stuff. It's very, very hard, the speaking part. But I think it's a little background. It's still hard to communicate. Speaking is entirely different, particularly, I came to the south.

Hayes: So Memphis is where you first started, then?

Sueyoshi: No, no. They came back before I came here. They came to Winston Salem, or Old Salem and got the job as a potter, a production potter. Then they started looking for the studio in Asheboro, Seagrove area. So they [inaudible] Then about a year later, I came, so we started building the studio and stuff like that.

Hayes: What year was it that you came over?

Sueyoshi: Nineteen seventy-one. And I was planning to stay about five years or so, because one, two years, you just don't learn anything.

Hayes: You had already, for over two years, been practicing in Japan. Did you study with a master at that point, or were you in a shop?

Sueyoshi: I was in a shop to begin with, which is mass production pottery, which to some people, they don't call master. But to me, it's very much skill and craftsmanship there.

Hayes: If you were a production potter, you really practiced a lot.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, I practiced.

Hayes: Not so much the art, but the technique.

Sueyoshi: Well, pottery's a very interesting thing. Japan, Japanese pottery, they like to have materials, how they're made, those kinds of things, count as quality, which is a little different than here. I think it's compared to here, very roughly, what does it look like, what does the color look like? The, of course, form is important too. They don't pay too much attention to what the clay looks like. It's materials and how they're made. I think it's how the people are allowed to make who is kick wheels.

Hayes: Oh, kick wheels.

Sueyoshi: Kick wheel, yeah. They have electric wheel. These I think give a little more soft touch to it, and also, it's more like calligraphy.

Hayes: You mean a kick wheel, you actually have to keep your foot going.

Sueyoshi: Always, you have to kick it. And the speed, it changes, different, you know.

Hayes: Based on your kicking.

Sueyoshi: Kicking, and then let it go, so slow down, and then it goes back. It's more like doing calligraphy, so you can see them in the day. They love those kinds of techniques.

Hayes: What would you call the wheel you use now, electric? What's the one that goes with the motor?

Sueyoshi: Yeah, it's electric wheel.

Hayes: And that's probably more common now.

Sueyoshi: Common, yeah. Common in Japan too, and more likely, I think.

Hayes: But then you get the constant speed.

Sueyoshi: Mm-hmm.

Hayes: Right? Is that the difference?

Sueyoshi: Constant speed, and you can concentrate. I think physically, probably easier.

Hayes: Do many people here still use a kick wheel at all?

Sueyoshi: You know, I'm not sure. I think that Mark Hewitt from North Carolina does make pieces right next to-- as far as I understand, he still uses a kick wheel, prefers making it, almost four, five feet tall, big pieces. I think it's getting fewer and fewer. I don't know exactly why, but I think we probably, physically, we like faster kind of things.

Hayes: So when you were in Winston Salem, was that more decorative pottery that was being made, or practical? What was that?

Sueyoshi: Well, I wasn't there in Winston Salem. My friend was. He was doing wholesale, working for wholesale mass production.

Hayes: You didn't go to Winston Salem?

Sueyoshi: No, I didn't, no. He was there, and then he stayed about one year, and he bought property, moved to Asheboro. Then I came.

Hayes: What was the product that you were working on there?

Sueyoshi: I moved to the United States, he already had a studio, so we started on buildings, kind of finishing Dutch kilns, building kilns and stuff, and then started making production.

Hayes: Was it practical things or artistic things?

Sueyoshi: It was kind of both. His wife was a good painter, and she did nice decorations. Still, we made functional pieces. It was decorative, I can say.

Hayes: How long were you there?

Sueyoshi: Probably two and a half, or so. Then also, after that, I met some Japanese potter in Washington DC. His name's Tiro [ph?] Hara, H-A-R-A. He asked me to come over, almost six months, to do some kind of his work. In a way, he was a master artist, kind of studying and working for him.

Hayes: So you went to Washington?

Sueyoshi: No. Actually, forty miles from Washington, in Virginia. We went to Virginia. Anyway, and then after that, I came back again, working for real production potter. Seagrove Pottery and then Teak's Pottery, which is what you can call production. I was working for them part time, for 15 cents per pound clay. So they paid me 15 cents with making one pound of clay for bowls and cups.

Hayes: Fifty cents?

Sueyoshi: Fifteen, 1-5.

Hayes: One-five? Wow.

