Author: Ai Kanazawa

Kikusumi: Chrysanthemum Charcoal by Kotani Yoshitaka

Nosé Kikusumi by Kotani Yoshitaka in our shop ->

“This is hard work, but we need to keep it alive,” charcoal maker Kotani Yasuyoshi often said to his son about their profession. Sumiyaki, or charcoal-making, is a regional tradition in the town of Nosé where they lived.

The charcoal from Nosé (pronounced “no say”) and the surrounding area, located at the northern tip of Osaka prefecture, is known as “Ikeda charcoal.” This charcoal is renowned for its exceptional quality, especially among practitioners of the Japanese Way of Tea who use the charcoal to boil water in an iron kettle on a brazier. With the oldest written record of this charcoal going back to the 15th century, the Ikeda brand has been around for more than half a millennium.

Kikusumi Chrysanthemum Charcoal made in Nose, Osaka

But when demand for charcoal in Japan plummeted after the Second World War, the number of people making it also declined rapidly. The older Kotani-san feared that this local knowledge would soon disappear, so he took up the profession after retiring from a 40 year career as a civil servant in Osaka prefecture. He continued this work until he passed away in 2008.

This winter, I visited his son, Kotani Yoshitaka, who is following in the footsteps of his father to continue this tradition. I was accompanied by Fukuhata Shingo, a local green woodworker and owner of a popular log-cabin café called Soto. Fukuhata-san is a passionate advocate for local wood culture and he first introduced me to the unique charcoal-making tradition of Nosé back in 2020.

Nose kikusumi cut for use in the summer furo by Kotani Yoshitaka

“A good piece of charcoal creates a lot of heat,” Kotani-san says as he points to the pieces of charcoal burning in a small grill in his office. They resemble elegant black flowers, and as they softly crackled, the sweet smell of wood wafted in the air. “They smell good, don’t they?” he remarked and gave a satisfactory grin.

Kikusumi holds its shape as it burns and eventually turns into ash that looks like a white flower

The charcoal, rather poetically, is called “chrysanthemum charcoal” or kikusumi because the end grain pattern resembles the flower’s blossom. The best quality charcoal is almost perfectly round, tightly wrapped in a thin bark, with lines radiating from the center. It holds its shape as it burns, and eventually turns into ash that looks like a white flower.

Kotani Yoshitaka in front of the charcoal kiln

It was February and peak charcoal-making season, which is from October until April when the trees go into dormancy. We first walk down to the kiln at the bottom of the hill. “The quality of the wood, the structure of the kiln, and how they are loaded inside is key to achieving high quality,” Kotani-san explains. We then walk up the hill where his apprentice is tending to a kiln billowing smoke. “We fire the kiln non-stop for a few months,” Kotani-san says. “This is because it’s more efficient to empty and fill the kiln while it’s still hot, usually around 90 °C (194 ºF).”

Wood is separated into groups according to thickness before they are put inside the kiln to make charcoal
Kikusumi charcoal before sorting and cutting

Cutting, transferring, and putting wood in the hot kiln is grueling work and several helping hands are needed. Kotani-san said that he once emptied the kiln while it was 100°C (212 ºF) inside. “At the time I was fine, so I thought, hey, 100°C is not a problem. A little later my eyes started hurting so I went to the eye-doctor, and he asked if I had been on an Arctic expedition. I had something similar to snow blindness in my eyes, so I stopped going into the kiln when it’s too hot.” He chuckled.

Kunugi oak used for making kikusumi

The wood used for kikusumi is kunugi, a type of oak that is harvested locally. To efficiently harvest wood for energy, the Japanese have devised a forestry method called “daiba” meaning tree platform. In this method, only the top part of the tree is cut and harvested, leaving around 6 feet of the base and roots intact. New shoots (which are straight and easy to cut and handle) sprout from the base, which can be harvested every 7-8 years. This forestry method is said to have been in use since the 15th century.

“People often think charcoal making is destructive to the environment because a lot of trees are cut down, but it is not,” Kotani-san explains.

Daiba kunugi forest in Nose, Osaka

In areas where human settlement and activity has been present for centuries in rural Japan, a unique eco-system has developed where nature and people support each other.  In these areas, called satoyama, human intervention is vital to the health of the natural environment. Daiba kunugi is one such example because it requires regular rotational harvesting of the shoots to keep them healthy.

