Friday, July 15, 2011


Despite the fact that my tastes tend toward the wood fired classics and classical stoneware tea wares of Japan, there is room for iro-e, seiji, seihakuji, kutani, kinrande and many other styles. Among these other styles that we love, is the kinsai (underglaze gold) technique re-pioneered by Ningen Kokuho, Kato Hajime. His use of this technique was wonderful and lyrical in its presentation and it is that sense that he handed off to one of his students, Ono Hakuko (1915-1996). All that glitters is not gold, but in this case, it actually is, pure gold under the glaze.

Ono Hakuko not only learned the technique from her mentor, but decidedly made it her own in how she made use of it in bold geometric patterns as well as delicate foliage and naturalistic patterning. Well known for her large circular pattern as well as birds and triangular designs, Ono made excellent use of not on the technique but its integration with the porcelain clay body and use of Persian blue, green and golden yellow glazes. She was rewarded for her exceptional body of work and addition to the style with the prestigious Japan Ceramics Society Prize in 1980. In turn, Ono Hakuko passed this demanding technique on to her son, Ono Jiro, who has not only mastered the kinrande process, but he has also added to the possibilities.

Illustrated is a wan-gata style chawan by Ono Hakuko. This jiki, porcelain chawan has a Persian blue style glaze over the underglaze gold which is composed of large bold geometric areas with fine lines separating the monolithic shapes. To see her work in person is of course the best way to enjoy them. The underglaze gold creates a luminance that shines from within the glaze and makes the spirit of the bowl come alive. In this achievement, Ono Hakuko is unrivaled.

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