Sueyoshi: So even that, to some degree, I had to make cups with handles. Sometimes I was asked to make a big bowl, like a 25 pound, 10 pound. Just time wise, it doesn't make too much difference from this size of bowl to this size of bowl. Sometimes I can quit and--

Hayes: You're sure you were using electric--

Sueyoshi: Yeah, that was a very, very primitive like uh... rotary electric motor and belt.

Hayes: So hour after hour, you're just cranking out pots.

Sueyoshi: Cranking out-- exactly.

Hayes: Did you have, in your other time, a chance to do your own work by that time?

Sueyoshi: No, a lot of time was just to observe, to make some money.

Hayes: So how did you end up in Wilmington then?

Sueyoshi: Wilmington, after Asheboro and Seagrove area, I got to Clinton, which is 60 miles away here. And then as an instructor in pottery. Then after that, I got accepted as a visiting artist program at the North Carolina arts council. So I spent two years in the Wilson, and two years in Wilmington.

Hayes: Where did you work when you first came here then?

Sueyoshi: In Wilmington? I was in the Cape Fear Community College.

Hayes: As a visiting--

Sueyoshi: Artist. One of the problems is that, selected by the North Carolina arts council, but they work with the community college system. So they place visiting artists in each community college.

Hayes: Was it called the Cape Fear community college at that time?

Sueyoshi: No, Cape Fear Technical Institute.

Hayes: So that was about '80.

Sueyoshi: I think about '78.

Hayes: You must have been a very--

Sueyoshi: Pioneer.

Hayes: Unusual person for them. Here you were, international and a true artist in technical school. Were you accepted by the students?

Sueyoshi: I didn't do too much for the school. The visiting artist program is more like stay in and payroll at community college, but more like for the county. So I served more for the county. I did a lot of demonstrations, giving lectures in the school system, and civic club. Anybody can just come see.

Hayes: Festivals?

Sueyoshi: Festivals wasn't too much, but more schools and civic clubs.

Hayes: So is that the point that you started to then develop your own style of what you make? You were not doing production now.

Sueyoshi: I think it's the beginning of the time to do my things. We all went to Clinton at that point. I was teaching and I was able to use a kiln, the school kiln. I was just starting to use colored clay. You mixed in the color, [inaudible] which is a colored clay.

Hayes: The green, is that--?

Sueyoshi: Green and blue.

Hayes: And most of it is a white, right? You use white with that, right?

Sueyoshi: Yeah, we'll you pour some of it, you mix it in. You kind of marbleize your stuff. That's kind of how I started at that point. And then developed into Wilson and then Clinton. I spent quite a few years, and I think my pieces are known to be colored clay.

Hayes: How do you spell that word?

Sueyoshi: Which one?

Hayes: The kind of clay.

Sueyoshi: Colored. C-O-L-O-R-E-D.

Hayes: So that's just a term you would use-- you've got colored clay and it gives you a color--

Sueyoshi: Colored clay, say neriage is a better technical term, is something. At Humble, it was a colored clay. And then nerikome is--

Hayes: Behind you is brown clay. What is that called?

Sueyoshi: Just stoneware. Just a type we use--

Hayes: And then you use porcelain.

Sueyoshi: Porcelain, yeah.

Hayes: That's a white clay?

Sueyoshi: White, very fine clay.

Hayes: So color clay, stoneware--

Sueyoshi: Colored clay is based on the white clay I use. I use porcelain. You can use white stoneware or porcelain.

Hayes: So porcelain is more about the fineness of the clay, and colored is another one.

Sueyoshi: Color is more like a mixture.

Hayes: The one you call stoneware, is--

Sueyoshi: This is stoneware.

Hayes: But you can have different shades of color.

Sueyoshi: Shades of color, yeah.

Hayes: And you're famous for getting blue clay, and I don't know what blue clay is.

Sueyoshi: It's entirely different. You can use-- neriage and nerikome is more like white clay and I mix some color into it. You can do any stoneware too. You mix into like iron oxide, cobalt and stuff, to make it blue and red.

Hayes: What's the blue clay here?

Sueyoshi: Blue clay is certain in Japanese, the pottery is turned different way, particularly colored clay. There is about 50, 60 pottery towns in Japan, and all different pottery towns produce different style. The reason is, they use all local materials, local clay under the rice field.

Hayes: So every town has a different clay?

Sueyoshi: Yeah, different clay.