In recent years, the Nosé community have come together to preserve the daiba kunugi forest by helping to plant new trees and tend to existing ones. I’m starting to see a pattern in places where local culture is being reinvigorated. In these communities, ordinary people who understand the stories behind the old traditions join up and commit to providing the necessary support to preserve the culture and the environment.

A newly planted kunugi forest that will become daiba in the future.

In Japan, kikusumi is mostly unknown to people other than the practitioners of the Way of Tea. But Kotani-san and the Nosé community want to change that. “Charcoal is a great deodorizer and humidity remover, and they have so many other uses,” he says. “I want everyone to know its beauty and propose new ways of bringing charcoal into peoples’ lives.”

Until recently, the Japanese postal service did not allow charcoal to be shipped abroad, but Kotani-san worked out an agreement with Japan Post so he can legally ship charcoal to the U.S. with a special label. He dreams that people all over the world will learn to enjoy his beautiful charcoal. “Maybe it is a uniquely Japanese sensibility to find elegance in charcoal,” he says, “but I feel that I’m playing a part in spreading and passing on that special sensibility to the next generations.”

The Saint John’s Pottery in Minnesota: An American Pottery Tradition

To understand the story of the Saint John’s Pottery in Collegeville, Minnesota, it is worthwhile going to the studio in person. In July, I visited this legendary pottery studio located inside the serene Benedictine environment of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University (CSBSJU), accompanied by my photographer friend Tomoko Matsubayashi.

“It’s slightly unusual,” said Samuel Johnson, potter and Chair of the Art Department of CSBSJU, about the fascinating relationship and history between the Saint John’s Pottery and the University.  “Ultimately, the pottery exists because it extends the Benedictine values of hospitality and community.”

I’ve been working with Sam since 2014, and this was the first time we met face to face. I was eager to see him because he is one of the rare breed of potters that went through multiple layers of training that included spending time as a Japanese-style pottery apprentice at the Saint John’s Pottery, going to graduate school, and studying overseas in Copenhagen and Japan.

Samuel Johnson’s pottery studio in Saint Joseph, MN
Kick-wheels at Samuel Johnson’s pottery studio in Saint Joseph, MN

We first met at Sam’s studio by his house located in Saint Joseph, a few minutes away from the college campus. Equipped with kick-wheels and long planks of ware boards, the studio resembled the pottery studios that I visited in Karatsu, Japan.

Many of the characteristics —even the studio’s cleanliness— are testimony to the transmission of knowledge through distance and time. Richard Bresnahan, Sam’s teacher, and the Artist-in-Residence at the Saint John’s Pottery, trained under the renowned Japanese potter Nakazato Takashi in Karatsu, Saga prefecture.  “Through the tradition I was studying I felt linked to the past, to potters from other places and times,” Sam says.

Handmade pots line shelves at Samuel Johnson’s pottery studio in Saint Joseph, MN
Samuel Johnson standing next to long wooden ware boards at his studio in Saint Joseph, MN
Coiled and paddled wood-fired jars by Samuel Johnson

There are two wood-firing kilns on the CSBSJU compound. The smaller kiln is called Sister Dennis Kiln that Sam built in 2012. This kiln is usually fired in the spring and fall, giving opportunities for students at the university to experience the traditional method of firing pottery. Through this experience, the students learn to work together and appreciate the beauty and function of handmade pots. “I studied here, so I thought it was only natural to use handmade pots,” Sam said in explaining the positive impact of being familiar with handmade ceramics. “But many people in the rest of the United States often ask if it’s possible to eat from a plate made in this manner.”

Sister Dennis Kiln at CSBSJU. The kiln is fired for about 76 hours using wood from the college arboretum.
Stoking windows on the side of Sister Dennis Kiln at CSBSJU.
Sister Dennis Kiln at CSBSJU. Once the pottery pieces are loaded inside, the kiln opening is closed using bricks and clay before firing.

In the afternoon, we visited the Saint John’s Pottery located on the west side of campus. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet Richard Bresnahan on this visit because he was traveling to celebrate his birthday with his family. “I lived in that small narrow room,” Sam said, pointing to the upper part of the brick building as we entered from the door below. “It was so narrow that if I stretched out my arms, I could almost touch both walls of the room.”

The Saint John’s Pottery Studio in Collegeville, MN
The upper brick part of the studio building is Saint Joseph Hall, originally built in 1899, which was used to house lay employees and workers. Richard Bresnahan first established the studio in the building’s abandoned root cellar in 1979. In 1992, the University moved the studio by building a new foundation and relocating the whole 4000 sf historic building on top. 

