Essays and Articles

Japanese Pottery - Seto

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Seto ware, the fourth in our posts on the six of the old kilns of Japan refers to pottery items made in and around the village of Seto in Aichi prefecture.

An important region for ceramics production, pottery made in Seto dates back to the 13th century, with early pieces showing clear inspiration in decoration from Chinese Song dynasty ceramics, and are typically glazed in tones of green, yellow and brown.

One of the most stylistically diverse of the old kilns, early Seto ware pieces are high fired ceramics, usually of relatively heavy construction, often displaying incised decoration in the form of floral scrolls and plant motifs.

Though dribbled glazing in greenish yellow colours is characteristic of early pieces, the iron rich ‘oil spot’ glaze known as ‘Tenmoku’ also became a specialty of the region from around the end of the Kamakura period.

Originally a favourite finish in glazed tea wares imported from China for use by the highest classes of Japanese aristocracy, Tenmoku pieces created in Seto became increasingly popular as the custom of tea drinking spread throughout the classes of society, cementing for the area of Seto a lasting reputation for its production of high quality tea ceremony wares.

Below left: Japanese large mouthed Seto ware jar with incised designs of peony blooms, Kamakura period, 14th century

Image courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum

Below right: Chinese 'Yaozhou celadon carved ewer, Northern Song dynasty, 11th-12th century

Image courtesy of Sotheby's New York


Below are two examples of contemporary Seto pottery pieces currently available at Kazari + Ziguzagu