Hayes: But then are there also different styles of their product?

Sueyoshi: Different style, because of what they make, what they need, what kind of food they eat and stuff. Anyway, so that's very traditional. So I think it's my background. I was always interested in local clay. We talked about some sort of people, they use clay locally, and blue clay. I started experimenting. I think I was probably a student. It was a very nice way and pleasant. I think that's a period that I started fading colored clay. There are a couple of reasons I think I can say porcelain is very temperamental. It shrinks up and it's not plastic. Every time I make large pieces, there's a chance it can break and high percentage. It's just a hard way.

Hayes: How many years were you in that porcelain--?

Sueyoshi: How many years?

Hayes: Venue. Because potters change, and you actually went away from that. How long do would you be identified as this style? And I have some of that, by the way, and the university has some.

Sueyoshi: I think it's probably close-- I can say roughly close to 20 years.

Hayes: Oh, I didn't know that, because you're not in that style now at all. We'll talk about that in a little bit. All right, so you're here, you're a stranger in a strange land on the ocean. Your time comes up, so what kept you here in Wilmington?

Sueyoshi: What kept me in Wilmington, I think it's just that way with the visiting artist finished, and I was looking for a studio. It was easy to me to find, because I made friends here. So I look around. And of course I have family here. It's been in the thirty years, years.

Hayes: So you got married here?

Sueyoshi: Yeah, married here.

Hayes: What's your wife's name?

Sueyoshi: Her name's Jane Tierney. She just retired last year. She was a string teacher, violin teacher, orchestra teacher.

Hayes: What was her own instrument?

Sueyoshi: Violin. I had friends here and all the family's here.

Hayes: What about your five years back to Japan?

Sueyoshi: Oh, well that was-- you had to go back. When I started to getting comfortable after a couple of years in United States, and kind of realized, it's a little more, I can say, free in a way, compared to Japan. In Japan, it's very traditional and very structured, and in a way, now times, you have to apprentice very famous potter, or you have to go through very famous exhibit type things. And also, you have to know some people in the tea ceremony and flower arrangement type of things. And meantime, the pieces they make, it's kind of more, in a way traditional. To me, it's something like a-- I don't know, it compares, in a way, probably classical music, like Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. It's made 100 years ago, and they're kind of repeating how it likes to be played in a way.

Hayes: We saw that in some of our ethnic art. Native American art is traditional and trying to keep the old tradition. So you saw that not as attractive as the--

Sueyoshi: Yeah, I thought that Americans, all the different [inaudible] and how people just in time, broke rules and traditional folk art pottery. I thought that was very interesting here, to do some three dimensional work. I think that's a big trigger for me to stay here.

Hayes: So then you got on with the community college as an instructor or teacher?

Sueyoshi: So I spent two years at Winston, two years here, and that program was not to teach classes. More like (pauses) for community and stuff like that. But after I finished two years, I stayed at community college and started teaching class for many years.

Hayes: What types of classes? Basic pottery, advanced pottery?

Sueyoshi: Both. And some of the class, continuing education classes, it's a mixture of people, and that's very interesting. Some people stay ten years.

Hayes: So it was sometimes more adult education.

Sueyoshi: Adult education.

Hayes: Who wanted to do pottery, but weren't taking it necessarily for a degree program and so forth.

Sueyoshi: Right. But we do have [inaudible] people, came to-- well, the four years college and art degrees, and maybe some people took a little ceramics. But four years college in ceramics taking is not going to go anywhere. So they come to take classes at nighttime. We did have some people learn and then trying to professional in Wilmington, in some different areas.

Hayes: What was the Orange Street Pottery? Was that what it was? That was your creation.

Sueyoshi: Well--

Hayes: Or some people--

Sueyoshi: Probably may deserve that name, because I stayed many years, 20 some years.

Hayes: Was that the community college?

Sueyoshi: It started as a community college, the continuing education.

Hayes: Because it was off Orange Street.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, Orange Street, right.

Hayes: It was the basement of--

Sueyoshi: Community Arts Center.

Hayes: But that was a community college rented space or home space?

Sueyoshi: No, it's not rented. What they did is, they paid the teacher salary, and then that's about it. So meantime, we kind of made a group and made an organization as Orange Street. So that's our structure.

Hayes: But the students who took your classes still were-- your studio was then not the community college proper, but at Orange Street?

Sueyoshi: At Orange Street. But you sign in a paper as a student at-- yeah.

