Onta & Koishiwara ware
Onta ware is a traditional Japanese pottery from the Oita Prefecture. Koishiwara ware (Koishiwara-yaki) is a traditional style of Japanese pottery from Koishiwara, Fukuoka Prefecture. Onta ware and Koishiwara ware and known for sharing the same design principles.
The characteristics and history of the "world's best folk pottery".
The history of Koishiwara ware
The production of Koishiwara ware began before the production of Onta ware, and Koishiwara ware artisans would move to Otsumura (which would become known as Hita in modern Oita prefucture) spreading their craft. The origins of Koishiwara ware can be traced back to the Edo Period (1603-1868), when the Kuroda Clan’s lord invited potters from Imari to create fine porcelains. Then, at the turn of the 18th century, unknown craftsmen started producing the everyday earthenware that is now known as Koishiwara-yaki. Members of a folk art movement rediscovered the art of Koishiwara ware in 1931, resulting in greater appreciation of this regional ceramic art form throughout Japan. Koishiwara ware became a common example of Fukuoka Prefecture’s traditional crafts during the mid-century art and ceramics boom.
The history of Onta ware
Onta ware is thought to be descended from Koishiwara ware. About 300 years ago, the three founders of the Onta kilns built the first one. Since then, the descendants of the original founders have continued to use the same age-old methods, digging up clay in the surrounding mountains and grinding it into powder using water-powered “karausu” mills (large wooden hammers that work with the flow of the nearby river). The production of Onta ware is tradition that has been passed down through the generations, and is an essential part of both Onta’s history and culture. When Bernard Leach, a popular British potter, visited Onta in the 1950s, Onta pottery gained international recognition and acclaim. He worked alongside the local potters, sharing his knowledge and expertise while also learning from them. Many well-known Japanese artists have visited Onta and collaborated with local artisans over the years.
Creating Onta ware is a community effort
erhaps the most characteristic thing about Onta ware is the way it is produced by utilizing a communal produciton process. Since no apprentices have been brought in from outside the families, each potter is trained by his own father. No pupils are allowed to be trained in the art of Onta ware from outside areas. Because of this, no more than 10 kilns are continuing this lineage of more than 300 years of Onta ware ceramics. Different from common practice, completed Onta ware is not etched with the signiture of a signle kilns or potters. Rather, ten kilns work together to protect the shared brand of “Onta ware”.
The process of producing Onta ware
The soft clay used in Onta potteries (also known as Onta’s soft clay) is dug locally from the mountainside near the village. It’s then pounded into powder for 20 to 30 days with use of a wooden hammer (known as “Karausu” in Japanese) that is powered hydraulically by the river that runs through the village. After being filtered and dried in the baths, the clay is kneaded and molded into shape using a conventional kick-wheel and is then color-glazed after drying. Simple designs and earthy colors characterize the unique designs style of Onta. Natural materials such as straw, ash, wood, copper, and iron are used to create the various types of glazes that will be used to coat the clay. Predominantly used colors are green brown yellow, and black. Each piece is produced by first throwing it on the wheel and then placing coils by hand. A white slip is applied, and one or more decorative techniques, such as small chatter marks, brush marks, combed lines, and even patterns formed by their masters’ fingers are applied over it.
Onta & Koishiwara