Friday, February 22, 2013
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
After downing 6 cups for 500 yen in the central park, a Czech friend and I headed back to the small Meiji Era sake factory near my house. Here the crowds were smaller, but the mood was high as the factory's owner played bass in a Ventures cover band, while patrons snacked on udon noodles and drank the ol' "rice wine." We picked up some bottles of shinshu (new sake) and headed back to my house to sample more of the fermented rice beverage in cozier conditions.
Work the next day was a bit of a struggle, but it was worth it. I'm already looking forward to next year's festivities.
And speaking of sake, if you have a moment why don't you check out our lovely Japanese sake sets in our pottery shop.
Also, check out the latest addition to our pottery shop, this stunning Japanese Ikebana vessel from Kyousen Kiln. Such a mesmerizing combination of form and color.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Sunday, June 19, 2011
We also talked about the tough economic times both in Japan and abroad. Afterward he said he'd like to offer his work to customers outside of Japan for a reduced price. Now I am very pleased to be able to offer you many of Master Maeda's most stunning and rare works in our online Japanese pottery shop for 30% less than if you were in Japan and bought them here!
This is great news for collectors of Japanese porcelain or anyone who wants to buy a special hand-crafted work of contemporary Imari ceramics from a certified Master of Traditional Crafts.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Apologies for not updating the shop site and this blog much recently. I've been a bit overwhelmed with new house stuff (see photo). Look for new items being added to the Village of the Secret Kilns Pottery Shop in the near future!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Recently, thinking back on my Canadian friends' reactions to their unique tea cups, I thought why not take this a step further? Our close relationships with Imari ceramicists enables us to approach them on your behalf to discuss the possibility of unique customized pieces made for you. This could range from simply writing a child's name on a cup, all the way to complete made-to-order shapes and designs.
Although we cannot guarantee that the ceramicists will accept your idea, my experience has been that these artists are open to experimentation.
Contact us now to discuss the possibility of unique Japanese pottery and porcelain made for you.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
There is an noticeable lag in all things pottery in the summer. Perhaps it has something to do with bring an oven up over 1000 degrees in a room that is already 40. The painters and sales people slow down enough but the people who "fire" are more likely to be found in their garden or at one of the dozens of town festival than anywhere near a stove (BBQs not withstanding) and I have never even heard of a wood kiln running in the summer months ... I'm sure some people do it ... but they must be crazy.
For me the end of summer means Sunset Live. Sunset is a 3 day concert/festival/party/event held in Keya on Itoshima in Fukuoka Prefecture. Sunset features the very best in Japanese reggae and Ska with a healthy dose of jazz, rock and folk thrown in for good measure. The three stages are all on or next to the beach and the atmosphere is sexy, friendly and playful .... and I am getting excited just thinking about it.
I would like to write more ... but ... yeah ... well, I would rather be packing my car. It starts in just a few short hours. You have a good weekend ... but unless you get married to a rich supermodel or happen to be going to Sunset Live I doubt it will be anywhere near as good as mine.
I'll try to get some pics up next week, assuming I don't loose or break my phone ... I would say thats about a 50/50.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Now, I've seen more Japanese pottery than you can shake a stick at, and I can report that while "everything" is indeed an exaggeration, I certainly have seen my fair share of usagi (rabbits) on pottery.
Rabbits jumping across waves, rabbits looking up at the moon, rabbits flying through the air, solitary rabbits, groups of rabbits, big and small... It seems that our furry friends' reputation of being able to reproduce abundantly, extends to being reproduced abundantly on Japanese ceramics.
Well, if like my visitor you are thinking "What is up with all those rabbits?" then I have an answer for you... or rather, two.
First, the popular rabbits and moon motif comes from an ancient Chinese tale of a hare (yes, I know hares are not rabbits, but let's not split hares... hairs... rabbits... what was I saying?) that lives in the moon, pounding magic herbs into an elixir of eternal life. This sacred rabbit was believed to live 1000 years (someone forgot to take their elixir), turning white after 500 of those years. In typical Japanese fashion, this Chinese tale was assimilated and "Japanized" in the process. The rabbit in the Japanese moon is pounding rice into tasty rice cakes, called mochi.
