Known as the “Bear,” Kuroemon Kumano flaunts his power by firing his kiln hotter than any other potter in Echizen. Kumano was initially a painter and began studying pottery in the studio of Fujita Juroemon VIII. In his eighth year of study, Kumano contemplated setting up his own studio, but his dedication to helping his mentor Fujita won out. He realized he could not “betray” Fujita by leaving, so he waited until his tenth year to leave and set up his own studio.
Kumano works under the principle of ShuHaRi, which is a Japanese concept describing the stages of learning “first learn, then detach, and finally transcend.” He completed the first stage, Shu, working for Fujita. He then established his own studio, marking his entry into his current stage of Ha. In this stage the potter adds self-expression to the traditions he has learned. Kumano believes this intermediate phase of Ha can take thirty years or more to complete.
Kumano now draws great inspiration from ancient tribes once found in the area known as the Keta and Nyu tribes. Thought to be nomads, the Keta and Nyu tribes briefly settled Echizen and established several kiln sites. Kumano located these ancient tribal kiln sites and decided to construct his own kiln on the same ground. Kumano pushes his kilns temperatures to the limit. Kumano says, “Solving three out of twelve ancient Keta equations allows me to reach temperatures in the 1400c to 1500c degree range.” His altered and wheel-thrown shaped vases thickly covered with glazes fire to almost a light grey color, turning an almost a pearl white at these extreme temperatures. Kumano’s pieces appear to have just come from the core of the earth. Pools of glaze gather in certain areas while in other locations it completely runs off, leaving the rich texture of the clay exposed. These textural extremes offer the viewer both a visual and tactical experience.