Posted 5 months ago
This Japanese umahada (horse's skin) tetsubin is 7.5" high x 6.5" wide, including spout and handle with no apparent foundry mark or export marks. It weights 3 lbs 13 ounces and holds four cups of water, so is a one liter kettle. The seller described it as a "Kotobuki Iwachu teapot" missing its "filter". Their description came from the fact that it was accompanied by a commonly seen arare (hobnail) themed nabeshiki (trivet) with Kotobuki and Iwachu labels, a "Japan" stamp and newer Iwachu foundry mark.
I experienced some serendipity this week as just before this kettle popped up on an on line auction site, on the same site, another Iwachu marked "horse teapot" had first appeared. I just skimmed across the images and descriptions of both "teapots" and put them on my watch list for viewing later. At a quick glance, both appeared to be pots with rusty interiors and no infusers, used and abused, so I wasn't too jazzed about either one but thought both deserved a second look when, and if, time permitted.
When I had some time, I went back to the first auction for the Iwachu marked pot and took a closer look. My initial pass had shown a "teapot" missing its infuser which had probably not been properly maintained and had been misused as a kettle. Looking more closely on my second pass, I saw a handle configuration usually not seen on tetsu kyusu (iron teapots) but common on tetsubin (kettles). There was also no vent hole in the lid, common on tetsubins, uncommon on tetsu kyusu. I had already noted that it had a Showa era Iwachu mark on the top side of the pot, again not a common location on Iwachu tetsu kyusu. Finally, a close look at the images of the interior revealed that it was unlined and was actually a tetsubin (kettle) not a tetsu kyusu (iron teapot). Cool!
It was only $10 and $11 shipping so I put the minimum bid on it and stood back to watch the bloodbath that often ensues over a tetsubin, but in the end I was the only bidder and won it for $23 including shipping about one tenth the cost of a comparable new one. Very cool! Apparently, no one realized it was a tetsubin, or did and didn't want it, but it is a pretty sweet kettle in great condition.
So, back to looking at the second auction (this post) which also proved to be an umahada themed tetsubin (same handle/lid configuration as the first kettle and lots of interior mineral deposits) for a bit higher starting price. Again I made the minimum bid and won that one, too, at about one tenth of the cost of a new one seen on Amazon with a bonus nabeshiki (trivet). This tetsubin had some exterior rust and what appeared to be small spots of white paint all over the top side, but it cleaned up well. It is actually lined but shows substantial mineral build up from use as a kettle and no damage or rusting to the interior. On the Boonie Hicks page for Oitomi it says that one finish occasionally used on the interiors of their tetsubin is polymerized oil for customers who aren't familiar with the use and care of unlined kettles. I suspect that this kettle has that finish. It appears to be a very tough finish, shiny and glass-like, and completely covers the interior.
Amazon link to similar tetsubin:
Boonie Hicks Oitomi page link:
So why bid on both kettles? Because it is a very inexpensive way to closely examine the same themed tetsubin from two different foundries. I found a newer version (Made in Japan mold mark) of the tetsubin in this post from a seller on Amazon and that seller offers mostly (only?) new Oitomi tetsu kyusu and tetsubins, so I am pretty sure that the kettle in this post was made by Oitomi. This identification is supported by my recent find of an also unmarked plum branch Oitomi tetsu kyusu.
So, two more tetsubin in my collection, for a total of four, when I originally thought I would only buy one as an example. I did pass on another tetsubin which sold for a very low price on the same on line auction site, as it was not really to my taste, being another green sand cast mass produced kettle with a not very interesting, to me, design, so I am not going nuts over tetsubin! Still, it was a nice kettle. These two are probably my last ones, but were a really great research opportunity, too good to pass up.
Examination of the kettle in this post shows that the mold lines on the horse side of the kettle are uneven, though exaggerated in my image, the grinding marks of the mold lines around the circumference have not been polished away and the rim appears to be a bit rough, but the rest of the finish appears to be pretty good. The hand finishing on the Iwachu kettle is much better. Maybe that is why Oitomi is/was not marking some of their work, though I have noted the hand finish on some marked Oitomi kyusu is also not great but they are very functional pots and kettles. Both kettles are decorated on only one side. As noted, the Iwachu kettle has a "Showa" mark (1926-1989), but I have no way to date the tetsubin in this post.