Japan is one of those countries that fascinates, but why, exactly? Is it the zen quiet of the countryside’s traditional ryokans? Is it the craziness of Tokyo’s Akihabara and Harajuku? The love of tradition? The seemingly infinite inventiveness of design firms like Nendo? The bullet trains?
As in, it’s about the duality. The Japanese (and those that love them) embrace both, moving easily between the two.
The thing that’s interesting about Japan is that the two do not blend that much. While we in the West so adore the mashup, the fusion, half-caf cappucinos, there is a purity to the Japanese that inspires both respect and wonder.
One artisan who bucks tradition to bring the two together is Misa Kumabuchi, the ceramist behind a project called Mushimegane Books. This potter is based in Nishinomiya in Hyogo prefecture, located between Kobe and Osaka.
She uses traditional Japanese shapes as her inspiration but isn’t by any way limited by them.
The shapes are restrained but utterly modern, the modernity introduced through elongation by a few millimeters here; a slightly flatter curve – or deeper one – there; and some unusual footed cups (pyocotan) used as planters and candleholders.
But it’s the glazes where she runs away from the pack.
Sherbet colors – gossamer light greens, blues, pinks, peaches and greys. Deeper iridescent greens, ochres and blues. The glazes are subtle, textured, both deep and lightly applied. Sometimes she employs a technique that results in beautiful flecks, reminiscent of twinkling stars.
She both hand-builds and uses a wheel to create her pieces, which she fires in a gas kiln to create her textures and glaze patterns. She often collects, seashells, coral and other natural substances near her home in the countryside, grinding them by hand with a mortar and pestle, to make her distinctive, subtle, luminous glazes.
According to OEN, one of the rare stores that carries her work (and one of the most exquisite sites around) the concept behind Mushimegane Books revolves around people and sounds, with the pots being made as a reflection of the earth's surface and nature in general.
Part of the distinctiveness is Misa’s gender. Unlike the west, where so many potters are women, pottery seems to be a more male discipline in Japan. As a result, it’s less usual to see the exquisite lightness, lyricism and joy.
And it’s that joy and delight that she intends to come through. As Misa says on her own site:
If words were musical notes, we would live while singing.
Add a rhythm to everyday.
Add spice to the day.
As mushimegane books values on the intuition and images on creating, each product has a different aspect.
I am very glad if you take my products in your hand in some shops or exhibition that held several times a year.
I appreciate every day.
Charmed. Utterly charmed.
All images are via the Mushimegane Books website, unless otherwise labeled. Those items are from OEN.