Light, Sturdy, and Blue
Words by Megumi Rokuhara
Inbe, a town with a long tradition of earthenware
Bizen-yaki, a kind of earthenware, is one of the oldest types of pottery in Japan.
Inbe is the birthplace of Bizen-yaki.
As soon as you start to wonder around the town, you can find a number of potteries and studios lined up.
There are stoneware crammed together in every storefront, chimneys from kilns facing the sky, and unique walls made of earthenware pipe and pieces of potteries.
Blue Bizen, the pottery studio we are going to introduce to you, is located among rows of these houses and streets.
Looking back at the past, he found blue Bizenware.
Atsuji Matsumoto, an owner of the studio Blue Bizen, is one of the artists inheriting the Bizen-yaki tradition and striving to bring a new charming quality to stoneware.
The history of Bizen-Yaki traces back to about 800 years ago when it started to take new forms and reddish brown colors, which are now prominent characteristics of Bizen-yaki.
“It turns out that people used to make Bizen-yaki with sky or aqua blue colors before the 12th century,” Matsumoto says.
He combined his own technique and distinctive designs with the conventional crafting process to create a new kind of Bizen-yaki.
He named the finished products “Blue Bizen.”
Lightweight and sturdy, the blue Bizen-yaki
“Blue Bizen is,” Matsumoto says, “the refinement of traditional stoneware with an old history.”
Using the “saggar firing technique”, the method of creating a confined atmosphere within a saggar to keep the temperature inside constant, makes it possible to prevent the pieces from getting unevenly colored.
As a result, the finished pieces are much lighter and sturdier than conventional Bizen-yaki.
“As we can’t make a large number of blue Bizen, it is precious, but it also means that not many people know of it.
I want more people to know about Blue Bizen, which will in turn push the field of Japanese stoneware forwards,” Matsumoto tells us with passion.
Making stoneware that stays by your side
Blue Bizen makes various types of stoneware, from a handspun mug with a refreshing blue color to useful small barware sets.
They are suitable for and look great in almost any place of our modern lifestyle.
Matsumoto says, “I want to make stoneware that has an understated beauty and that is able to stay by your side naturally rather than being something obtrusive.”
1000 years have passed since Bizen-yaki was originally born in Inbe, Bizen city.
Although Bizen-yaki has gained popularity amongst Japanese and people overseas, Matsumoto’s journey with Bizen-yaki is just getting started.