In this age of celebrity for not much at all, I applaud the concept of a living national treasure. Recognising living national treasures is Japanese in origin honouring individuals or groups who embody intangible national cultural values. To be a living national treasure is an acknowledgement of true master status.
Australia is among countries to have adopted this idea and, while some on our list might raise eyebrows, others who are not on it deserve to be. One I would like to nominate is Peter Rushforth who has been making pottery since 1946 and is still firing up his Blue Mountains kiln at the grand age of 92. Regarded as Australia’s greatest living potter his contribution to Australia’s cultural landscape is currently acknowledged with the largest exhibition of his work since 1985. If you’re a ceramics lover and visiting Sydney you can view 150 of his pieces gathered from galleries including the National Gallery, and private collections, which make up the retrospective All Fired Up, at the National Trust Gallery at Observatory Hill.
The exhibition reflects the sense of Australian place in colours and materials which embody Rushforth’s work. He is particularly known for his refined glazes, including his Jun glaze produced through a long, slow firing, which results in a range of blue finishes, from pale through to deep indigo. Ironically, Peter Rushforth developed his artistic interests in World War Two while he was a prisoner of war of the Japanese at Changi. He subsequently acquired many of his skills through studying in the land of his former captors and absorbing their philosophies. His guiding principle is said to be the Zen concept of: “develop an infallible technique and then leave yourself open to inspiration”. Sounds like advice the Australian cricket team could adopt!