Today I heard from a few readers curious about the gorgeous piece of pottery in the picture of my last post on simmering kabocha and chicken. This stunning vessel is the work of the esteemed Karatsu potter Jinenbo Nakagawa, who I wrote about in a story for the late, great Gourmet in 2005 (click here to read the piece). Jinenbo means "nature boy," an apt handle for a man who digs clay himself from nearby mountains and conjures his glazes from the ash of rice stalks he collects from the fields near his workshop and home deep in the Saga Prefecture countryside. Karatsu pottery is so earthy, lyrical, and breathtaking; it's one of my favorite styles of Japanese pottery. And Jinenbo is one of my heroes. He's an amazing potter and I love his work; it's been a great privilege to call Jinenbo a friend. The piece in the picture is a katakuchi, a traditional spouted bowl, and the glaze is applied by a technique called hakeme, where Jinenbo roughly brushes rice stalk ash glaze using a brush he made himself out of, well, rice stalks. It's one of my most cherished pieces.
Let me say, too, that the wonderful thing about Japanese potters, even masters like Jinenbo, is that you can go visit them in their workshops. That's how we first met years ago, when I ambled down to rural, lovely Saga. In fact, pottery is what inspired me to travel Japan in the first place, and I've visited potters across the country. Check out Robert Yellin's blog and websites, a great way to begin discovering Japanese pottery. (I once called Robert out of the blue, not as a journalist, and he's the one who graciously introduced me to Jinenbo). Here's a shot of Jinenbo, from when I visited him last year.