Shigeru Nishio Shigaraki Irabo Chawan

Potter: Shigeru Nishio

Approximate size: W5.7″ by H2.8″ or 12.4 by 7.6 cm

This chawan was made by the famous Shigaraki potter Shigeru Nishio (1950-). This is a chawan that is characterized by its earthen colours and peculiar natural glaze and texture that is known as ‘irabo’. Shigaraki generally has a natural, rustic look with a somewhat rough texture of speckled ash and minerals and although this particular chawan is thrown with the characteristic coarse Shigaraki clay it is much more delicate and refined than the more often seen works coming from this area, which often have rugged shapes and thick walls. Similarly finished without glaze like Bizen pottery. The walls expand outwards to where the clay is shaped really thin, unlike most Shigaraki ware. It is a small miracle it survived the firing stage which typically reaches extreme temperatures and can span several days.

Irabo (a stoneware which was admired largely for its use in the tea ceremony), was originally brought over by Korean potters to Japan during Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s expeditions into Korea during the Momoyama period (1573-1603). The term ‘irabo’ is said to have been a derivative from the Japanese “ira-ira”, translating to annoyed or irritable – referring to the rough surface texture of irabo tea bowls. A representation or reflection of the clay, sand particles used in the clay mix and thin glazing which became the characteristic of the style.

Irabo or iraho refers to an ancient, from origin Goryeo Dynasty (Korean), type of glaze difficult to describe but recognizable when viewed a couple times. The stony red clay is quite beautiful and the Irabo glaze varies from a golden-yellow to a caramel-brown colour.

Shigaraki pottery was developed in the town of Shigaraki, Shiga prefecture in the late Kamakura period (1192-1333), although it is said to have existed as early as the 8th century when Emperor Shomu had tiles fired for the construction of his palace in Shigaraki (in the year 742). As one of the oldest Japanese pottery styles, it is one of the “Great Six Kilns” of ancient Japan. The first Shigaraki ceramics consisted of unassuming household pieces such as jars and grinding bowls. Pieces were not glazed but the ash of the high-burning and long firing cycles created a natural glaze effect. Centuries later, when the style became favored by the Tea Masters of the Muromachi and Momoyama period, some potters started to incorporate glazes. The ware was said to possess the aesthetic qualities of ‘wabi‘ (humble simplicity), and ‘sabi‘ (beauty in wear), which were brought to the foreground and made famous by Tea Master Sen no Rikyu.

Shigaraki uses clay from Lake Biwa and different clays like kibushi, mizuchi or gairome are often mixed and kneaded to make a strong clay mixture that can be used to make thick and large jars and vessels. A notable feature of Shigaraki ware is that it is made with coarse soil that has a highly fire-resistant quality. During the firing process it can acquire pink or red shades with scarlet or brown overtones. Due to subtle changes that depend on the temperature and firing method, Shigaraki’s white clay takes on a scarlet glow and warm colouring, a characteristic that is unique to this craft. Shigaraki ware is distinctive due of its simple warmth and rich expressiveness.

The chawan, sealed by the potter has no chips or cracks and is in excellent condition. Comes with the original high quality shiho san paulownia wooden box with kiln stamp and calligraphy on the side, an informational pamphlet and a dedicated tomonuno or tea cloth.

€225 + shipping costs

The development of kilns during the medieval period are thought to have taken place through the transformation of Sue ware. In the later half of the Heian period, Sue ware production came to an abrupt decline, with production being moved to and centralizing in the Owari, Mino, Bizen, and Omi provinces. Political collapse in the Heian period caused Sue ware potters to begin producing inexpensive wares such as tsubo (jars), kame (wide mouthed bowls), and suribachi (mortars or grinding vessels). The Sue ware workshops began producing in characteristic regional blocks. All these led to the development of kilns in the region known as the ‘Six Old Kilns’. The regional blocks consisted of Seto, Echizen, Tokoname, Bizen, Tamba, and Shigaraki.