Types of Glaze in Japanese Ceramics

Written by helen harvey
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Types of Glaze in Japanese Ceramics
Japanese potters employ a wide variety of glazing techniques in their work. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

There are four major types of Japanese ceramics: porcelain, earthenware, stoneware and glazed pottery. Before the 8th century, glazes were purely accidental and occurred as a result of the reaction of ashes during the firing process. Until the 17th century, ceramics remained largely unglazed, and the glazes that existed used Chinese techniques. Rebellions in China at the time caused major interruptions in trade and Japan started to develop its own pottery and glazing techniques.

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Tenmoku Ware

Although it had been used during the centuries earlier T'ang and Sung dynasties, artisan Otsuka Keizaburo from Mashiko is attributed with perfecting the tenmoku glaze technique and turning it into an art form in the mid-19th century. The Mashiko region of Japan has since become known throughout the world for the quality of its tenmoku pottery. Commonly used for teaware and tea bowls, tenmoku glaze is achieved by applying iron oxide and firing pieces at very high temperatures to give intense black, brown and copper hues.

Shigaraki Ware

Famous for its deposits and distinctive forms, shigaraki ware was first produced in the 12th century Kamakura period in the regions of Tokoname and Atsumi. Originally used for common household utensils, the tea masters of the Muromachi and Momoyama periods favoured shigaraki ware, and it developed into one of Japan's most beloved ceramic styles and glazing techniques. The glaze produces results which are very neutral to reddish-brown in colour and result from oxidation firing, which allows air to flow freely in the kiln during firing.

Shino Ware

Shino glaze was developed in the Mino and Seto areas of Japan during the Momoyama period in the mid-16th century. Composed predominantly of clay and ground local feldspar, shino glaze produced a milky, satin-like white colour, which was applied over carved and appliqued pottery. In the early 1900s, pottery companies around the world further developed the technique to produce other colours of shino glaze, including blacks, greens and oranges. Contemporary potters use a technique known as crawling shino. In this technique, the firing process will cause random areas of the pottery to remain bare and unglazed, giving textural interest to the piece.

Oribe Ware

Oribe ware first appeared during the Keicho and Genna eras in the late 16th century. Its name derives from Furuta Oribe, a pupil of master artisan Sen Rikyu, who first produced this technique. Controlled low firing temperatures and the introduction of black, green and brown glazes during the firing process, creates abstract and very organic designs. In addition to the glaze itself, oribe ware is often distorted and deformed in shape, which was an original design aesthetic of Furuta Oribe.

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