Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman Finding New Self at 77, as Ceramist at Siue

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman Finding New Self at 77, as Ceramist at Siue

Article excerpt

YOSHIKO MORI, 77, is thousands of miles away from home and her family in Japan. But this great-grandmother is thriving as an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, studying a new love - ceramics.

"I'm so thankful," she says of her new opportunity to learn.

Mori is a slight, quiet figure bending over her potter's wheel in the university ceramics studio. Wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and apron, she rolls up her sleeves and smooths the edge of a clay vase with her fingers. Her curly black hair is tucked under a navy blue beret, and she's wearing flowered sandals on her feet. Her face is virtually unlined.

She is so much happier now than when she was, in her words, "a television woman."

She had spent most of her life rearing three children and helping in the office of her husband's medical clinic in Japan. Then the children were grown, and she and her husband separated. She retired and, lacking a focus in life, started watching a lot of television.

"I sit down, take tea and cookies, become fat and lazy. I think `Oh no, I must do something.' "

How did she make the leap to ceramics at SIU? It took about six years.

She was visiting her son, a medical student, in Minnesota when she read a newspaper article about the folk-potter Warren McKenzie. His work reminded her of folk art in Japan, and she admired the aging McKenzie for being at the top of his field.

Over the next few years, Mori made several trips between Japan and the United States. She sought out and met McKenzie and put up the money for a television crew to film a video about his life and work for young artists to see.

The video will be shown this week at the National Conference on Education for the Ceramics Arts Conference at the University of Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Mori wanted to take up ceramics herself, so she enrolled in a workshop in New York and then at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Last year, a friend introduced Mori to Dan Anderson, head of the ceramics program at SIU, who has a Japanese-style wood-fire kiln. …

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