The whiteness he creates is not the typical kind of absolute serenity. There are scratches of swirl patterns created by sandpaper, as well as cracks randomly developed during the firing process. In fact, there are even some chipped parts too. These features can be better-called disruption than serenity.
I stared at the cup for quite a while, and rubbed my fingertips against the cup, beginning to imagine how a person paints on a white surface. I had a feeling that I could almost observe even the slightest change in his facial expression and his mood.
The shop owner Wallis can still remember how fascinated she felt when she first saw Ozawa’s pottery, “His white potteries really look like they have gone through a lot of ups and downs in life.”
Powder coating（こひき）is an old technique of applying white clay onto ceramic ware. After the firing process, the original clay color beneath is still visible, also exposing the rough texture of the clay on the surface. The white color is far from pure as it looks somewhat dirty. “I prefer to give my ceramics an imperfect appearance and let them evolve from daily usage. It is very interesting to see how prolonged use would alter them.” Ozawa’s potteries possess the texture of an oil on canvas painting; this reminds me of his favorite painter Mark Rothko. “His paintings are very serene, they can reach the core of your heart. This is the same thing I bear in mind when making my ceramics. I wish I could achieve that conceptual state too.”
Quite contrary to the strong sense of wildness in his potteries, his sitting posture was very uptight as we met. He was, to my surprise, down to earth and earnest. “Back in my school days, we were instructed to create based on our own ideas. I was struggling to understand what kind of person was I, what did I want to do. Then one day I saw someone making tableware. These are things that are made to be used, I finally got my motivation to create.”
Different from fine arts, tableware emphasizes on the usage. “When making ceramics, I would keep reminding myself not to put too much of my personal thoughts into my work.” As a designer, Ozawa deliberately distances himself from the product so as to leave more room for the users to interpret. They can decide on how to use it and the nature of the purpose, they are free to put the products anywhere in whatever ways they prefer. Wallis has also demonstrated the liberty of a user in the exhibition by using a cup made by Ozawa to contain a mini plant. Simply by looking at the display, viewers probably would not be aware it was basically a cup.
Before the hands-on making process, Ozawa likes to rehearse by using his imagination or his memories. “Lips are sensitive parts of our body. They retain memories of being in contact with different tableware from as early as our childhood.” One of the teacups he made has a rim that tilts slightly outward. The curve is not visible to the naked eye, but the intimate sensation of the rim staying on the lips is what Ozawa wanted to have before producing this cup.
Ozawa was born in Tajimi of Gifu Prefecture but is now residing in Tokoname of Aichi Prefecture. His ceramics are made with the black clay from Tokoname, “Tokoname has over a thousand year of history of pottery production. But how did this happen? I don’t think it was planned. Everything happens for a reason. To me, I need to think of the nature of myself as a person when working on anything.” Ozawa believes there is a specific significance behind everything, from the place he was born and grew up in, to the events he encountered in his life.
“It is not as simple as me doing something at this precise moment; behind whatever I did, there are always thousands of years of history, I am only part of the whole picture.”
Tokoname is located in quiet countryside that does not provide many entertainment options. It might be an ideal environment for one to stay focused, but Ozawa would not limit himself to a repetitive life. His teacher and mentors always remind him to widen his horizon, “My teacher used to tell me not to limit myself to ceramics or to only think of the ceramic wares that I would like to make; he suggested me to try other forms of art, like architecture, drawing, sculpture or anything. Afterward, I can apply the emotion I have from these art forms into my ceramic art. He also told me not to focus only on arts made by Japanese, I need to lay my eyes on the bigger world out there.”
“This bowl that we’re looking at is merely a representation of my current state. Instead of showing a strong sense of personality in my ceramic arts, I would rather make things that others can identify with.”
Perhaps Ozawa already has an answer to his earlier doubt of “who am I, what do I want to do”.
After saying goodbye to Ozawa, I kept thinking of his composed facial expression. The twinkle in his eyes when he felt relaxed, his excited body movement when talking, the fireworks in his laughter… among all of these, his laughter can best remind me of his ceramics. It feels like the ceramic wares were made from those fireworks that were coming out from his laughter. The wildness of his free soul and the way he follows his instinct can all be seen in his tableware.
“I think maybe nothing can be found if I only listen to my own heart.” But what else can you see if you ignore your heart?