Hayes: And who were some of the other principals that worked with you? I know Dina--

Sueyoshi: Dinah.

Hayes: Dinah--

(overlapping conversation)

Hayes: [inaudible] was one who came through the program?

Sueyoshi: She was a teacher, a long time though, and Don Jones.

Hayes: Oh, Don Jones, okay.

Sueyoshi: And Brian Evans.

Hayes: Oh, Brian was working at that time?

Sueyoshi: Yeah. A couple of other people.

Hayes: And then the students would keep taking classes. It was more than just academic. It seemed like it was almost a small art community.

Sueyoshi: Well, that's the nature of pottery class. If it's painting class, you know how to do it, and then you can set up a little studio beside it in the kitchen. Pottery, you need equipment, the wheel, the kiln, so it's kind of a hard set up in your own studio--

Hayes: For individually.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, individual. So tentatively, they stay class so they can continue. Of course, any kind of art is a lifetime learning process, so you literally stay there, gets better and challenging and stuff.

Hayes: So would you have a process where, even though you were a lead teacher, a veteran student would end up helping another student?

Sueyoshi: Yeah.

Hayes: So in some ways, it replicated some of your early years in Japan. It sounds to me like you were more of a community than necessarily just a class where you came to the class and signed in and listened to a lecture. Because a pottery class isn't about a lecture.

Sueyoshi: No. It's a lot of a challenge, and creation. It's hands on.

Hayes: But let's say you're out here today, and co teaching, what do you do, as the teacher? How can you do the introduction? People start working, right?

Sueyoshi: I think the basic principle always, expresses how to enjoy creating process. That's basically the principle, I think.

Hayes: Are you actually demonstrating most of the time? Are you showing one or one? If I came to a pottery class, with Hiroshi, what would I--?

Sueyoshi: It's a variety. Sometimes you're hands on. It's more likely for first, which is somebody never touch clay. I would give a demonstration, how building, to begin this, and give lectures about the terminology, and the technical part. Sometimes you have to know what to do with the clay and how to handle properly, and stuff like that. It takes about four or five weeks. And meantime, I kind of introduce all different types of pottery and stuff like that.

Hayes: So there's an orientation.

Sueyoshi: Yeah. It is, yeah. And after that, they do own things. Of course, they're helping individuals.

Hayes: So can someone who's more advanced work most of the time on their own, and then just occasionally call you over and say, "What about this? What about that?" It sounds like, in an art class, it doesn't seem to have this lecture up front, students in their seats, listening to the lecture.

Sueyoshi: It's always kind of hands on, particularly the-- it's kind of crazy you have to know certain things, because it's quick from wet stage than dry stage. That means clay contain almost 40 percent water, so that means there's naturally shrinkage. Those kind of stuff, I think you really have to know how to deal with, otherwise it comes apart. It takes experience. That's another reason, you know. If you take one class, 12 weeks, 10 week class, you're not going to end up too much.

Hayes: Do you find some people get frustrated?

Sueyoshi: Very much.

Hayes: With the speed.

Sueyoshi: Some people come here and they think they can make a teacup or teapot.

Hayes: Just like that.

Sueyoshi: Just like that. A 25 pound bowl.

Hayes: I would guess that your wife had the same issue as a musician, as she tried to teach violin. It doesn't come immediately. Years later--

Sueyoshi: No. Squeak, squeak.

Hayes: So let's take your artistry to clients who started early on. You still have students or friends who have been doing this for 20 years or 30 years?

Sueyoshi: Let's see.

Hayes: Who are not professionals. Professional, this is their career, right? So Dinah, you, [inaudible], those are professionals who decided this is their career. But what about amateurs? Do you have people who just stayed with it and stayed with it?

Sueyoshi: Yes, stay with. I still have about three or four people, they're still in Orange Street, as a matter of fact. They're taking pottery course 15 years. Several people, like Crystal and Cindy Weaver and those people.

Hayes: Have gone to try to make a living. What would be the terminology in the clay world? Is it a professional artist?

Sueyoshi: I can say professional.

Hayes: The progression is--

Sueyoshi: They are making, presenting in gallery and making living, sales.

Hayes: And we don't have any production pottery in this region, do we, at all?

Sueyoshi: Depending on how you ground it. I wouldn't say any typical, like Seagrove area production. Once you're making 200 cups, 500 bowls a day, or something like that. At one point, it was here, but they kind of faded away. Some businesses had tried to start.

