Meet the Maker: Kuninari Kiln
The Kuninari Kiln is up on the North side of Honshū in the feudal domain of Echizen (modern day Fukui prefecture). Echizen has a long history of ceramics as one of the original 'six kilns of Japan'. However, this history does not necessarily represent skilled production! Prior to the 16th century it meant production of utilitarian storage jars and roof tiles. The Maeda family built the Kuninari Kiln and Maeda san takes his inspiration from the rich tradition of ceramics from the 16th Century onwards.
Maeda san in full flow at the Kuninari Kiln
The large bowls he makes for us originally started out as ikebana vases but they make fine (and perfectly safe) salad and fruit bowls. They range from a dark tenmoku glaze to two brighter green oribe glazes, both inspired by the birth of the tea ceremony.
View across the Maeda family paddy fields to the Kuninari kiln on a grey and muggy August day
Maeda san uses clay from his brother's paddy fields which he fires in a gas kiln. The tenmoku and oribe glazes are sometimes offset by his warabai or rice husk ash glaze. Taking the left over rice straw after his brother's family's rice harvest he will burn the rice straw and refine the ash in water to create this textured off-white glaze.
A vivid mix of tenmoku and warabai glazes
Short and wiry but with a glint in his eyes, after getting through his initial reserve, Maeda san is really fun to work with. Swallows constantly flit in and out of his workshop where they build their nests to try and escape the snakes. He also shares the workshop with his son who creates monolithic patterned sculptural pieces.
As a young man, Maeda san worked in Tōkyō before returning to his hometown, so he holds out hope of more young Japanese returning to the countryside after tiring of the city, and slowing the rural population decline.