When the world bears witness to tragedies on the scale of Japan’s recent disaster, it affects everyone, and it is natural to feel powerless. Many find themselves asking the question: “What could I possibly do to help?” While for most the answer is not at once apparent, for Japanese American ceramic artist Ayumi Horie, her response was both decided and immediate.
She picked up the phone, called a few friends and asked if they would be willing to donate pieces to an online art auction — and “Handmade for Japan” was born. With the help of two friends who also have strong ties to Japan, the initiative began to take a life of its own, with offers of support and original artworks from top artists in both America and Japan pouring in via the Internet.
“We started with a list of artists but soon we were getting hundreds of donation offers,” explains Horie. “We had tapped into the natural propensity of artists to be generous and contribute to a cause in a way that is wholly personal.”
The ever-growing list of accomplished ceramic artists who have donated original artwork includes Jun Kaneko, known both in Japan and across the United States for his giant ceramic heads and “Dango” monoliths that adorn hotel lobbies and airport atriums across both countries. Most recently, the New York gallery Dai Ichi Arts donated an original work of late ceramics giant Shoji Hamada, which is certain to turn the heads of collectors across the world. Hamada (1894-1978), who spent significant time traveling the U.S. in the 1950s promoting mingei (Japanese folk art) across the country, would certainly have approved of this project.
But ceramic artists are not the only ones digging deep to lend a hand. When word of the auction spread beyond the ceramic-art community, Handmade for Japan soon grew into a full-blown art auction with luminaries such as textile designer Kaoru Oka and illustrator Lisa Congdon joining the mix.
While initial reports focused on the unfathomable disaster that the tsunami brought to the shores of northern Japan, the world’s attention soon shifted to concerns about the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, a situation that is stabilizing but continues to eclipse the real and dire needs of people who have been left homeless and wounded in the disaster’s wake. Handmade in Japan is an opportunity to bring the focus back to the people who need immediate help and for us to join an international artist community in supporting Japan at its greatest time of need. The auction, which aims to raise $25,000 for Global Giving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund, goes live March 24 on eBay. Tune in to make a difference.
Handmade for Japan runs from March 25, 9 a.m. (March 24, 8 p.m. EST)-March 28, 9 a.m. (March 27, 8 p.m. EST) through eBay’s Giving Works program stores.ebay.com/handmade-for-japan.All
of the auction’s net proceeds will be donated to Global Giving’s Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. D.H. Rosen is a Tokyo-based writer and visual artist. He welcomes questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org