Ceramics have long been a traditional staple of Japanese culture and much pride is taken in producing only the most beautiful and functional of wares, so it’s no surprise that ceramic rooftiles, an item which in many other countries including Australia is just pumped out in mass amounts to supply demand is actually taken a little more seriously in Japan and it’s something that shows. For two weeks in February in the CIBI studio, a small space tucked away behind the Japanese café and store of the same name and situated in the formally industrial back streets of Collingwood was ‘Sekisyu Kawara’, a display of Japanese roof tiles and tableware.
Kawara being the Japanese word for fired clay roof tile, and Sekisyu being the area in which they are made. The tiles utilise a sand and volcanic ash glaze called Kimachi which when fired at very high temperatures (1200-1300°c) was seen to be extremely durable. Sekisyu Kawara have been used to restore century old structures as well as in the latest modern and architecturally designed homes and buildings such as the Ritz Carlton Tokyo and the 1958 Yonago Public Hall; where salt glazed tiles which are no longer produced were meticulously recreated after nine attempts to achieve a correct example as apart of the renovation completed in 2014 by building firm Nikken Sekkei.
In the centre of the room of CIBI studio sits almost jenga like interwoven lengths of timber, propping up various coloured tiles of differing styles. The subtle organic tones perfectly suit the matte undefined yet consummate finish and natural form of each tile, individually unique and beautiful on their own. A table along the eastern wall displays wall tiles from deep ochre and browns to varying shades of black and white, and under a frosted window on the back wall sits an additional bench of tableware; Sabi’s, hashioki, and miniature kawara shaped dish’s. The blackboard along one wall gives an insight to the exhibition in both English and Japanese, along with a map of Honshu highlighting the Shimane prefecture.
The display at Cibi was to not only introduce this unique Japanese culture to Australian eyes but to also seek interest for those who wish to stock and supply Sekisyu Kawara in Australia, with as mentioned many housing tile companies in Australia being purely supply and demand for the hundreds of thousands of new houses being unfortunately constructed throughout the suburbs, we can only hope that at least a few suppliers look towards the more finely crafted and more environmentally efficient Sekisyu Kawara.