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Tsuchibito Ceramic and Pottery Workshop

Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture is famous for traditional crafts. On April 28th, my class of cultural resource studies students visited a pottery workshop-Tsuchibito- in Kanazawa in order to develop an understanding of Kanazawa’s crafts as being a tangible part of Japanesecultural heritage. The owner of Tsuchibito, Katsuhiko Toide is a Japanese artist who specializes in kutaniyaki. Kutaniyaki is one of traditional ceramics arts in Ishikawa.Through this visit, we obtained an overview of the Japanese craft, particularly in regard to kutaniyaki and Kaga Yuzen, the latter being a famous textile craft of Kanazawa. Additionally, we experienced  how to make ceramic bowls.

Initially, Mr. Toide provided us with a brief introduction of Japanese pottery and its history. Based on his explanation, it is said that the production of pottery started in the Jomon Period of Japan. Modern Japanese pottery techniques were affected by the pottery techniques of China. Ceramics and pottery began to flourish in Japan during the Edo Period, particularly in the Kaga region which used to encompass Ishikawa prefecture. Suzuyaki, Ohiyaki, and Kutaniyaki are 3 renowned types of ceramics in contemporary Ishikawa. Mr. Toide also showed us his collections. For some of them, Gold and silver leaf was used due to the high obtainability of these materials for use in Kanazawa’s crafts and culinary products.

Subsequently, Mr. Toide explained about ceramic making process. Clay refining is the first stage. This process through mixing and kneading is produces a fine dough. Then following the clay refining stage, the dough is shaped into any form. After smoothing the brim and applying the natural drying process, the clay material can be put through the firing process. The first stage of the firing process is the biscuit stage, suyaki, in which 800-1000 degree heat is applied to the object. If the artists need to, they paint on the suyaki item’s surface using on underglaze pigment, sometsuke. Finally the material is fired again with glaze, yuyaku, in a 1200 -1300 degree kiln.

Atthe end of the first session, Mr. Toide taught us to shape the dough with the Tama tsukuri technique which means creating the shape from a ball. In general, the entire ceramic making process will take approximately 1 month to finish. Therefore, we only tried this technique in this workshop during this session.

The following session was presented by Ms. Toide, the wife of Mr. Toide. First, she guided us to another room and gave an overview of Kaga Yuzen. Kaga Yuzen first started during the Edo period. It is said that the Yuzen technique was founded by Miyazaki Yuzensai. Generally, a labor division system is adopted throughout the  Kaga Yuzen process. However, some  Kaga Yuzen artists are capable of handling the entire process by themselves.

Then, Ms. Toide explained to us the process of kagayuzen. The process starts by creating a design on paper and tracing the design onto the fabric using dissoluble colouring, known as Ao Bana. Ao Bana coloring is made of a blue Japanese flower. After sketching with this blue coloring, the painting process begins. This process uses rice starch as a resistant and coloring to dye the silk. The rice starch is also used to protect the design, so it is not blotted the dye during the soaking process. The last stage consists of washing and steaming the fabric as well as fading the starch. During the final session, Ms. Toide showed us several examples of her work.

At the end of our visit, Mr. Toide guided us through his gallery. He also treated us to some cakes made by his wife using his tableware-works. This visit allowed us to grasp how Japanese craft as a tangible culture evolved and survived until now. I agree with Mr. Toide when he said “Japanese ceramics and pottery are not only for industrial products, but also for beauty.” It’s not just about the products and techniques, but also about the inheritance, history, and value of the culture.