A group of ceramic artists, centering recognized living national treasure Mr. Jun Isezaki, came together with University of Oxford and Whichford Pottery to jointly create Anagama, a Japanese style ancient kiln dug into the side of hill, within the campus of the University.
Since few months back, the plan, named “Oxford Anagama Kiln Project”, has been carried out in conjunction by a Japanese team led by up and coming artist Mr. Kazuya Ishida and a team of locals.Kazuya, who helped significantly at the event “Presenting Japan” and showcased wonderful performance, sent over china clay suitable for the use of Anagama kiln. I had worked on pieces in real earnest since the beginning of this year with the particular clay, and I took a field trip to Oxford as I was offered to include few of my pieces into the kiln’s first bake.
Situated in a forest about 10 minutes away from the station, two different sized kilns line up next to an atelier and a caravan used as an accommodation. I could easily assume that the amount of effort poured into building the entire set up on a vacant plot of land was remarkably great.
Jim from Whichford Pottery was in the middle of filling the kiln, and all staff, both the team from Japan including Kazuya and the locals, worked relentlessly to load mountainous piles of wares.
I had a chance to chat with Robin, a chief of the University team, and he shared that all wood used to fuel the kiln is timber from thinning out the forest within the campus. Thinning out is necessary treatment in order to keep healthy trees yet rarely practiced as the byproduct ends up going to waste. The project gave new means to the thinning lumber as well as helps keeping the trees well treated.
Moreover, we also conversed in depth about recognising the enormous potential this project carries in means of cultural progression for both Japan and Britain, and shared my intention to participate in any measure from chef’s stand point, who actually work closely with tableware.
The kiln was soon fired up, and I waited with much excitement to hold the pieces from the first bake after 10 days of firing period.＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊＊
10 days later, the joint team’s first bake in a climbing kilm had successfully completed, and Kazuya kindly delivered my pieces before his flight back to Japan.
Unlike any baked colour from any region of production in Japan, the finished colour was outstandingly unique and well exceeded my expectation. Taking my molding technique out of question for now, I cannot thank Mr. Ishida enough for the wonderful piece who made this work possible with much endeavor along the way.
Furthermore, while the vase he previously created for Umu using other kiln had been an important centerpiece of the restaurant, he crafted a new piece with completely innovative design. The new vase would be perfect with invigorating spring flowers in the upcoming season; it is another piece of treasure added to our proud collection.
While most people used pre-chosen clay, Mr, Ishida travelled number of regions within UK and dug clay with his own hands, gave through research into finding perfect clay for the climbing kiln. His work was simply exceptional and exquisite.
As long as a character like Mr. Ishida is taking part in the project, we have much to look forward to in its future development.