The Kiln is being fired only twice a year, because of the very intense & tiring firing process. But what happens before and after the firing?
The artisan collects the raw material from different hills and rice paddies in the Okayama area. After the soil is crushed and the clay is prepared, the water is being filtered out.
Over the span of several months, Kiko Ando, the artisan brings the clay into shapes by hand on the potters wheel. Every single cup is crafted this way.
Placing his work into the kiln is the next step. Straw is used as a spacer between the objects, so they do not stick together. It also leaves the signature Bizen-Yaki pattern behind when it burns.
The preparation of firing wood is very essential. The amount of firing wood needed depends on the outside temperature. This step is also done by hand. A lot of wood is needed for to fire the kiln for one week straight. It is neatly packed for quick access.
The temperature inside the kiln has to rise above 1000˚C
For one week, Ando adds new firing wood every 5 to 10 minutes. After the firing, the kiln has to cool down, which takes almost a week. When it cooled down enough the artisan takes out the pieces carefully one by one.
The reason for the Asemi Co. Bizen-Yaki cups being limited to 100 pieces per size every 6 months is their aesthetic, called “Sangiri”. It requires a special location in the kiln which allows the artisan to pour ash on the cups during the firing process. This area is very small, only allowing those 100 pieces being located there.
Taking out the workpieces again takes several days. All vessels will be checked for leaks. Faulty and out of shape pieces will be sorted out. Surfaces that are too rough have to be ground. The bottom has to be flat so the vessels stand properly, if necessary it will be ground until it’s perfect.
The cups are then shipped to Tokyo where they are packed into the signature artisan cup packaging, sealed and marked with the seasonal stamp and given a unique number each.
After a lot of hard work, finally the products are finished.
Text off Asemi Co. website
All images courtesy of Asemi Co. Japan.