photos courtesy of Faith Bemiss Of Sedalia Democrat
On the last beautiful day of fall, just off Rocheport’s main street, a blanket of muted red maple leaves intermingle with vibrant yellow ginko leaves, padding a trail straight to the front door of porcelain artist Yukari Kashihara’s gallery.
Inside Shirahaze Gallery, another world emerges. On well-lit shelves, Yukari’s ceramics abound. An eclectic mix of mini elephant teapots are on parade, joyfully bellowing a silent yet surely gleeful note. Upon their backs rest bird’s nests filled with eggs in lovely robin’s egg blue. Nearby, vibrant cherry trees sway to an unseen wind on fine and austere pottery pieces, evoking a familiar yet otherworldy place, that is both inviting and comforting, at once known and unknown.
Nature is on display here in colorful contrast, evoking scenes of both fall’s final adieu and spring’s first blooms. The cyclical nature of the world can be felt along with a certain jubilant whimsy.
On this day, Greg and Karla Butler are exploring Yukari’s shop while paying his daughter a visit in Rocheport. They are roadtripping in their RV, relocating from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Vancouver in Washington state.
“Yukari’s work is simply refreshing,” says Greg, a potter himself. “The surface treatments sing tones of harmony and nature.” They purchase a bowl, three miniature vases, two tumblers and a pendant. “We love them and they will be proudly displayed in our little home on wheels!”
Rocheport and MU used to be Greg’s stomping grounds, too. Greg studied art and pottery, under the late Robert “Bussy” Bussabarger, professor at MU, from 1977 through 1979. “I respected him very much, and he greatly expanded my appreciation for art and pottery.”
Yukari’s whimsical teapots tease your imagination and draw you near. Teapots harken to another time and place, when people moved more deliberately through their day; a time when open spaces expanded easily for conversation and where friendships were nurtured over a cup of hot tea.
Yukari’s teapots also symbolize those cherished moments spent alone, enjoying a cup of tea while curled up in a window seat, with a good book and a purring cat for companions. And really, how can one take life too seriously while pouring a cup of hot tea out of an elephant’s snout?
“Teapots are just one part of the ceramic world for me,” says Yukari. “However this form is quite complicated and more advanced than the other pieces you would use with it, for example cups and bowls. Teapots are made with different parts, which have to come together; they must form a cohesive and balanced finished form.”
INSPIRED BY NATURE
Yukari draws her inspiration from the outdoors. “I enjoy watching nature and the landscape in real time outside my windows while I produce my work. For example, listening to the chirping of the birds, or watching owls and other creatures as they come in and out of the landscape,” she says.
“I like pastel color palettes with clean, vibrant and crisp color accents,” Yukari says. “These colors evoke beauty, softness, peacefulness and tranquility, as well as warmth and kindness obtained through generosity and caring. This reminds me of the natural world, where new life springs with vibrant color and gradually fades away.”
ROCHEPORT, HOME SWEET HOME
“When I was a very young girl, my dream was to be an artist,” Yukari says. “By the time I reached college in the United States, I knew ceramics was my calling!”
Yukari, originally from Osaka, Japan, earned a BFA and MFA from MU in ceramics. Yukari, and her husband, Tom Scharenborg, moved to Rocheport about 12 years ago to open their gallery.
“It’s a small town but not too far from Columbia. Access to the Katy Trail and the Missouri River are sublime,” she says. “I feel peace and tranquility in this place, and have from the first time I ever set foot here. I love the tourism and how it has developed in and around this town. The deep rich history plays a factor, as well.”
Yukari says being married to a creative photographer adds depth to their relationship and to her success as an artist. “Being married to a photographer expands our pottery business through his excellent photographs of my work, which help convey my aesthetic to the viewer in a deep way. I have received compliments on the photos of my work and I have also been told that the photographs have sometimes brought the client to me to see the work. This is one more way to expand my horizons as an artist.”
THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT
Yukari has developed a following — a growing fan base — many of whom might purchase one of two of her more significant pieces each year, slowly building their collection.
“I definitely have customers who collect my pieces over time. My customers have helped me develop the idea of an artful table, where using my artwork dramatically enhances their meal and makes it even more special and memorable,” Yukari says. “I also have customers who gift my pieces out to family, friends and loved ones.”
Yukari feels successful simply by knowing that her work is appreciated. To say she is an award-winning artist is an understatement. A list of the awards and scholarships she has received fills more than a page, with numerous Best of Shows and Awards of Excellence from Columbia’s annual Art in the Park, with many other local and national shows represented.
But the story of what she describes as her greatest compliment is even more telling. “I had a customer contact me one time and tell me that every morning, if she uses my mug, her entire day goes better. I know that’s a simple thing, but the simple pleasures of life are typically the most meaningful and important. If I can affect someone’s life in such a profound way, my life is enhanced as well. This is ultimately what keeps me going as an artist.”
A NEW YEAR
In 2016, Yukari was honored to be an artist-in-residence at the State Fair. “I was amazed at how much there was to see and experience,” she says. “The change of scenery inspired me. I was also humbled at how well folks responded to my work, especially those who had never seen it before.”
The new year promises new creative summits. “Every year I have something new to paint. It is my visual diary and has evolved over the years,” she says. “I already have custom orders and commissions waiting for me on the list! In addition, I usually come up with one new motif every year. This is inspired by travels to national parks or hikes through new natural environments where I derive inspiration.”
200 Second Street in Rocheport • (573) 356-7154 • www.shirahaze.com
Check website for hours.
Yukari’s pottery is also available at:
Bluestem Missouri Crafts
13 South 9th Street, Columbia, MO 65201
Columbia Art League
207 South 9th Street, Columbia, MO 65201
531 Court Street, Fulton, MO 65251