Kasama ware Kasama yaki
Tradition meets freedom in
useful and strong Kasama clay
What is Kasama ware ?
Kasama ware (called Kasami yaki in Japanese) is a form of porcelain produced in the area around the city of Kasama in Ibaraki prefecture. This porcelain has long been considered a traditional souvenir of visiting Kasama Inari shrine (one of Japan's three major Inari shrines*).
Kasama ware has a strong finish which is produced with fine grained Kasama ball clay called gairome nendo. Its strength and dirt resistance feature makes it easy to use every day, including as kitchenware.
Kasama clay unglazed pottery has a high iron content and it turns brown after the firing so it is more common to use decorating techniques such as dripping or overlaying glaze. In addition to a great diversity of decoration techniques, the production area is very free, which encourages artisans to develop their individuality on Kasama ware pieces, not be limited by traditions and formalities.
Today, Kasama ware is used in flower vases, household ornaments, and art pieces. Potters continue to maintain a high level of quality that has been passed down ever since the Edo period (1603-1868).
*Inari shrines are a type of Shinto shrine dedicated to the god of rice, Inari. The messenger for Inari is a fox.
Kasama ware production begun in the Edo period (1603-1868), when a Shigaraki ware potter named Choemon gave instructions about pottery to Hanuemon Michinobu KUNO, the head of the Hakoda village (current city of Kasama). Kasama ware then developed with the protection of the Kasama domain.
Many bottles and jugs were produced, but the strength of the quality of potter's clay led to mass production of daily necessities such as tableware, as well. There was also a remarkable increase in the number of potters.
After the war, potters pursuing a new ethos were brought together from all over the country. The Ibaraki Prefectural Ceramics School was established, and efforts were taken into the training of potters. This led to an increase in the number of Kasama ware potteries even though plastic was becoming more widespread.
Kasama ware has a long history and while many traditions have been handed down, few old customs or practices are still in use. Today, potters produce various items from affordable daily necessities to new works of art. As potters continue to work, modern technologies can be created and passed down to future generations.
General Production Process
- 1. Mining of clay
The production of Kasama ware starts with the excavation of clay. The notable feature of Kasama's clay is the iron that it contains.
There are several types of Kasama clay.
- 2. Clay production
This process involves mixing the excavated clay with water to knead it. If the technique of elutriation is also used, clay can be produced by a machine.
If there is a lack of care in this process, all subsequent steps 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 uniform.
Chrysanthemum kneading is known as such because the clay is kneaded in a form that resembles chrysanthemum petals.
- 4. Casting
Potter's wheel casting is also known as flower shaped casting. However, this work is more difficult than it seems and is said to require ten years of practicing to perform.
Aside from potter's casting, there is also mold casting and hand forming. The casting method depends on the item being produced.
- 5. Decorating unglazed pottery
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.
Methods of drying include drying in the shade, in the 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℃ (about 1472℉) for approximately ten to fifteen 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
An undercoat is painted on the pieces after the bisque firing 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 and other elements of color are adjusted by looking at the balance with the glaze.
- 9. Glazing
There are various types of glaze, including black and white matte glaze, and these are used depending on 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 soaking or dripping, but typically this work is carried out by hand.
- 10. Glaze firing
Before going into the process of glaze firing, the same preliminary checks for scratches that were carried out at the bisque stage are repeated. If there are no problems, the kiln is loaded.
The pieces are then fired at around 1250 to 1300℃ (about 2282℉ to 2372℉) for approximately 20 hours. They must be carefully fired.
- 11. Finishing and inspection
Once the pieces have been fired without problems, they are removed from the kiln and finished by smoothing the bottom of each piece.
Finally, pieces are checked to confirm that there are no cracks or splits and pieces that passed the inspection are treated as finished articles.
Where to Buy & More Information
Kasama Kogei No Oka
ClosedMondays (open if Monday is a holiday and closed on Tuesday), around the New Year
Business Hours10am to 5pm
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