Episode 5 — Beauty

The Natural Beauty of Japanese Tiles. In Episode 5 explores the influence of ‘wabi-sabi’, the Japanese principle of beauty in imperfection, and how this is seen in INAX ceramics.

The subtle variation and layers of texture and colour that characterise these ceramics are intrinsic to the design and manufacturing processes, many of which are specific to individual family-owned ceramics factories.

The beauty of Japanese tiles lies in the principle of ‘wabi-sabi’, an idea that suggests beauty is to be found in the natural qualities of an object – in its imperfections and the characteristics that make it unique.

While Japanese culture and design emphasise precision and attention to detail, “tiles aren’t ceramics aren’t meant to be perfect. That’s in the beauty of the product, that variation” says Yassaman Bahar, senior sales at Artedomus Melbourne. “We’ve got tiles like the Yohen Border and ‘yohen’ means variation.” Variation and interest also come not only through the glazes and natural characteristics of the tiles themselves, but through the individual factories that bring their own creativity to the design and manufacturing process.

INAX works with many factories throughout Japan, and does not own all of them, explains Phil Brenton, Artedomus managing director. “They’re often family businesses that have been making ceramics for decades or even hundreds of years, they have their own design departments and their own creative people that come in and create the prototypes for them,” he says. For Artedomus, visiting these factories presents an opportunity to discover new and unusual tiles that have been developed by these designers. “Walking through some of these factories that I’ve been through, you kind of look around a corner pick up a crate and move it out of the way and you find something, something different. Something that connects to you and something that’s not on the main shelf,” says Matthew Croll, Artedomus Sydney sales manager.

The story that each tile tells is in the design, in the manufacturing process, and in the materiality. “Japanese ceramics – they’re almost always made with a story behind them, a lot of the methods that get used to create the glazes that we love have very traditional methods. [They’re often developed] for ceramics as art and now they’re being translated for ceramic as tiles,” Phil explains. Embracing the raw natural materiality of the products is another reason for their beauty, reflects William Pearse, Artedomus Melbourne sales manager. This approach also extends into the tiles, such as the extruded and textured tiles, that show the means by which they are made, Phil adds. “The nature of the product is that there’s nothing hidden, the scratching, the strength of the tile is shown on the surface.”