Mr. Kusuo Baba, Ceramist, the Shinemon Kiln pottery
I went to Arita because I heard “there is an Arita ware pottery with beautiful colors.” Arita, long famous as a pottery town, is located in western Saga prefecture and is blessed with a lush natural environment that includes the Kurokami Mountains. Equipped as both a store and studio, the building of the Shinemon Kiln pottery is located in a corner of this town where pottery related stores are conspicuous. Their spokesman, Mr. Kusuo Baba, came out to welcome me.
“The first generation of Shinemon, my father Shinichiro, founded the Shinemon Kiln in 1972. In the beginning we mainly produced large vases to be used as decorations in hotels and Japanese inns. However we slowly changed toward items such as teacups, sake cups, dishware, and small bowls” began Mr. Baba.
The items that the Shinemon Kiln puts up for sale are ceramics that are richly colored due to the glaze (pottery enamel). “Our staple products are those that make the most of the wine red shinsha glaze. I have exhibited works in this color at the Japan Arts Exhibition. It is the biggest arts exhibition in Japan and has continued for over 100 years. We also specialize in the yuteki tenmoku and aizome suiteki glazing techniques. The yuteki tenmoku technique has a pattern resembling black oil spots and the aizome suiteki technique has sparkling crystals of milky white and indigo,” Mr. Baba continues.
Why did Mr. Baba make a business out of the traditional Arita ware? “To get to this point I went through a lot of difficulty, but what I can say for sure is that it’s because I like making Arita ware. When speaking of something we can proudly present to the world, it would have to be culture and tradition. Luckily, our Arita ware is regarded as high grade in China, and sales are growing,” he says with pride.
At the moment, Mr. Baba is putting effort into the feel when the lips touch the tea cup or dish. Improving the feel on the tongue, in a way. He concludes by saying “I have a story about our pottery. An acquaintance runs a Japanese pub in Fukuoka. I brought 5 or 6 sake cups there where they used them for a group of customers having a party. One of the customers suddenly said “the taste of the sake changed!” I heard this and I was extremely pleased. Arita ware is linked to eating and drinking—actions that are indispensable to us humans. The scope for improvement is all the more limitless because of this.”