HERITAGE MONTHS: ASIAN AMERICAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH
Hiroshi Sueyoshi: Wilmington Master Potter
A master of ceramic art, Hiroshi Sueyoshi has worked with clay for over 40 years. His aesthetic is grounded in traditional Japanese culture, having begun as an apprentice in Mashiko, Japan, an important center of folk pottery.
After completing his training there, he moved to the United States, working in pottery production in Asheboro and Seagrove, North Carolina, and further training in the Washington, D.C. area with the legendary Teruo Hara. His cited major influences include Isamu Noguchi, Peter Voulkos and Shoji Hamada, revealing his interest in the sculptural and expressionist possibilities of the vessel while rooted in Japanese culture’s reverence of nature.
“My first creations were 500 saucers that I was assigned to make for practice,” Sueyoshi recalls. “I used a kick wheel and local clay. I still consider myself more of a potter than a sculptor, though I make functional pottery into sculptural forms.”
In 1973 he moved to Warrenton, VA, where he continued studying his discipline with Teruo Hara of the Kobo Group. Sueyoshi made his way to Wilmington in 1978, where he became resident artist at Cape Fear Community College. Currently, he is the artist in residence at the Cameron Art Museum.
Driving by the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington, you might have noticed a new addition jutting from the landscape created by Sueyoshi. The 17-foot-tall sculpture cuts a striking figure with its shiny, newly painted red, yellow and blue panels that pop against the surrounding trees and the imposing grays of the massive museum structure. Titled
"Harmony," the sculpture’s interlocking, poly-chromed steel figures, fabricated by Wilmington's Hanover Iron Works, is an abstract representation of a man, woman and child. For the sculpture, the figures depend on each other structurally, a kind of symbolic nod to their support of each other in life.
In 2014 and 2015, the Cameron Art Museum displayed “Matter of Reverence,” a retrospective exhibition of Sueyoshi’s work. In 2006, he received the North Carolina Living Treasure Award from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Sueyoshi has several pieces at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Hiroshi Sueyoshi, Iridescent-Faceted Vase, 1977, colored porcelain and glaze, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, 1985.1
YiFenn Strickland, a ceramic artist at New Elements Gallery had this to say about Sueyoshi.
“I was one of the lucky ones to study for three solid years with Hiroshi Sueyoshi before his retirement in 2015. From then on, he has always been there as my mentor when I needed him.
Inspiration from Hiroshi Sueyoshi goes beyond making pots. As a teacher, he taught me beyond the technical aspects. He made me think about why I want to make pots, and the kind of pots I want to make. He made me realize that whether we know it or not, as potters and artists, we carry a message in our work. To Hiroshi, teaching is all each student. He saw the potential in me before I recognized it myself. He encouraged me to study historical pots, works of influential ceramicists of different time periods, and to look beyond utilitarian pots. He taught me to not be afraid to push the boundary.
Even as a master potter and a NC Living National Treasure, he is one of the most humble people I’ve met. Inside his quiet demeanor though, he has a great sense of humor and can be at times a bit mischievous.
Today, I make pots inspired by nature in both functional and sculptural forms. Because of him, I also teach pottery classes focusing on curiosity and exploration. Every day, I try to live by his examples. I work hard and remember to laugh. I aim to teach with generosity and humility.”
Sueyoshi retired from making and teaching pottery at the CAM in 2015 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His work is in private, corporate, and institutional collections including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution.
To see more about Hiroshi Sueyoshi visit the following links: