Gen-emon is one of the most renowned Arita-yaki porcelain kilns, with a 260-year history dating to 1753. We undertook an unorthodox re-edit of one of the kiln’s most famous patterns, a small plum flower repeat known as ‘ume komon’. Like children playing with paper, we blew up the pattern until it was enormous, as though viewed through a magnifying glass. We cut it up with scissors, pasted it, lined it up, turned it upside down and layered it, too.
This faux-naïve strategy allowed us to activate Gen-emon’s key visual signifiers – the blue and white underglaze and strong contrast between the dark and light blues – while developing a rich assortment of variations. The result: a delightful selection of ceramics that may have different patterns, but can be used together on the table without breaking visual unity. Traditionally, Gen-emon’s porcelains are made by drawing the outlines, then filling in the centre. We introduced a charcoal-based resist method, ‘sumi hajiki’, that allows both fine lines and an accessible price for the consumer. The ume-play collection upholds Gen-emon’s long history and traditions and reflects the kiln’s commitment to constant change and evolution.