One of the most exciting developments in Kyushu’s contemporary pottery industry is coming out of the small town of Koishiwara. Here a select band of 15 potters have joined forces under the artistic guidance of cookbook author and style icon Tomoko Nagao (think Delia Smith with Kelly Hoppen’s sense of style) to create cutting edge crockery produced in a traditional way. Here she explains how she came to be involved in the project and the best way of moulding potters stuck in their ways.
‘The industry needs to move on. Unfortunately the pottery industry in Kyushu is in crisis, sales are dropping and people are increasingly unconcerned about where their pottery is from or how it is produced.’
‘The first bite is with the eye. Dining is a complete experience, you taste, you smell, you enjoy the texture, but your first experience is how the food looks and what your food is presented to you on is an important part of that. We wanted to create something that would help the potters, yes, but mostly we wanted to produce something that was beautiful, modern and special.’
‘Nearly every potter in the village wanted to be involved, but we could only work with 15 of them. Each of them producing seven pieces – a cup, a milk jug, a pot, a bowl, two sizes of plate and a dish - in their design.’
‘The collaboration was difficult, but worth it. I was dealing with proud craftsmen and they didn’t take kindly to me, an outsider and a woman, offering them advice on how to change their style - especially as I’m a hard woman to please. They used to joke that nobody would ever get my final approval as I kept demanding more, but you need to work towards perfection.’
‘These plates are for using. I have no real interest in pieces that are made to be purely displayed in a cabinet - plates should be used. So we deliberately adopted the style to be more suited to everyday use and we tried to keep the prices reasonable. The cheapest items, the cups, are ¥1,600 (US$18) even the large dishes are only ¥3,800 (US$43).’
‘The BBB shop in Fukuoka is currently the only place you can buy the entire range, but you can get individual pieces online add website detail if this is possible.’
1-8-1 Yakuin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka, 810-0022
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