|The Rich Coloring of Magnificent Porcelain
China-making in Kutani dates back around 340 years to the middle of the 17th century. As part of a policy to encourage local industry, a kiln to make colored porcelain was established at Kutani village, now in Ishikawa Prefecture, when high-quality china clay was discovered there. Potters were brought from Hizen (in present-day Saga Prefecture), which was known at the time as a center of porcelain production. This was the beginning of the local manufacture of colored china.
The type of pottery was named Kutani-yaki after the village where it began. It had a distinctive style that involved the plentiful use of Kutani gosai, or the five hues of Kutani, including deep blue, purple, yellow, green, and red, which were used to cover the entire surface with colored decoration. Themes included birds and flowers, landscape motifs, and geometrical patterns.
In 1710, however, after half a century of continuous production, the kiln was suddenly closed. People have suggested a number of reasons, but nobody really knows why it was closed down. Pottery from this early period is known as Old Kutani, and it forms a separate category from Kutani ware of later years produced after the industry was revived in the 19th century.
In the early 19th century, the local ruling clan, which was enjoying power and influence, revived China-making in Kutani. After this, a number of potters and master craftsmen grew up in the area. Among them, Shoza Kutani did much to establish the reputation of Kutani ware in the second half of the 19th century. Even today, when the name Kutani ware is mentioned, many people immediately think of the Shoza Kutani style that pays attention to details and makes free use of brilliant, elegant coloring. Under the influence of Shoza, pottery from the area gained a reputation as valuable works of art. On the other hand, there has been a trend towards going back to the style of Old Kutani. Others have also been taking up the challenge of designing new types of Kutani ware, lead by the members of the Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani Ware Technical Training Institute.
Photo: (Top) A gorgeous Kutani jar; (middle) a craftman painting patterns on a jar (Ishikawa Prefecture).
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