Behind the Scenes at Jicon
As promised, here is a recap of my visit to the Jicon showroom and studio – one of the highlights of my latest trip to Japan!
Jicon was created as an off shoot brand of the ‘house of Imamura’ – a family run porcelain company that derived from the renown Touetsugama kiln founded 350 years ago. Today, Hajime Imamura runs Jicon (designed with Oji Masanori) while his brother succeeded the Touetsugama kiln. The Imamura family and their craft are clearly full of history! Here, with the help of Hajime Imamura and his other half, Maki Imamura, I was just able to scratch the surface but we’re looking forward to learning more about this fascinating story during the upcoming years.
Based in Arita, a city that is rich in porcelain stone and rooted in it’s ceramic crafts, Hajime and Maki have been running Jicon. It is there that the husband and wife team make each porcelain piece by hand in their studio that runs adjacent to a beautiful showroom.
When Taku and I first arrived, we were served coffee and sweets all on Jicon wares on top of a Takahashi Kougei tray, also designed by Oji Masanori! Everything seemed to connect at this moment and I felt like Hajime and Maki’s children got it right with an illustration of their parents’ company relationships – A clever diagram of the parents on top, the designer (Oji Masanori) and the brand representative amongst a sea of Jicon product!
After a tour of the showroom, Maki and Hajime brought me to the studio and on the way we passed their lawn of ceramic shards that they’ve been collecting with their children over the years. With such a long line of porcelain kilns in the city, the streets of Arita are like a living history book where old pieces of porcelain that have been discarded can be found scattered everywhere.
Made with “Amakusa Touseki” (porcelain stone) found in the Arita environs, Jicon is distinct with its durability and satin glaze finish that was specially developed with Oji Masanori. Hajime is pictured above showing me a bucket that indicates “Oji Masanori’s Special Glaze”!
Special techniques are also used in the making of each piece and the couple was kind enough to give a demonstration of the various steps. Hajime prepared the pieces for firing in the kiln; sometimes painting a special iron based rim called “Fuchi Sabi” while Maki carefully polished and finished the pieces.
We’ve always loved the Jicon logo so it was great to hear the story behind how it was derived through the transformation of the Imamura family symbol. We later learned that Oji Masanori had also designed the Jicon logo.
Afterwards we left the studio to walk the streets that were embedded with bits of porcelain. Hajime also wanted to take me to the mountaintop to show me the source of Arita’s rich stone and to the Touzan Jinja – The Porcelain Shrine that had a beautiful porcelain torii gate. This is where many people go to pray for good fortune for their kiln.
We also got a chance to fit in a trip to the Kyushu Ceramic Museum, the entrance of which was not surprisingly covered in ceramic tiles of all sizes.
While there, we saw an extensive amount of pottery works, some dating back to the 1600’s. I could see how these traditional Japanese shapes inspired Oji Masanori for Jicon designs like the chrysanthemum and diamond shaped plates.
On the way out, Hajime shows me a stunning vessel and casually mentioned it was a work by his Father… Incredible to see it as a museum piece!
As our visit drew to a close, we walked to the train along the riverbed and got a chance to pick a few pottery shards of our own as souvenirs.
I owe a huge thank you to Hajime and Maki Imamura for inviting me to their workspace and home for this incredible tour. Thank you also to Takuya Matsuo for guiding the visit!