Pottery is the art of making earthenware or porcelain out of clay, which is shaped and fired at high temperatures. Each area that produces pottery has their own characteristics.

The history of pottery

Earthenware was already being made BCE in Japan. It is said that the glazed pottery based on Chinese ceramic techniques was first made after the later-half of the seventh century.

The history of porcelain

It was in the early 17th century when the first porcelain was made in Japan. Sometime in mid-17th century, porcelain with exquisite pictures drawn on them began to be exported to Europe. Most of the names of pottery and porcelain are made by adding "yaki" (ware, literally "bake") after the name of the producing area.

The differences and charm of pottery and porcelain: Pottery

Pottery is made by firing a clay based material coated with ceramic glaze at a high temperature. The ceramic glaze is a chemical liquid which is applied on the surface to prevent the moisture from infiltrating while producing a glossy and shiny finish. There also exists a method where moisture penetration is prevented by firing the work for a long period without glazing the pottery.

The differences and charm of pottery and porcelain: Porcelain

On the other hand, porcelain is made by heating powdered clay mineral mixed with clay at high temperatures. Since the clay minerals contain material in common with the raw materials of glass, after its firings it comes out harder than pottery. Hence one of its charms is that a thin and delicate finish can be made. Vivid pictures drawn on the smooth white background are beautiful as well. The pictures vary from a simple pattern, to a design applied on an artwork with stunningly elaborate touch.

The general manufacturing process of pottery and porcelain

1. Shape the pottery or porcelain material by hand, a potter's wheel or a mold. 2. Dry the shaped piece. 3. Arrange the work inside a kiln and fire it at a temperature in the range of 800 to 900 degrees. (unglazed firing) 4. Draw a picture on the piece. (underglaze painting) 5. Coat it with glaze. 6. Use a fuel of firewood or gas to fire it to a temperature of 1,200 to 1,300 degrees. (glost firing) 7. Touch up the pictures with a brush or print on the smooth surface of the raw clay after glost firing. (overglaze painting) 8. Lower-fire the piece at around 800 degrees to set the overglaze paintings to the work. 9. Finished.

Pottery and porcelain from all over Japan

1. Bizen ware - An unglazed pottery featuring an iron-like shade and patterns made by the uneven heat of the flames. 2. Higa ware - A characteristic pottery with its orange-toned colors. 3. Oribe ware - This green glazing pottery is famous, and many are decorated with geometrical patterns. 4. Shigaraki ware - A pottery famous for its racoon dog figurine. It is displayed in front of stores as a lucky charm. 5. Arita ware (Imari ware) - Porcelain featuring a thin and smooth texture and flamboyant pictures.

Purchasing pottery and porcelain

It can be purchased in the tableware department at department stores and major super markets or at speciality stores of pottery and porcelain. Moreover, Kasama, Ibaraki where Kasama ware is made and Mashiko, Tochigi where Mashiko ware is made, are known as the pottery producing area on the outskirts of Tokyo.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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