It was the love of a woman that originally led Juroemon Fujita IX to become a potter. Taniguchi worked as an auto mechanic when he first met Harumi Fujita, the daughter of the esteemed ceramicist, Juroemon Fujita VIII. The two began dating, eventually deciding to marry. During anearly meeting with Harumi Fujita’s family, Taniguchi was asked, “So, do you want to be a potter?” and the answer changed his life.  Juroemon VIII had daughters but no sons to continue his family’s lineage. Tomio Taniguchi changed his last name when he married Harumi Fujita in a ceremony adopting him into the family as a son-in-law. Now, named Tomio Fujita, he began studying under his new father-in-law. Because the pottery at Taira Gama (the name of the Fujita studio) was produced using only traditional methods, Tomio learned directly from Fujita VIII. One lesson included hiking to ancient ruins, studying kilns and shards left by their ancestors. Fujita VIII also taught Tomio where to find and how to process deposits of local clay. Fujita VIII believed the best way to learn to make pottery required making many mistakes. His father (Fujita VII) told him not to ask questions.  His father (Fujita VII) told him not to ask questions about making an object until attempting it a thousand times first. Fujita VIII also taught that the hand, not the mind, must learn how to make the object. Tomio’s education also included studying with potters Shichizaemon Kitano of Echizen and Onishi Chuza of Shigaraki. Tomio worked alongside his father-in-law until Fujita Juroemon VIII passed away in 2008. At this time, Tomio became Juroemon Fujita IX. Fujita IX continued making traditional utilitarian ware such as Wazumi coil pots. Passed down in the Fujita family for generations these vessels connect Fujita’s pottery to antiquity. Watching Fujita make these pots is similar to watching a dance. Wazumi coil pots are made two coils at a time with the potter walking backwards around the stationary vessel. The potter’s left hand supports the interior of the pot while the right hand scraps and forms the exterior with a wooden rib. These thin, graceful pots with swelling profiles originally made for storage now are now works of art used as containers for Ikebana. Wazumi jars made by Fujita are fired in his anagama. The nine-foot-long kiln is fired with oak for six to seven days once each year. When firing his kiln, Fujita gradually raises the temperature for the first two days. Upon reaching the top temperature, the kiln is repeatedly cycled for six to eight hours between oxidation and reduction atmospheres. The reduction cycle lowers the temperature, encouraging ashdeposits on the surface of the pots. The oxidation cycle raises the temperature,
melting the freshly deposited ash. Towards the end of the firing, Fujita pulls a series of small pots from the kiln. These pots are used to gauge accumulation and quality of ash melted on the surface of the pots. A successful firing for Fujita produces semi-glossy, smooth, straw-colored surfaces that break to greens, yellows, and black in the drips. 

Wazumi jars made by Fujita are fired in his anagama. The nine-foot-long kiln is fired with oak for six to seven days once each year. When firing his kiln, Fujita gradually raises the temperature for the first two days. Upon reaching the top temperature, the kiln is repeatedly cycled for six to eight hours between oxidation and reduction atmospheres. The reduction cycle lowers the temperature, encouraging ashdeposits on the surface of the pots. The oxidation cycle raises the temperature,melting the freshly deposited ash. Towards the end of the firing, Fujita pulls a series of small pots from the kiln. These pots are used to gauge accumulation and quality of ash melted on the surface of the pots. A successful firing for Fujita produces semi-glossy, smooth, straw-colored surfaces that break to greens, yellows, and black in the drips. Fujita’s prized pots exhibit rivulets of ash frozen just before touching the foot of the pot. In 1996, as a part of an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art, both Fujitas met a young ceramics student named Christopher Kelly, now Chair of the Department of Art at Piedmont College. As a result of that meeting, Chris studied with the family in Echizen for one year in 1997. This invitation and further study led to an enduring relationship that continues today. Fujita IX and Christopher Kelly built a version of the Fujita family anagama kiln at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia in 2008. In 2010, after returning from a trip to the United States, Fujita IX learned he had terminal cancer. The planning for this exhibition was already well underway, and Fujita IX decided to fire his kiln a final time. With the help of former students and friends, Fujita IX fired his kiln in July 2011. Visibly frail but energetic, Fujita coordinated all aspects of the firing. Sadly, Fujita was admitted to the hospital a couple of days after the firing and was unable to participate in the opening of the kiln. Juroemon Fujita IX lost his battle with cancer in August 2011 vjust days after the final firing. Currently, the Fujita family does not have a successor to Fujita IX. Neither of his two sons nor his daughter plans to pursue a career in pottery. When asked about this, Fujita stated that a tenth Fujita was unnecessary because many new potters have moved into the area and are now establishing their own names. He felt these new potters, not another generation; make the future of Echizen ceramics bright. There is hope for the future of the Fujita name. In one of the last conversations with Fujita IX for this catalog, he smiled looking at his eight-year- old grandson, saying he could be number ten. 

Juroemon Fujita IX