Wataru Sugiyama: Building beauty | Oregon ArtsWatch

An unpaved road turns off of East Main Street at the southern end of Ashland, passing by cows, abandoned farm equipment, and old cars to arrive at an archetypically picturesque old barn. Wander through the brush to the back, where you’ll find the studio of sculptor Wataru Sugiyama. The shelves that line the spare, 10’ x 12’ room are crammed full of his unique interpretations of traditional Japanese Haniwa imagery – meditating elephants, beatified boars, violin-playing foxes, and turtle monks – all in various stages of completion for gallery exhibitions and commissions.

Wataru Sugiyama, Haniwa horse sculpture. Sugiyama’s work has long been inspired by traditional Haniwa imagery of Japan. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The 64-year old Sugiyama has worked in the barn studio for nearly 15 years now, the location along Hamilton Creek suiting him better than one with more creature comforts. He will often rise from his work bench and wander down the dirt roads nearby, stopping at a nearby pond teeming with aquatic life, meditating on the rolling hills across the way, or playing his flute to greet the morning sun.  

Sugiyama works not only in ceramic, but also in bronze, wood, and stone. Photo courtesy Hanson Howard Gallery, Ashland.

Nature has always been the source of Sugiyama’s inspiration, part of a deep intuitive relationship he has to the living world. “I do find beauty in nature. I love to talk to the rising sun (in fact, I pray toward sun goddess), to clouds, trees (I love

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