Iga ware Iga yaki
Simple charm baked at high temperatures
Pottery loved by many tea ceremony masters, including Sen no Rikyu
Iga Ware is a form of porcelain produced in the area around Iga City, in Mie Prefecture. Around the sites of Makiyama and Marubashira in the Ayama District of Iga City, Mie Prefecture, the main producing areas, including the cities of Ueno and Nabari, use highly durable clay from the Iga area. Thanks to this excellent durability, these ceramics are famously well suited to earthenware pots and heat-resistant tableware, etc. The characteristics of Iga Ware are a glassy quality called “vidro glaze” produced by baking at high temperature, and a red, tightened skin that is simple and strong. Vidro glaze refers to ash that falls onto and sticks to ceramics baked at high temperature, producing a glassy quality, and rather than leaving this process to nature, the pieces are instead baked after considering how the ash should stick.
Iga Ware is said to be very similar to Shigaraki Ware, but there are differences in that it tends to be harder and heavier than Shigaraki Ware, as well as in the fact that the handles, known as “ears” are different, as expressed in the saying “Iga has ears, Shigaraki has none”. These ears are a characteristic of Iga Ware known as “Tsutsui Iga”, which was formed during the Momoyama Period, with Iga Ware from this period referred to as “old Iga” and renowned for having a wide variety of individualistic pieces.
Iga Ware is said to have been created during the Nara Period, but the main items baked at that time were mortars and pots, etc., and it is said that there was not a significant difference between Iga Ware and Shigaraki Ware. The main point of divergence from Iga Ware came in the Momoyama Period, when the concept of wabisabi and tea ceremony culture prospered. Many individualistic pieces of Iga Ware were produced at this time, including pieces with wave-like patterns that were created using spatulas or a technique of deliberately breaking the form by hand to generate a so-called “out-of-tune beauty”, which was supported by Sadatsugu TSUTSUI, Lord of Iga Province, and Takatora TODO. These were particularly prized in tea ceremonies for the sense of wabisabi they evoked, and thus they came to be loved by many masters of the tea ceremony, starting with Sen no Rikyu.
Today, Iga Ware mainly consists of tableware for daily use, but these days it is known for the era when Iga Ware water jugs and vases, etc. were frequently produced. Iga Ware was for a while discontinued together with the demise of the Momoyama Period, but around the middle of the 1700s it again started to be baked as daily necessities, which continues down to this day.
General Production Process
- 1. Mining of original clay
The original clay used in Iga Ware is mined in Marubashira and Makiyama, located close to Furubiwako, and in the area around Ueno City.
- 2. Clay production
In the work process where the mined soil is used to produce clay, the production method varies depending on the piece being produced. In order to produce tableware, a method called elutriation is used, whereby soil particle groups are divided according to the size of the soil grains. On other hand, when producing vases, clay is produced by a method known as the drying process, in which soil is first dried and turned into powder before adding water.
- 3. Casting (chrysanthemum kneading)
In order to remove air from inside the clay, clay is kneaded by means of a method known as “chrysanthemum kneading” and is then cast. Chrysanthemum kneading, also known as chrysanthemum wedging, derives its name from the fact that productions are kneaded like chrysanthemum petals. Once the air has been removed, the next step is casting. There are four main types of casting method. Specifically, these include lathe casting, forming by hand, and slab casting where pieces are cast using a block known as a “slab”. Aside from these, there is also a method of forming with coils, where clay is turned into a coil shape and piled up, etc.
- 4. Finishing
This process involves finishing the form of the pottery by adding the handles and decoration that are characteristic of old Iga. Methods of pattern application include slip trailing, where patterns are applied with clay, etc. dissolved in water, line engraving, where only lines are engraved, and flower prints where patterns are produced by pressing flowers or grass, etc.
- 5. Drying
Adequate drying is carried out in a drying room or under sunlight in order to completely remove moisture from the pieces.
- 6. Firing
This work involves baking inside a kiln at between around 700 and 800 degrees. Here, Iga Ware’s characteristic vidro glaze is produced, and the decoration known as ash covering, painting, and glazing to prevent dirt/water corrosion are carried out. Gas kilns and climbing kilns are often used, and in the case of gas kilns, baking is carried out continuously 15-30 hours at a time over 4 to 7 days, while in climbing kilns the process takes around 4 to 10 days. When painting, the paint that is used is a colorant called “asbolite”, which is used when drawing the patterns of boards (often used as materials for decoration of ceramics) as well as dyed ceramics, etc. If not painting, decoration is carried out by means of ash covering, which gives the flavor of Iga Ware in climbing kilns, and the vidro or burning that is produced here has a large bearing on the end result. For glazing, ash glaze using plant ash, etc. and calcareous glaze using lime, etc. are often used.
- 7. Removal of pots from the kiln
This is the process of removing pieces from the kiln. If these are taken out too quickly, there is a risk of breakage due to sudden temperature change, so the kiln must first be adequately cooled before removing the pieces.