This group of pieces line the edge of a porch across the front of the Ichino home, with its showroom here at the front of the ground floor. The two pieces on the left are very traditional Tamba pieces with their trailed decoration, which is calligraphic on the second piece, a traditional sake bottle.
A wood kiln at a different individual workshop at Tamba-Tachikui. This kiln, with its chimney, departs from the design of a traditional Tamba kiln. It also appears as if the first three chambers perhaps are noborigama style chambers (axis of the arch perpendicular to the flame path up the hill) and, if so, this is, indeed, a departure from the traditional kilns of Tamba.
A group of pots in a shop window show the strong traditional form of Tamba jars. Traditionally made as storage jars, the thick rim allowed a cord to be tied securely around the neck of the jar, to hold a cloth in place to close the mouth of the jar. These bold, simple forms were the result of a direct vocabulary of form handed down through generations of potters over the centuries. The forms were often left totally unglazed and the decoration of the surface would come from the action of the fire and the depositing of ash on the surface, forming a natural glaze, as is the case on the second jar from the left in this photo. The two jars on the right probably had an ash glaze poured on them before they were placed in the kiln and the contrast of the runny dark green ash glaze against the dark iron red of the unglazed clay surfaces creates a dynamic pattern. The two pieces on the right have lugs ("loops" of clay) on their shoulders; originally such lugs were made to allow a lid to be
The ancient pottery village of Tachikui, in the region formerly known as the Tamba region, is commonly called, simply, Tamba. It is in the mountains west of Kyoto and north of Kobe. One of the so-called "six ancient kilns" of Japan (the others being Echizen, Bizen, Shigaraki, Tokoname, and Seto), pottery has been produced continuously at this site since the Kamakura period, an unbroken tradition of perhaps 700 or 800 years. It is still (as of 1972, at any rate) a quiet, rural village built along the base of mountain, facing across the rice fields in the valley. A number of the families in the village continue the traditional pattern of being part-time farmers and part-time potters.
Again, this is a photo of the long communal kiln at Tamba-Tachikui. This is the lower portion of the kiln, which stretches on up the hill. The larger pieces of wood stacked on the left here will be used at the beginning of the firing of the kiln, because the large pieces burn slowly, allowing a slow heat rise in the early stages of firing to dry out pots in the kiln. This side of the kiln shows stoke holes for fuel; the doors into the chambers are on the other side of the kiln. It is a tube kiln, with the axis of the arch running up the length of the kiln. The tube is segmented into chambers by walls that cut across the kiln -- essentially, like the structure of a piece of bamboo, and this style of kiln is sometimes called a "split bamboo kiln." In a smaller version, the same structure can be seen clearly in the photos of the Ichino workshop kiln, images ecasia000334 and 335.
Close-up photo of the upper end, upper flue, of the chamber being reconstructed in the previous (000334) image.
This is the Ichino family kiln, located next to their workshop.
Potter's wheel in the Ichino workshop at Tamba-Tachikui. This is a "Korean-style" wheel, which is operated by kicking or, usually, with a pawing action of the left foot, rather than with the wheel head stick that is customary in most traditional Japanese potteries. The "fly-wheel" is relatively small and is made of wood, so it has little weight and carries limited momentum, meaning that the wheel must be "kicked" almost constantly and that the rotation speed is slower than would be the case on a western, European-style kick wheel. One other point of interest is the fact that the Korean wheel is kicked counter-clockwise, the same as a potter would work in the west, while Japanese style wheels are rotated clockwise. The direction of rotation of a potter's wheel often will provide a clue as to whether the potter is working from a tradition that is purely Japanese or from a tradition that is influenced by the Korean potters who were brought to Japan by Hideyoshi after his Korean campai
View from the interior of the Ichino workshop, with standard production work on the shelves in the foreground and the kiln in the background. Potters will be interested to note the angle of the incline on which the kiln is built. There is no chimney on this kiln. The end wall of the last chamber at the top of the kiln has holes in it to function as exit flues for the smoke and gases of the firing but, again, no chimney. Because of the slope of the incline, the kiln, itself, functions as a chimney, pulling the draft to burn the wood.
This group of finished pieces were on ware boards in the Ichino workshop. To some extent, they may represent experiments with new forms, glazes, or decorative techniques, that may diverge some from traditional Tamba vessels.
It was common in traditional pottery villages for there to be a large communal kiln which might be fired several times a year, with each workshop in the village filling several chambers with their production. This slide and the next (ecasia000324) show the very long communal tube kiln at Tamba-Tachikui. In this slide western potters may be particularly interested in the stacked wood for the next firing, noting how finely it is split and the uniformity of the length of the wood and the careful sizing of the bundles.
Closer view of the side of the Ichino kiln, showing the arched opening, the door, into one of the ware chambers. Piled next to the opening are the brick blocks that will be used to close off the opening for the next firing. Bundles of wood are stored on top of the arch and will be totally dried by the heat of the kiln during the early stages of the firing. Although there appear to be a couple of square kiln shelves to the left of the door in this photo, the Tamba kilns still are stacked largely using the traditional means of loading them, which means the use of saggers and/or the stacking of pots on top of one another, with wads of clay and high-silica ash wash between them, to prevent them from sticking to one another.
At the time of the visit to the Ichino workshop, one chamber of the kiln was being rebuilt, giving us a very interesting look at the structure of a Tamba kiln. The bricks used to construct the flues appear to be either commercially produced brick or, at least, carefully pressed hand-made brick. The brick of the arch, on the other hand, is obviously hand-formed brick and less uniform in size and shape. The arch structure is, obviously, only one brick thick -- perhaps about 5 inches -- and, over that single course of brick, the arch has been mudded over with a layer of clay.
These pieces had been left outside, on the ground next to the kiln. Some have obvious rough spots on them and may be pieces that will be re-fired.
This is the home and workshop of the Ichino family, one of the foremost pottery families in Tamba-Tachikui.