KOBO Seattle | since 1995

Featured Artist: Reid Ozaki

March 14, 2024

Featured Artist: Reid Ozaki

KOBO is pleased to feature Reid Ozaki and his beautiful, functional ceramics. Dark and light, opaque and translucent, small galaxies, like looking in a tidepool (discovering new worlds each time you blink.) It's quietly loud. Not fragile, but how can we not feel that way? We love that about Reid's work. His pieces are multifaceted, much like all of us.

View his collection here.

Please tell us about yourself:
I grew up in Hawaii and came to Washington to attend the University of Puget Sound. I intended to become a biologist, but found out that I enjoyed messing around with clay. Fifty years later, I am a potter.  

Who and what are your greatest influences?
Some of my earliest memories are of swimming around in the tide pools near Hilo, HI and playing under the tree ferns near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This was the beginning of my interest in and love for the natural world. My grandfather created bonsai and built the Japanese inspired ponds and gardens surrounding his home. That had a great influence on my developing sense of aesthetics.

In 1969, I enrolled at the University of Puget Sound with the intention of studies in Biology. As a junior, I took my first ceramics class; I finished a degree in Biology but my main interest was in ceramics.  

At UPS my work was influenced by my teachers F. Carlton Ball and Kenneth D. Stevens and visiting artist Frederick L. Olsen. Carlton’s enthusiasm for clay got me into ceramics. From Fred I learned many of the techniques I use today. Ken’s work was what I aspired to. I created work using clay and glazes like Ken but more importantly, he taught me careful craftsmanship and attention to detail.
My overlapping interests in nature and art are expressed in my work.

What inspired you to pursue a career in art?
I love working with clay. At the beginning of my career, there was no plan other than to make pots. I was willing to forgo some things in order to keep doing that. I was fortunate to find people willing to support me by showing my work, but it was always a month to month proposition. Sometimes you make a choice here and a choice there and then you find out that you have no alternative but to keep going.

What advice would you give to a young artist?
The art world has changed so much since I started selling a few pots at the UPS Ceramics Guild Student sale that I hesitate to advise young artists. Love what you’re doing. It’s not an easy living.

I feel there are also responsibilities that come with being a ceramic artist. You are part of a 10,000 year tradition that spans the globe. Learn about that history, ancient and recent. Honor your craft. Share your knowledge. Present your best work.  

Where is your happy place?
I like being alone in nature: Somewhere above the timberline on Mt Rainier; on the Koolau summit of Oahu, in the crater of Haleakala on Maui, Kilohana on the edge of Alakai swamp on Kauai.

What is the Tacoma Pottery Salon?
Here in Tacoma, we have been organizing informal, (mostly) monthly meetings of the local ceramics practitioners to build community and to provide some historical perspective to a growing but young group. Along with my co-host, Kristina Batiste, our goal is the introduction to some of these newer potters to those who have laid the groundwork in the field (locally, nationally and internationally; ancient and recent). Unfortunately, an awful lot of them have little foundation in the local history or that of the art as a whole. (To put it bluntly, I would like to introduce my peers to this new crowd while we’re still around.)  

Academic clay programs are being lost or diminished, new clay practitioners are learning the mechanics without any of the foundational history of the art. With markets moving from galleries and fairs to the internet, (not to mention the effects of the COVID pandemic) it seems that we've all become more isolated. We fear that the history of clay in the area will be lost if we don't put ourselves out there.

Typically, there are three components to this gathering: A meet and greet, a "name that potter" game that we call “Potle”, (after Wordle, Artle), and the main event; a speaker who can present their art, philosophy, business, and expertise. People often hang around to chat after the event. We'd like this to be a dialog rather than a lecture.
Our goal is to keep these groups small; we maxed out at fifty and now limit to 35 attendees. We're meeting at the private home of our hosts Kristina Batiste and Ben McDonald. In our first two years, we’ve had Loren Lukens, John Benn and Colleen Gallagher, Ken Turner, Dan Barnett, Gina Freuen, Anika Major, Reid Ozaki, Deb Schwartzkopf, Anthony Gaudino, Sam Scott and Patti Warashina give presentations. So far this year, Rob Fornell, Rosette Gault, and Paul Lewing have presented.
We have an Instagram page: @tacomapotterysalon
Check out our website: www.tacomapotterysalon.org
and see our article from the June 2023 Studio Potter