Artist-in-residence brings Japanese touch to ceramics classes 

Ceramicist Miki Oka turns a vase on the electric wheel at Alice
Springs campus. Photo: Patrick Nelson.

While many Australians might opt for a good cup of billy tea, visiting ceramics artist Miki Oka’s preference is for high tea, such as it is prepared in her native Japan.

Miki, who spends most of her creative time in a studio near Hiroshima, has been the artist-in-residence at CDU’s Alice Springs campus for the past month.

She has been working alongside several ceramics students, turning sake cups, rice bowls and vases on the electric wheel, as well as building a variety of non-utilitarian objects, such as a dog and a chicken, by hand.

“First I found it hard to use the wheel because it turns anti-clockwise [in Australia], opposite [to that] in Japan,” she said.

“And the clay is different. We have terra cotta clay too, but I am used to red clay which is stronger and sets in a hotter kiln.”

Miki described her body of work as a representation of the friendships and associations she makes in life, with people, places and things.

“Dogs are an important part of life in Alice Springs and I have befriended the dog ‘Gus’ where I am living. I have made a large sculpture inspired by Gus, that is part Gus and part me. Perhaps it is really a self-portrait.”

This is the fourth trip to Australia for Miki, who undertook English language studies in Canberra in 2005 after having graduated from the Kyoto Saga Art University of Fine Art with a ceramics major.

“I came to Alice Springs to investigate Indigenous art. I like their dot paintings and their use of colour … and their style inspires me.

“The environment is extraordinary too. I went camping under the Milky Way and saw shooting stars. We cooked on an open fire place and I had some billy tea.”

Miki said high tea ceremonies in Japan involved a special preparation and presentation of powdered green tea.

“We use special ceramic cups and high quality tea,” she said.

Miki, who exhibits regularly in Hiroshima, Tokyo and other Japanese cities, said she hoped to exhibit some of her work in Alice Springs in the next few weeks.