05 October 2023
A Symphony of Hands:
The Diverse Artisans Behind USUKIYAKI Porcelain Elegance
In the heart of Usuki City, the story of Usuki Ware isn't just the vision of one, but the harmonized effort of many. This iconic white porcelain, which once graced the halls of the Inaba Domain, stands as a testament to the combined talents and aspirations of various craftspeople. Although Usami initiated the revival, the true magic lies in the collaborative spirit of passionate artisans who come together, each with their unique touch and fervor, yet united in purpose. It's a far cry from a factory setting of repetitive tasks; here, every craftsperson infuses their work with pride, dedication, and an animated spirit.
This article will introduce you to the vibrant tapestry of their contributions, such Giuseppee's clay crafting, Ozaki's touch-driven wonders and Tamada's engineering devotion. As we navigate the atelier's corridors, we experience a dance between age-old techniques and modern-day innovation, all converging to breathe life into this porcelain masterpiece.
- USUKIYAKI: Reviving Historic Elegance Through the Hands of Modern Artisans
- Giuseppe: Journey from Melodies to Molding
- Ozaki of Usuki: Surfing Waves and Sculpting Elegance in Porcelain
- Tamada: The Engineering Maestro Behind USUKIYAKI
- Usa's Admirable Dedication to Artistic Perfection
- Mori's Artful Embrace: Delving into the Precision of USUKIYAKI Glazing
- A Symphony of Hands, History, and Heartfelt Artistry
USUKIYAKI: Reviving Historic Elegance Through the Hands of Modern Artisans
Usami, Founder of USUKIYAKI
Usami, the visionary behind USUKIYAKI sought to revive the once-flourishing designs of white porcelain that thrived in Usuki under the patronage of the Inaba Domain. Historical fragments hint at their minimalist elegance, often showcasing orchid flower rims on pristine white porcelain. Alongside dedicated artisans, Usami embarked on a journey to breathe new life into the legendary Usuki Ware, culminating in its contemporary design.
Driven by his passion, Usami is known to labor into the night, often alone in his atelier, meticulously crafting the initial designs of USUKIYAKI. His aspiration for the porcelain is to embody a refined simplicity, accentuated by elegant rim patterns reminiscent of the lotus.
In every piece he creates, there is a reflection of Usuki's tradition of refinement and simplicity, capturing the essence of the region's rich heritage. With the help of dedicated artisans, Usami has steered the legacy of Usuki Ware towards its modern interpretation.
USUKIYAKI stands out with its sophisticated matte finish on white porcelain and the gracefully detailed orchid flower rims, evoking a sense of tranquility and grace.
The original Usuki porcelain (Made during 1801 CE - 1810 CE), that were found in fragments buried near places that were once kilns. They display a refined style of simple white flower-rimmed porcelain.
Giuseppe: Journey From Melodies To Molding
Giuseppe, originally from Milan, Italy, was once engrossed in the melodies of the piano at the Milan conservatory. Today, in Usuki City, he has traded keys for clay, working diligently as a potter for USUKIYAKI. His role is indispensable, laying the foundational groundwork by crafting the initial flat, circular clay discs, pressed and cut with utmost precision. The clay, always kept moist, is primed for the next phase in the crafting process. From his stock of clay, Giuseppe meticulously slices them into exact 5-millimetre (0.2in) pieces, trimming the edges to attain the perfect circle. He refines these bases tirelessly, utilizing both the pressing machine and his skilled hands.
In the embrace of his workspace, where sunlight gently floods in through a grand window, Giuseppe's musical background is evident. A pianist by training, with an appreciation for the refined compositions of Bach and Schumann, he orchestrates his craft with gentle, rhythmic motions. Moving seamlessly from the cutting table to pressing and then smoothing, the atmosphere in his studio is one of tranquility and grace. More than anyone, Giuseppe's dedication sets the tone for the entire manufacturing process; it's on his clay discs that everything else is built upon. With each piece he crafts, he displays a finesse only possible from years dedicated to mastering his art.
Ozaki of Usuki: Surfing Waves and Sculpting Elegance in Porcelain
Ozaki, a renowned professional pottery artist from Kanagawa Prefecture, has long intertwined his passions for pottery and surfing, especially near the Shonan coast. This profound love guided him to Usuki, a town graced with captivating waves and the opportunity to deepen his commitment to pottery amidst its picturesque beauty. Beyond the natural allure, Ozaki frequently praises Usuki for its crisp vegetables and the distinct flavor of fish sourced from its port. It represents an idyllic setting where his profound pottery skills harmonize with his dream surfing lifestyle and a deep connection to nature.
In the pottery process, following Giuseppe's initial clay pressing, Ozaki seamlessly steps in, transferring the clay onto molds. Speed and precision are paramount, ensuring the clay retains its moisture and flexibility. As he covers the clay with a cloth, his hands skillfully maneuver it, capturing every fine design on the mold. Using a knife, Ozaki refines the piece by trimming any excess, drawing his lines based on the mould's edges. As the extraneous parts are discarded, the result is a clay artwork with elegant designs, often evoking the essence of waves or floral motifs.
