most people think of ceramics production in eastern Asia
they think of Chinese ceramics – such as vases, tea sets,
and figurines. However,
Japan also has a rich history of ceramic arts, dating back
several thousand years. Although
the Japanese have been producing ceramics for a long period
of time, the art did not become well known in the rest of
the world until the seventeenth century when Imari porcelain
became highly popular in European markets.
Imari porcelain became well known for its striking
blue colors on a white background, and for a time Dutch
traders brought large amounts of Imari porcelain back to
European markets. Pieces
of Imari porcelain came in many different grades of quality
depending on the market they were bound for – but
regardless of their quality, older examples of Imari
porcelain are highly prized by collectors.
Imari porcelain is generally believed to have been first
produced by Korean potter Ri Sanpei, who was brought to
Japan from Korea following the Japanese invasion of Koran in
of Imari porcelain from the early 1600s used only blue
colors on a white glaze background; as the art matured
through the mid-1600s other colors became a part of Imari
porcelain, including red, yellow, green, and gold.
The popularity of Imari porcelain was somewhat
enhanced by political turmoil in China, which closed Chinese
markets and forced European traders to seek new production
porcelain also remained consistently popular on the Japanese
market, with different grades of pieces being available for
almost every different social class.
porcelain was mostly produced on the southern Japanese
island of Kyushu. While porcelain production was well established in countries
like China and Korea, Japanese potters had a hard time
finding the clay necessary for making porcelain.
Once a source of this clay was found near Arita
Japanese porcelain production progressed rapidly, although
it never achieved the scale found in China.
porcelain (and indeed most porcelain) has a white base
color, to which early potters added a blue cobalt dye before
firing to create an under glaze.
Later artists painted designs on top of the fired
pure porcelain with enamels, and the colors used for these
designs changed over time.
Imari porcelain pieces were produced for both
artistic and functional uses.
There were several different grades of Imari
porcelain produced, with the higher quality works generally
reserved for the wealthy elite.
Plates, rice bowls, tea sets, and sake sets were all
produced in Imari porcelain, and many Japanese families
still use these articles in their homes.
porcelain can make a fine addition to any Asian art
pieces can also be pressed into functional use serving sake
or Japanese tea. Imari
porcelain is still produced today, and examples of older
pieces are widely available at antique shops and auction.