Robert Yellin's Japanese Pottery Blog

Greetings from Kyoto, We've just moved our gallery into a magnificent old Sukiya style home located very near the Silver Pavilion; a stunning area and setting for the inspired ceramic art we share with the world. Please visit us if ever in Kyoto or online at and

Friday, October 17, 2008

Watanabe Akihiko--New Kiln--Brick by Brick.....

It's really cold in Hirashimizu, Yamagata Prefecture in the winter, that's an area of Japan many simply refer to as 'snow country.' Not the best place to be a potter come that frosty season, and maybe which is why there are so few old traditional kilns in that region; the one exception--although not that old for Japan starting in Bunka 1804-18---being Hirashimizu-yaki with its veteran potter whose work I greatly admire, Niwa Ryochi. Watanabe Akihiko (b.1959) was born in Yamagata and became a potter at Hirashimizu from 1983; he's best known for his elequent seiji-celadon pottery, which has been shown all over Japan. Now that time has crept along as it so naturally does and all the aches that it might also bring, Watanabe has headed south. South to my neighborhood so to speak, in a small country town called Kannami, about a 30 minute drive from our gallery here in Mishima; both towns are located in Shizuoka prefecture. So, a big clay move also involves building a new kiln and yes it's easier to simply fire seiji in a gas kiln, simply ordered and installed. Yet Watanabe is only one of a very rare group that continues--like the late great Okabe Mineo--to fire seiji in a wood-burning kiln. Last week I visited the kiln in progress and share the photos with you. It's a kiln design to his own requirements, meaning that he's building it specifically to get some yohen effects, like those seen on Okabe's legendary seiji masterpieces. First kiln unloading should be next February. Here's a link to a few of his guinomi that were fired in Hirashimizu:


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