Studio Manager Daniel Smith and apprentice Luke Kiefer welcoming us with tea around the Japanese hearth at Saint John’s Pottery

Current members working at the pottery welcomed us for tea around the famous pottery hearth at the entrance to the studio. They included Environmental Artist-in-Residence, Steve Lemke; Studio Manager, Daniel Smith; and apprentice, Luke Kiefer. Through conversations over tea made with water boiled in a cast iron kettle and poured from handmade teapots, I learned about the many obstacles the studio had to overcome to establish and continue its apprenticeship program. Despite these setbacks, Bresnahan has successfully trained more than 50 apprentices over the last 44 years, and many more artists have come to learn at the pottery as residents of the studio with the help of supporters and grants.

“The Melon Cup” is the first form an apprentice of Richard Bresnahan’s learns to throw on the wheel. The wood kilns at CSBSJU bring out the color of the clay vividly because they are fired at lower temperature than most anagama kilns
Luke Kiefer and Daniel Smith working on kick-wheels at the Saint John’s Pottery.
Daniel Smith trimming the foot of a bowl on a kick-wheel. The kick-wheels are turned clockwise in Karatsu, Japan, but they are turned counter-clockwise at the Saint John’s Pottery, as do most potters in the US

The clay used at the Saint John’s Pottery is made from a nearby deposit that is extracted, stockpiled, and processed as needed in-house using secondhand equipment. The wood used to fuel the kilns is environmentally sustainable, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and comes from the nearly 3,000-acre Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum. The apprentices not only master their skills in a deeply immersive setting but also learn to sustainably use the natural resources from the surrounding environment.

Work by Richard Bresnahan, Artist-in-Residence and founder of the Saint John’s Pottery. I hope to meet him in person in the future

Sam says that through his apprenticeship with Bresnahan, he experienced the quality that stirs the imagination in his work. “In cups and bowls that I make, but also in the mundane aspects of work [like] washing ashes or clay, stacking wood,” he said. “This is one of the gifts my teacher gave me.”

The Saint John’s Pottery is a hub that disseminates a deep knowledge of pottery craft. Its apprentices, including Sam and Iowa potter Shumpei Yamaki, are gems of this unique American pottery tradition.

The clay processing area of the Saint John’s Pottery using recycled equipment.

After the tour of the studio, Daniel Smith took us to the other wood-firing kiln on campus, which is the famous Johanna Kiln that was designed and built by Richard Bresnahan in 1994. At over 80 feet, the kiln is the largest of its kind in North America and can hold around 12,000 pieces in a single firing. The kiln is fired once every two years, and as its front chamber is currently being repaired, the next firing won’t take place until October 2024. The labor-intensive firing event lasts for 10 days with the help of 60 volunteers who take turns stoking the kiln around the clock.

The building housing Johanna Kiln on the CSBSJU Campus in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Samuel Johnson inside the large Tanegashima Chamber of the Johanna Kiln

At the end of the day, Sam took us around the CSBSJU campus. The Benedictine monks first arrived in Collegeville in the spring of 1866, and by the end of the 19th Century had constructed the quadrangle building using bricks that they made from the rich clay deposit on site. When I saw these original bricks in the building wall that the monks made, and the durable end-grain wood floor of the Great Hall, it became clear how a remarkable institution like the Saint John’s Pottery was able to thrive here in Minnesota.

Stability, community, hospitality, and dignity of work: these Benedictine standards seem difficult to live by, especially in this modern, economically obsessed world. But what sets Saint John’s apart is that the university has made credible commitments to these ideals that are tangibly demonstrated in the work of the Saint John’s Pottery and its community of potters.

Looking towards Great Hall and the Quadrangle building from the Abbey Church of CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN
Quadrangle Building, CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN
Unevenly fired bricks inside the Quadrangle Building made by Benedictine monks in the19th century. The monks labored to build beautiful buildings, promising stability and durability. CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN
Great Hall (original Abbey) at CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN
The wooden end-grain floor laid in a herringbone pattern conveying stability and dignity of work. Great Hall, CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN
The Abbey Church and Bell Banner by architect Marcel Breuer completed in 1961. The original abbey (Great Hall) can be seen on the right, built to face East, welcoming people arriving from the railway station. The current abbey is facing North towards the road from the freeway, indicating Benedictine hospitality.
“All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ for he himself will say I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” A sign in front of the abbey woodworking building, CSBSJU, Collegeville, MN


