Wednesday, January 16, 2013


As if I haven't covered a number of reasons why I am fascinated by Oribe pottery and the process, the least of which is the variety of styles that have developed around the classical E-Oribe style. Having sprung from the influence of Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) in the Momoyama era, Oribe actually was originally based on the thick feldspathic glaze which became thinner and more transparent over time. Though the sense of direct and unadorned styles of pottery held sway during the life of Sen (no) Rikyu (1522-1591), after his death, Furuta espoused and popularized the spontaneous, refreshing and sometimes "bizarre" decoration of Oribe which become a lasting part of cha(no)yu. Stemming from what Tsuji Nobuo refers to as, the "playfulness in Japanese art", the styles of Oribe developed through experimentation and adaptation of techniques and ideas that were not based entirely in the craft of pottery; many of these designs came from "foreign" cloth patterns as well as stenciled paper designs. This willingness to play with the surfaces and glazes gave rise to a wide variety of types within the overall category of Oribe. The following are the major groups of Oribe that have flourished since the 17th century;

E-Oribe; Oribe with patterning painted in iron underglaze pigments

Ao-Oribe; various hues of green glaze

Kuro-Oribe; very dark green to black glaze, sometimes accompanied with areas of clear glaze and underglaze decoration

Narumi-Oribe; Oribe green glaze and clear over a red slip usually with painted underglaze decoration

Aka-Oribe; red Oribe

E-Oribe; "picture" Oribe

Iga-Oribe; Oribe ware made in the fashion of Iga-yaki

There are a number of modern potters who embody the playful and spirited nature that originated nearly four centuries ago with Oribe; potters like Hayashi Shotaro, Suzuki Goro, Takauchi Shugo, Higashida Shigemasa and of course, Yamada Kazu. Though born into a traditional Tokoname pottery family (his father Yamada Kenkichi and his uncle Ningen Kokuho, Yamada Jozan III) Yamada Kazu (b.1954) saw and greatly admired the works of Kato Tokuro and decided to follow the pathway of the Mino tradition. Creating tea wares in Shino, Seto-Guro, Oribe and Shigaraki ware, among others, his works have a fresh and dynamic quality to them which seem to have a Momoyama ideal that Oribe was founded on. Illustrated is a Kuro-Oribe chawan by Yamada Kazu with a rich black glaze with a wonderfully moist appearance bordered up against a transparent glaze with spontaneous, Zen-like splashes of black to articulate the area. The throwing marks, around the bowl add a great sense of gesture and perpetual motion to the bowl which follows in the footsteps of generation after generation of Oribe potters.

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