Nordic Design from Seto City's Ancient Japanese Kiln

Tell us a little bit about the company?

In 2017, Seto City in Aichi Prefecture was certified as a 'Japan Heritage' site as it is home to Kashiwa Gama, one of Japan's six ancient kilns still using the casting and reduction firing method to produce ceramics.


How did kashiwa Gama start?

At Kashiwa Gama we focus on production on the use of unique clays to create distinctive features. Upon opening in 1965 in Seto City, amidst the city’s golden age of white porcelain production, we dedicated two years to research, eventually developing our distinctive blend of red clay and ceramic glaze. With our signature material finalized we then focused our production on figurines inspired by animals and plants.

Kashiwa Gama's products gained popularity not only in Japan but in the United States, particularly on the West Coast, as well as Northern Europe. Until the changes in international trade agreements under the 1985 Plaza Accord, we exported 100% of our products to Europe and North America.


What inspires your craft and what kind of philosophy do you have?

We craft intricate reliefs using the traditional technique known as "Gaba-ikomi," which involves pouring muddy clay into molds. Rather than following trends, we focus on classic heartwarming pieces embodying the characteristics of Kashiwa Gama. We find deep spiritual invigoration in the rich historic and natural environment surrounding our production studio. The beauty of plants, animals, and ever-changing seasonal transitions inspires us to continuously update our creations.


What do you hope to inspire in others with your products?

We hope our products inspire our customers to feel tranquility akin to taking a deep breath in the forest. Everything we make offers a multi-sensory experience that enables a slow and calming sensation when viewed or handled.


What is a typical day like for Kashiwa gama?

We believe approaching production with joy and energy is crucial for crafting truly unique and delightful products.
Our production process begins at dawn each day, with continuous work until 10 am, when our artisans enjoy a break over tea and sweets. We then resume working until the sun sets and everyone returns to their families for dinner.


What’s the process for creating a piece of Kashiwa gama?

【Design, Prototype, Material

  1. Develop an original design and create an initial prototype “Model” with clay.
  2. Take a mold, “Plaster Mold A,” from the “Model” using plaster.
  3. Take additional mold “Plaster Mold B,” from “Plaster Mold A” to enable duplicating the final mold later on. 
  4. Make the final mold “Plaster Mold C,” to produce the final shape for the product. 
  5. Pour muddy clay into the “Plaster Mold C” and repeat producing the same shapes (Gaba-ikomi).
  6. Make a new “Plaster Mold C” from the “Plaster Mold B” because “Plaster Mold C” wears down after producing around 80 pieces.

    Repeat these steps multiple times, producing identical shapes each time.

Finishing the Material】
Scrape off the soil that protrudes from the plaster mold.
Wipe the scraped area with a wet cloth to smooth any imperfections.

【Biscuit Firing
Dry and fire up at 700 °C for 8 hours.

Paint with pigments extracted from natural resources. 

Apply glazes mixed with minerals and ash to the surface of the material containing feldspar.

【Glost Firing
Bake the glazed materials at 1220 °C for 17 hours, then cool them overnight.

【Inspection, Packaging, Shipping
The bottom of the finished products are smoothed with sandpaper, and they are then ready for inspection, packaging, and shipping.


Tell us a bit about the traditional techniques used to create your Pottery that differentiate kashiwa gama from other mass produced pottery brands and why you value those techniques? 

Kashiwa Gama specializes in the traditional technique known as “Gaba-ikomi.” Although kilns that practice the technique have diminished due to its intensive time and labor requirements, “Gaba-ikomi” is an indispensable technique for carving intricate reliefs.
We believe in the wisdom passed down through previous generations and refraining from scaling up production. Our goal is to keep creating the same products indefinitely free from the influence of trends. By creating the same pieces over an extended time we believe it adds a profundity to our craftwork.


How does sustainability fit into the work that you do?

We are dedicated to recycling our glazes, what we call our “Kashiwa-Reuse’s” project. We also harvest the material from used plaster molds that are no longer workable, and use those materials to make new molds.


Where do you hope to see the company in 10 years?

The new becomes the old as time flows, then the old feels new once again. We aspire to still preserve, create, nurture and express the beauty of aging through Kashiwa Gama today, tomorrow, and for the next decade and beyond.

We carry a collection of Kashiwa Gama products, which you can shop here.