I bought this bowl a few years algo in the old Naramachi district of Nara between two kintsugi apprenticeship classes (Minarai, 見習い ) in a small Japanese antique shop.
I was wandering around the little antique shop without really finding what I was looking for when the owner struck up a conversation. During the discussion, and despite my poor English and Japanese, we agreed on the object that suited me. He brought me to his storeroom, which proved to be the Cave of Wonders for a Kintsugi craftsman.
In the middle of the bowls, cups, dishes piled on top of each other, a soba noodle bowl caught my attention. Its condition (a few cracks and chips on the border), its particular shape and its details immediately seduced me: its size, painted figures, the delicacy of its calligraphy inside, the cobalt blue color and the cracks of the 'E-mail.
Back in France, I put it away in a box at the back of my studio for many months. The first confinement and forced isolation was an opportunity for me to rediscover parts in my possession and to undertake several kintsugi repairs. This is how I decided to present to you the work around this bowl which I found in worse condition than it was when I returned from Japan, broken into 8 pieces.
Research into the origin and history of this bowl is therefore necessary.
The painted figures represent three poets.
Maybe they are writing haiku, which would make sense because one of these poems appears inside the bowl. The style of painting seems to be Nanga style (very popular at the end of the Edo period (17th-19th century). The style is free and endowed with a great sobriety in its representations. These elements put end to end. are reminiscent of one of the famous painter-poets Yosa Buson (active in the 18th century), famous for being the inventor of haiga (painting accompanied by a haiku). Yosa Buson believed that poetry and painting were two forms of the same activity The artist of this bowl must surely have been strongly influenced by Yosa Buson and the bunjin-ga (a genre of painting which developed in Japan from the 18th century, inspired by the painting of Chinese scholars).
The opportunity turned out to be too good and I set out to work on this exceptional piece.
This bowl required a traditional Kintsugi urushi reconstruction.
The Reconstruction is carried out with the mugi urushi adhesive mixture "flour / water / kiurushi lacquer". Then you have to let the bowl air dry and then put it in the Muro box (box whose constant temperature and humidity are controlled).
The second step is cleaning and then filling in the missing parts and cracks.
Do not hesitate to repeat the filling step as many times as necessary with the sabi "jinoko / water / kiurushi" mixture.
This step turns out to be very important, there begins the aesthetic and visual aspect of the bowl. Seams and breaks are sanded and shaped to obtain a nice smooth line. You can slide a finger over the knuckles and breaks with your eyes closed to check that there is no roughness. All the parts should be one.
Then come what I call Harmony.
It is achieved with the work of black lacquer which prepares the undercoat. It is applied in a very thin layer on the joints, then you sand it with sandpaper and water.
All the small flaws, holes, scratches will then appear which will be filled in again, dried and sanded until a perfectly smooth surface is obtained.
You will tell me again ... what’s next !
Next step is the application of red bengara lacquer and 24 karat gold powder. Be careful, the application of KinKeshifun gold powder (powder with extremely fine grain size which cannot be polished) is never done in rainy season because of the high humidity, winter is not an ideal season for perform this step.
So the second part of the Kyoto Yaki bowl will arrive in spring with sunny days!
The art of kintsugi is all patience, slowness, humility.
What was interesting during this period of confinement was that I took the opportunity to rummage through my boxes and find ceramic pieces that await a new kintsugi life. I found plenty of small cups, saucers, bowls, chawan, raku etc., enough to work on pieces with different levels of technique.
The benefit about working on so many pieces is that when you get tired of one ceramic you can take another step and so on.