We are taken on an excursion to the mountains. It’s a foggy moist kind of day with intermittent rain showers. On the way we pass a really obvious white pegmatite dyke in the side of one of the hills near the road. I’m keen to stop and look, but it appears to be on private land and there is no easy access to it. We drive into a trucking company’s yard to get a closer look, but it is still a bit too far away and it is raining. I don’t fancy bush bashing in my good ‘going out’ clothes. So we let it pass for today. I may try to come back here if there is time on a fine day.
We press on over the mountain top, past a very pretty water fall. Yesterdays rain has brought it to life today. It wasn’t flowing like this the last time that I was here.
We go to Okawachiyama for a 2nd visit. I don’t mind, I’ve been here before, but Janine hasn’t. It’s a pretty place and there is always more to see. You can’t see everything on one visit. There are still lots of lanes and little walkways to explore. This remote valley once housed the Nabeshima Clans’ potters. They were held here in captivity to create the finest, whitest, polychrome enamelled porcelain. They managed to find the whitest of materials and restrict their use for the shogunate only. The creamy white clay glaze combination that they created is still a wonder to this day. It’s purity and translucency is just remarkable. I went on a geology tour of the local porcelain stone sites last week with Kanaiwa san. We visited many places around this district, but we couldn’t find the lost kaolin mine of the Nabeshimas. Kanaiwa san has made a life long study of the ‘nigoshide’ white effect. He has managed to make a modern synthesised version using 3 of the local varieties of porcelain stones. I don’t know his technique, but his knowledge of froth flotation technique that be came obvious to me during one of our early conversations, leads me to believe that there might be some fertile ground there for experimentation. I have certainly found it an essential way to remove iron from otherwise ‘dirty’ rock samples back home in Australia.
On our walk up the steep Okawachiyama Valley road, we call in to see one of the last ladies that can do the seamless cobalt background brushwork. It is a very difficult technique and is now almost lost. These days this kind of background is either sprayed on, or transfer printed. Of those who still hand paint the ‘gosu’ cobalt blue background. and there are only a few of these left as well, the technique used these days is to gently squeeze the ‘fude’, pronounced ‘foo-day’, brush to control the flow of the gosu pigment and loop the brush tip back and forth, producing a layered, slightly overlapping, background pattern. The Nabeshima technique used here is to hold the brush by the handle, not the hair, so no squeezing is used, They tilt the brush, up and down, to control the flow of the pigment. It is a truly astonishing technique.