Second, the popular rabbits and waves motif comes from a story in the Kojiki (Japan's oldest history book) called "inaba no shirousagi," or the "White Rabbit of Inaba." According to this legend, a white rabbit crossed the ocean from Okino Island to the mainland at Inaba (modern-day Shimane prefecture) by using the backs of sharks as stepping stones and in doing so appeared to be running over the tops of the waves. This story became the subject of a famous Noh theater song.
While these two rabbit-legends are not the only two of their kind in Japan, they are two of the most famous, and account for many of the delightful rabbit motifs seen on Japanese ceramics.
This fall when the rice fields turn from green to gold and the night air gets chilly, Japanese people of all ages and persuasions will look up to the heavens, see the friendly rabbit in the moon pounding his mochi, and perhaps more than one will sing that old Noh song:
While the moon floats over the ocean
A rabbit runs over the waves
What interesting island scenery
Sunday, August 22, 2010
The Kouhou Kiln shop is one of my favorite places in Imari. Here are a few pictures from the interior of this beautiful thatch-roof building.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
But as this is the anniversary, there have been numerous specials on tv every night and people are more openly talking of the war than I can ever remember.
The other night I was having dinner at the home of a 70 year old pottery salesman and he, his family and I were watching one of these well produced and insightful specials. We all talked naturally of the horrors of war and even the thorny subject of where guilt should lie. But then, tongue loosened from shochu, the patriarch began to talk ... and remember.
I had always wondered how close to Arita/Imari the bombings came but this night, for the first time, I learned that they had been hit and hit hard. He told us of the lengths his Mother and Father went to to protect him as airplanes whizzed over head and bombs rocked the town. He told an amazing story about how one of the largets pottery companies in Arita was levelled when the Americans mistook it for a munitions plant.
It was as if, and if only for a few short minutes, he put aside his usually stoic demeanour and, with no prodding at all, gave me my first glimpse of a pottery town at war. Pushed by the knowledge that what he had to say was too important to be silenced by the years or the very human desire to forget, he carefully answered each and every question. It was moving.
The anguish, loss and pain that war brings is a curse on so many around the world. But no mater how uncomfortable, sad or even guilty it makes us feel, we must never cease to listen to their memories. Peace demands that we hear their stories; warnings of a dark path most of us are blessed never to have walked.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I’m sure that many young aspiring Japanese ceramicists would look at Maeda Keisuke and say that he has nothing left to prove in terms of his skill. Now in his early sixties, Maeda Keisuke could sit back, and make a living teaching and merely reproducing his most popular works. But that is not his calling.
Maeda Keisuke likes to say “from now,” as if the previous three decades of excellence in ceramics were mere preparation for the artistic journey that lies ahead of him. His dreams still inspire him; his spirituality still compels him; and they infuse his craft with artistry rare amongst his peers.
I am fond of saying on this site that Okawachiyama pottery has a timeless beauty, it does, and I feel this is particularly true of Maeda Keisuke’s work. It is rooted in the craft of Nabeshima ceramics production started centuries ago, it is made by the hands of a 21st-century man, but these are the hands of a man who looks to the future, striving to find that "next level." He believes his best work is yet to come. From now. The past, present and future - a student, a teacher, and a master.
At the time of writing this profile, Maeda Keisuke is working on an underglaze painting technique that most contemporary ceramicists ignore because it is so notoriously difficult. That’s as much I can reveal to you right now, but expect to find more spectacular work from Maeda Keisuke appearing in our shop in the future.
The Village of the Secret Kilns Pottery Shop is proud to sell the present and future works of Maeda Keisuke.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Hey there. "Hisashiburi" as they say over here.
I am sorry it's been a while since anything was thrown up here. The main reason was some computer "issues" I have been having. Not to go into too many details about these "issues" but I think you would be shocked and rather fearful to know just how little liquid (in just the right place) it takes to fry a motherboard.
Even before this episode I believed strongly in the need for waterproof electronics. When you think about the amount cell phones alone that are ruined (usually with all it's owners contacts ie social life) by waves, baby drool, drinks, dish water, rain and toilets, it seems bizarre to me that more of them are not waterproof. The craziest thing of all is that there isn't even a trend toward waterproofing.