All photos by Tomoko Matsubayashi for Entoten

More information about the Saint John’s Pottery at CSBSJU can be found here->
You can also donate to support the Saint John’s Pottery from here ->

New Quilts by Sarah Nishiura and Thoughts on the Humble Thimble

Today I’m very excited to let you know that we have new quilts by Sarah Nishiura in our shop->

Quilt by Sarah Nishiura, 2023
Sarah made this quilt because she hadn’t made a yellow quilt for Entoten in a while and she was also in the mood for some sunshine after a long gray winter.
Quilt by Sarah Nishiura, 2023
This quilt was made as part of a series of blue and white line of work that Sarah has made for Entoten over the years. Each work of this series has been created through a different approach using these colors.


Right around the time I received these much-awaited quilts, Sarah was announcing her hand quilting workshop in Chicago that begins registration on June 21st through her Instagram account. “What’s the best way to learn to hand quilt?”, she wrote. “First, buy a thimble; Second, find a teacher who can give you a few tips; Third, practice, practice, practice!”

This got me thinking about thimbles. About how the thimble that my mother showed me to use in Japan is different from the ones used here in the U.S.

Thimbles in Japan are called yubinuki and they provide the same function in hand-stitching as western thimbles to push the end of the needle through fabric and to protect your finger. But while a typical Western thimble is worn on top of the middle finger, Japanese ones are worn between the first (DIP) and second (PIP) joint of the middle finger like a ring. You can watch a short Japanese YouTube video on how to use a yubinuki here->

The Western cap-shaped thimbles are also available in Japan, but all the kimono sewers that I have known wore these ring-shaped thimbles. I would often walk into a tea break that my mother was having with her sewing buddies and everyone had these rings still attached to their fingers as they sipped tea from a cup; like it was some sort of a fellowship ring of sewers.

Yubinuki that my mother uses to sew. They can be purchased for less than a dollar a piece.


According to the encyclopedia Nipponica via Kotobank, the majority of pre-Meiji (1868-1912) period yubinuki were made from layered fabric in the shape of a triangle or a circle and were worn at the base of the middle finger with a string. This is because people used long thick needles to sew work clothing that were mostly made from rough linen or cotton. After Meiji, when sewing became part of the school curriculum, shorter needles and ring-shaped yubinuki became more common.

I first learned to use a yubinuki when I made a summer kimono many years ago under my mother’s instruction. It was very awkward and uncomfortable to use at first, but when I got used to wearing it, I couldn’t sew without it. I haven’t had the courage and patience to make a kimono since then, but the yubinuki has stayed with me and I look for it even when I have to occasionally re-attach a button.

Sewing set that was used by my niece in school when she was about 11 years old. The same yubinuki is in the set because they can be adjusted to fit the small fingers of children with a string. Sewing is still a part of the Japanese primary school curriculum.


Once, I purchased a nice ring-shaped metal yubinuki for my mother because I noticed that she was using cheap leather and plastic ones that needed replacing regularly. She was very happy when I gave it to her, but I soon noticed that she wasn’t using it. When I asked why, she hesitated, then told me that she prefers the soft adjustable ones because the bony knob on her finger joint was getting bigger as she got older, and it was difficult to put the ring through. I was embarrassed that I didn’t realize this without her telling me. Just because it was durable and more expensive, it wasn’t better for her working hands.

Many years have passed since then, and these days my mother has difficulty remembering how to sew a kimono. But she still loves stitching and when I see that brown, slightly tattered yubinuki on her finger, it makes me happy because I know that she is having a good day.

Kajo Day: Wagashi Celebration in June

Did you know that June 16th is Wagashi Day? Wagashi means Japanese sweets, with ‘wa’ meaning Japanese and ‘k(g)ashi’ meaning confections.

Kajyo Day display with anmochi and tea bowl by Mitch Iburg (2014)

The origins of Wagashi Day are unclear, but according to multiple Japanese sources, its history began in the Kasho (aka Kajo 848-851) era in the mid-Heian period. It is said that the sitting Emperor, Ninmyo, was faced with a disease outbreak, and in hope for a swift end to the suffering, he made offerings of 16 sweets to the gods on the 16th day of the 6th month.

This became Kajo day, a day of offering and eating wagashi. The tradition continued and peaked during the Edo period when sweets, previously only available to the ruling class, became accessible to ordinary people. The custom unfortunately died out in the political and social turmoil of the early Meiji (1868-1912) period, until it was revived by the Japan Wagashi Association in 1979.

