"Simpleness generates a feeling of well-being" Bizen-yaki Made by Kiko Ando
Words by Megumi Rokuhara
The unique unglazed texture of Bizen-yaki, made by a “kiln effect” with local clay.
Bizen-yaki is stoneware that has evolved around the Bizen province in Okayama prefecture, and which has the longest history, with six remaining kilns in Japan. Bizen-yaki are identifiable by the clay color and the absence of glaze.
Fired without glaze at a high-temperature, the texture of the clay stands out on the product.
The pattern of the surface is totally dependent on the component of the clay and the firing process.
Although potters take into account these effects by the specific placement of pieces and by regulating the amount of falling residual ashes, fire sometimes causes unexpected changes and surprising results on the stoneware.
The Choice of Clay Determines the Products
Seeing as Bizen-yaki is created without glaze, we could say that clay determines everything on the stoneware.
Each potter stocks crude clay, which is often yielded from rice fields and slopes of mountains, and makes it a suitable material for its own style.
In addition, the potters blend different types of clay based on what they want to make. This is regarded as one of the most important skills to craft Bizen pottery masterly.
Striving for simple tableware at the corner of any kitchen.
After a “refining clay” stage, the potters give shape to clay on a lathe, and light the kiln to finish the pieces.
Once the firing is set up, it should continue for a period of 7 to 14 days without any halt, during which the potters have to check and adjust the fire temperature accordingly.
As clay used for Bizen-yaki is quite sticky, it is possible to make the pieces thin.
In most cases, however, it ends up being thickened otherwise the direct heat inside the kiln would distort it.
As a result, Bizen ware tends to be heavy and bears a ponderous look.
Nevertheless, Ando, a Bizen potter, who chose his career because of his keen interest in culinary and tableware, honestly hopes that people can use the tableware more casually as they would with their normal tableware during mealtimes.
While many Bizen-yaki artists are inclined to craft eccentric products showing their creativity, Ando is eager to make pieces as simple as possible so people can use them more casually and comfortably.