During the 16th century when the cult of wabi-tea was developing, Sen no Rikyu’s teacher, Takeno Jō started using Shigaraki-ware in the tea ceremony and one of the utensils he adopted as a mizusashi, fresh water container, was a Shigaraki jar used to dye silk, known as an ‘oni-oke‘. The form is simple with straight sides and a rim that is slightly wider than the base.
Today I drove down to a friend’s kamadashi, kiln unloading, where I had a few works fired, one of them was an ‘oni-oke‘ or ‘devil’s bucket’. This was my fifth firing at Fugengama 普限窯, the kiln is located in the hills near Kishiwada, south-west of Osaka. Kishiwada is well known for its lively annual festival called ‘Danjiri matsuri‘ where decorated floats are hauled around the town. On the roadside to the kiln are large wooden wheels from the floats, these are donated to Fugengama after the festival and used as fuel in the firing.
This anagama kiln is hidden in a bamboo grove and during kamataki, firings, black smoke billows over the nearby expressway and on occasions the fire brigade are called in by passersby who believe there is a house ablaze; to prevent this large electric fans are placed next to the chimney to redirect smoke away from the expressway. In contrast to electric or gas fired pots, wood-fired pots have a natural glaze, made by ash from the burning wood and its interaction with minerals in the clay, usually the pieces are loaded into the kiln without any applied glaze. The fired surface shows great variation in colour, texture and thickness, from smooth to glossy, rough and sharp and is referred to as a landscape; the three landscapes of biidoro, a green vitrified flowing glaze which sometimes stops to form a globule called ‘the dragonfly’s eye’, koge, scorch markings and hi-iro, fire colour. I had been here a week before for the hikidashi, pulling out of my vase: towards the end of the firing, several pots are pulled out from the embers while molten, using an iron bar; a sudden transition from a searing 1230 degree celsius kiln to outdoors causes the pots to glisten more than if left to cool naturally.
The kiln is fired between five and ten days, four times a year, each firing using 1,200-1,800 bundles of firewood. A rotating team stokes the kiln round the clock, the whole organisation is led by Koyama-San who is the founder of Fugengama.
As always, kamadashi, kiln unloading is an eagerly anticipated day as members look forward to seeing the fired pots. Today I brought some friends from Kyoto, we admired the various pots and chatted with the team of pottery enthusiasts. Many thanks to Koyama-san and the wonderful wood-firers of Fugengama.
down the devil’s pail
an emerald rivulet stops to form ..
the dragonfly’s eye