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Presented By: University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

The Japanese Art Society of American presents: Clay as Soft Power: The Rise of Shigaraki Ware in Postwar America, a Live Zoom Webinar with Natsu Oyobe, Curator of Asian Art

Webinar / Virtual Event

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Among the many ceramic styles in Japan, Shigaraki ware is perhaps the most recognizable in America. How did the humble ware, characterized by its earthy tones, rough surfaces, and natural ash glazes, achieve this status?


Beginning in the 1960s, it was collected by American museums, studied in American publications, and admired by American artists, some of whom traveled to Shigaraki to learn the techniques. In the Cold War era, Shigaraki ware was promoted as a means of fostering public support for a U.S.-Japan coalition. The ware’s simple, rustic aesthetic was ideal to rebrand Japan as a peaceful, democratic ally.  

After the 1980s, Shigaraki ware remained a locus of international exchange promoted by Japan as it rose to become an economic power. Illustrating through historic jars, works by American artists inspired by Shigaraki ware, and recent works by contemporary Japanese artists, this talk will uncover the stories of Shigaraki ware and its impact in America from the postwar era into the 21st century.


Presented by the Japanese Art Society of America, this talk is held in conjunction with the exhibition Clay as Soft Power: Shigaraki Ware in Postwar America, currently on view at the University of Michigan Museum of Art through May 7, 2023. For more information, please click here.

Natsu Oyobe, Ph.D., is Curator of Asian Art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Specializing in modern and contemporary Japanese art, she has curated numerous Japanese art exhibitions, including Wrapped in Silk and Gold: A Family Legacy of 20th-Century Japanese Kimono (2010), Mari Katayama (2019), and Clay as Soft Power: Shigaraki Ware in Postwar America and Japan (2022). She is also involved in cross-cultural projects from a variety of historical periods, including Isamu Noguchi and Qi Baishi: Beijing 1930 (2013). Dr. Oyobe served as a consulting curator for the Detroit Institute of Arts’ new Japan Gallery (2016 – 2017) and the Denver Art Museum (2020). She is contributor and co-editor of Great Waves and Mountains: Perspectives and Discoveries in Collecting the Arts of Japan (University Press of Florida, 2022).

Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the U-M Office of the Provost, the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Michigan Arts and Culture Council, and the U-M Center for Japanese Studies. Additional generous support is provided by the Japan Foundation, James M. Trapp, Nancy and Joe Keithley, and the William C. Weese, M.D. Endowment for Ceramic Arts.  

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