Japanese culture comes to Navarre Beach

More than a decade later, a group of familiar faces from across the southeast and across the world gathered at Gulf Coast Kiln Walk for the 14th Annual Woodstoke Festival to celebrate the arts of two continents.

The kiln walk welcomed not only local artists but a special cultural guest this year. Japanese master potter Masayoshi Shimizu, or Masa as he is affectionately known to his American friends, was a guest of Navarre Beach’s Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society. This is the second time the Kiln Walk has brought Masa to the region.

The legendary artist placed his works alongside those of 35 other artists in the state’s largest kiln, the anagama. And after firing, those works were revealed to the public.

The anagama kiln is a traditional Japanese woodfiring technique. Burrowed into a mound of dirt, the anagama’s name translates to “cave kiln.” The wood that fuels this earthen dragon burns so hot that the ash turns to a sort of glass on the surface of the pots, reaching temperatures in excess of 2,400 degrees.

Masa flew across the world to attend this year’s festival, sharing his wealth of knowledge with the countless artists that call this area home.

Their works were on display during the festival, enticing visitors and showcasing the cultural heritage of Navarre. Masa returned home following the festival.

If you missed the festival, don’t worry. Masa’s work is still available for viewing at Pensacola State College as part of “Beauty in Use, Celebrating Japanese Cultural Traditions.”

Masa brought the collection to share with the public as part of a long-standing cultural exchange program between Florida and the Japanese state of Wakayama.

The theme of the show is “beauty in use” which perfectly encompasses Masa’s intention in his work. He said his art best shows its beauty when being used in traditional tea ceremonies, as vessels for displaying flowers and through other purposes.

His pottery focuses on using elements of the region where it is created, including locally sourced clays. He incorporates local plants and even shells into his glazes.

The collection is viewable now through June 27 at the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for the Visual Arts in Pensacola just a short drive from Navarre Beach.

At the close of the show, the pieces will call Navarre home.

Attendance of the show is free and open to the public Monday-Friday. Plan your dive into Japanese culture at NavarreListings.com.

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