Travelling to Potter Paul Lorimer’s Okinawa Haven

Few people visit the Japanese village of Shinzato in Okinawa with its attractive but modest residencies and kitchen gardens. The evident lack of a centre to the settlement made finding the new home of the highly regarded potter, New Zealander Paul Lorimer a trying business, Stephen Mansfield reports in a travel feature for The Japan Times.

Then, his first task was to dig out a termite nest from one of the rooms. It’s a very different residence today, with polished floors, antique cabinets, a gallery where he exhibits his earthy stoneware jars, vases, plates, incense burners and flagons, and a long, garden-facing deck, hand-built, like the brick kiln at the rear of the property, by Lorimer himself.

Much of his work involves producing unglazed storage jars for awamori, an Okinawa liquor made from indica rice imported from Thailand. A good deal of floor space in Lorimer’s main room is taken up with rows of liquor casks and the native New Zealander turns out to be quite a specialist on the subject.

Intrigued by the reaction that takes place between aging awamori and the chemical elements of clay jars – such as manganese, calcium and magnesium – and their effect on taste, depth and aroma, Lorimer has placed the liquor into containers of differing mineral characters, in what is an ongoing experiment. Lorimer steers Mansfield through a range of older liquors to demonstrate the difference: Clay-matured awamori, in contrast to younger, bottled varieties, has the effect of mollifying and teasing the palate, rather than biting into it.

Lorimer’s lifestyle and work, and the material environs he has created to compliment them, suggest, at least to the casual guest, an earthly Utopia. How many of us, spellbound by the transcendent naturalism that is a feature of Henry David Thoreau’s book, Walden, or author Janet Frame’s account of her stay in the once Elysium-like Balearic Islands, have dreamed of withdrawing to a rural idyll like this? Such are the thoughts occupying the journalist as he drives back to his minshuku (guest house), reaching the west coast of the northern Okinawa peninsula as twilight fades.

Lorimer was born in Auckland in 1951. He studied pottery at Driving Creek Potteries in the Coromandel.

Original article by Stephen Mansfield, The Japan Times, August 17, 2018.

Tags: Japan Times (The)  Okinawa  Paul Lorimer  pottery  

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