Bizen, Shigaraki, Tokoname, Seto, Echizen, and Tamba are the six ancient kilns of Japan. Bizen’s kiln site can be traced back to the 13th century, and generations of artists have developed a strong tradition from its fertile lands. Today, it has given us five Living National Treasures: KANESHIGE Toyo金重陶陽(1896-1967), FUJIWARA Kei藤原 啓(1899-1983), YAMAMOTO Toshu山本陶秀(1906-1994), FUJIWARA Yu藤原 雄(1932-2001), and ISEZAKI Jun 伊勢崎 淳(1936-).
Many artists have tested their talents in Bizen, and only a few have risen from the rigor and knowledge this kiln demands. Fujiwara, Kaneshige, Isezaki, Kakurezaki Ryuichi, Mori Togaku are a few of the shining stars from that land among thousands of potters.
One of the stars from Bizen’s constellation of innovators has caught our eye and attention. Ichikawa Toru’s work is becoming a phenomenon. This Tokyo-born sculptor studied with one of Bizen’s luminaries and learned of its traditions. Ichikawa studied under Kakurezaki Ryuichi 隠崎隆一(1953- ), and you can see the apprenticeship in his forms, which he takes forward with his daring interventions. A striking example of this is the variety of glazes on Ichikawa’s tea bowls. He marries celadon glaze with Bizen clay, and uses natural color reactions to adorn his sake cups and bottles … colors usually seen on paintings excite you, shock you, and offer a fresh perspective. Ichikawa presents us with a contemporary image that can be still be held and adored as a ceramic sculpture.