Yesterday I returned from a four day Golden Week ceramic trip to Numazu in Shizuoka, near Mount Fuji and the Izu Peninsula. The in-law ceramics senseis organized this annual trip to use a wood-fired oven to make special bizen pottery.
For three days and nights, we heated a wood kiln until it reached 1200 degrees celsius, taking turns feeding it. It will take another three or four days for the kiln to cool down, so a return trip is necessary to take out the pottery.
Here are some photos that depict some of the process. Below are the 18 or 20 pieces I made: mostly flower vases with lattice tops, ten small round plates, and four rectangular plates.
Read more and see more photos
Over the Golden Week holiday (May 1 to May 5), I am going with the ceramics senseis and some students to a small town in Shizuoka to make bizen pottery in a wood-fired kiln that will be heated for five days. We will take turns staying up all night to keep the fire lit.
Bizen pottery is very special. It is the oldest form of Japanese pottery, and can only be done in special kilns. Bizen uses no glaze, but instead organic materials like rice straw and pine ash placed on the ceramics produce red and brown markings and spots. The effects are often unpredictable, and they are called “yohen” or kiln accidents.
Here’s two examples of fine bizen: Okayama website, the town that is its original home. And Sachiko Torok’s work, an artist in Bizen.
My first pieces include the four vases above, modeled on the one on the right. My line is still not very good, but I like the trick of turning a round shape into a twisted five-sided shape. I also made four rectangle plates, ten tiny bowls, and five vases that include ceramic lattices for arranging flowers. Two of the lattices are in the shape of steep inverted bowls that sit on top of shallow bowls; three are flat lattices that sit on cylinders and an octagon.
I am curious how they’ll turn out in the oven. We are leaving two weeks from today, and I may make a few more pieces before we go. I’ll post more pictures from the trip and the finished results.
Apparently the bizen town we are going to is super small, and I was warned that there would be no internet. Fortunately one of the students has a nation-wide mobile internet provider for his laptop. I also confirmed with the senseis that while the town is small, they are well stocked with conbinis (convenience stores).