Kyo ware/Kiyomizu ware

Kyo ware/Kiyomizu ware Kyo yaki Kiyomizu yaki

Many kinds, small quantity handmade production
we produce pottery as sophisticated and delicate as the town of Kyoto


Kyo-ware/Kiyomizu-ware are ceramics and porcelain produced in the Kyoto area. Originally, Kyo-ware was a general term for all pottery produced in Kyoto, while Kiyomizu-ware referred to pottery produced on the road leading to the Kiyomizu temple. Kyo-ware is also known as Kyoto-ware. Today, Kyo-ware designs a large variety of potteries made in specific areas of Kyoto. Kiyomizu-ware is one of the many Kyo-ware categories and refers to potteries produced around the Kiyomizu temple.
Kyo-ware and Kiyomizu-ware are interesting because they are not just one type of pottery. Many distinct techniques are used to create different kinds of potteries but as long as they are produced in certain areas of Kyoto, they are considered Kyo-ware or Kiyomizu-ware. Each kiln also has its unique traditions and specialties.
Kyoto is known as a traditional city that perpetuates many long-established arts. Several types of tea ceremonies, flower arrangements or incense-smelling ceremonies during which the smell of the incense is tasted with traditional Kyoto cuisine or sweets are among the most famous traditions. Kyo-ware and Kiyomizu-ware were developed together with these cultures and that is why they fit so well in such historic environments.
Even today, when mass production has become the norm, Kyo-ware and Kiyomizu-ware are still making every piece by hand using traditional techniques.


Kyo-ware as we know it today was first created during the Nara and Heian periods (710-1185) and its production grew a lot as the tea ceremonies became more and more popular duing the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1600).
The first highly skilled artisans appeared at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868), triggering the rapid development of modern Kyo-ware.
Famous names like Ninsei NONOMURA a potter from the Hyogo prefecture who completed magnificent painted ceramics or Kenzan OGATA, the younger brother of painter Korin OGATA, created masterpieces using original designs in collaboration with his older brother. During the latter part of the Edo period (middle of the 19th century), Eisan OKUDA became famous for his beautiful fired porcelain. Master artisans such as Mokubei AOKI, Douhachi NINNAMI or Hozen EIRAKU's masterpieces are also a must-see.
Moving into the Meiji period (1868-1912), advances were also made outside of Japan with the adoption of European porcelain production methods.
Kyo-ware and Kiyomizu-ware keep on using traditional techniques for making various types of high-quality potteries.

General Production Process

  1. 1.Kneading the clay The first process is to thoroughly knead the clay by hand. Kneading the clay is a very important step as, when it is done properly, it removes the air, ensures an even hardness and increases the viscosity.
    Since potter’s clay is no longer produced in Kyoto, it is imported from different regions in Japan. It is then mixed with kaolin, kibushi clay, silica and feldspar.
  2. 2.Casting There are different casting methods such as lathe casting, hand forming or molding and all have different results.
    Lathe casting is a method of casting where the kneaded clay is placed centrally on a disc-shaped rotating potter’s wheel, using centrifugal force while soaking the clay with water. Different types of potter’s wheel include hand potter’s wheel, kick potter’s wheel and mechanical potter’s wheel. This is a high-skilled method that usually requires many years of experience.
    Hand forming is a method of casting where the clay is casted while twisting, using the fingertips and a bamboo spatula. This is the easiest method and it does not require the use of a lathe.
    When molding, the mud that was made by mixing base clay with water and silicic acid soda is poured into a plaster mold. This enables the casting of delicate forms and the production of many same-shape works.
  3. 3.Drying and planing The planing is done in one time, once cast pieces have reached a semi-dry state after drying away from the sunlight for several days. A stand called a "chuck" is installed on the potter’s wheel, and the cast piece is hung upside-down. The foot is trimmed and the whole body is finished using a metal plane or bamboo spatula while rotating the wheel.
    Decoration is then applied using finishing tools, and pieces are dried in the sunlight.
  4. 4.Bisque The bisque firing refers to firing the clay for the first time. This first firing is carried out at low temperature to reinforce the cast items and make it easier to decorate and glaze afterwards.
  5. 5.Undercoating The undercoating is done before the glost firing. All the drawing is hand-made with specific brushes and different metal colorants such as asbolite which makes an astringent blue color, and iron oxide become the base of this step.
  6. 6.Glazing Colored glazes, transparent glazes and frosted glazes are applied to the work. Colors, transparency and luster appear afterwards, during the firing.
    This process is as important as the molding as the charm of the finished work depends on it.
  7. 7.Glost firing It consists in fusing the glaze and the clay in a separate firing. Cast pieces that have been glazed are loaded into the kiln and baked at a high temperature.
    Instead of old-fashioned climbing kilns, gas/electric kilns are the mainstream today.
    Depending on the desired texture, either oxidation firing or reduction firing can be used.
  8. 8.Overglazing This is the process of decorating after the glost firing (some items are not overglazed).
    Decoration and coloring are carried out with a fine brush, using all kinds of metal colorants. Gold and silver are also often applied.
  9. 9.Overglaze firing After overglazing, the pieces are baked again at a low temperature. This process produces the colors, luster and prevents damages such as peeling. This is a very meticulous step and the work and temperature have to constantly be checked in order to make sure the glaze has dissolved.
    After firing, the kiln is cooled and the pieces are then removed from the kilns.

Leading Ateliers

Nishikawa-teizaburo-shoten atelier

Nishikawa-teizaburo-shoten atelier

Many kinds, small quantity handmade production With assiduity, we produce pottery as sophisticated and delicate as the town of Kyoto

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Where to Buy & More Information

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts