Potter: The 8th or 9th generation Kimura Bifū
Approximate size: W2.8″ by H3.5″ or 14.3 by 7.8 by 8.9cm
A kind contact has informed me of the origin of this tea caddy. The stamp reads as follows.
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.
When inspected it becomes clear that this ‘ao’ Bizen or blue Bizen tea caddy is quite old. A conservative estimate would be late Edo, bordering Meiji though could be older. It features a bulbous, feminine shape not too often seen in Bizen tea caddies. The shape is reminiscent of a hyotan which is a type of gourd, grown by farmers and historically used for water flasks, 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 object of superstitions and in folklore. For instance if 6 gourds came together, it would be a auspicious sign of (impending), good luck. The exterior of the caddy is decorated with several groves over a unique surface pattern called ishime, a texture mimicking stone ground.
Main styles of Bizen pottery
Goma 胡麻 (sesame seed)
glaze produced by ashes melting in the heat of the kiln
rice straw wrapped around an object producing bands of often red color
Ao Bizen 青備前
acquires various blue hues due to the amount of reduction during firing
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 color is very rare and prized by connoisseurs.
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 color, 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 unreceptive 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.