Kutani ware was originally produced around 1655 when the Maeda clan wanted to
compete with Kyoto's thriving ceramics trade. Kutani village
local-man, Saijiro Goto, was sent to learn and bring the technique of Arita ware
back to Ishikawa prefecture. In this year, the
first Kutani kiln was established in the village of Kutani, meaning nine
valleys. The history of Kutani ware is rich and complex.
Prized styles, such as those described below, have been established over
the last 350 years.
Archeological evidence as well as many family histories show that
Kutani is an important local industry and a craft with demand
abroad. Carefully preserved pieces of this unique art are displayed in Oriental art
museums in Europe and America. As each piece moves through the
production process from the clay quarry to the final firing, life is put
into the piece. Firm hands magically
change clay into beautiful and functional art.
||Ko Kutani style (1650-1670) is the
old style that Ko Kutani founder Saijiro Goto worked in. The design is
strong and simple; the colors are vivid and bold. The production
of Ko Kutani ended in the Genroku era but the cause is somewhat unknown.
Some sources say that Saijiro Goto had
not passed the craft onto a next generation when he died but other sources
say that it was either the unavailability of materials, financial
difficulties, or suspicion by the government that illegal international
trade was happening within the kiln. The colors used in this style are
exclusively red, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
(1805-1816) was founded by Mokubei Aoki who reinstated the local tradition
of pottery making during the Edo Tokugawa era.
Red base with Chinese style figures painted in green, yellow, and blue
signify this style. Mokubei was one of the three famed potters
of the time.
was founded when Denuemon Toyota, a rich merchant from the Kutani area,
restarted the closed Kutani kiln. This
Enuma kiln was built near the previous Kutani kiln,
but a year later, moved due to the harsh conditions of the region. Effects
of the freely luxurious political mood can be seen in the style of painting.
Bright green, blue, yellow, and
purple were used, but never red. Patterns in the style include small
plants, flowers, and birds. This style is considered to be Old Kutani
Iidaya style (1830-1845) conspired when Iida Hachirouemon took over
the Yoshidaya business. The characteristic detailed figures drawn in
fine red patterns with gold ornaments were very fashionable at the time and
are truly remarkable. Common subjects in China including "the
Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest"
are depicted in this style which may also be called Hachirode, Hachiro, and
Eiraku style (1865-1868) became
well known when Eiraku Wazen, a
12th generation potter, came from Kyoto to
manage the Miyamoto kiln, where Iidaya style originated. In
this style subjects such as flowers, birds, beasts, or insects are painted
in gold over a red base with a one stroke drawing technique. It is
also referred to as Kinrande, Zengoro, or Kasugayama style, and is also
painted and glazed in reversed colors.
Shoza style (1841 to present)
originates in Kutani Ino Seiho hometown of Terai.
The style is a mixture of all
previous Kutani styles but characteristically uses western influenced
pentachrome and gold paints over glazed enamel. The
style is a unique mixture of western and Japanese styles, and it has
popularized Kutani in the west. Patterns are intricately detailed with flowers, birds, human figures,
and nature scenes. From the Meiji Era (1867-1912)
until recently, it was the main style of Kutani production.
Shoza style is also referred to as
Saishiki kinrande style.
Aochibu style (Taisho Era (1912-1926) present)
uses blue-green paint applied generously to form raised dots. This
creates an extra dimension in the paint by giving a unique bumpy texture.
Ao meaning blue and chibu (or tsubu) meaning dots, describes this style
perfectly. The uniformity of size, color, and spacing of the dots must be exact. This is another technique that
requires fine skill. Notice the intricate patterns formed by the placement of the dots.
Ginsai style is a modern
rendition of ornately applied gold paint. Gin, meaning silver, is applied
under a transparent or colored glaze, producing a long lasting, soft and
simple product that will never rub
off, rust, or peel.
Yusai style uses combinations of five
different enamel glazes painted in a blended pattern. Overlapping
colors produce a stunning gradation effect.
Hiroshi Shibata and Yasokichi Tokuda III are fine artisans producing this style of
Yuri kinsai style is a reversal of the normal
Kinsai style, and uses methods comparable to Ginsai style. In Yuri Kinsai style, enamel glaze is
applied over gold powder or film. This allows the finish to be durable and
soft. Minori Yoshida has been designated a national living treasure for his work in the Yuri Kinsai style.
Mori style (1924-present) is an
ornate textured pattern introduced by Takichi Nishi. It is often used with gold
coloring on small figurines. In Kyoto Mori style is called Ichin
Shonzui or Sometsuke style originates in
the late Chinese late Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) from Jing De Zhen (Keitokuchin)
kiln in Jing De Zhen city, Jing Xi province, in
China. It is a type of Sometsuke style, which is
the general name given to all ceramics painted with cobalt under
glaze. The pattern is simple and effective with
its stark cobalt blue color. The
pattern is detailed, yet tranquil, simple and pleasing to the eye.
For more information on Kutani tradition and style please visit some
of the links listed on our resource page
Most of the clay used in Kutani ware is quarried locally. At
the factory it is crushed and ground into a fine powder.
Impurities are removed by soaking the powder in water before drying the
clay to a workable consistency. A vacuum wedging machine is
used to carefully remove any pockets of air.
Once the clay enters the shaping stage it may be thrown on a wheel or
slip cast. A number of tools are used for trimming, mounting, and
decorating on the potter's wheel before the piece is slowly dried by
Firing begins in the kiln at 800C for eight hours. Once the
piece is painted and dried it is covered with a glaze by dipping or
painting. The next firing is at 1300C for 15 hours. Over
glaze painting is then performed before the next firing at 800-1000C. If
gold or silver are to be applied a forth fire at 400C will complete the