Essays and Articles

Japanese Ceramics - Kutani

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Named after its original production center, the village of Kutani in Southern Ishikawa prefecture, Kutani wares can be traced back to the early Edo period in the mid 17th century.

Known as Ko Kutani, these early porcelain pieces were decorated with a limited five colour palette of blue, green, yellow, purple and red and often feature bold designs based on animal and plant motifs and other traditional themes.

Image: Ohira bowl, C17th Kutani, Collection of Kutaniyaki Art Museum, Ishikawa Prefecture


For reasons unknown, production of Ko Kutani wares suddenly ceased around the year 1730. The cause of this closure is widely debated, with most experts placing blame on financial difficulties or lack of supply of necessary pigments and materials.

The second wave of Kutani porcelain began in the early 19th century at the Kasugayama kiln in Kanazawa and is commonly known as Saiko Kutani.
Combining techniques already used in earlier Ko-Kutani examples with methods from other Japanese porcelain kilns, wares from this period are known for their detailed and lavish designs featuring predominately red enamels and gilt decoration.

Left: Rare and unusual Japanese Kutani porcelain incense burner    Right: Large antique Japanese Kutani porcelain charger


Leading on from original Saiko Kutani pieces, ‘modern’ Kutani first appeared in the early Meiji period, during the 1860’s, when Japanese artisans began to fuse traditional porcelain making and painting techniques with western methods, allowing for a much larger range of colours and richer, more lustrous gilding.


Left: Japanese Kutani pottery lion                                       Right: Vintage Japanese Kutani studio vase with design of herons

Kutani style porcelain wares are still made today, using both traditional and modern techniques and catering to all tastes, with decorative styles ranging from strictly classical traditional motifs to starkly contemporary, abstract designs.

Left: Contemporary Japanese polychrome Kutani sake set                      Right: Set of 5 Contemporary Japanese Kutani plates

Kazari sells a large range of both contemporary and traditional Kutani porcelain wares, from contemporary teacups, plates and dishes (link to tableware) appropriate for every day use to sculptural figures and rare collectable objects.