Koishiwara ware

Koishiwara ware Koishiwara yaki

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What is Koishiwara ware ?

Koishiwara ware is a form of pottery produced in the Asakura district of the Fukuoka prefecture.
It has kept on evolving since its creation and can now be defined as a beautiful form of pottery that has a practical use. Koishiwara ware's uniqueness comes from its patterns, produced by applying them while rotating the potter's wheel.
This pottery is baked in a simple way and yet retains an elegant texture, beautiful form and a charming color expression. It is also easy to use in every day life and long-lasting. It is a popular pottery to buy as a traditional handicraft souvenir but also to take Koishiwara ware classes to learn how to make your own pottery.
There are three main methods to created patterns: planing clay while rotating the potter's wheel using a flying plane, patterning with a paint brush or a comb, and drawing patterns with the fingers.
More patterns are drawn with different techniques. There is nagashikake, where glaze or engobe is smeared at regular intervals, uchikake, where glaze is poured on little by little, and ponkaki, where glaze is applied little by little from a bamboo container.


Koishiwara ware - History

The origin of Koishiwara ware goes back to the year 1669, during the Edo period (1603-1868). Hachinojo, the grandchild of the first-generation Hachizo TAKATORI, discovered Koishiwara potter's clay in Oaza Koishiwara Sarayama, and moved there to start working with it. It is thought that in 1682, Mitsuyuki KURODA, the third-generation head of the Kuroda domain, invited the master of Hizen's Imari ware, and started to produce porcelain together with Hachinojo, adopting China's techniques. At that time, Koishiwara ware was known as Nakano ware, as the name of the area then was Nakano.
The following years, Nakano ware stopped being produced until it was revived around the year 1927, during the Showa period (1926-1988) as pottery made from porcelain started to be produced at that time. According to historical documents, the main items produced at that time were utensils for daily living, such as sake jars, flower vases and tea containers.
Demand for and production of Koishiwara ware increased due to the shortage of materials after the Second World War. At the World Trade Fair of 1958, held in Brussels, Koishiwara ware won the Grand Prix, and gained attention together with its catchphrase of “The Beauty of Utility”.
From around 1965, there was a shift from build-to-order production to speculative production, and the market extended nationwide. In 1975, it was the first porcelain to be designated as a traditional handicraft by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Koishiwara ware can be described as one of Japan's leading handicrafts, boasting a 350-year history.

General Production Process

  1. 1.Original clay excavation Koishiwara potter’s clay is excavated.
    From ancient times to today, Koishiwara’s soil has always been very rich in potter’s clay and it is still possible to excavate it in large quantities.
  2. 2.Clay drying The excavated potter’s clay is dried.
  3. 3.Grinding Water from mountain rivers is used to finely grind the dried potter’s clay.
  4. 4. Clay filtering Using a water tank, the ground potter’s clay is finely filtered. This work is repeated many times until the clay becomes thin and sticky.
  5. 5.Dehydration The filtered clay is dehydrated.
  6. 6.Clay kneading The clay is kneaded carefully by hand. It is a process that can be described as a "chrysanthemum kneading" because the kneaded clay resembles chrysanthemum petals. "Chrysanthemum kneading" removes the air from inside the soil and produces stickiness and hardness.
    The grains of the potter’s clay are homogenized, the moisture concentration is equalized until all air bubbles are completely removed from inside the potter’s clay.
  7. 7.Casting Casting is carried out using a potter’s wheel. Electric potter’s wheels are used today, and casting is carried out while adjusting speed with the lever. This is performed using techniques such as stretching the potter’s clay into a cylindrical shape and kneading by piling it on top, or pulling the potter’s clay by string after it has been cast etc.
  8. 8.Semi-drying The potter’s clay that was cast on the potter’s wheel is dried in the sunlight.
  9. 9.Decoration The dried clay is patterned using different tools or fingers.
    Vaious patterns and details are applied using flying planes and techniques such as brush marks, comb marks and finger drawing.
  10. 10.Planing Pieces to which engobe has been applied are planed by hitting them with iron scraps while rotating on the potter’s wheel. In this way, various patterns are applied. This technique is carried out at the same time as decoration.
  11. 11.Bisque After applying various patterns and details to the pieces, they are fired for the first time.
  12. 12.Glazing A glaze produced by mixing locally gathered straw ashes, wood ashes and fieldspar is applied.
    Koishiwara ware techniques include ladle application in which glaze is applied evenly using a ladle; nagashikake, where glaze is poured on at regular intervals on items with small apertures; and ochikake, where glaze is applied all at once.
    Each of these techniques has its own unique texture. Glaze gives the pieces gloss and luster, and also plays the role of guarding against water permeation.
  13. 13.Glost firing Glost firing is carried out using a climbing kiln. Pieces that are susceptible to melting are fired in the bottom furnace opening in order towards the back of the kiln, until reaching 1000℃. Once a temperature of 1000℃ has been reached, for around 15 hours, the horizontal firing process begins. This involves horizontal firing in the top kiln once the kiln temperature has reached approximately 1300℃.
    Pieces are baked in the kiln for around 40 hours from the first lighting.
    Once baked, the kiln is cooled for approximately one week and the pots are then removed from the kiln.
  14. 14.Inspection The last part of production is checking all pieces one by one for blemishes or any kind of imperfections.

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