Within a day, the group got up a Facebook page, which before long was receiving hundreds of e-mails from people who wanted to help. Thanks to Horie’s contacts and Chung and Manzella’s public relations skills, Handmade for Japan ultimately attracted work from 99 artists as well as selected inventory from seven galleries (which also helped publicize the event through their e-mail lists). Held from March 24 through the 27, the auction was covered by The New York Times, the Huffington Post and other high-profile media outlets.
Many of the works had a connection to Japanese crafts – not just pottery, but also fabrics from a few indigo dyers and other textile artists; a well-known Japanese artist contributed his bamboo sculptures. The most valuable piece was by the renowned Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, obtained through the auspices of Dai Ichi Arts Limited, a New York gallery. The late artist is considered a national treasure, and the donation was of symbolic importance, given that many of his works were broken in the earthquake, according to Horie, who was raised in Maine but had a Japanese father and grew up speaking Japanese at home.
Horie was gratified that bidders avoided the use of “sniping technology” or other techniques to get the lowest price and instead went out of their way to be generous. Although most participants were Americans, the bidders represented 27 countries, including Australia, Sweden and Canada. Prices ranged from $35 to $4,000. All proceeds went directly to Global Giving’s earthquake and tsunami fund; eBay contributed by waiving its fees. The upshot: Handmade for Japan raised $75,557, surpassing its original goal threefold.
The giving hasn’t stopped: Post-auction, Handmade for Japan has raised an additional $5,000, and it’s still soliciting donations. If you’d like to make a contribution, visit http://handmadeforjapan.org or www.globalgiving.org/dy/fundraiser/prevfund/gg.html?regid=5005.
“I live in a hamlet, and normally it’s a pretty quiet life,” said Horie. “But with the Internet, anyone is able to organize a grassroots effort and enlist help from all over the world. In two weeks, we had 5,000 Facebook followers.” The artist, who travels internationally to lecture and teach, said that this wasn’t the first time that she has reached out into cyberspace: Several years ago, she raised $11,000 with an “Obamaware” project that involved 27 other artists. “We’d like to see Handmade for Japan develop into another incarnation,” she concluded. “We still need your help.”