Beth Sorensen

Beth Sorensen has worked in communications in the arts and higher education since 1990 and has, as a generalist, written about a wide range of creative forms. Having lived throughout the state of Oregon over the years, she is particularly interested in sharing the stories of the artists who live and work around our region, discovering what inspires them and how they make their creative process a part of their daily lives. She currently lives in Southeast Portland with her husband and three rescue terriers.


Wataru Sugiyama: Building beauty

From a small barn studio in Ashland, the sculptor creates big works infused with the traditions and spirit of his native Japan

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.