Kasama ware Kasama yaki
Freedom counterbalanced with tradition,
and useful in daily life thanks to strength of Kasama clay
Kasama Ware is a form of porcelain produced in the area around Kasama City in Ibaraki Prefecture. This porcelain has long been used in the temple visit souvenirs at Kasama Inari Shrine, which is one of Japan’s three major Inari Shrines. The characteristic of Kasama Ware is its strong finish, which is produced with viscous, fine-grain Kasama clay. Thanks to its strength and resistance to dirt, it is used in many miscellaneous containers that are used in daily life, including kitchenware items such as water jugs and tea urns. Kasama clay unglazed pottery has a high iron content and turns brown after baking, and rather than noble ceramic decoration, it is more common to use decorating techniques such as the dripping or overlaying of glaze.
In addition to a great diversity of decoration techniques, the producing area has a free climate and Kasama Ware has the appeal of expressing the various personalities of potters who are not tied to traditions or formalities. Today, Kasama Ware is used in flower vases, household ornaments and many items of artwork, and the potters continue to maintain a high level of quality that has been passed down ever since the Edo Period.
Kasama Ware began in the Edo Period, a Shigarakai Ware potter called Chouemon gave instruction regarding pottery to Kuno Hanuemon Michinobu, the head of Hakoda Village (today known as Kasama City). Kasama Ware developed during protection of the Kasama Domain. At first, many bottles and jugs were produced, but the strength obtained from the quality of potter’s clay led to mass production of daily necessities such as tableware, and there was also a remarkable increase in the number of potters. After the war, potters pursuing a new ethos were brought together from all areas of the country. The Ibaraki Prefectural Ceramics School was established, and effort was put into the training of potters, which led to an increase in the number of Kasama Ware potteries as the times changed from pottery to plastic products.
While Kasama Ware has a long history and many traditions that have been handed down, there are almost no old or historical customs. Today, potters produce various items - from cheap daily necessities to new pieces of art. As potters keep on gathering, new technologies can be produced and the joy of creation can be handed down to future generations.
General Production Process
- 1. Mining of original clay
Kasama Ware starts with the excavation of clay. The characteristic of Kasama’s clay is the iron it contains. There are several types of Kasama clay.
- 2. Akudo (clay production)
This process involves mixing the excavated clay with water to knead. If the technique of elutriation is also used, clay can be produced by machine. If there is a lack of care in this process, all subsequent processes will be affected, so it is essential to pay close attention at this stage.
- 3. Chrysanthemum kneading
This process removes air so that the whole is homogenized. Chrysanthemum kneading is known as such because it is a process whereby the soil is kneaded in a form that resembles chrysanthemum petals.
- 4. Casting (forming)
Lathe casting is also known as flower-shaped casting. However, this work is more difficult than it appears and is said to require 10 years of learning to perform. Aside from lathe casting, there is also mold casting and hand forming. The casting method is changed depending on the item being produced.
- 5. Decoration of unglazed pottery
This process is where a design is applied to unglazed pottery. While the unglazed pottery is still soft, tools such as bamboo are used to carve patterns. Methods include mud application and brushing.
- 6. Drying
Drying requires caution, because if the pieces are dried to varying extents this may result in cracks occurring. Methods of drying include drying in the shade, in sunlight or with hot air.
- 7. Bisque
Once the pieces have been adequately dried, the unglazed pottery is placed inside the kiln and is fired at about 800 degrees for approximately 10 to 15 hours. The porcelain will not return to clay after the bisque, so it is important to load the kiln after making careful checks.
- 8. Undercoating
This is the process of undercoating with paint the pieces for which bisque has been completed. Pieces may also be painted with iron or cobalt. The color will change depending on the glaze that is applied on top, so the depth, etc. of color is adjusted by looking at balance with the glaze.
- 9. Glazing (application of glaze)
Once bisque and decoration have ended, glaze is applied on top. There are various types of glaze, including black glaze and white matte glaze, and these are used according to the type of product. A wide variety of different glazes can be produced by changing the raw materials. There are also various techniques such as dripping and sink hanging, but typically this work is carried out by hand.
- 10. Glost firing
Again, before going into the process of glost firing, the same preliminary checks for scratches that were carried out at the bisque stage repeated. If there are no problems, the kiln is loaded. The pieces are then fired at around 1,250-1,300 degrees for approximately 20 hours. Mistakes are not allowed in this process, so the pieces are carefully, slowly baked.
- 11. Finishing and inspection
Once the pieces have been baked without problems, they are removed from the kiln and finished by smoothing the bottom of each piece, etc. Finally, pieces are checked to confirm that there are no cracks or splits, and pieces that pass the inspection are treated as finished articles.
Where to Buy & More Information
Kasama Kogei No Oka
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