Satsuma ware Satsuma yaki
Porcelain with a rich variety of styles and types
from schools no longer existing to those that remain
Satsuma Ware is a form of porcelain produced in Kagoshima Prefecture. It is formed from three types of material: Shiro Satsuma, Kuro Satsuma and porcelain. The characteristic of Satsuma Ware is its many types, with a total of six different types: Tateno, Ryumonji, Naeshirogawa, Nishimochida, Hirasa, and Tanegashima.
Shiro Satsuma is also called Shiromon, which uses transparent glaze on light yellow porcelain, treating cracks on the surface, with decoration on top, and is mainly represented by ornaments, etc. Kuro Satsuma, also called Kuromon, uses potter’s clay with high iron content as well as colored glaze. Kuromon is mainly found in vessels used when drinking shochu. The main raw material of Satsuma Ware is supposed to be porcelain stone, but this is no longer being produced.
The main areas that produce Satsuma Ware are the Kagoshima Prefecture cities of Kagoshima, Ibusuki and Hioki, etc., and there are three kiln sites remaining today: Naeshirogawa, Ryumonji, and Tateno. Naeshirogawa initially produced Satsuma Ware with a focus on Kuromon, but today this kiln site mainly produces Shiromon. Ryumonji mainly produces Kuromon drinking vessels, while Tateno mainly produces Shiromon tea utensils for use as gifts.
The history of Satsuma Ware goes back to the battles of Bunroku and Keichou during the Sengoku Period, from 1529 to 1598. Japan had fought the Imjin War, which was also known as the Porcelain War, in which Yoshihiro SHIMAZU, Lord of the Satsuma Domain, brought back 80 Korean pottery masters, and thus Satsuma Ware was born. The Korean pottery masters Boku Heii and Kin Kai opened kiln sites within Satsuma and worked on various styles of porcelain in their respective styles. This resulted in the divergent schools and traits that are present in Satsuma Ware today.
Modern Satsuma Ware inherits these traditions and still retains Korean customs. The kiln of Chin Jukan is the origin of overglaze Satsuma porcelain, which inherited distinctive Korean customs at the kiln site in Miyama.
Also, the Araki porcelain kiln taken over by descendants of Boku Heii uses a typically Korean left-turning lathe and unique natural glaze, maintaining the traditions of their ancestors.
During the era of change from 1867, in the Edo Period, through to the Meiji Period, Satsuma exhibited Satsuma Ware at the Paris World Fair, deeply impressing the Europeans and cementing its identity as “SATSUMA”. In the Heisei Period too, in 2007, the name of Satsuma gained prestige with a Satsuma Ware Traditional Arts Exhibition in Paris at France’s National Ceramics Museum.
General Production Process
- 1. Loam production
Several types of potter’s clay are kneaded to produce loam. The raw materials is finely ground and mixed. Kuromon and Shiromon use different types of clay for their loam. Shiromon becomes a dark brown potter’s clay through the loam process, and Kuromon becomes a dark reddish-brown potter’s clay. By cleverly mixing white clay, the main raw material, with other clays, a unique texture separate from that of both porcelain and ceramics is produced.
- 2. Elutriation
With Shriomon, clay is kneaded by repeating a process known as elutriation, in which clay is dissolved in water and the sediment is collected and dried, producing a fine potter’s clay. Elutriation is not carried out for Kuromon, as the aim is to treat the simple texture of the clay with great care. By producing fine grains through elutriation, a model of Shiromon can be produced with smooth surfaces.
- 3. Casting
Pieces are cast using a lathe. Other methods include use of hand forming (producing by hand), plaster casting and bisque, etc., and casting is carried out in a particular way depending on the kiln site. These days, casting with a lathe is the mainstream method.
- 4. Finishing of drying/casting
Before finishing, the pieces are dried. Parts that have dried roughly are planed or chiseled to form. In the case of Kuromon, ornamentation is handled with fretwork, embossed carving or decoration using a spatula, etc. After baking Shiromon, the next process is decoration.
- 5. Drying
Pieces that have been cast and finished are dried under sunlight. Depending on the piece, moisture may be adequately removed by drying with hot air.
- 6. Bisque
Bisque is carried out at 750 to 850 degrees for around 15-16 hours. By hardening the surfaces in bisque, the appearance of the glaze is improved. After cooling after the bisque process, the rough surface texture is removed and the pieces are made smooth.
- 7. Glazing
Shiromon uses transparent glaze. The main techniques used are dripping and sink hanging. Several types of glazing are used for Kuromon. Glazing is carried out with black glaze, brown glaze and brown glaze, etc., in a mixture that changes depending on the article.
- 8. Glost firing
The pieces are baked at around 1,250 degrees for 12 hours or longer. Methods include the use of an oxidizing flame containing oxygen and the use of a reducing flame that reduces oxygen, and the style of firing changes depending on which type is used. Shiromon’s characteristic fine surface cracks (known as penetration) occur during the cooling process after firing
- 9. Overglazing
Overglazing is applied only to Shiromon. Glost-fired products are baked at a temperature of 720 to 800 degrees for around 6 hours. Line drawing (known as skeleton drawing) is carried out, and color is applied in a process known as coloring. Shiromon pieces are often gorgeous in appearance, colored with red, green, yellow, purple and gold, etc. To apply goldwork to ornaments in order to make them golden in color, gold paint is applied by means of gold painting or gold overlay after overglazing, and the pieces are baked at 600 to 680 degrees.
- 10. Completion
Pots are removed from the kiln. Since they are coated with alumina, etc. prior to baking, finishing removes the roughness of the bottom and scattered glaze is cleaned to complete the pieces.
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