********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

Saturday, 20 October 2012

From Bizen,備前から

The tableware I ordered last year has arrived from Mr So Isezaki, a ceramic artist based in Bizen.
Bizen-ware (Bizen yaki) is one of my most favourite types of traditional Japanese pottery – or it may be THE most favourite – and a monthly visit to the city of its origin used to be my routine while I was living in Kyoto. Out of the ambition to create my own, I began searching for a ceramist who would open-mindedly help me with kilning, and after 3 years of exhausting search, I finally came across with an artist I could feel connected to: It was late Mr Mitsuru Isezaki.

 The instant bonding began when I knocked on the door of a straw-thatched atelier of his by a strem after sympathizing with his desperate desire to preserve the nature around the stream, which was expressed on a handmade sign outside his workshop. Through my frequent visits, we became more understanding of each other, and also by sharing numbers of same interests and hobbies with his son, Mr So, the visit soon became my habitude.
Last year, I gave him a call after a long silence, hoping to ask him a favour to participate in creating new tableware for Umu, and it was only then that I learned he had passed away. I cannot begin to explain how much I regret for not getting in touch with him sooner. I still recall his smile when he stopped his hands from work to have a chat with me.
As for the tableware I requested, Mr So kindly offered to create them himself. The series of ceramics mainly comprises rectangular shaped plates for my taste (called Ita-zara/Manaita-zara in Japanese), and they have been finished kiln-baked in small batches since I ordered last year. When I received the ceramics, I was overwhelmed with its astonishing finish and the sentimentality I felt for Bizen. I already enjoy using them for our main dishes and I find joy in decorating them into a presentation of authentic Japanese culinary. 

Recently, Mr Ishida, a ceramic artist who also based in Bizen and I have been introduced by Mr So, came all the way to my flat to lecture me how to handle Rokuro (a pottery wheel). After many hours of training, I gained the knowledge which cannot be grasped by self-learning, and moreover I was enchanted by peeping into the insight of the wider field of ceramic art.




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