With the passing of Shiga Shigeo, Australian ceramics has lost a great and long-standing friend.
There will be many tributes from those who knew him intimately, and these few words are simply to acknowledge the presence, and now the absence, of a Zen larrikin who found, at least for a time, a second home in Australia.
In any analysis of Australian ceramics the abiding influence of Japan is of great significance and in this singular and fascinating relationship between the two cultures the figure of Shiga is prominent. For all the hundreds of Australian potters who took the ‘Mashiko express’ in the 1960s and 70s, Shiga was one of the few took the journey in the other direction. First in Mittagong, then in Sydney, he inspired and delighted Australian potters for the thirteen years he spent in this country. Even after his return to Japan in 1980, Shiga maintained close contact with Australia and with the many Australian potters who revelled in his company.
There are many Japanese potters that have won the admiration of Australian potters, but few who came as close in spirit to this country as Shiga. From Tokyo to Terrey Hills and back again is a fair way, but it was the journey that Shiga made, and we are grateful that he did.
Editor’s note: In our Archive section, pages 98-100, I have reprinted Shiga’s farewell speech (from Pottery in Australia, Vol 18, No 2, October November 1979) given at the opening of his retrospective exhibition at the Japan Foundation Centre in August 1978 just before he returned to Japan after thirteen years in Australia.