Traditional Culture of Japan - Portal site of traditional crafts and culture

Bizen ware demonstrations on a potter's wheel by professional potters


Most Bizen ware is made using a potter's wheel. For items like cups and plates, using a potter's wheel is more expedient and it takes less time to spin out a beautiful and balanced work.


Seeing professional Bizen ware potters using a potter's wheel is, in itself, worth watching. Below there is a clip of Bizen ware being created on a potter's wheel.



Shaping on a potter's wheel with Bizen clay
For Bizen ware and the like, it is said that the easiest thing to make on a potter's wheel is a cup. And yet, while it is easy, to make a good piece it is said to take three years of hard work everyday. That is how deep ceramics is.


Potter's wheels allow shapes to be made using centrifugal forces and don't require much power. Perhaps that is why it looks easy at first glance. However, even a subtle change in the application of power will make a huge change to the shape, so it is actually quite difficult.


The reason it looks like the clay is alive on the potter's wheel has a lot to do with the sixth sense the artisan has built up over years of experience.


Once you are able to make a cup, training goes on so that you can produce plates and other kinds of works. When making plates, you will need to spread out the clay evenly in a cup-like shape, and you must pay attention at the same time to the thickness, making it even more challenging than cups.


Later on more difficult challenges are encountered, like making suribachi, a kind of bowl used for grinding things, and tokkuri, a pottery ware sake bottle. At times, you will make sturdy works going against the clay, and at other times you will whither away the clay. As you go about making these kind of pieces, you will brush up your skills on the potter's wheel.


For pieces with shapes arranged by potter's wheels, the desired shape is changed by curving the clay by hand or adding a design using tools. Since clay which has just been formed is soft, the work can be created as the potter desires.



Finished products must be set aside for two to three days to remove moisture. Later, a seal is impressed by the individual artist and necessary parts are affixed. The process isn't over once the shape has been made; there are many more things to do to make it into a product that can be sold later on.


Upon completion of the process, the work can finally be put in the kiln and fired. At this stage, depending on where the piece is placed in the kiln and what kind of mechanisms you want the piece to have, the color of the piece will change.

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