Antique Kibidō Kiln Ao-Bizen Chaire

Potter: 8th or 9th generation Kimura Bifū

Approximate size: W2.8″ by H3.5″ or 7.8 by 8.9 cm

Kibidō is the name of a very old kiln located in the heart of Bizen and has been under the sole management of the Kimura Family for centuries. Kimura Bifū who was born in 1951 is the 10th successor and current headmaster of the kiln. The stamp reads as follows.

Bi 備
zen 前
Ki き
bi び
dō 堂

When inspected it is clear that this ao Bizen or blue Bizen tea caddy is old, in all likelihood well over a hundred years. A conservative estimate would be early Meiji period, end of the Edo period. Perhaps even older. Featuring a bulbous, feminine shape not too often seen in tea caddies or Bizen ware in general. The exterior of the caddy is decorated with several groves over a unique surface pattern called ishime, a texture mimicking stone ground. The shape is reminiscent of a type of gourd called a hyotan, which were grown by farmers and historically used as water bottles and a number of other purposes. A subject shown in many of the arts that flourished in Japan. Hyotan are objects that have for ages been the subject of superstitions and frequently appear in Japanese folklore. If for instance, 6 gourds came together, it would be a auspicious sign of (impending), good luck.

Main styles of Bizen pottery

Botamochi 牡丹餅 (rice ball)
round, often red spots created through surface masking, kiln placement and wood firing

Goma 胡麻 (sesame seed)
glaze produced by kiln placement and ashes melting in the heat of the kiln

Hidasuki 緋襷
a rice straw wrapping, containing salt, typically producing bands of red colour

Ao Bizen 青備前
acquires various blue hues due to wrapping with rice straw, kiln placement and reduction during wood firing

Sangiri 桟切り
shiny metallic blue sheen acquired, often randomly through reduction during wood firing

Kuro Bizen 黒備前 (black Bizen)
black colours achieved through use of clay and kiln placement, typically associated with ancient Bizen ware made in Imbe village during the 12th century

Ao-Bizen can be translated as “blue Bizen”. The ware acquires various blue hues according to the amount of reduction, from light blue (heavy reduction), to brownish (lighter reduction). The method is almost the same as that of “hidasuki”. But at the end of the firing, charcoal is placed on top of the saggars, completely covering them. The burning charcoal consumes the oxygen in the kiln creating a strong local reduction atmosphere. So the only difference between red (hidasuki), and blue is the oxygen concentration during the firing. It is very difficult to control all of the elements needed to create “blue Bizen”, so this colour is very rare and prized by connoisseurs.

Ishime surface pattern on a tsuba (Japanese sword guard)

Ishime ground pattern is a frequently seen decorative texture in the Japanese arts. For instance in the lacquer work on a scabbard of a Japanese swords or in their fittings (its relatively rough surface allows a good grip).

Bizen is characterized by significant hardness due to high temperature firing, its earthen-like, reddish-brown colour, absence of glaze, although it may contain traces of molten ash resembling glaze, and markings resulting from wood-burning kiln firing. The clay found in Inbe is sticky and fine, with a high iron content and, traditionally, much organic matter that is not that receptive to glazing. For some potters this is an inadequate material, since it has weak characteristics such as high shrinkage and relatively low fire resistance. Most Bizen ware is not coated with a glaze because of this shrinkage, since any applied glaze would peel off during the firing process. Due to its low fire resistance it cannot withstand rapid high-temperature changes, so the firing has to be done gradually. However, the soil also has beneficial properties, such as plasticity. The high strength of Inbe clay causes it to retain its form, making it tough even without glaze.

This tea caddy has no chips or cracks and condition is excellent. The lid is of an exceptionally high quality. Comes in a high quality, old shiho-san paulownia tomobako or storage box and the original embroidered silk shifuku, cloth storage pouch. Please note the box has a few dents but fulfills its duty as a protective guard just fine.

Please inquire