Ceramic, also known as pottery, is the art of making vessels or other objects that are hardened at high temperatures. There are two main types of ceramic: earthenware, for which the raw material is made from earth (clay), and porcelain, for which it is made from stone (mineral) powder. These raw materials are crushed into a very fine powder and mixed with water to make wet clay, which is then shaped into dishes, pots, vases or other forms and then placed in an extremely high-temperature oven called a kiln. Pottery is made throughout Japan, and developed in different ways in different pottery-making regions, with the pottery often bearing the name of the region where it was made.
General Production Process
Tetsu-e (designs drawn with a pigment rich in iron)
With this technique, you can paint designs with pigment containing iron oxide (rusted iron), then coat it with a glaze that turns transparent during firing, and fire it at a high temperature (glost firing). This is a basic method of producing decorative ceramic, utilizing the way the iron in the pigment changes colors when fired.
Blue and white ware
Blue and white ware is made by painting designs on white biscuit-fired pottery with a cobalt-rich pigment known as zaffer, or gosu in Japanese. It is then coated with a transparent glaze and glost-fired. In China it has been made since the Yuan Dynasty (around the 12th century).
Iroe (literally color painting in Japanese) is a technique in which a transparent glaze is applied and the piece glost-fired, then paint is applied over the glaze and the piece is fired again at a low temperature of approximately 800 degrees Celsius. It is also called uwae, or over-painting. The paint used in traditional iroe is known as wa-enogu (Japanese-style paint), and color choices include red, blue, yellow, green and purple. It is also possible to use yo-enogu (Western-style paint).
Blue-tinted seihakuji (blue-white porcelain)
Seihakuji (blue-white porcelain), known in English as celadon, is produced using porcelain clay made from white stone. It is pottery that has been biscuit-fired and painted with a glaze containing a small amount of iron, which turns a bluish tint when fired again. This technique originated in China. There is also hakuji (white porcelain), which is painted with a glaze that turns transparent when fired, and seiji (blue porcelain), made with clay containing iron coated with a glaze that turns blue when fired.
When using the zogan (damascening or inlaying) technique, you carve into the surface of the pottery, and then inlay clay of other colors into the carved-out areas to make a design. After inlaying the clay, apply a glaze and then glost-fire it, and it’s complete.
Neriage is made by kneading together or piling up different colors of clay. All sorts of patterns can be produced depending on the method used to combine the clay colors, with cross-sections of kneaded clay appearing on the surface of the ceramics.
"What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-"
Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo ／ List of works English translation: Kazuko Todate (Art critic / Art historian)
Famous local brand
Hasamiyaki or Hasami ware is a style of porcelain produced and sold mainly in Hasami Town, Higashi-Sonogi County, Nagasaki Prefecture. It is characterized by its white porcelain and appealing and tasteful cobalt blue designs; perfect pieces for cherishing in the hand.
Mashikoyaki or Mashiko ware is a style of ceramics produced and sold mainly in Mashiko Town, Haga County, Tochigi Prefecture. It is characterized by a slightly rough texture from the sandy clay dug in the Mashiko area.
Kutaniyaki or Kutani ware is a style of porcelain produced and sold mainly in the southern part of Ishikawa Prefecture. It is characterized by its overglaze enamel painting with fine depictions and daring compositions, and designs and patterns incorporating flowers, birds, or natural scenery, all making full use of just five colors: green, yellow, red, purple, and dark blue.
Shigarakiyaki or Shigaraki ware is a style of ceramics produced and sold in Koka City, Shiga Prefecture. It has a characteristic rustic texture from its coarse clay. Its natural appearance, created by ashes from the kiln sticking to the surface, makes it highly attractive to the eye and pleasant to the touch.