When I first discovered Wagashi Day, I was disappointed because as a child I favored savory snacks to sweets. Since June 16th also happened to be my birthday, I would have preferred a soy-sauce-on-rice-cracker-wrapped-in-seaweed day. In fact, I avoided wagashi for most of my life because I was averse to the smell of anko, the red bean paste that is central to these confections.

My appreciation for red bean paste only developed in the last decade after I started learning chado, the Japanese Way of Tea. I was served wagashi at practice every week before having a bowl of matcha, and I was too diffident to say that I didn’t like anko to my teacher. In the beginning, I quickly swallowed the wagashi so that I tasted them as little as possible. But soon, I got used to the scent of anko, and realized that the bean paste noticeably brought out the flavor and aroma of the powdered green tea that followed. So if you have tasted red bean paste before and thought it wasn’t for you, I am proof that you can still acquire the taste for anko.

The Art of Wagashi by Kimiko Gunji, with a photo of wagashi depicting hydrangea on the front cover.

These days I look forward to wagashi at tea practice, many of which are created to convey the seasons. Wagashi depicting a hydrangea is popular through the month of June. You can also read more about seasonal wagashi on the Tokyo Wagashi Association website.

Matcha in a tea bowl by Mitch Iburg, 2023

To celebrate Kajo Day this year, I made the most basic, but one of my favorite, ‘anmochi‘, which is a ball of red bean paste wrapped in sweet mochi. I followed the recipe from the book, “The Art of Wagashi”, by Professor Kimiko Gunji of Japan House at the University of Illinois. I have tried a few recipes from this book, and they were very easy to follow. It is also very helpful that the listed ingredients are available in the supermarkets here in the U.S. So I highly recommend that you get a copy if you’re interested in trying your hand on creating wagashi.

Anmochi wagashi

New Ceramics by Sakai Mika and Mara Des Bois Strawberries from Chino Farm

Today, I finally finished adding many new colorful nerikomi pots by Sakai Mika in my shop that you can browse from the link here->.

Nerikomi Ceramics by Sakai Mika and Mara Des Bois Strawberries from Chino Farm

Mika’s cheerful ceramics are a perfect antidote to the gloomy weather that we have recently been experiencing here in San Diego. The locals call these spring months “May gray” and “June gloom”, and this time of the year can be quite cloudy and cool in coastal Southern California. This spring has felt especially cold to me, and I’ve been longing for the arrival of a sunny summer after having experienced an exceptionally wet winter.

But today, the sun finally made a rare appearance, so I got motivated to head out to Chino Farm, the famed local farm in Rancho Santa Fe, which is about a 20 minute drive from my house. Chino Farm was started in 1969 by Junzo Chino, who came to the U.S. from Hashigui in Wakayama prefecture, Japan, in the early 1920s. The farm was made world-famous by chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley for the exceptional quality and freshness of its fruit and vegetables.

Chino Nojo Farm Stand in Rancho Santa Fe, CA

Every time I go to the Chino Nojo (which is their official name meaning farm) stand, I tell myself that I should come here more often because they grow so many varieties and make them available for us. I often discover new types of vegetables and fruits, and learn what is truly in season here in Southern California.

t Lettuces at Chino Farm

Today at the farm stand, there were many different kinds of lettuces. I bought a head of frisée, and, of course, it’s strawberry season so I got some pearly little Mara Des Bois strawberries. These fragrantly soft and delicious harbingers of summer are probably only grown by the Chinos around here. I find that their distinct aroma reminds me a little of… Japanese ramune soda.

If you are ever in San Diego, I urge you to make time to visit the legendary Chino Farm Stand in Rancho Santa Fe. Make sure to bring cash or a check, and now they also even accept Venmo!

Chino Farm Stand
6123 Calzada Del Bosque, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92091 (Click for Google Maps)

Mara Des Bois Strawberries at Chino Farm

Basket Weave Patterns: Kikko, Ajiro, and Mutsume

Bamboo baskets by Takami Yasuhiro ->

Over the years, I’ve learned the names of traditional bamboo basket weaves like kikko, ajiro, and mutsume, which are used by master bamboo weaver Takami Yasuhiro. When I visited Takami-san in Yufuin 5 years ago, he said that the kikko –which means turtle-shell- weave is the most difficult. I was mesmerized at the rhythmical swooping and holding of the strips as his wife, Ayako-san, demonstrated the kikko weave.