Hayes: So most people are individual.

Sueyoshi: Individual.

Hayes: Artists. But some of them do--

Sueyoshi: Studio potter.

Hayes: Some of them do practical large numbers to try to make a living. That's kind of the term for that?

Sueyoshi: That you may have to say sometimes you have production, which means the bowls, same bowls. You make 20 bowls and you repeat it month after month.

Hayes: And you put different glazes and so forth, but you really want quality, so you can sell.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, and when it comes to market wise, when you're starting, you're starting your own style, something like that. Some glaze and shape and stuff. Once you start selling it, it's necessary to make repeating those pieces. Most of the gallery orders, and people buy and kind of same stuff, so they had to make all this. So that point of view, you can say production, but you say when it comes to production, it's hard to do all right. I can kind of say myself is kind of, in a way, production.

Hayes: I don't think so!

Sueyoshi: Some are repeat in a bowl. Individual, each one has a little different.

Hayes: Well, speak to bowls. You did some production. Tell us about the charity program.

Sueyoshi: Empty Bowl.

Hayes: Yeah, that's interesting. Was that your concept, or is that in other cities?

Sueyoshi: I'm not sure how many years ago. It's probably at least ten, 15 years old and I think it's a very interesting story. Actually, high school students, high school teachers started it.

Hayes: Here in town?

Sueyoshi: No, it's in Michigan. You can get in the website, somebody look for a big website, because they caught up. The whole country caught the idea. They started fundraising, making bowls, soup bowl, and put soup and stuff like that.

Hayes: The idea is that a charity would adopt it so that that would go towards something. Here it's hunger, isn't it?

Sueyoshi: That's correct. [inaudible] ministry, the homeless shelter. And then the [inaudible] food cupboard, which is helping the grocery store, yeah.

Hayes: Recently, you started to have the kind of high end auction, or is it a--?

Sueyoshi: There was a long time things last time we did called Fancy Bowl, just trying to kick up Fancy Bowl-- I mean, Empty Bowl. Usually the Empty Bowl is Friday afternoon. The night before, we did a Fancy Bowl. We displayed some different artist, asked to donate some bowls in the auction, and music and sold tickets. It was very successful.

Hayes: Are you going to do that on a regular basis?

Sueyoshi: Not Fancy Bowl. It was neck to neck. Everybody volunteered so it's a little too much. So this year, we put a Fancy Bowl-- Empty Bowl every other year. So we did two separate things, we did a Fancy Bowl, but we didn't call it Fancy Bowl.

Hayes: [inaudible]

Sueyoshi: And then this year, you might remember Bowl Show.

Hayes: Yeah, you did a show.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, so that's kind of reminding about Empty Bowl and adding to it. It was a very nice exhibit, and Vicky Smith did kind of a--

Hayes: That was nice.

Sueyoshi: Yeah, very [inaudible].

Hayes: Let me ask you. It just came to mind. What's your sense for so many artists, particularly like yourself, who reach a certain level of success and notoriety, everybody asks you to give them things so they can raise money. I find that kind of a conflict, because if you give away all of your work, how do you--?

Sueyoshi: I know.

Hayes: Don't people always ask, what couldn't you give?

Sueyoshi: I think I can speak for all the artists, the painters and some other people. I think it's just individual, you have to know about what to draw a line. Some are very nice cause. That poorest group of people. You really have to care for them. I don't mind too. It's something I can generate. It can generate ideas.

Hayes: I think this is a great program, the Bowl program worked out, and also raised the recognition of pottery, don't you think?

Sueyoshi: I think. We started to, it's called Coastal Carolina Clay Guild, which was last March. We--

Hayes: March of 2007?

Sueyoshi: Of 2007. We had seventy-eight people sign up.

Hayes: And you have some from Southport, right?

Sueyoshi: Southport.

Hayes: Those were the two.

Sueyoshi: And also Florence, South Carolina, and Jacksonville.

Hayes: Some from Jacksonville? Excellent. And at the end, the purpose of that is to kind of promote clay?

Sueyoshi: Clay, kind of support group, information exchange and then also to introduce more Empty Bowl, community-sized...

Hayes: You have your first exhibit and you say all that. Was it successful? I was there, a lot from the university.

Sueyoshi: That was a stunning success. I think everything clicked, time and press and people.

