Ohori Soma pottery | 300 years history nurturing unique color


Ohori Soma-yaki pottery

The next item we will introduce is Ohori Soma-yaki pottery. This pottery is characterized by blue cracks, double firing, and the painting of pieces, and is a traditional craft that has been widely appreciated by the residents of the town as well as by the local community.

Due to the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and the nuclear power plant accident, all of the more than 20 kilns were forced to evacuate the town, but about half of them have rebuilt their kilns in various locations.

What is Ohori Soma Pottery?

Ohbori Soma-yaki is a ceramic ware produced in and around Namie-cho, Futaba-gun, Fukushima Prefecture. The celadon glaze used for Ohbori Soma-yaki is mainly made from Tomaishi (Chamaishi), which comes from this area.

The distinctive feature of Ohori Soma Pottery is a ground pattern called “Aohibi” (blue crack). On the bluish glassy surface of the celadon glaze, cracks called “blue cracks” cover the entire vessel as a ground pattern. Due to the difference in shrinkage between the material and the glaze, cracks called “kannyu” are formed during firing, resulting in a delicate crack pattern. The cracks are accompanied by a beautiful sound called “kan-nyu-on. In addition, “sacred horses” revered by the former Soma clan are hand-painted in the Kano school brush style as “running horses”.

Japanese pottery

The structure of Ohori Soma-yaki pottery is “double-fired,” which means that the hot water in the vessel does not easily cool down and can be held even when filled with hot water. This is a unique technique that was developed in the pursuit of ease of use for the general public.

History of the pottery

It is said that this pottery was first made in the early Edo period by Nakamura feudal lord Hanya Kyukan, who excavated pottery clay in the area of present-day Ohori, Namie-cho, Futaba-gun, and had his servant, Soma, make miscellaneous daily-use utensils.

While “Soma-koma-yaki” made at Nakamura Castle in present-day Nakamura, Soma City, was considered an offering to the feudal lord Soma, Ohori Soma-yaki was popular as daily utensils for the common people.

At that time, the Nakamura clan encouraged the production of ceramics as a specialty and made efforts to protect and foster potteries, and by the late Edo period, the pottery industry had flourished to the extent that more than 100 potteries had been established. Sales routes expanded from Hokkaido to the Kanto area and the Jyoshu area, and the industry developed greatly.

Ohori soma pottery

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Nakamura han (feudal domain) was abolished and the protection of Ohori Soma Pottery disappeared. The number of potteries decreased to 30 during the Taisho Era (1912-1926). The Showa Era (1926-1989) saw a decline due to war, but today, 25 potteries continue to preserve the tradition and produce pottery.

Manufacturing methods of Ohori Soma pottery

1. Molding

The first step is “molding. Ohori Soma Pottery is mainly formed using a potter’s wheel. In order to create a double-fired structure, the inner and outer pieces are made while taking into consideration the dimensions and shape of the piece.

2. Kezuri-shi-finishing

The molding is still in a raw state, and depending on the product to be made, it is then subjected to height shaving, outer shaving, and other processes. Decorations are also applied using the “hopping plane” technique. The “hopping plane” is a spatula-shaped shaving tool used to make scratch-like patterns on the surface of a piece as it rotates on a wheel.

The inner vessel is placed completely inside the outer vessel, and only the rim, or the part of the vessel that touches the mouth, is attached to complete the molding process.

3. Dough coloring

The half-dried molding is then subjected to the “Kiji Kashoku” process, which includes “hananuki” (flower removal), “mud painting” and “kiku oshiki” (chrysanthemum pressing), depending on the product. Kiku-oshi” is the process of applying a chrysanthemum pattern. Carving is also done after the product is completely dried.

The red color is applied with “Sarupo” (iron-containing cosmetic mud). The heart-shaped openwork decoration is a design of “Chidori”, which is said to represent “Chidori in waves” as a whole.

4. Drying

Next comes the “drying” process. To avoid rapid drying, which can cause cracks and distortion, the pieces are first dried in the shade and then in the sun.

5. Unglazed

After completely dried, the piece is “fired” in a kiln at 900 to 950 degrees Celsius. Firing” means heating in a kiln or furnace at high temperature.

6. Underglaze painting

Unglazed pieces absorb water better. Gosu, a paint containing iron and cobalt compounds, is used to underpaint the work. The most representative painting is “Hashirikoma,” but other subjects include landscapes and pine, bamboo, and plum trees. The brush strokes are of the Kano school.

7. Glazing

Glaze the work. The glaze is applied using techniques such as “dipping,” “turning,” and “pouring.

8. Main firing

Glazed pieces are placed in a kiln and “honyaki” is done at a high temperature of 1250 to 1300 degrees Celsius.

9. Overglaze painting

Some pieces are sold as-is after firing, while others are further overglazed.

10. Sumi Inlay

Finally, to clarify the “cracked” pattern on the entire product, sumi ink is rubbed in and wiped off with a cloth. This “cracked” pattern is called “blue cracks” and is a characteristic and attractive feature of Ohori Soma Pottery.

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