Sho Kato Ki-Seto Chawan

Potter: Sho Kato

Approximate size: W5.8 by 5.8″ by H3.1″ or 12.4 by 12.3 by 8.0 cm

This is a fine ki-Seto chawan or tea bowl by Seto master potter Sho Kato (1927-2001). Ki-Seto means ‘yellow Seto’ and this is an excellent example. From the slightly distorted shape to the fine ash deposited glaze. The glaze that is used for ki-Seto contains only a small amount of iron and produces a yellow colour that can extend to brown. Ki-Seto glaze is often combined with designs or motifs in green. The green surface effects are called tanpan and are one of the highly desirable aspects of ki-Seto ware. It is accomplished the addition a tiny amount of copper sulfate to the recipe. It is the combination of extremely high firing temperatures and the copper sulfate that result in the glassy green surface.

The origins of ki-Seto are not entirely clear. Several sources state it started with a Seto potter who relocated to Mino province (current Gifu prefecture), during the end of the Momoyama period (16th century). However, bowls and decorative plates with the distinctive styles of Seto ware, such as Oribe, Shino and ki-Seto have also been unearthed in the remains of Mino kilns dating as far back as the Muromachi period.

Sho Kato graduated from Tokyo’s University of Art before becoming an independent artist. First accepted at the Nitten Exhibition in 1961 and has since displayed nationally and internationally. Recipient of the Nitten Hokuto Prize and served as a judge at this prestigious event. Much in the same fashion, he also took residence as a judge at the Asahi Togei Ten, Kofukai and Nihon Shin Kogei Ten or National Japanese New Craft Exhibition. Together with Seisei Suzuki and Goro KawamotoSho Kato gave form to and is regarded a representative artist of Seto in the 20th century. As such he was designated a Human Cultural Treasure of Aichi Prefecture in the year 2000. He sadly passed just one year later.

During the Meiji period, Seto ware adapted Western techniques, gaining great popularity. In addition to plain Seto, the Mino kilns also produced several types of Seto wares from the mid 16th century, including Seto-guro (black Seto), and Ki-Seto (yellow Seto). Ki-seto, fired at the same kilns as Shino and Seto-guro wares during the Momoyama period, featured “fried bean-curd” glaze, Aburagede (油揚げ abura-age or aburage), developed in emulation of Chinese celadons. It utilizes an iron-rich wood-ash glaze and is reduction fired at a high temperature to produce a texture and bone colour alike celadon; in an oxygen-rich kiln, the minerals in the clay and glaze create a distinctive opaque yellow glaze.

Sho Kato’s biography includes a long list of prizes – including the National Ceramic Art Exhibition’s most coveted Minister of Education Award, the Silver Cup Craft Award and the Kofukai Jade Award. Formally recognized by the government and given Seto City’s Achievement Award and given the Order of the Sacred Treasure.

1960 Japan Fine Arts Exhibition Special Hokuto Award
1964 Awarded the Blue-Ribbon Award at the famous Nitten Exhibition
1990 Awarded the Prime Minister’s Award at the Japan New Crafts Exhibition
1991 Awarded the Prime Minister’s Award at the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition in
1994 Aichi Prefecture recognises Sho Kato with the honorary title of Intangible Cultural Property for his ash glaze technique
2003 Art Directory Evaluation 4 million Seto Dragon Kiln

The chawan is unused and condition is mint. As seen on the right the chawan is signed Sho saku next to the koudai or foot-ring. Comes complete with the original high quality paulownia tomobako or wooden storage box of which the lid bears calligraphy and the artist’s seal and a dedicated tomonunu or tea cloth.


Thank you very much!

Seto ware is the pottery made in Seto City and nearby areas of modern Aichi prefecture. This area was the center of pottery manufacture in the Kamakura period; ko-Seto (old-Seto), designates pieces made at this time. At the end of the Muromachi period the center of the pottery manufacture moved to nearby Mino. At that time wares made in the area from Seto to Mino were called Seto-yaki.

In the early Edo period, some pottery manufacture moved back to Seto. In 1822 Kato Tamikichi (1722-1824), introduced sometsuke jiki (blue-and-white porcelain; sometsuke), from Arita in modern Saga prefecture. This porcelain was called shinsei, or new production rather than the original Seto ware pottery, Hongyou became standard. The Japanese term Setomono is also used as a generic term for all pottery. Seto is one of the Six Ancient Kilns of Japan.