Travel has always been incredibly important to me and to my work, from early travels to the West Coast of North America, Egypt and India. However, it has been recent working trips to Japan that have had the greatest impact on my work.

I first travelled to Japan in 1994 when I was invited to exhibit work at Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo. Prior to this, in 1990, I was introduced to Issey Miyake who I believe is a true genius. Twenty-six years later Issey Miyake invited me to take part in the exhibition U-Tsu-Wa at 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo. It was at this time that I first visited Shigaraki and was invited to be guest artist in Residence at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Centre by Hiroko Miura, the curator at the Shigaraki Museum of Contemporary Ceramics.

U-Tsu-Wa installation view 2009

My first experience of working in Japan was in 2013 when Shozo Michikawa invited me to take part in the Sasama International Ceramics Biennale.

In spring 2014 I accepted the Guest Artist Residency at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Centre. This residency led to two return trips in spring and autumn 2015. Shigaraki is an incredibly stimulating place to work. Working in the huge studio gave me the freedom and space to experiment with techniques and materials which I had never before dreamt of using. It gave me time to play. It was energising working with other international artists and liberating not to have an exhibition deadline to work for. It was both terrifying and exciting to feel rather out of control. I never dreamt of the impact that it would have on my work.

As a direct result of my time there I have been making a series of red vessels. For the previous 30 years I had been using the same white stoneware. 

During my first trip to Shigaraki I was invited to have a solo show at Sokyo Gallery in Kyoto which I installed in autumn 2015. I exhibited work made during my residency in Shigaraki alongside Japanese found objects and work made in London.

En route to my second visit to Shigaraki I went to Mashiko to see the exhibition "Bernard Leach to New Generation" which I was taking part in at Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art. 

Shigaraki, artists' studio 2014

“In order to fully understand the ceramic world of Jennifer Lee, it is crucial to follow the trails of her trips, which are deeply engraved in her memory.”

Hiroko Miura, Curator, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park

Sokyo Gallery, installation view 2015
“One of the most admired ceramists working in the UK, with pieces in public collections across the world and an unending supply of clay, the scene was set for decades to come. And yet in 2014, the ceramist moved her practice to Japan for two months. Two months was not enough though, and over the next two years Lee took up residence at the ceramics centre in Shigaraki three times.”

Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Crafts magazine

Stoking anagama kiln Shigaraki,
red pot on lacquer chest Shigaraki, persimmons Sasama