Hayes: Even though your pieces sell for hundreds of dollars now at this stage of your career and your success, that still is substantially less than many fine art, visual art pieces. Traditional pottery seems still so affordable. So I think that you've hit a cord, because it's--

Sueyoshi: This kind of pricing is a very funny thing. I still never figured out how to price my things. For instance, somebody make blown glass, you can sell probably ten times, 20 times more than me, or more than any pottery. A painter, can usually fetch $500. I think it's just that demand. Demand is kind of making selling the price. Sometimes individually, I think in a way, people very active in sense of magazines and conference appearances, and always...namely... commission. I think they fetch a good price.

Hayes: Right, famous. Do you feel like you've started to reach that level too? You...I mean the university gave you the North Carolina living treasures award. Now that you're here at Cameron, do you have a sense of greater recognition in the region?

Sueyoshi: I think so. Here and there, probably more likely I think the eastern part of North Carolina. Western part, Asheville area, there's a bunch of Penland Craft School and well known crafts.

Hayes: Do you think, have you ever crossed over to Penland? Have you taught a lot at Penland?

Sueyoshi: I did a summer substitute, teaching for a couple of days. But I didn't--

Hayes: As a practice [inaudible] stay here.

Sueyoshi: Yeah. It's a little far away to make a trip, and particularly it's kind of distance for me in the Charlotte area.

Hayes: It's a long ways, isn't it?

Sueyoshi: Yeah. That's kind of disadvantage really of being in Wilmington. I enjoy much of living here, because of friends and stuff like that. When it comes to seeing the shows and cultural events, and also market wise, it's not a big disadvantage, but I think a lot of times, the big.... business or things.

Hayes: Is there a particular part of North Carolina that's dominant in pottery now? I know Seagrove is popular, but I just mean from the standpoint of artistic pottery?

Sueyoshi: Well, you can say very safely in Asheville.

Hayes: Asheville?

Sueyoshi: Yes. It's very cultural area, not just pottery, but strong in crafts. They have all the top probably ten glass blowers there and potters.

Hayes: And of course, Penland is just north of that. And [inaudible], a friend of both of ours now. So that's kind of an energy in that--

Sueyoshi: You see an energy in makers. I think you can find--

Hayes: Do you think you can in any way help create that here? You were guild Southeast... of those people. I know many of them are really very accomplished potters.

Sueyoshi: I agree with that. Also, Wilmington is kind of small town. I think a lot of very talented artists moving this way, so I wouldn't be surprised to be comparable to Asheville. Maybe could be equal when it comes to quality for aesthetics, theatre, art, music, you know.

Hayes: It's tough to do--

Sueyoshi: The museum, I have a chance to see somebody walking this way, stop by and I get to meet some wonderful artists. That's just across--

Hayes: We need to put on the record that your title is now artist in residence?

Sueyoshi: Yes.

Hayes: At Cameron-- the full name, is it Ben Cameron?

Sueyoshi: No, it's changed to Cameron now. And this Louis Cameron is--

Hayes: [inaudible]

Sueyoshi: Sometimes confusing, and then also make it little easier to website and stuff. I think they agreed to cut off Louis and now it's Cameron. Well, supposed to be artist in residence in the Pancoe studio, now the museum.

Hayes: But as artist in residence, you do an awful lot of teaching too. That's part of--

Sueyoshi: So far, I stay one class, or one adult class, for two days a week, and three hours, three hours, six hours. Usually, I have some school group comes into sometimes-- not, many came but a variety. They bring me some group to the museum, they come through here and need to talk and demonstrate, which is a great idea. They see a museum as a kind of finished product. Coming here to you know... progress and what's the artist look like, and the whole studio look like. They can see different stage. So that give two different dimensional, art, museum. Also, sometimes I get some civic group come here. It's interesting talking to them.

Hayes: Do they ever get photographers who want [inaudible]?

Sueyoshi: I know I have many high school students coming too. We have some kind of grants to do a workshop with some very selected student, just four students, very cool students from high school. We spent one semester, last quarter, last semester. They came and they started from well thrown and [inaudible]. We took a picture and also we exhibit here, whole package deal. And then that's supposed to be-- they learn some from me, and also they will go back to classrooms to teach some other student. And also, it was junior high school, right next to they demonstrate to junior high school students. It was nice. It's a good idea.

Hayes: We have ten more minutes to go. What we ask you about your own work now. We talked about the 20 year period where you had used porcelain. Now you've switched to a different process.

