Bigei - Hirata Atsumi
Bigei with one of his collected bambu rods.
He is noticeably surprised when he opens the door and see me standing there. Then Mike comes around the corner, since he had to park the car, and Bigei’s face opens up in a big smile. ”This is the guy from Sweden I told you about.” Bigei let us into the warehouse where he works on different projects. Mike, who runs the popular McCarthys airB&B in town, have known Hirata san for a few years.
Today Bigei only makes pots for himself, and some friends, and does not want to meet any sellers or customers, or guys like me, but when he heard I was a potter he got curious. Bigei is one of the few remaining that has lived throughout the whole period of the ”golden days” of bonsai pots in Tokoname. When he came here in 1969 he was treated tough by the people in the trade. First of all he came from out of town, and second he didnt come from a family of potters. His dad was a carpenter. But Bigei wanted to work with ceramics so as a young man he set of to Tokoname and received apprenticeship at a big pottery where he worked for food and shelter for 4 years without receiving any pay. But slowly he worked his way up and in 1976 he opened up his own studio. He is today the only one who has worked his way, from nothing to become a well-known potter by his own two hands. The same hands are now making us green foaming tea wich we enjoy around the table in his gallery. Bigei loves hunting wasps and collecting the larves. Its a dangerous game because the japanese wasps are really big and agressive. He explains how he, all dressed up in a rubber suite, find one wasp and binds a sewing thread to it, releases it and follows, while it flies back and reveals it’s home. He then digs the nest up and pickle the larves in liquor or vinegar. The walls in the gallery are filled with awards and diplomas from his carrier, I ask about them, but he soon returns to conversations about food. ”An old mans only pleasure.” He says and laugh. Born in 1939, but with the energy and strength of a 50 year old, he is now kicking back and lives every potter's dream. Only creates what he wants to, and enjoy life. He shows me some new big pots he works on in green clay. He also collect bamboo wands and, before he gently throws us out, he gives me a sculpted medallion in ceramics. ”This is Bigei's secret art. You should wear it in your pocket or on the car keys.” ”Good magic!” He says laughing and waves us of. In the car on our way back I cant stop smiling. Bigei is a living proof of that a mix of passion, hard work and a laugh takes you a long way. Respect.
First things first. Whipped green tea served with some sweets. Its a ceremony and I try to watch and follow Hirata.
One of Bigei’s latest pot in raw green clay.
Dressed for wasp hunting. Serious buisness and one of Bigei’s greatest passion.
Catch of the day. Nothing goes to waste, larves are eaten raw or pickled.
Some of the pots in Hirata sans gallery. Note the teapot on the lower shelf. It takes long time to learn how to make this on a throwing wheel.
I love this design. One pot inside another.
Thank you Hirata San, and thank you Mike for introducing us. And to you who took the time to read this.
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