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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Japanese pottery

Haniwa, 600 AD, Japan
Haniwa, 600 AD, Japan

At the beginning of the Edo period, kaolin is discovered near Arita in northern Kyūshū, which is always an important centre of pottery. This discovery has led Japanese potters to make their own hard, pure white porcelain. One type, Imari ware (named after its port of export), was so popular in 17th century Europe that even the Chinese imitated.

Its bright color drawings are inspired by decorated lacquerwork, screens, and textiles. At the end of the Edo period (1800-1867) Imari ware declined. Kakiemon (persimmon) porcelain, Arita, was much more refined, classic-shaped ceramics, even when its grounds were similar to Imari ware. The two products used overglaze enamels. Ware Nabeshima, also of high quality and similar to silk textiles in its design, was reserved for members of this family and their friends; only in the Meiji period (1868-1912) has been sold in commerce and imitated.

The drawings were first drawn to a tissue, then in underglaze blue lines; enamel colors have been added and the heat melted after cooking glaze. In eastern Japan in the Edo period, Kutani was the center of porcelain. Kutani vessels were grayish in color because of impurities in the clay, and their designs were more daring than Arita and Imari goods. Kyoto, formerly a centre of glazed pottery, became famous for its porcelain in the 19th century. In the Edo period, about 10000 furnaces were operating in Japan.

Contemporary taste believes the utility work of folk potters as highly as the export of items centuries earlier. New influences of Europe came with the Meiji pottery, folk traditions but are always appreciated within the country. Potters to the former centres remain active in the 20th century, working in the same style as their ancestors, with the same local clays. Japan's most famous 20th-century potter Shoji Hamada is important not only for its pottery, but also as a force figure in the revival of folkcraft.

Hamada favourable iron and ash on glaze stoneware, producing shades of olive green, gray, brown and black, and did not sign his pots (but he signed their wooden containers). In 1955, the Japanese government said Hamada an intangible treasure of the country.

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