Ceramicist Mitsuko Siegrist says that she aims to create “living works of art” that have a soul clearly palpable to the user. She is not speaking in metaphors.
“It comes from my childhood,” Mitsuko says. “I grew up in a small village near a famous Japanese pottery village and most of our stuff was handmade. It’s an every day practice. My mom and grandma made food for the family and every day they thought about how to serve the food. We even talked about it at the table, so it’s really natural for me to think of the maker.”
Mitsuko specifically creates work for the table, for desserts and tea, and for special moments when clarity accompanies the act of eating and drinking.
Mitsuko is mentored by the artist Richard Carter, whose Pope Valley studio is where she wood-fires her pieces. Richard and his studio created our line of proprietary dinnerware. Clearly, Richard has an eye for talent!
Mitsuko is an artist who creates work intended for everyday use which have a quality of thoughtfulness and intent that reach far beyond their mere use as a tea vessel or a platform from which to enjoy dessert.
In order to learn how to make a correct vessel for matcha tea, Mitsuko studied the Japanese tea ceremony, a lifelong practice that she draws upon for her craft. In Japan, she says, sweets for the ceremony are readily available in shops. Here, of course, they are not, so she taught herself how to make them. In Japan, plates for displaying the sweets are easy to find; living here, she learned to make them for herself.
In addition to being for sale through SHED, Mitsuko’s work is used in service at the highly acclaimed Single Thread Restaurant as well as at San Francisco’s Salt House and Berkeley’s Bartavelle Coffee.
“I basically try to make something that’s useful,” she explains. “I talk to the chef-owners and do it how they want it. I have more person-to-person contact and communication. Through my work I try to connect with the maker and the server and the chef and the customer.”
For Mitsuko, it comes back to family and hearth. She saw a circle of connection as a child that has stayed strong within her and understands its value even today.
“We had a garden and a farm and a rice field,” she remembers. “Everything was so connected. That’s how I grew up. And then the culture changed to quick and cheap and disposable. I want to keep doing what I believe and what I like through making ceramic art. When I’m making food vessels, I always think of the user.”
She gives a soft exhale.
“I think of the family in the kitchen; it really makes me happy.”