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 (called Tamba-tachikui yaki in Japanese) is a form of pottery produced around Konda in the city of Sasayama, Hyogo prefecture. It is one of Japan's Six Ancient Kilns. Together with Bizen, Tamba, Echizen, Seto, and Tokoname, Tamba-tachikui ware is considered to be one of the most outstanding Japanese kilns with traditions that remain even today. Since the kiln opened eight hundred years ago, ceramics for daily use have been baked at this kiln.
This craft has a unique ash covered color which appears while baking for around sixty hours in a climbing kiln* at a temperature of approximately 1300℃ (about 2372℉). This is a chemical reaction from the ash of pine firewood, which is used as fuel and sprinkled onto the vessel, melting together with enamel and iron contained in the clay. Each ceramic 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 piece.
While many other forms of pottery are produced with a clockwise-turning lathe, the lathes used for Tamba-tachikui ware rotate in a counterclockwise direction.
*A climbing kiln is an ancient type of pottery kiln brought to Japan from China and Korea.
The Tamba-tachikui kiln is thought to have opened at the end of the Heian period (794-1185). Until the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1600), Tamba-tachikui ware was known as Onohara ware. Large pots, jugs, mortars and kneading bowls were made by piling up string-shaped clay without using a lathe and baking without glaze in ascending kilns (formed through digging holes in the hillside). Large sake bottles and buckets were also produced by the end of this period.
Around the year 1611, a climbing kiln was built at the base of the kiln. The craft was known as Tamba ware at this time and mass production in climbing kilns was possible. Small pots such as pepper pots and oil pots as well as katakuri bowls* came to be produced. In the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868), 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 (1868-1912), the center of Tamba ware was moved to the nearby Tachikui region and the market expanded as far as Kyushu and Tohoku under the name Tachikui ware.
*A type of drinking bowl with a dip in one side of the mouth.
General Production Process
- 1. Clay excavation
Clay from either the Yotsuji or Benten areas of Hyogo prefecture, or with the same material properties, is used as potter's clay. It is purified at a pottery cooperative loam factory.
- 2. Clay kneading
The purified loam is kneaded with a machine to make the grain and moisture density even. Then, it is hand kneaded to extract air so that warping and cracks do not occur after firing.
- 3. Casting
Tamba-tachikui ware is cast with a lathe, one item at a time. Either a foot powered or electric lathe is used for casting circular items while rectangular or complex forms are cast by mold casting, which involves pouring potter’s clay into a plaster mold. Other types of casting include slab casting, hand forming, and pressing.
- 4. Planing
While the clay remains in a half-dried state, a bamboo plane or iron strip is used to shape the foot, exterior, and complete the edges. Also during this step, the spout of a teapot is opened and the foot of incense holders is attached.
- 5. Drying
Pieces are thoroughly dried under sunlight over a period of three to four days although drying indoors using excess heat from the kiln is more common today.
- 6. Bisque firing
The pieces are bisque fired at 700 to 900℃ (about 1292 to 1652℉) so that enamel will thoroughly coat the pottery.
- 7. Glazing
After bisque firing, enamel is applied. The enamels used in this craft are artificial ash glazes like 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 Pieces are brought to the kiln site, placed on top of a round shelf and lined up on the floor of the kiln. Small pottery is placed inside large pottery or inside a vessel called a saya. When placing the pieces, fir tree ash or clay balls covered with fir tree ash are inserted between articles. Once the pottery has been completely loaded inside the kiln, the entrance is sealed with clay.
- 9. Glaze firing
To begin with, the kiln is warmed up for at least twenty-four hours to gradually increase the temperature. After flames have been going for thirty to forty hours, pine tree firewood is inserted as fuel from both sides of the kiln. Glaze firing, which is continuously baking at around 1300℃ (about 2372℉) for a minimum of twenty-four hours, is performed.
- 10. Removal of pots from the kiln
When glaze firing is complete, the kiln is sealed with clay and cooled for twenty-four hours, after which the finished pieces are removed. This process takes about a week.
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