Dick Lehman, a local potter, tells stories through the Japanese ceramics pieces that he has collected in his travels and that were on exhibit in the Hershberger Art Gallery in the music center up until last Sunday. That afternoon, Lehman told a few of these stories to an audience gathered at the reception for the exhibit’s closing.
Articles that Lehman wrote for Ceramics Monthly lined the walls of the gallery, and displays of glazed sake cups and elegant teapots with wicker handles were arranged throughout the room. In his exhibit, Lehman sought to convey the link between physical artifacts and the ideas and stories behind them.
“I wish there was some way to extract the DNA that is no doubt in those cracks and pull up the people who have used these pieces before,” said Lehman.
Lehman visited the studios of Japanese ceramicists and studied their work during his travels through Japan. In these pieces, Lehman said, there is a humility—an “emphasis on keeping the presentation piece simple enough that it doesn’t compete with the real star of the show, which is the food.”
At the reception on Sunday, people gathered around Lehman, who sat cross-legged on the wood floor as he told stories of the surrounding ceramics.
Once when Lehman visited a Japanese ceramicist in his home, the man showed him three different pieces and asked Lehman which one he thought was the best. The man told Lehman that whichever one he chose, he would take home with him. Taken aback by the man’s hospitality, Lehman at first refused, but at further pressing finally chose a small glazed bowl. At Hershberger Art Gallery on Sunday, Lehman held up the bowl he had chosen for the audience to examine. “Even someone who is blind could see this piece by feeling the outside,” he said.
Lehman took the bowl, assuring the man in Japanese tradition that he would be the bowl’s caretaker, not its owner. Later, Lehman found out from the man’s wife that that bowl was the man’s very favorite piece—a piece that the man had used every single day—a piece that had become more and more beautiful to the man as he used it. Lehman was humbled by the man’s great generosity. As a token of thanks, he chose his own favorite piece from his own studio and sent it to the man.
“In some respects, these works and their stories help define who I am,” said Lehman. “They have become objects for meditation. Some have achieved the status of ‘icon,’ reminding me of what is really important in my relationships with others and my understanding of myself.”
To learn more about Lehman’s own work, go to www.dicklehman.com or visit his studio at 1100 Chicago Avenue in Goshen.