The simple aesthetic of a jar for “tooth black,” (a cosmetic coloration for the teeth of Heian era women) impressed a young Sakae Okubo and influenced his decision to become a potter. This same ancient Echizen-yaki that impressed him as a young man inspires him today.
Okubo did not actively pursue a career in pottery until after retiring as an electrician. A chance meeting with potter Sakon solidified his desire to become a professional potter, but this dream was not accomplished for thirty years. In the meantime, Okubo observed throwing techniques and participated in wood firings at Sakon’s studio. Okubo believes success in wood firing depends completely on a potter’s common sense.
The distinctive blue coloration exhibited on the surfaces of some ancient Echizen-yaki captivated Okubo. For years, Okubo sought to achieve this color on the surface of his pottery. After many failed firings, Okubo now consistently reproduces this distinctive blue and achieves wide recognition for this accomplishment. He wants people who view his work to comprehend the difficulty associated with the production of this surface coloration. For Okubo, the recreation of the colors found on ancient pottery, and most particularly the blue of ancient Echizen, represents his single greatest contribution to the Echizen-yaki tradition.
From digging his own clay to chopping and splitting his own wood, Okubo engages in every facet of the ceramics process. This level of control, he admits, leaves time for little else. Firing his anagama takeshim roughly seven days. In the beginning of his career, Okubo fired his anagama once each year. Since that time, requests for his work steadily increased, and he now must fire twice a year to meet customers’ demands.