But the true testament to Ozaki's continued prowess as a pottery professional is his tactile artistry. Eschewing machinery and predetermined measurements, it is Ozaki's experienced fingers that sculpt the intricate curves of Usuki porcelain. His thumb gracefully glides along the clay, refining its shape. After meticulous detailing, he uses compressed air to gently release the artwork from its mold. Demonstrating both precision and tenderness, Ozaki crafts each porcelain piece with unrivaled expertise, one masterpiece at a time.
Tamada: The Engineering Maestro Behind USUKIYAKI
Tamada, often revered as the engineering genius behind USUKIYAKI, operates seamlessly between the realms of art and precision. Entrusted with the original concepts put forth by Usami, the creative artist, it is Tamada who refines these designs, ensuring they are both production-ready and optimally functional. He is not just any artisan; he is the pivotal designer of the kiln that ensures every piece's perfection. Ever since his younger days, when he dabbled joyously in carpentry, Tamada has been passionate about bringing designs to life. So, while Usami paints the dream, Tamada meticulously engineers it into tangible, functional reality as an integral part of Usuki Ware.
With a lineage tracing back three generations to Usuki and being the offspring of a painter, artistry is in Tamada's blood. His youthful endeavors saw him crafting not just with clay, but also wood. He has also established a bar in the heart of Usuki's historic quarters. Here, he relished fostering connections with the locals.
Now, under Tamada's technical guidance and along with the concerted endeavors of dedicated artisans, the atelier has become a local sensation. But for Tamada, this isn't about mere recognition. It's about a sanctuary where his engineering prowess harmoniously intersects with passion, continuously elevating the sublime porcelain art of Usuki.
Usa's Admirable Dedication to Artistic Perfection
Usa, a native of Bungo ono city, neighboring Usuki, initially stepped into the world of pottery as an office worker. Fate played its hand when a production delay saw the chief beckoning Usa to assist hands-on. With a past rooted in the precision-required world of barbering, Usa approached the clay with unparalleled care and meticulousness. Each hand movement, sharpened by her previous profession, was carefully measured, understanding that even a slight misstep could affect the entire piece.
Her uncanny knack for carving and polishing was quickly recognized. Having recognized her unique talent, the chief wasted no time in incorporating her into the atelier's core team. Today, Usa shoulders an immense responsibility alongside Tamada: she receives the clay masterpieces, each shaped by different craftspeople, and it's her duty to refine them to perfection. With unwavering dedication, she scrutinizes every inch, correcting imperfections with surgical precision. Every blemish, whether a smudge, fingerprint, or roughness, is addressed with her deft touch and a moist cloth. As she engrosses herself in this labor of love, even seasoned artisans like Tamada pause to admire her unparalleled dedication and the respect with which she treats every piece, always remembering that it's now her duty to perfect what has been trusted into her hands.
Mori's Artful Embrace: Delving into the Precision of USUKIYAKI Glazing
Mori started working for USUKIYAKI five years ago, embracing the role of a potter to prioritize family time. His former job frequently kept him away from home due to business trips. Now, as a vital part of the atelier, Mori focuses on glazing and firing. This gentle and composed man has discovered a craft that demands commitment, meticulous attention, and skill that, in his words, is understood instinctively rather than explained verbally.
When it comes to glazing, Usuki ware predominantly embraces the elegance of black and white porcelain, underscoring the refined allure of the craft. With great concentration, Mori immerses the bisque in glaze. Swiftly lifting it, he allows a few moments for the glaze to air-dry and solidify, all the while ensuring an even coat devoid of imperfections. He believes that the fluidity of his hand motions, the precise drying time, and the rhythm of the entire process are honed through years of experience and are beyond mere verbal description, as this introspective man points out.
During the firing phase, Mori applies additional glaze where needed, particularly on edges that might not have been adequately covered. He then delicately arranges the glazed plates on the kiln shelves. It's expected that occasional impurities will settle on the ware, causing minor flaws. Once the firing concludes, Mori meticulously selects only those pieces that meet the highest standards in form, surface smoothness, and purity for client delivery. The rest might undergo further refinements or be deemed rejects.
Mori emphasizes that the unique matte finish of Usuki's white porcelain, set against its glossier counterparts, endows the ware with a distinctive elegance. It stands out, he says, not just as an item but as a genuine piece of art.
A Symphony of Hands, History, and Heartfelt Artistry
In the heart of Usuki City, a story of rebirth and mastery resounds through the walls of ateliers and workshops. The revival of Usuki Ware, a legacy from the era of the Inaba Domain, showcases the convergence of individual journeys, passions, and talents. The intricate details, the rich history, and the hands that shape this porcelain are not merely creating objects; they are sculpting stories, memories, and a testament to an enduring art form. As we appreciate the elegant and tranquil Usuki Ware, it's essential to remember the myriad of stories, both spoken and unspoken, that intertwine to form its very essence. Each piece of porcelain is a chapter of Usuki's modern renaissance, a silent melody of past meeting present, and a beacon of what passion and perseverance can truly achieve.View USUKIYAKI Collection
By Yoshikaze Kawakami