Double kikko weave low basket by Takami Yasuhiro

The translucent ajiro weave is an original of Takami-san’s that I also love. Ajiro means “in place of a fishing net” and it refers to woven pieces of wood or bamboo fiber traditionally used to capture fish. At first glance, the translucent ajiro looks like a plain weave, but when it’s seen from an angle, the rows of chevron patterns become visible.

Translucent ajiro weave footed tray with smoked bamboo by Takami Yasuhiro
Ajiro bamboo tray by Takami Yasuhiro. Ribs of chevron pattern appear at an angle.

The mutsume vertical basket in this collection of work is the largest basket that I’ve received from Takami-san since I started working with him in 2012. Mutsume means “hexagonal” and there are two additional splints running vertically through the hexagonal weave in this basket. When I see it, I’m reminded of what Takami-san’s son-in-law, who trained under him, told me a few years back. “People think large baskets are easy to make, like all you need is a longer splint,” he said. “But it’s not that simple. I don’t think my hands are weak, but as the basket gets bigger and taller, the splints become less flexible and impossible to bend. You need experience and extremely strong hands to make big baskets.”

Large vertical mutsume basket by Takami Yasuhiro

These days when I see a beautiful basket, I follow its pattern with my eyes and imagine weaving the strips in my head for a few minutes. I quickly lose focus and become confused, but that never stops me from being amazed at these alluring patterns developed in pursuit of function and durability.

Pop Up Craft, Stationery, and Clothing Show at The Den on Laurel Street Apr. 15th & 16th

Our Spring 2023 pop-up event will take place at:

The Den on Laurel Street
April 15th & 16th from 11am – 5pm.
205 Laurel St. #104 San Diego 92101 (Click for Google Maps)

The pop-up will feature over 100 pieces of colorful ceramics by Sakai Mika, a Japanese Nerikomi ceramic artist based in Shizuoka prefecture. Nerikomi ceramics are made using colored clay that are stacked and cut to create slabs of different patterns.

Nerikomi Ceramics by Sakai Mika

Also for this event, Entoten has invited Hightide Store DTLA, a boutique stationery store that opened in Downtown LA in 2018. Hightide is headquartered in Fukuoka, Japan, and they are known for functional and high-quality original stationery lines.

Hightide Store DTLA

We are also happy to announce that there will be another special guest joining us for the event!

YAMMA Sangyo is a clothing brand established by designer Yamasaki Nana in 2008. By employing women -especially mothers and grandmothers- who are skilled and experienced in sewing clothing, Yamasaki sought to radically change the fashion industry standard of mass production that leads to enormous waste. The clothing by YAMMA Sangyo have long lasting designs and are made using natural fibers, mainly Aizu cotton, a traditionally woven cotton from Fukushima region that dates back over 400 years. 

Clothing by YAMMA Sangyo

Please join us for craft, stationery, clothing, Japanese tea, and conversation.
We look forward to seeing you there!

Gohonte -A Natural Pop of Color: New Ceramics by Inoue Shigeru

New Ceramics by Inoue Shigeru ->

It has been a while since I’ve introduced new work by the Nagoya based potter Inoue Shigeru. This is because his ceramics has been gaining popularity in Japan since we debuted him here in the US in 2018. This long wait is understandable though because Inoue-san’s work is truly unique, and a single and in-demand potter can only make so much. So I’m delighted that I am able to show new work by him that includes beautiful green ash glazes that he has been experimenting with.

New ceramics by Inoue Shigeru

Inoue-san is continuing to use rough and crumbly unprocessed clay that is extremely difficult to form. He applies natural slip and glazes that are mixed using feldspar exposed to the rain and sun. When I met him over 5 years ago, I was shocked to see how rough his hands were from working with this difficult clay and mixing the slip and glazes. But he is adamant about using these natural materials and methods because only they can create the desired depth and rusticity in the finished work.

He fires his pots in a gas kiln with minimal airflow, known as reduction firing, which deprives oxygen from the kiln. By doing so, he forces oxygen to be drawn out of the clay bodies and glazes. This firing method causes random pink shades to appear in the glaze, known as gohonte, that are much desired by pottery enthusiasts.

Gohonte on mini kohiki bowl by Inoue Shigeru

I think that the gohonte is even more visible in this recent batch of his work, which is perfect for the soon to arrive spring.