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Yachimun – Pottery from Okinawa

06 – 16 June

Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan comprised of hundreds of islands, was once a kingdom (Ryūkyū) which was an important trading nation for surrounding countries such as Japan and China. Because of its placing, Ryūkyū was culturally influenced by various trading partners.

Once Ryūkyū was invaded by Shimazu, a province of Japan in 1609, Korean potters were invited to produce potteries using local clay. Since then, Okinawan potteries has developed its characters through the years. After the World War Ⅱ, because of the regulations for wood firing kilns in town, potters were forced to find new locations. One of the important ones are now based in a village called Yomitan where approximately 40 kilns are creating their masterpieces year round.

About a year and half ago, I visited a few pottery studios there. In this exhibitions, a very limited stock will be available from three potters I have selected. I hope many of you can visit the shop to see these pieces from the Japanese paradise!

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Momosan Shop 79a Wilton Way, London E8 1BG
Thursday – Sunday:  11:00 – 18:00

 

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Hidden deep inside the mountains in a small valley of Oita Prefecture, Onta is a pottery village which became a Cultural Landscapes of Japan in 2008.

Onta Village

Upon entering the area you hear a peaceful and rhythmic sound that echoes throughout the village. It is sound of the karausu, large wooden mortars powered by the flow of stream water pounding the clay. This is the sound Bernard Leach who stayed there also heard in 1954 and 1964.

Karausu: large wooden mortars powered by the flow of stream water pounding the clay

Pounded clay then mixed with water in a sink, then put through a sieve to remove impurities. All these preparation jobs are done by women in the family.

Clay settled at the bottom of the water sink is then dried under the sun till it gets to the right hardness before turned into a shape by men

Potteries in Onta do not take apprenticeship and run on the basis of primogeniture. This way, traditional techniques are well preserved. Distinguish characteristics of Onta Potteries are for the surface patterns created by tools such as tobikanna (chatter marks), hakeme (brushed marks) and kushigaki (combed marks).

Men turn kick wheels, and women do the rest

There were lots of potteries dried under the sun, making quite a view.

There were lots of potteries dried under the sun, making quite a view.

Before start making tablewares, they used to make large pieces like these pots

Before start making tablewares, large pieces like these pots used to be made in the village

Only restaurant in the village, serving noodles in potteries made in the village

Only restaurant in the village, serving noodles in potteries made in the village

Living National Treasure Shoji Hamada, a significant influence on studio pottery of the twentieth century, established the town of Mashiko as a world-renowned pottery centre. As a young student, Hamada was deeply impressed by an exhibition by Bernard Leach. They were introduced to each others by Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the mingei (folk craft) movement, and found much in common. They traveled to St. Ives in 1920 to work for three years together. After returning from Britain, Hamada began creating Mashiko-yaki in 1924.

Leach and Hamada

Leach and Hamada

Mashiko pottery is usually simple and rustic in style, but many of modern Mashiko Pottery is found in various styles because of the creative freedom brought by Hamada. Unlike other traditional kilns around Japan, Mashiko is open to newcomers letting anyone to be a potter.

Noborigama

Noborigama

Shoji Hamada's Pottery Studio

Shoji Hamada’s Pottery Workshop

Hamada's house filled with English furniture

Hamada’s house filled with English furniture

An old English chair brought back by Hamada in 19

An old English chair brought back by Hamada in 1923

An old church chair from England, one of Hamada's world collection

An old church chair from England, one of Hamada’s world collection

Yumachikama was situated right in front of the Tamatsukuri Onsen station. I only had 30 mins before catching the next train in order to get to Kyushu on the same day.  No time to waste, I run to the pottery as soon as I landed off the train. Apart from myself, there was a young couple who left quickly after looking around the shop, probably found nothing interesting for them. Then the shop was all mine. With such a concentration, I took a good look around the stack of wares piling up here and there to choose right wares to bring back to London.

Since the Edo period, the region was already famous for potteries with locally available clay and natural materials for glazing. Established in 1922, Yumachikama was originally making large pieces like hibachi, traditional Japanese heating pots.

Since Takashi Fukuma, the second generation of the pottery joined the Mingei folk arts movement in early Showa Period, the pottery started to make European style tablewares.

The iconic yellow glazing taken from local rocks made Bernard Leach especially interested as it reminded him the galena (the most common ore of lead) from home in the UK. He stayed with Fukuma family to produce some pieces and also taught Takashi the technique of slipware and how to put handles onto cups and jugs. These techniques are now passed onto Shuji Fukuma, the third generation of the family and to his son who will eventually be in charge of the pottery.

Since the potter was not there, I was not able to see the workshop, but his kind wife brought me a tasty cup of tea and a sweet served on beautiful plate of their work.

Amazing collection of potteries kept in the gallery space. There were many of Leach's work produced while his stay in 1934.

Amazing collection of potteries kept in the gallery space. There were many of Leach’s work produced while his stay.

Leach showing his technique in front of Yanagi and Takashi Fukuma in 1934 when he visited the pottery.

Leach showing his technique in front of Yanagi and Takashi Fukuma in 1934 when he visited the pottery.

Slipware Technique:  Before completely drying the layer of slurry glaze, draw freely using a dropper with another kind of glaze. (Photos taken from Muji caravan)

Slipware Technique: Before completely drying the layer of slurry glaze, draw freely using a dropper with another kind of glaze. (Photos taken from Muji caravan)

Along other potteries I brought back from the trip, Yumachikama’s pieces will be shown and sold at the “Souvenir Show” next week. Don’t miss the opportunity.

 
“Miyage 土産” ~Souvenir from Japan~
30.08 (Fri) – 01.09 (Sun) 
11:00 – 19:00 (Fri & Sat) / 12:00 – 17:00 (Sun)
 
Momosan Shop
15a Kingsland Road, London E2 8AA
momosanshop.com

In my recent travel back in Japan, I visited potteries which are strongly connected to the great British potter Bernard Leach.

Shussai Pottery in Shimane prefecture was one of them. The pottery was established in 1947 by five young locals who were influenced by William Morris’s art and craft movement and Muneyoshi Yanagi’s Mingei folk art movement which saw beauty in ordinary objects for practical purposes. Through meeting the important figures in Mingei movement including  Yanagi, Leach, Kanjiro Kawai and Shoji Hamada, the Shussai pottery eventually established themselves producing utilitarian wares for everyday use.

Shussai1

With the recent increase in popularity of Mingei, the Shussai pottery is high in demand, having 11 potters turning wheels daily. Young apprentices from other cities come to join the co-operative team.

It was a beautiful sunny day I visited the Shussai Kiln. Sun-dried pieces are waiting to be fired.

It was a beautiful sunny day I visited the Shussai Kiln. Sun-dried pieces are waiting to be fired.

Noborigama, a wood firing climbing kiln, with 6 chambers gets used 3-4 times a year, produces 5000 pieces every time. Each chamber reach to 1260-1270℃ with supply of wood day and night continuously for two days.

Noborigama, a wood firing climbing kiln, with 6 chambers gets used 3-4 times a year, produces 5000 pieces every time. Each chamber reach to 1260-1270℃ with supply of wood day and night continuously for two days.

Shussai3

Some of the wares I have brought back from the visit will be shown in a “Souvenir Show” at the end of this month.