Montevallo welcomes Echizen artists, new endeavor

Published 10:23 am Thursday, January 16, 2014

By HEATHER BUCKNER/For the Reporter

MONTEVALLO – Perry Hall was bustling Saturday, January 11 as guests once again welcomed Echizen artists Naomi Hashimoto and Yuki Kihara Hirose to Montevallo.

The reception, organized by the Montevallo Sister City Commission, marked the beginning of the partnership’s newest endeavor: to promote the sale of Echizen pottery in the United States.

Ted Metz, whose relationship with Hashimoto inspired the MSCC, said of the six major ceramic centers in Japan, Echizen is the least known. They hope to change that.

“When we founded the Sister City Commission, we wanted it to be educational; we send our middle school kids back and forth every year. We wanted it to be cultural; we send each other different forms of music,” Metz said. “A third focus was economic development. Until now we weren’t really sure what that would mean, but they took the first step. Their ceramics had never been sold in the United States before.”

Metz explained that the deal would benefit the artists of Echizen in a number of ways. For example, “if the people in Echizen find out that it’s selling in the United States, they will want to buy more of it,” he said.

MSCC Project Coordinator Kelli Bennitt said about 2,000 pieces of pottery, priced from $5 to $200, were sold at three events last year.

So far Montevallo’s Blue Phrog Gallery has offered space for the pottery, but Julie Caine, president of MSCC, said their list of places to meet with this visit also included several local museums and the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta.

“They have functional and high-end art,” Metz explained. Their first step is to market the utilitarian pieces.

“It may take a while,” he said. “It’s a longer vision, but we’re willing to plant a seed and give it time, nurture it and let it grow.”