Anyway, I guess that's all "spilled milk" now. Not that it is any kind of a "silver lining" but Apples "Time Machine" kept me from harikiri.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
As anyone who has a website probably knows, Google doesn't exactly give out first page rankings like they're going out of style.
It's a little gold star sticker on our homework.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
You see, loving The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael and fine eating, I have planted a small herb garden. Nothing particularly impressive, but it is mine and I am, never the less, quite proud of it. I have been wanting to put a picture of the garden up but also, more closer to the occasionally kept to theme of this blog, I wanted to show you some of the pottery I have been finding. You see, the garden is in the front yard of my house. A house that was built by the owner of one of the larger pottery shops on the main drag in down town Arita many years ago. Right up until literally the day before I moved in, hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of ceramics were stored here.
When I first moved in and started clearing the out of control foliage that I can still bairly call a “yard”, I would often find cracked or smashed pieces of “yakimono” laying on the ground. Mostly small fragments but many large items as well. Occasionally, I even came across ones that were still completely intact (I found a couple of my favorite sake cups clearing out a dead bush). I thought that I had removed most of the discarded porcelain, but now that I am digging and tilling the earth, I am stating to find hundreds more pieces. Digging a hole to shove a basil plant in often feels more like an archeology dig than farming. I try to keep that kind of fun mindset cause if I didn't, pulling a little piece of pottery out of my garden every 10 seconds would get really tired really quickly.
But it is fun ... sometimes I recognize a fragment as the work of a kiln or potter I know. Often I find myself holding a tiny piece and wondering what the original object was. Once in a while I even look at a design or pattern and wonder who would make/buy something so ugly ...
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Thanks to Mark for doing the lion's share of writing recently.
Thought I would post a picture and some comments about my recent trip to see the Old Imari porcelain exhibit at the Kyushu National Museum.
This was my first trip to the museum, and the building made quite a first impression. Tucked into the woods on a hillside just outside Dazaifu City, this massive building was built to look like an ocean wave. The museum's pamphlet touts its environmental credentials with solar panels and rainwater collection systems and the like, but what struck me most was the fact they used no less than three different "seismic isolation systems" in its construction to prevent damage to the cultural assets inside. Apparently the "big one" could hit Dazaifu City directly, and nary a vase would wobble nor a wall hanging sway. It looks like they used the wood contents of a small tropical rainforest on the interior, but they claim they only used trees that were "thinned" (Is that good?).
Anyway, after paying up 1300 yen at the door (ouch!) I took the escalator up to the 3rd floor and entered the special exhibition hall. The exhibit was expansive, displaying the entire collection of a Mr. Fumio Usui, who lived in Paris and collected works of Old Imari from across Europe. In 17th and 18th century Europe, it was popular for the upper class to decorate rooms with oriental ceramics.
The explanations started with a description of the first Dutch East India Company ship, the Vogelzang, loaded with 5,748 pieces of Imari porcelain that set sail from Nagasaki on October 15, 1659, on through the boom export years of the following decade, leading to the eventual decline of the industry from cheaper Chinese competition and changing conditions in Europe.
The pieces were displayed in chronological order, from the earliest underglaze cobalt-blue wares, to the development of designs using overglaze polychrome enamels, and eventually to gold overlay.
A piece that sticks in my mind is a porcelain shaving bowl, a kind of high-class bib, with a notch cut out of the rim to place your chin, and two holes for a string to suspend the bowl under your face.
All in all it was a beautiful and informative Old Imari porcelain exhibit, and a nice afternoon trip to a spectacular musem. On the return road with the sun getting low in the sky, I put on some tunes, put the windows down, and let the warm breeze in the car. I thought to myself that while we usually celebrate the work of contemporary ceramicists on our website, it's nice to see where and how this beautiful Japanese ceramics tradition began.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
So, the other night after eating at a nice yakitoriya a friend and I found ourselves wandering the downtown area of Imari looking for somewhere to pop into. The first place we stopped at was closed and the second was full, our prospects looked bleak.
