Imari ware/Arita ware

Imari ware/Arita ware Imari yaki Arita yaki

Japan's delicacy and grace in three colors:
Vivid white, red and indigo potteries

Description

Imari ware/Arita ware are both porcelain produced around the town of Arita, in the Saga prefecture. Imari ware/Arita ware are light and delicate and both have excellent durability because their porcelain is produced from porcelain stone. Their characteristics are a fine, smooth texture and a color scheme of dyed indigo and bright red asbolite on transparent white porcelain.
Originally, Imari ware and Arita ware were identical, both produced in the area around Arita (including Mikawachi and Hasami). They came to be called Arita ware and Imari ware as these were the names of the stations and ports used for shipping them.
The ceramics known today as Mikawachi ware and Hasami ware also used to be sold under the names of Arita ware and Imari ware.
Today, the two are differentiated, with Arita ware describing pieces that were baked in Arita and Imari ware describing pieces that were baked in Imari. However, Koimari does not refer to pieces that were baked in Imari, but rather describes pottery produced up to around the year 1650.

History

Imari ware/Arita ware - History

The origin of Imari ware/Arita ware goes back to the year 1616, during the Edo period (1603-1868). The history of porcelain began when porcelain stone was discovered by Sam-Pyeong YI, who came from Korea with Naoshige NABESHIMA.
Most of the productions around 1650 were simple, a thick pottery finished only with gosu porcelain (a special type of blue enamel). Overglazing was not yet carried out at this time, but in 1647 artisans started using overglaze with the first generation of the Kakiemon SAKAIDA family.
Furthermore, in the 1640s, a ceramic with red paintings called aka-e became the symbol of the Kakiemon-style ceramic and was even imitated by the famous Meissen porcelain.
By 1688, a gorgeous style of Imari ware/Arita ware was created : the "kinrande style". It uses shades of gold and red and inspired artisans to draw patterns on the entire surface of the pottery.
In 1870, a Wagner-inspired coal kiln was built and cobalt began to be used as a raw material for gosu pocelain. This type of work spread very quickly nation-wide.

General Production Process

Imari ware/Arita ware - General Production Process

  1. 1.Making the clay The porcelain stone original material is mined and sorted into Izumi porcelain stone or Tengusa porcelain stone.
    The sorted porcelain stone is then mechanically grounded into a fine powder. First, it is broken down to a certain size by a crusher, then it is turned into a fine powder by a stamper and finally it is placed inside a water tank filled with water for elutriation. The process of elutriation removes impurities such as iron, after which excess moisture is removed to produce the potter’s clay.
  2. 2.Casting Casting is carried out using a potter’s wheel, but before that the clay is kneaded. The purpose of kneading the clay is to remove air from inside the potter’s clay and to homogenize the moisture and grains. If there is air or any unevenness in the potter’s clay this could result in damage such as cracks. Moreover, clay kneading is also known as "clay wedging", and in all ceramic arts this is an essential process.
    After the potter’s clay has been kneaded, it is cast using equipment such as mechanical or hand potter’s wheels, templates or molds.
  3. 3.Finishing / Drying Once the casting has been completed, detailed parts such as the feet, handles and edges are produced.
    If the unglazed pottery is dried too suddenly, it will cause damages such as distortion, so it is important to carry out the drying process slowly.
  4. 4.Bisque Pieces that have been thoroughly dried are then fired at around 850 to 950℃. This process is called "biscuit firing" as it is the first firing before any glaze is applied.
    In the case of bisque too, damage is prevented by gradually raising the temperature, without making any sudden temperature increases. Likewise, cooling is also carried out gradually to prevent damage.
  5. 5.Undercoating Undercoating is carried out after the bisque but before glazing.
    The colorant often used for undercoating is asbolite dye, with cobalt oxide as its main ingredient. The beautiful indigo blue of Imari ware/Arita ware is expressed by means of this asbolite dye.
    The shading is achieved with water, rather than by using different colorants. When making the detailed designs, line drawing and dye placement are sometimes carried out at the undercoating stage.
  6. 6.Glazing The process of applying the glaze thinly and evenly after the undercoating has been completed is known as "glazing".
    The purposes of the process of firing the glaze are to make the best use of its glassy properties, reinforce the pottery, smoothen the surface, produce a beautiful luster, and protect from dirt.
    Glaze is then wiped off the base and the pieces are dried thoroughly.
  7. 7.Glost firing Once the glaze has dried, pieces are baked at a high temperature of around 1300℃ for about 16 hours.
    Pieces that do not require overglazing are complete once glost firing has been carried out.
  8. 8.Overglazing Pieces for which glost firing has been completed are overglazed by applying additional decoration. The application of red paint, which is characteristic of Imari ware and Arita ware, is also carried out at this stage. Since the colorants used in overglazing have temperature restrictions, the firing temperature of the overglazing kiln used after overglazing is quite low, at around 700 to 800℃ .
    Also, when applying gold or silver leaves for gold or silver glazing, another process is necessary after the overglazing kiln. It is known as nishikigama or kingama : glazing is carried out after gold or silver glazing, and pieces are completed after firing at a low temperature of around 400℃ .

Leading Ateliers

Kakiemon-gama atelier

Kakiemon-gama atelier

Japan's delicacy and grace in three colors: Vivid white, red and indigo potteries

More information

Work Samples

Japanese brocade & phoenix pattern bottle
  • Price
    ¥37,800 (tax included)
  • Size
    H12.4cm D4.8
Japanese brocade & fringed pink bottle
  • Price
    ¥27,000 (tax included)
  • Size
    H10cm D6.5
Japanese persimmon brocade pair of teacups with outer lid
  • Price
    ¥75,600 (tax included)
  • Size
    Big H11.3cm D8
    Small H9.7cm D7.2
Traditional brocade pair of teacups with inner lid
  • Price
    ¥64,800 (tax included)
  • Size
    Big H11cm D8.2
    Small H9.6cm D7.3

Gen'emon-gama atelier

Gen'emon-gama atelier

Japan's delicacy and grace in three colors: Vivid white, red and indigo potteries

More information

Work Samples

Traditional brocade teacup
  • Price
    ¥54,000 (tax included)
  • Size
    8×7.5
3 color chrysanthemum small plate
  • Price
    ¥19,440 (tax included)
  • Size
    D12
Powerful red teacup
  • Price
    ¥10,800 (tax included)
  • Size
    8.0×8.5
Traditional brocade foliage scroll teacup & saucer
  • Price
    ¥14,580 (tax included)
  • Size
    Teacup 8.5×6.5
    Saucer D15cm

Where to Buy & More Information

Imari-Arita Traditional Industries Hall

Imari-Arita Traditional Industries Hall Photo:Saga Prefectural Tourism Federation