A Bizen pottery sculpture of Daruma
By Mimura Tōkei (1885-1956) and Robert A. Soanes (born 1969)
The following text and photographs are supplied with the very kind permission of Max Rutherston Ltd, London
"It was while buying some netsuke from a fellow dealer in Germany that I noticed this comically stern patriarch standing on a piece of furniture, probably a book-case. I was instantly drawn to him, enquired the price, and bought him. My enjoyment of him (should I say it?) was not in the least marred by the fact that he was clearly deficient: a hole pierced right through his one visible ear-lobe was clearly intended to hold a ring, another in his closed hand a fly whisk. I brought him home to my gallery and placed him on a 19th century French revolving sculptor’s table, where he looked very happy. He certainly made me so."
"It is hard to know exactly when he was made, but my guess is in the earlier part of the artist’s working life, probably between 1910 and 1940. It is certainly recorded that the Meiji Emperor, who died in 1910, purchased a figure of Hotei by the artist. At the back, this piece is inscribed in the clay Bizen Inbe with nearby an impressed seal Tōkei. Bizen pottery is glazed using salt, and the effect is usually to produce a two-tone surface ranging from a dark chestnut brown to an earthy pink, the latter seen extensively on the right of the robe, at the side and back."
"After living with him for a while it occurred to me that it would be good to make him complete, rather as Buddhist temple sculptors are brought alive by the ceremony of painting in the eyes. What I had in mind was not restoration. I could not be sure that there ever had been an ear-ring and whisk, even if they were always meant to be there. No, what I envisaged was a collaboration with an artist. The person I had in mind, Robert Soanes, trained as a maker of Japanese armour, which means that he is familiar with working not only with metals, but also leather, urushi lacquer, silk lacing and so on. We boxed Daruma up carefully and sent him to Robert, who was intrigued and asked to see some representative images. These I duly supplied and I left him to get on with it. I could not have been more pleased when a box arrived with the completed commission. Daruma seemed happier than before, despite his scowl, boasting a gilt metal ear-ring, and a fly whisk made of lacquer, the colour perfectly matched to the dark red-brown glaze of the pottery, terminating in feathery white hairs taken from a yak."