Obori-soma ware Obori soma yaki
Simple taste and gentleness
Expression of strong individuality with blue cracks
Obori Soma Ware is a form of ceramics and porcelain produced around the town of Namie in Futaba County, Fukushima Prefecture. The main raw material in the blue porcelain enamel used in Obori Soma Ware is locally collected chamaishi grindstone.
The characteristic of Obori Soma Ware is its background pattern known as “blue cracks”. On a glassy surface tinged with the blue of celadon porcelain glaze, cracks described as “blue cracks” cover the entire vessel as a base pattern. Differences in the shrinkage factor between raw materials and enamel cause cracks known as “penetrations” to occur when baking, producing a pattern of subtle cracks. At that time, a beautiful sound described as the “penetration sound” can be heard. Also, pictures of running horses are drawn by hand using the brushing style of the Kano school to depict the sacred horses revered by the formed Soma Domain.
Obori Soma Ware vessels are “double-fired”, so their structure is such that hot water does not easily cool inside the vessel, and they can be held even when containing hot water. This technique is not seen in any other type of porcelain, and it was produced when pursuing user-friendliness for normal people.
Obori Soma Ware is said to have originated at the beginning of the Edo Period when Kyukan HANGAI, a warrior of the Nakamura Domain, discovered potter’s clay in the Obori region of what is today known as Namie, in Futaba District, and ordered his manservant, Sama, to produce vessels for daily use. While Soma Koma Ware produced beneath Nakamura Castle in what is today Nakamura, Soma City, was presented to Lord Soma, Obori Soma Ware become popular with the common people as vessels for daily use. At that time, the Nakamura Domain encouraged production of ceramics and porcelain as specialty products, and in the latter part of the Edo Period more than 100 potteries were created, most of which prospered. The market extended from Hokkaido to the whole of Kanto, or the whole of the northern provinces, and the industry underwent great expansion.
Going into the Meiji Period, the abolition of feudal domains and the introduction of prefectures led to the abolition of the Nakamura Domain, which meant that the Domain’s patronage of Obori Soma Ware disappeared, and in the Taisho Period the number of potteries dropped to 30.
War during the Showa Period caused decline, but today there are 25 potteries are enthusiastically producing articles while maintaining tradition.
General Production Process
- 1. Casting
First, casting is performed. Obori Soma Ware is mainly cast using a lathe. In order to make a double-layered heating structure, the inside and outside are produced while taking into account dimensions and shape.
- 2. Planing and finishing
Cast articles that are still in a half-dried state have their feet planed or their outside planed depending on the product that is being produced. Decoration is also performed using techniques such as “jumping plane”. The “jumping plane” refers to using a spatula-shaped planing tool to apply scratch-like patterns to the surface of an article while rotating it on a lathe.
The inner vessel is placed inside the outer vessel, and casts are completed by pasting together the edges of the vessel (in other words, parts in contact with the lips).
- 3. Coloring of unglazed pottery
Half-dried cast articles are colored with hananuki (flower plucking), mud coating or chrysanthemum pressing processes depending on the product. Chrysanthemum pressing refers to application of a chrysanthemum pattern. Engraving is also carried out once the articles are completely dried.
The red color is added with cosmetic mud containing iron called “sarupo”. Heart-shaped openwork decoration is a design of a plover, and as a whole is said to have represented a plover on waves.
- 4. Drying
Next is the drying process. Sudden drying causes cracks or warping, so pieces are first dried in the shade before being dried under sunlight.
- 5. Bisque
Completely dried articles are fired in a kiln at a temperature of 900 to 950°C. Firing refers to heating at high temperature inside a kiln or furnace.
- 6. Undercoating
Articles that have been through the bisque firing process have improved water absorbency. Articles are given an undercoating with paint consisting of an iron and cobalt compound known as asbolite. The typical picture is of a running horse, but there are also subjects such as mountains and rivers, as well as pine, bamboo and plum. The brush technique is that of the Kano school.
- 7. Glazing
Enamel is applied to the articles. Enamel is applied by means of techniques such as dipping, wiping round, and pouring.
- 8. Glost firing
Articles coated with enamel are placed inside the kiln, and glost firing is carried out at a high temperature of around 1,250 to 1,300°C.
- 9. Overcoating
Some articles are sold as products once glost firing has finished, but other articles are given an overcoating.
- 10. Dyeing
Finally, in order to make the “crack” patterns in the entire article stand out, ink is rubbed in and wiped off with a cloth. This “crack” pattern is called “blue cracks”, and is a charming characteristic of Obori Soma Ware.
Where to Buy & More Information
Fukushima Dento Sangyo Kaikan
ClosedSunday, Public holiday, 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month, December.30-Jaunary.5, August.13-17