But we pushed on. Japan really teaches a person a) how to work hard, and b) how to play hard. We were not going to so easily be denied a good time on this night. Before too long we happen on a local ceramics maker I have been friends with for some years now and I informed him of our little predicament. He quickly suggested a place called "A-Train" and seemed surprised when I told him I had never been there.
He gave us some directions and soon we were there. A~Train is a great little place. There was live blues, jazz and rock coupled with friendly staff and customers all crammed into a tiny space. We were there for hours, taking in the music and having interesting conversations with just about everyone in attendance.
I wonder how many more hidden treasures are left for me to discover in this low-key but talented and enormously creative corner of Japan.
Friday, May 28, 2010
The other morning I woke up early(ish) and hit the road. But this time it wasn't about the yummy yummy squid. With board, wax and wet suit in tow, I took off for the beach. I drove an hour and a half to Keiya on Itoshima. Sure there are closer places to surf but this is my favorite point. A beautiful cape with 33.3 Km of shoreline, most of it sandy beach. One of my favorite places in Japan now that I think about it. The weather man had told me it was going to be warm and sunny. The oceanographers told me there were going to be waves.
I had the day off and I was determined to make it a great one!
I don't know where my sun, warmth and waves went but would like to make abundantly clear that I saw nothing of the sort. It was gray. Gray and damp. I would compare it to the drizzle of London in the fall but I have never actually been to London. Ok... umm... it was not unlike the drizzle of London (Ontario) in the fall.
The one good think to come out of this fools errand was I got to go to Natty Dread. Natty Dread is a hand made beach side restaurant that can't even boast running watter amongst it's charms. But what it can boast is, what has to be Japan's finest Jerk Chicken. A spicy, smoky, slow cooked over an open flame piece of heaven.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
A few weeks ago I wrote that I had been out to see the good folks at Daigoro Gama in Okawachiyama, Imari. I recently noticed that Dave has been adding more of their products on the Secret Kilns site and man do they look good.
I marvel at the thought and attention to detail that is put into every piece. This dragon is a great example. Sure, the dragon is as impressive as it is foreboding, but look closely at the porcelain waves jetting up from underneath. What an exquisite marriage of design and motion.
The Daigoro kiln produces so much impressive ceramics, but I think it is their dragons that set them apart for me. If you have a look at the vases in the Secret Kiln shop, you can see what is probably my favorite Daigoro piece, an unbelievably detailed vase featuring two fierce dragons. Love it!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It was a good weekend. On Saturday Dave and a few other friends came over for an evening of sumo, stories, poker and a VERY late night mountain top BBQ.
Sunday was the "undokai" (Sports Festival) at the Jr. High just down the road. While I, thankfully, have yet to generate offspring, it's a fun morning. Lot's of, screaming, not quite synced katas and neighborhood pride. Excited kids everywhere and half the town watching them.
After that I went to a wine tasting that ensured that I said "sayonara" to the weekend in style.
Friday, May 14, 2010
Living in Japan will change a man. Perhaps living anywhere will change ya. Perhaps just living changes all who are blessed to go on doing so.
Yesterday before sitting down to watch a day of sumo I drove out to my favourite squid place. A little BBQ place near Karatsu. It's on a secluded beach on the far tip of a peninsula that darts deep into the Tsushima Strait at the very bottom of the Sea of Japan. Sure there are closer places that sell squid. Hundreds I suppose. But this place is my favourite and the long drive through mountains and farm land is just part of the experience.
How strange this would have seemed to me a few (well ... it may actually be a few more than a few) years back. I had eaten squid before I came to Japan. It was a dare. Now I have a "favorite squid place". I recommend it to friends and when I haven't been there for a while I find myself missing it. "Life is change. Growth is optional." Indeed.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
It was a beautiful weekend but the new week somehow brought yet another rainy Monday with it. How many weeks/months (years!?) can this unlucky trend last?
I had a small BBQ on Saturday night. Just a couple friends making Jerk Chicken and having a few drinks together. The weather in Arita is great right now. Warm in the days, but not oppressively hot like it will be in a few weeks. Then becoming cool and crisp in the evenings. Reminds me a lot of Canadian summers.