Kutani porcelain

Choza Yamamoto

Blue and white porcelains with delicate patterns drawn by fine and lively lines. Choza Yamamoto is one of the distinguished Kutani porcelain artists attracting a lot of fans. “Sometsuke”, or underglaze blue is his main art style. Deep blue elegant lines are designed over the tableware shaped as thinly and as beautifully as a flower. A sense of antiqueness can be felt from his art. ​His art pieces have been also made for the Imperial Family and for the Japanese government. 

He represents a pottery studio named "Myosen Tobo" with his brother and porcelain-turner Atsushi Yamamoto. They call themselves "Chyawan-ya", or "bowl maker", which symbolizes their policy to create simple pieces which can be used for everyday life of people.

"I put importance to consider how the future owners would use the porcelain in their daily life. I make my pieces suitable for it"

I would rather like porcelain that can be used, not just only displayed. Even if we serve an excellent cuisine on a gorgeous multicolored overglaze plate, it doesn't always look attractive. Sometimes it can look busy. Now we have various colors of food such as red, green, yellow, orange, purple of tomatoes, but we don't have blue colored food. Blue is simple and rather dark, so it can highlight other colors. And in accordance with the changes in the lifestyle or the popular design among modern people, the way we use porcelain has also been changed. So we artisans have to be keen on what people expect us. I put importance to consider how the future owners would use the porcelain in their daily life and I make my pieces suitable for it.

The basic style of my design is based on my favorites. I like the color of indigo blue. More strong blue color is also available, but I don't like the color of the perfectly purified pigments. It can be insipid. Conversely, the impurity means it is close to be in a state of nature, containing sand and mud. It makes the color more complexed and delicate.

As for the design style, I like Chinese porcelain, among them I like the works from late Yuan dynasty to early and middle Ming dynasty. They are the roots of old Kutani and my area of specialty as well.

Manufacturing process of Kutani porcelain

The end-to-end manufacturing process of Kutani porcelain is covered in this studio. All works are done manually. The old artisans used to cover all the process on their own. Now the artisans are specialized in each specific process. But still it is important for each artisan to understand all the process other than his/her own.

1. Preparing raw materials and mixing

In this studio, the materials are natural origin, not using chemicals. The combination of  materials decides the color, so various measures are used in this phase such as combining local crushed porcelain stone with others from abroad or even intensionally letting the clay moldy.

2. Forming the body, glazing and firing

The body can be shaped by a range of methods such as Hand-building, using potter's wheel or moulding which are decided depending on the size and shape of the body. Glazing is to strengthen the porcelain by covering surface with glass. Firing is a heating step that can be done in the kiln at a high temperature. The skilled artisans can distinguish the temperature by hearing the sound of firing.

3. Overglaze painting

After firing the colored decoration is applied. It is often described as producing "enameled" decoration. When the ware is fired, the colors fuse into the glaze and so the decoration becomes durable. In this studio most of the patters are traditional ones and painting is basically done by freehand drawing without making preliminary sketches. 

Meet the Artisan
3-Day Kutani Porcelain Studio Visit and Kanazawa City Tour