Robert Yellin's Japanese Pottery Blog

Greetings from Kyoto, We've just moved our gallery into a magnificent old Sukiya style home located very near the Silver Pavilion; a stunning area and setting for the inspired ceramic art we share with the world. Please visit us if ever in Kyoto or online at and

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Talking Yakimono With Steve Jobs

At one MacWorld some years back in Tokyo I got a call from the Tokyo Apple HQ
office asking if I would be interested to take Steve around looking at
ceramic art; at the time I was the ceramic art columnist for the Japan
Times. Sure, I think I could find some time I said.

A few days later I get another call saying Steve wanted to do it and
that I should meet him at the Hotel Okura at this day and time; and they
also primed me on what he likes, what he doesn't like, what pisses him
off, what to avoid, this and that, like I was meeting the President of
the Universe. Sure, I said...I can do that; I've met plenty of famous
people and to me they're all people first, period.

And Steve was. He was nothing that the HQ warned me about; he was down-to-earth,
easy to talk with, passionate and engaged in the works we saw. And we
saw some treasures; a 16th century majestic Shigaraki jar in perfect
condition, a masterpiece 20th century sculpture by Yagi Kazuo, and we
also climbed into the attic of a renowned collector-scholar. It was funny,
because when we entered this person's house there was not a pot to be seen.
Hey, we don't have much time I said, as HQ said something like only two
hours and Steve had to be back, so I requested we forgo the tea and small
talk and simply touch the clay. So this guy takes a stick and pokes it
into the ceiling and down comes a flimsy ladder. Steve bolted up it like
a kid climbing into his first tree house and we saw another room of
treasures. He was delighted.

Back in the limo he said how he was inspired by the organic and rolling
curves of the ancient stoneware jars and even got some design hints from
their shoulders for computers.

"Sublime, these works are all so sublime and not in your face, they
allude to greater beauty, I enjoy that," he said, a few times....sublime.

After about five hours we returned to the Okura, the staff were
trembling, did something happen, was he over-the-top pissed off?

Not at all, he was enraptured by all the timeless beauty he saw.

A few days later the Tokyo staff called---they were always on pins and
needles when Steve was in town I heard--to say he left Japan the
happiest they had ever seen him and part of that was due to our magic

Steve has left this world--yet has enriched our lives
so very, very deeply that it's almost impossible to put into words; his
life was sublime and profound as well.

Sayonara Steve, thanks so much for that sublime afternoon. Thanks for
the Japanese name card too.........blessings abound. Sayonara, such a life, such an impact, such a vision, such a man.


At October 10, 2011, Anonymous Milton Moon said...

A nice human story. Have always been a Mac user and recall with a mixture of frustration and rye-amusement using my first little Mac. No external drive then to make life a little easier. Daily I suffered from floppy disc overload or lost something that I had agonised over for hours. You bring back memories and thanks for that. Not at all surprised he liked the mystery and spontaneity of the pots you took him to see.
best wishes Robert,

At October 18, 2011, Blogger seychelles said...

Nice story, Yellin-san.
Did he buy something or was he content to
leave with just the enriching images in his mind?
A collector from Texas

At October 18, 2011, Blogger Robert Yellin said...

Thanks as always Milton: I really can't say 'Collector in Texas' yet suffice to say he lived a sparsely decorated life.

At January 02, 2012, Blogger yolande clark said...

I found this post very moving. Small moments, big connection. One wouldn't immediately draw parallels between a computer and a piece of porcelain. But elegance and beauty are lots of different places. I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Robert. Yo


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