Sueyoshi: Red clay, which is I think is-- clay itself is very interesting. The clay itself is without any grays. It's kind of red.

Hayes: But you are glazing it many colors, right? The piece we've purchased is--

Sueyoshi: Green or blue.

Hayes: Blues. So the glaze is what gives it that--

Sueyoshi: That color. Sometimes, I choose that red clay, because that color, more-- sometimes I like to use that-- I can say, a little bit more like the sculptural elements to it. So that's--

Hayes: I wanted to ask you about that. I think one of the terms that we use is a potter or clay artist, or ceramics. You haven't just constrained yourself to a traditional pottery right? You haven't chosen to just pot.

Sueyoshi: The term potter and ceramicist and ceramic sculptor, anybody make functional ware, we talking about generally, and those kinds of things. And somebody makes sculpture, we well... crystal type of thing.

(overlapping conversation)

Sueyoshi: Ceramist, yeah. Ceramist, they call ceramist. And sometimes ceramic sculptor. But I didn't want you know. I always can't believe that bottom line is I was trained, born to be part of-- which is, still, I think I am finding very interesting. Even bowl shape is very sculptural. So that's kind of I try to accomplish area. Somebody call me potter, that doesn't bother to me. But sometimes you don't have to...when you are writing resumes, optional things, you may like to do ceramics.

Hayes: What was the impetus for doing the metal sculpture?

Sueyoshi: The metal sculpture. Forum shopping center.

Hayes: Forum shopping center. Just to try it?

Sueyoshi: The piece I have-- well, first of all, they have competition. So I submit some different things. I was selected to make a kind of water fountain with clay tile. Then I was chosen for final three. Then I come to, next step was to make model to present. And then, so I went to all over Wilmington to find somebody can help me to make water fountain type of thing, so construction, like 15, 17 feet tall. I couldn't find anybody to do kind of work and very helpful. So I was kind of wondering about that. And then my studio, in the meantime, the piece I made was kind of a slab, flat pieces. That's literally, you can translate it as metal. Sub clay or metal, you can put together in the same way.

Hayes: And you were making those anyway. Even though it was clay, it was about 14 inches tall.

Sueyoshi: Exactly.

Hayes: So you decided you'd do it--

Sueyoshi: Try to extend it from four feet, 30 inch to 17 feet. They liked the idea.

Hayes: So it has a very solid feel to it. It isn't about the metal so much as it is about the shape.

Sueyoshi: Shape and size.

Hayes: It was sculptural--

Sueyoshi: And we were always dealing with hand held size. That's just the build of my hands.

Hayes: Are you going to do any more of those, do you think?

Sueyoshi: If I have opportunity, I'll be happy to. But those kind of things, they come maximum pieces. "Hey, I have this piece. Would you like to buy?" You can do that.

Hayes: It doesn't haven't to be commissioned.

Sueyoshi: I did get some information about one of my pieces. I think it's now in public art area, I think would probably be getting information. I will try to see where-- maybe I can-- suitable for that thing building.

Hayes: There's a couple of other piece of art that you were involved in that we should probably get on the record, and that's your children, right? You have two sons.

Sueyoshi: Two sons, yeah.

Hayes: And what are their names?

Sueyoshi: The older one is Tadashi.

Hayes: And where's he living now?

Sueyoshi: He's up in near Los Angeles. He's in MBA program. He's working part time.

Hayes: And your other son?

Sueyoshi: He's last year in Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill.

Hayes: What's his name?

Sueyoshi: Osamu.

Hayes: Osamu.

Sueyoshi: O-S-A-M-U.

Hayes: And he's at Chapel Hill?

Sueyoshi: Yeah, he's studying Asian studies, majoring. I don't know what he's going to do with it.

Hayes: Is he taking Japanese?

Sueyoshi: He was in Japan for a whole year last year, junior year. He picked up very nicely Japanese. Maybe he can, hoping he was interested to library science.

Hayes: Do you see the current style you're working on as lasting a while? You can't predict. You haven't been in it long.

Sueyoshi: I think so. It's kind of hard to say. I feel very strong doing it at this point. I can go extend it to do 17 feet sculpture to bowls. I think it's a very interesting, very simple bowls, as I mentioned to you, very sculptural. But who knows? I love challenge. Challenge is my game.

Hayes: Thank you very much.

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