The Essence of Beauty

Yu Fujiwara was born in Honami, Bizen City, and became the 2nd generation of his family to achieve National Living Treasure status. Apprenticing under his father, Kei Fujiwara, Yu Fujiwara inherited his style. Possessing an ambitious and modern view, Fujiwara also had a generosity which referenced Yayoi earthenware. Preserving the essence of the beauty of Bizen Ware, he created his works with a universal aesthetic sense.

“…. How is it possible that potters have never flagged for even a moment over all those one thousand years to produce wares from this sombre clay without adding glaze? The answer lies in its naïve simplicity and mainly grace. …

We, who pot with Bizen clay, have much time-consuming and painstaking work before the clay can be thrown on the wheel or otherwise fashioned. To obtain it, we dig to the bottom of the rice paddies, three to five meters deep. There, ten centimetres or so below, lies the raw clay. This is dug out with our hands and exposed to wind and rain for about one year in order to season it. It is then crushed into small pieces with a tool that looks like an iron hammer and soaked in water. What results is placed in a biscuit receptacle and the watery residue is gradually absorbed. When it has hardened somewhat, tiny pebbles and other impurities are removed with our finger tips. This done, the clay is tread upon with our feet and kept in an underground cellar for about two years. Then, well seasoned, the clay is ready for the potter to throw or mould it to his will. Thus it takes three to four years even to prepare the clay.

When the potter has shaped his pots and pieces and the firing has begun, it takes twelve days to complete it. Around the clock the pine wood must be fed to the fire to build up and maintain the 1300 degrees of heat needed before Bizen ware is born. To accomplish this ten tons of pine wood are consumed. One feels like fainting and becomes dizzy before it is over with. All the most for this hard work, a burning desire to fight arises within me, challenging me to make better, always more desirable Bizen ware. …

I think that pottery should not be a mere implement. Before it is that, it should be a transfiguration of myself; my joy, my sorrow, my tenderness or harshness; my helpless wistfulness should be felt in the pottery I make. Only then should it become an object with a life of its own.

How splendid the beauty of Bizen ware is, forever imprinted with the fire’s markings, the madly dancing flames of the fire which has burned so intensely for such a long time. It is staggering to think that once man has developed a passion for Bizen ware, he is stunned by the thought that he has become a drug addict. Is there any other pottery than Bizen which drives a man to such a degree of madness?«

Fujiwara Yu, 1978