********** 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 ------------

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Anagama Project at oxford universityオックスフォード大学穴窯プロジェクト

‘Anagama Project’ began 2 years ago within the campus of The University of Oxford, as a collaborative project between the University, Whichford Pottery and the city of Bizen.

The Britain’s ceramic art has always taken a dissimilar course of development to those of Asian countries, and since firing processes has mostly shifted to electric and gas methods in modern days, a traditional group work of firing a long period of time by firewood in a huge kiln is now rarely practiced to my knowledge. While few individual potters still utilizing small hole kilns may still exist in Ameican and Western worlds, an idea for British and Japanese organizations and teams to come together and jointly bring back a disappearing tradition was fascinating, and thanks to my friendship with the key member of the project Mr. Kazuya Ishida, I lightly took part from the 1st year.

What especially appealed to me were the facts that; 1. the project employs Bizen techniques, my favourite out of all Japanese potteries, and takes place in the country of residence, as a collaboration between the two countries, 2. the project carries a target to provide British youths and Japanese artists a point of Interactions and communications, 3. by logging lifeless trees from the woods within the campus and using them as firewood, the long-abandoned woods is given new means to receive care and maintenance, and 4. I am given the opportunity to learn techniques at a whole new dimension for the cultural work I devoted myself since I had moved to the Britain.

It was last September, Mr. Ishida brought to my attention that the project was experiencing difficulties financially, and we immediately came to agreements that the restaurant will fund the project, and in return, I will have my own pieces to be included in for firing and finished at the site. 

Therefore, this winter I spent all my time after work and all Sundays for creating pieces, in the end, the total count came to as close as 300. Mostly made with clay sent over from Cornwall, but partially used the natural clay I dug up with Mr. Ishida with our own hands in Devon, and I was deeply excited to see the completed works.

The pieces were brought out from London to the site in the beginning of May, the kiln was loaded over 5 days in the second week, and the high-firing stage followed which required full-time attentions, 24 hours a day for consecutive 8 days.  Sadly I could not help with firing due to my schedule at the restaurant, however the logs were thrown in constantly in turns by Mr. Ishida, his friend and Bizen artist Mr. Takuma Takigawa, Jim from Whichford Pottery and a group of volunteers who encircle the University of Oxford.

The 7th day of the firing stage fell on Saturday, and I headed out there to try “Hikidashi”, a technique Mr. Ishida had been recommending me to try out. “Hikidashi” takes place when the temperature in the kiln is at the highest towards the end of the firing process, by inserting an iron pipe through the fire door to pull out pieces and rapidly cooling them down in rice hulls, which leads the finish to have significant difference from ones cooled naturally. Mr. Ishida discovered at a previous firing the clay from Devon develops unique lustre and distinctive deep black hue by going through this method, and we decided to perform together this time around. When I was throwing logs into a framing kiln at 1,250 degrees, or unloading the scarlet coloured pieces, I peeped into the kiln to see various colours streamed through a blaze, a beautifully haunting image that led me to shed a tear.

A great number of people come together, and while never forgetting to listen to the nature, together bring works of art which continues from ancient time into modern society, and continue to impress audiences; Ceramic arts in its original form is overwhelmingly moving. 

I drove a truck out to pick up the finished pieces after a week of cooling period following the firing stage. All staff at the restaurant lent in hands, cleaned and polished piece by piece, and all of them are now used to entertain guests, playing important parts of experience at Umu.

2年前にオックスフォード大学の敷地内に、大学、Whichford potteryと備前市が提携して”Anagama project”が始まりまりました。



プロジェクトが資金繰りで困っているという話を石田君から聞いたのは去年の9月頃、それでは当社がそれを補助し、代わりに私が作った作品を焼成してもらうということで話はすぐに決まりました。そのためにこの冬は毎日仕事が終わってからとお店が休みの日曜日に食器を作り続け、約300個が出来ました。ほとんどはCornwallから送ってもらった土を使いましたが、一部は Devonで石田君と自ら掘った自然の土をそのまま使って作った物で焼き上がりがとても楽しみでした。

5月始めに作品をロンドンから運び、第二週から約5日間をかけて窯詰め、そのあと8日間、24時間体制で焼成が行われました。私はお店があるので焼成を手伝うことは出来ませんでしたが、石田君とその友人である備前作家の瀧川卓馬さん、Witchford potteryJimOxford 大学を取り巻くボランティアの方々の手で交代で常に薪をくべ続けられました。




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