navbar topEmail UsSite MapPhoto Tours

eStore English Homepage

Kobayashi Junko (Shino Ware)



spacerReturn to Who's Who A to Z Menu

Jump to index of all Yellin stories for The Japan Times
Click here for
index to all
Yellin stories for
The Japan Times

Pottery Primer - More Than 40 Styles Explained

Yellin's gallery
sells pieces from
the kilns of Japan's
finest potters


Stopped in my flippin' tracks by a Shino tea bowl

 for The Japan Times, 2000 Sept. 23

I'm lucky enough to live only five minutes away from one of my favorite Mino potters -- and I don't even live near the Mino area. That's in Gifu Prefecture, whereas I reside in the potting wasteland of Numazu. I'm always asked about how I ended up here and I can only say that it was the will of something beyond a calculated decision. Some call that fate. 

Pieces by Kobayashi Junko

Oribe ware in odo clay
with iron underglaze drawings

One fateful  day about five years ago I was flipping through a book about contemporary chawan (tea bowls) and the pages went by quite rapidly; nothing really caught my eye. The pieces I saw looked like  chawan, but they didn't quite have the total balance of form, lip and base. 

Then one aka (red) Shino chawan did stop me in my flipping tracks, and turned out to be the work of Kobayashi Junko. She's having an exhibition in Ginza at Matsuya department store's seventh-floor gallery Sept. 27-Oct. 3, 2000.

As I was taking in the beautiful color and form of Kobayashi's chawan from the book, I glanced at her address and couldn't believe that she lived in, of all places, Numazu. I had to double-check and make sure I wasn't seeing Karatsu or some other potting town with the same last kanji, meaning port. But my eyes had not deceived me, and, as is always the case when I find a potter I like, I just had  to go and meet her. This time I didn't have to travel four hours by train to Okayama or Shiga: just a five-minute car ride.

I called and made arrangements, and the next day I rang the front door bell of Tenborin-gama (Heaven Mother Forest Kiln) and was surprised to be greeted by a rather small, dainty-looking lady.

Actually, her studio and kiln are in Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture, but since she shows most of her work in the Yokohama-Tokyo area she thought it best to have a showroom somewhere in between -- hence, Numazu. I looked around the quaint display space and saw most of the genres of the grand Mino tradition; Oribe, Narumi Oribe, Kuro-Oribe, E-Shino, Aka-Shino and Nezumi Shino.

Wanting to study clay (tsuchi), and the best way to find and process it, she had made her way to Korea. There, for four years, she was under the eye of the late master potter An Tougou. He taught her how to "taste" the clay and bring out the inherent qualities in it. 

Pieces by Kobayashi Junko

Shino ware in mogusa clay with rusty red glaze and feldspar-glazed patches

For her pottery Kobayashi uses clay from the Mino region, specifically mogusa, go tomaki and odo tsuchi. Which clay she uses depends on the form being made. For example, a large tsubo (jar) or shokki (tableware) will be made with only the more refined  gotomaki tsuchi. Tea utensils (chadogu) are made using the very precious mogusa tsuchi that shows more of the tsuchi aji ("flavor") on the unglazed foot or base.

Many clay dealers blend gotomaki but mogusa is left in its natural state and thus is more prized. Kobayashi got her stash when an old school was demolished and she treasures it, knowing that after it runs out it's going to be very difficult to get any more. 

In the upcoming exhibition are some lovely chawan using mogusa clay. They have a rambling yamamichi (mountain path) lip and a rusty red glaze with white feldspar glazed patches that look like cake frosting. 

When you pick up a chawan you'll notice the rough, yet light, mogusa clay, which hasn't been glazed. In fact, it looks like it hasn't even been fired at all on some chawan.

Tea masters use the term zanguri to describe the distinctive quality of clay. It's a term of appreciation of the rough, unrefined style of potting that gives a piece a particular ambience. Yet for Shino it's used in a special way to describe the  soft appearance of the clay that looks like it came out of the kiln unbaked. Some chajin say they can "taste" the raw clay of a Shino chawan. You'll be able to see that zanguri on Kobayashi's chawan. 

I especially like her shuki (sake utensils) and so do many others. A recent Sony Family Club magazine advertised her shuki for sale, and they all sold out within a matter of days.

It's not only the clay and forms that Kobayashi uses and makes that endear her to me. It's her able brush that is so important in the Mino world. Many of the wares have iron underglaze drawings and Kobayashi makes the fanciful patterns come alive and dance on the wares.

This exhibition marks a first for me as a ceramic writer. I've written a book and I write a regular column in Honoho Geijitsu, but I've never written an introduction for a potter in a Tokyo exhibition catalog or pamphlet. Until now. In the fold-out pamphlet that you'll see at the exhibition you'll not only find some great shots of Kobayashi's work but also my brief essay in Japanese. It's a real honor and a new door that has opened for me in the fascinating world of Japanese pottery. I hope you enjoy the exhibition.

As a side note, there will be some of Kobayashi's works offered at a slight discount. These have a slight off-color or something about them that Kobayashi thought shouldn't be in the first rank on a large exhibition. They are still good and usable and all proceeds from their sale will be donated to the Chubu Modoken Kyokai, an organization which trains seeing-eye dogs. A very worthy cause.

The Japan Times: Sept. 23, 2000
(C) All  rights reserved


Copyright - Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Our Address and Contact Numbers

pot logo tiny

Home | e-Store | Who's Who | What's What | Where | Guidebook | Newsletter | About Us

Site design and maintenance by Onmark Productions