Crane Platters Project a new take on ancient Japanese tradition

Dec. 10, 2012

Samantha Morley
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It all started with a 12-year-old Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki. She developed leukemia in 1955 as a result of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima.

Determined to wish her body back to health, Sadako pursued an ancient tradition called “senbazuru,” which entailed folding 1,000 cranes.

Upon finishing the 1,000th crane, Sadako would be granted one wish, but she did not live long enough to have her wish fulfilled.

Now, 57 years later, local potter Mark Wong hopes to present a new spin on the Japanese tradition by making 1,000 unique clay platters in his personal pottery studio.

“Potters usually do the same thing and are a lot of times prized for consistency,” Wong said. “The idea behind this is that even though they’re all going to have the same theme of a platter with a crane on it, they’re different sizes and different cranes and different colors,” he said.

Sizes range from 12 to 20 inches and colors include red, blue and black. The project has been off and on since March of this year. Wong took a break from the project in June to work at another job.

He returned to making platters toward the end of the summer. “I have about 250 [so far],” Wong said. He aims to complete 1,000 platters before the end of the year.

Wong operates out of his personal studio behind his home in Manitou Springs. Various platters lean against walls and rocks, unusable because of hairline cracks that could shatter them when fired. “I can throw 20 to 30 platters a day depending on the size I’m making,” he said.

His process is to throw as many platters as he can, then decorate the ones that are drying from the day before.

Wong has been a potter since 1993 and discovered his interest in the art when he transferred to a high school in Colorado Springs.

He asked if he could borrow the clay wheel and “made a huge mess and didn’t make a single pot.” He persevered and has since been crafting pottery for many exhibits.

For this exhibit, Wong hopes to completely decorate each wall with his platters. “The installation is going to be larger than life,” he said.

“It’s the idea of the whole being much bigger than the sum of its parts. Each of these platters is going to go to somebody. They can stand alone as a piece, but together they stand for a much larger statement.”

Platters used in the exhibit will be used in what Wong refers to as the “Pottery Lottery,” in which participants pay $40 and will receive a random platter to take home.

Twenty-five percent of sales benefit GOCA and also support the CERAMICA exhibit and two upcoming displays.

For those wishing to have a functional piece of art, Wong glazed every piece so that it can be eaten on and is microwavable and dishwasher safe.

Wong will be busy in his studio throwing as many platters as possible until the end of the year. “I love the idea of the repetition of it resulting in a wish,” he said.