Hagi Ware is good for Quality and Warm color

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Hagi ware makes the most of the color and texture of the clay from which it is made

Hagi ware, also named at Hagi-yaki, is a traditional craft produced mainly in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The colors and decorations are understated rather than the flamboyance of Aizu lacquerware. Hagi ware has a unique soft texture and a fine crack-like pattern called kan-nyu (penetration) caused by the clay and glaze used to produce it. The coarse clay used has high permeability, water retention, and heat retention properties, and the difference in shrinkage rates between the clay and glaze produces fine cracks on the surface.

Most of the pieces are rustic, like as Otani pottery and Yokkaichi Bango yaki, with little or no decoration such as painting. Colors are mostly limited to skin tone, loquat, brown, grayish-blue, and white, making the most of the clay color. When Hagi ware is used for many years, the texture of the ware changes due to the penetration of tea and other ingredients. This indicate that Hagi pottery has played an important role in Japanese tea culture. The phenomenon is called “Hagi no Nanabake (seven Changes,” and is one of the reasons why Hagi ware has so many fans.

hagi pottery
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History of Hagi ware

Hagi ware, which originated in Matsumoto (now Tsubaki-higashi Nakakura, Hagi City) on the eastern perimeter of Hagi Castle, was established as the official kiln of the Hagi domain after the warlord Mori Terumoto relocated his headquarters to Hagi in 1604 after the Battle of Sekigahara during the Edo Period.

Edo Period

It is widely believed that Hagi has been endowed with high-quality clay since ancient times and that it was a center for ceramic production in ancient times. Additionally, the feudal tea masters of the Mori clan are thought to have contributed to the development of Hagi-yaki as a tea ware due to the climate and environment of the area. However, Hagi-yaki has also developed qualitatively as its production capacity increased. From its initial model of Korai tea bowls, it expanded to Oribe-style bowls, and then to the introduction of “Raku ware” by Miwa Kyusetsu, which led to the development of a distinctively Japanese design. Throughout the Edo period, Hagi produced a diverse range of wabi-sukiyaki tea utensils as well as sencha utensils and craftwork.

Meiji and Taisho Period

During the Meiji and Taisho periods, the official kilns of the clan were privatized, leading to challenging times for the industry. However, the industry saw an opportunity for revival in 1977 when Saka Koraizaemon IX was awarded the Houmon Prize at the National Industrial Exhibition. The site received daily visits from the heads of the wealthy Mitsui family, drawing significant attention. At the second exhibition in 1981 (Meiji 14), the Saka family was awarded the Meritorious Service Award and the Miwa family the First Prize, both of which were acquired by the Ministry of the Imperial Household to enhance the reputation of Hagi ware.

Additionally, the Omote-senke, a well-known tea ceremony family, visited Hagi on two occasions, which sparked a connection between Hagi ware and the Omotesenke. Despite the ongoing recession, Hagi continued to produce not only tea ceremony utensils, but also daily-use utensils, ornaments, and accessories such as Hagiyaki obi clasps and necklaces that were appreciated by overseas tourists.

Hagi ware Tokkuri
Furunavi: Tokkuri 19,100 yen

Showa Period

During the Pacific War (WW2), the tradition of Hagi ware was preserved under the certification of a qualified craftsman, and during the tumultuous postwar period, Hagi ware was produced primarily for daily use to support people’s livelihoods after the war. In 1949, the Hagi Ceramic Artists Association (now the Hagi Ceramic Artists Association) was established by potters who maintained the techniques and traditions of Hagi ware. The association became the mother body for mutual study and friendship. During the period of rapid economic growth, the popularity of the tea ceremony and pottery expanded, and demand for Hagi ware increased. Hagiyaki was once again thrust into the limelight, where it remains to this day.

Production Methods and Processes

1. Original Clay

Hagi ware is crafted by blending Daido-Utsuchi, Mishimatsuchi, and Mitaketsuchi, depending on the desired outcome, to create the initial clay, known as the mother clay. In some instances, the potter’s clay is mixed separately.

2. Refinement

The mother clay is subjected to a process that involves drying, crushing, and stirring in a water tank to remove any sand and pebbles. This process is repeated several times, and ultimately the settled soil, similar to clay, is separated and dried.

3. Clay Conditioning

Once the water content has been reduced to a certain degree, the soil is put onto a step ladder and stepped on to eliminate any air bubbles and condition the soil.

4. Kneading

Kneading the soil is essential for ensuring uniform hardness of the finished piece. The soil is kneaded by hand approximately 70 to 80 times, twice in different directions.

5. Molding

The potter’s wheel is utilized to shape the clay, which has undergone the clay kneading process. In addition to using a rotating potter’s wheel, hand twisting and molding may also be utilized.

Hagi pottery manufacturing process
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6. Drying in the shade

The formed pieces are left to dry in the shade for a few days to remove excess water.

7. Finishing (shaving)

The shape of the piece is planed using a planer. At this stage, traditional decorations such as the planing of the base, brush marks, and the attachment of the vase’s ears are completed.

8. Finishing (cosmetic work)

While the piece is still moist, the surface is coated with deyosho, which is a mixture of white clay and water, to adjust the surface color.

9. Unglazed

After finishing, the piece is left to dry and is left unglazed. The temperature is increased to 700 to 800 degrees Celsius for 15 to 16 hours. The unglazing process is performed to increase the strength of the piece, but it may be omitted depending on the intended purpose.

10. Glazing

Glazes such as ash glaze or straw ash glaze are applied to the piece. The glaze becomes vitreous when fired, creating a surface. The ash glaze is clear, and the straw ash glaze is milky white. There are two ways to apply the glaze: by dipping the piece into the glaze or by pouring the glaze over the piece using a ladle.

11. Kiln Filling

The traditional Hagiyaki kiln is a continuous climbing kiln with multiple small cells, and multiple pieces are stacked on circular boards using a method known as “tenbashi-stacking.” Tenbin stacking is the most frequently utilized method in Hagi ware because it allows for the best flame penetration. However, in some instances, shelf stacking or saggar stacking, in which pieces are placed in containers and stacked on top of each other, are also utilized. Once the kiln is loaded, it is sealed with bricks and mud, except for the firewood inlet known as the “yokoguchi.”

12. Firing

After all of the firing chambers are sealed, the fire is started in the lower cells, gradually increasing the temperature to 1,250 to 1,300 degrees Celsius. The amount of wood used must be adjusted by observing the color of the flames, so the kiln must be kept at a constant temperature for roughly a day during the firing. When the desired temperature is reached, a sample called “iro-mi” is pulled out to inspect the condition of the glaze. When the “color test” has reached the intended state, the firing port is closed, and the fire is extinguished.

13. unloading the kiln

After the fire is turned off and the pieces are left to cool naturally for a few days, the sealed opening is broken open and the pieces are removed from the kiln.

Hagi pottery
Oyaima

KEY POINT

The hue, suppleness, and consistency of Hagi ware are often compared to that of human skin. This might explain the pleasant and cozy impression one experiences when handling it. As one continues to utilize Hagiyaki, its flavor matures, and it is believed that the user plays an integral role in perfecting the final product. Due to its unobtrusive nature, it blends seamlessly into any room as a decorative piece.

 

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