Shell Wadding and Echizen Potter Kumano Kurouemon

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I received a couple of emails from Mark Titchner last month. (Gas)

Dear Gas,
I was interested to read your comments about the use of shells as wadding for pots and I tend to agree with you. I would be interested to know what you think about the work of Kumano Kuroemon, whose work I like, and who uses shells. Does it work for you, from a Japanese perspective or any perspective? I enjoyed reading your web site.

Dear Mark,
Many thanks for your comments on the shells and Kumano Kuroemon of Echizen.
I made my Anagama blog in order to avoid answering same email questions from people who wrote me. It worked well but I have been rather inactive with my blog these days. I am often wondering about what I should tell to my readers. When I came across interesting subjects, I asked kind permissions to use their emails.
Your comment on the old Echizen potter is just what I would like to talk about. Would you mind tell me a little more when and how you found Kumano Kuroemon? I would like to write about old and modern Echizen a bit, if there’s any interest from readers. I also would like to know who you are and what you do.
All the Best and look forward to hearing from you soon,
Gas Kimishima

Dear Gas,
Thank you for your reply to my e-mail. I am a potter who has been making wood fired earthenware for about 30 years at this pottery in Suffolk.
I came across Kumano Kuroemon in my research into ‘authentic’ shino type glazes, as I have recently been developing new work in stoneware and didn’t want to use the same old recipes for ‘western’ shino. He is not very well known in Europe I think. When it comes to shells I mostly find them to be a cliche’, but superficially very seductive. I was quite surprised to find Kuroemon using them, but maybe he started the fashion? I am not familiar with the Echizen tradition and would be grateful for more information.
You are welcome to use my correspondence, edited if you wish, if you think it is helpful to start a thread on your blog. I have a bad web site: which I don’t update very often as my computer skills are not very advanced. Thank you again.
with best wishes

Dear Mark,
Here, I uploaded some images for your interest. Most Echizen pots were made and fired in Anagama in the Mediaeval period and last one is my Echizen form attempt with English clay in my first or second ‘Moby Dick’ Anagama 10 day firing.
I wrote my negative opinions for shell wadding on this blog a couple of years ago .
I do understand that shell wadding leaves dramatic and somewhat attractive effects on the pots. And many wood-fired potters apply it to make their pots look powerful and impressive. Nothing wrong with the idea of shell wadding for wood-firing. But it could be applied to disguise weak pot-shape as well.
Echizen potter, Kumano Kurouemon is well known as an extremely challenger of his own pottery, using Shino glaze on his work and wood-fire his work really high (some said up to 1500c) on the point of collapsing. It made him very popular among enthusiastic wood-fired pot collectors.
I used to visit the Fukui-ken Tougei-kan (Echizen Pottery Museum) and have a few old Echizen pots in my private collection. I love old Echizen pottery as the pots are really beautiful in form and natural ash from wood-firing.
Shell wadding seems to be an easiest solution for covering up weak pot shapes. But personally I have never wished to follow this trend.

About Gas

Hi, I am a wood-fire potter, living and working in the Japanese tradition in Tring, Hertfordshire (UK). Following mediaeval potter's wisdom, I design and build simple wood-fired kilns called 'anagama' for long period of firing and 'raku-gama' for quick (glazed tea bowl) firing. My anagama firing usually takes 9 - 10 days.
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