Tamba-tachikui ware Tamba tachikui yaki
Unique colors and simple pattern textures
produced in climbing kilns at very high temperatures
What is Tamba-tachikui ware ?
Tamba Tachikui Ware is a form of pottery produced around Konda in Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture. It is counted as one of Japan’s six famous ancient kilns, along with the likes of Seto Ware (from Seto City, Aichi Prefecture), Tokoname Ware (from Tokoname City, Aichi Prefecture), and Echizen Ware (from Echizen-cho in the Nyu District of Fukui Prefecture). For 800 years since the kiln was opened, austere and simple vessels for daily use were continuously baked here.
The characteristic of Tamba Tachikui Ware is its unique “ash covering” color and pattern. While baking for around 60 hours in a climbing kiln at a temperature of approximately 1,300°C, a unique color and pattern appears due to a chemical reaction that occurs when the ash of pine firewood, which is used as fuel and is sprinkled onto the vessel, melts together with the iron contained in clay and enamel. Each piece is unique, as various patterns and tints are produced depending on how the ash is applied and how the flames come into contact with the vessel.
While many other forms of pottery are produced with a clockwise-turning lathe, the lathes used in Tamba Tachikui Ware rotate in a counterclockwise direction.
The kiln here is said to have been opened at the end of the Heian Period. For around 400 years until the Momoyama Period, it was known as Onohara Ware. By forming with coils, which involves piling up string-shaped clay without using a lathe, large pots, jugs, mortars and kneading bowls were baked without enamel in an anagama kiln dug into a hillside. Large sake bottles and buckets were also being produced by the end of the period of anagama kilns.
Moving into the Edo Period, in about the year 1611 a climbing kiln (according to the Korean style of a kiln that is half above-ground) was built at the base of Kamaya. Products at this time were known as Tamba Ware, and mass production was possible in climbing kilns. Small pots such as pepper pots and oil pots as well as katakuri bowls came to be produced, and in the middle of the Edo Period the area started to produce a great variety of products, including tea utensils such as tea containers, pitchers and tea cups, as well as small sake bottles.
From the Meiji Period onward, the center of Tamba Ware is moved to the Tachikui region, and the market expanded as far as Kyushu and Tohoku under the name “Tachikui Ware”.
General Production Process
- 1. Clay excavation
The type of potter’s clay that is used is either yottsuji clay or benten black terracotta, or clay with the same material properties as these. Potter’s clay is purified at Pottery Cooperative loam factory.
- 2. Clay kneading
The purified loam is kneaded with a clay kneading machine to make the grain and moisture density even. Furthermore, the clay is diligently kneaded by hand to extract air so that warping and cracks do not occur after firing.
- 3. Casting
Tamba Tachikui Ware is cast by producing one item at a time on top of a lathe. A kick lathe or electric lathe is used for casting circular forms, while rectangular or complex forms are cast by mold casting, which involves pouring potter’s clay into a plaster mold. Other forms of casting include slab casting, forming by hand, and pressing.
- 4. Planing
While viscosity still remains in a half-dried state, a bamboo plane or iron strip is used to perform fine finishing such as feet planing, external planing and edge finishing. This process also involves opening holes in small teapots and attaching feet to incense burners.
- 5. Drying
Articles are adequately dried under sunlight over a period of 3 to 4 days. Today, indoor drying is most common, using excess heat from the kiln.
- 6. Bisque firing
Bisque firing is carried out at 700 to 900°C so that enamel comprehensively coats the unglazed pottery.
- 7. Glazing
After bisque firing, enamel is applied. The enamels used in Tamba Tachikui Ware are artificial ash glazes such as wood ash, straw ash, rice husk ash, chestnut case ash and bamboo leaf ash glaze, as well as wood ash glaze, iron enamel and white enamel.
- 8. Loading pots into the kiln
Articles are taken to the kiln site, placed on top of a round table and aligned on the kiln floor. Small articles are placed inside large articles or inside a vessel known as a saya. When repeatedly placing articles, fir tree ash or hama clay balls covered with fir tree ash are inserted between articles. Once articles have been completely loaded into the kiln, the entrance is stopped with a “pillow” and sealed with clay.
- 9. Glost firing
To begin with, warming is performed at least for one day and one night to gradually increase the temperature. After warming for 30 to 40 hours, pine tree firewood is inserted as fuel from both sides of the kiln, and then glost firing is performed. Glost firing refers to further continuous baking at around 1,300°C for at least another day and night.
- 10. Removal of pots from the kiln
When glost firing is completed, the kiln is sealed with clay, and then cooled for 24 hours, after which the baked articles are removed. In total, from placing pots inside the kiln until removing from the kiln takes around one week.
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