"Rakuyougama" - Furano City - Bizen pottery baked in a wood-burning kiln.
Sitting at the foot of a mountain on the outskirts of Furano, surrounded by seemingly endless rice fields, sits an old wooden school building now known as "Nanyoukan Art Farm." This building is currently being used as the pottery studio "Rakuyougama" by Mr. Naoto Tsuneki.
Mr. Tsuneki was born in Kurashiki City in Okayama Prefecture. After spending four years in his home town studying the Bizen style of pottery he visited Furano in 2001 and, though still only college-aged, he decided that this was where he would strike out on his own. He says his reason for the decision was simple, "I felt like this was a place where I could work freely. This place has a history of Bizen style pottery, which was ideal for starting my own studio. However, in Hokkaido I felt that there wouldn't be any pressure to conform to any particular style, despite the history, and that atmosphere fascinated me."
▲ Mr. Naoto Tsuneki
The soil used for his pottery is taken from Bizen and baked with a fire made from Japanese larch (a type of wood). "Usually Bizen pottery is baked with fire made from Japanese red pine, but it's difficult to get my hands on that material here so I went with larch. After I buy the wood I always cut it myself." says Mr. Tsuneki. The kiln is fired up twice a year, once in spring and once in late autumn. The accumulated pottery is cooked for six days. He told me that it's necessary to check the condition of the fire once every five minutes during this process, so the task is undertaken by the whole family and treated as a 24/7 part-time job.
▲ An "anagama," an old style of kiln made by digging a hole into the side of a hill. This one measures 11 meters in length!
▲ The inside of the kiln. The pottery is lined up on the shelves to be fired.
The works that Mr. Tsuneki creates are classified as "Yakishime" in Japanese. The pottery is colored not with glaze, but by using ash and smoke from burning cloth. "Bizen pottery is mostly used for tools, so the atmosphere needed to create these heavy duty works is quite brutal. I began my career making those kinds of pieces, but since coming to Hokkaido I've changed. I now aim to creat vessels that are useful, but that you want to place at the front of your shelves to be admired. The works have become lighter and thinner as I've continued, as has the smoke coloring. I've increasingly moved to an orange hue, which isn't a typical Bizen coloring."
The traditional techniques used have been molded and adapted to the natural Furano environment, leading to entirely original works being produced.
▲ The old music room is used to turn the works.
▲ I waited patiently for these Chinese Zodiac snakes to be fired.
▲ Jars with corks are very popular.
▲ The adorable "animal series." These extremely well crafted figures seem like they'll begin moving any second.
▲ These cups make great gifts.
▲ Also located in the Nanyoukan Art Farm is the studio of artist Satoshi Morimoto.
For purchasing information please refer to the addresses below.
［アトリエ兼工房］ (Studio Ken Workshop)
Location: 1 Art Farm, Nanyoukan "Rakuyougama", Yamabenishi 25-Sen, Furano
TEL : 0167 - 42 - 3132
(Hokkaido Likers Photo Writer - Fukko)
(Photographs by Isao Kawamura)