Antique Katō Sōsetsu Hand-Shaped Ki-Seto Chawan

Potter: Katō Sōsetsu

Approximate size: W5.5″ by H2.5″ or 14.0 by 6.5 cm

Formed and engraved by hand, this antique ki-Seto chawan or ceremonial tea bowl was made by Katō Sōsetsu (1834-unclear). A potter born in what is known as the Edo period. Subject bowl is hand shaped, made without use of the potter’s wheel. A ceramic technique called kurinuki in Japan. The carved poem on the exterior is engraved in such a way that appears visually, much like Rengetsu’s carving (as having been engraved by using fingernail – like Rengetsu Otagaki was known to do).

Katō Sōsetsu was the son of Kato Seisuke, and descendant of Toso Shunkei. Katō Sōsetsu is said to have worked in Mino and Seto styles and ran a ceramics store (or similar type of business), called Yamasueya. Known as an enthusiast of the Tea ceremony his works are well regarded in this respect. Examples by this potter often display forms distorted by hand (often seen in and one of the characteristics of Oribe ware), which is an aspect termed kutsu-gata meaning a distorted form (distorted by hand).

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 celadon’s. It utilizes an iron-rich wood-ash glaze and is reduction fired at a high temperature to produce a celadon-like texture and bone colour; in an oxygen-rich kiln, the minerals in the clay and glaze create a distinctive opaque yellow glaze.

黄瀬戸 夏茶碗

Ki-Seto natsu chawan


Father’s work
aged 60 years. 

By Kayandō 

This work is special as it not only carries a signature but additionally has been engraved with the potter’s age at the time of creation, making the piece datable to the year 1894! The box lid carries further provenance bearing his son’s calligraphy in the form of an attribution of the work to his father at the age of 60. Sufficed to say, antique bowls are left in smaller numbers and to have additional information such as a signature or maker’s mark (or to even be able to attribute a work to a specific maker), makes this chawan quite collectable and of great value.

Its amazing it has survived for well over a century, a testament to the custom of using storage boxes for a wide number of objects. Its the heavily worn state of the box that shows its age yet still functions as a safety measure. The cord is missing and likely fell off from wear and tear, at some point in time. It would be great to have the box refitted in the future.

This chawan has no chips or cracks and condition is very good for such an old work. The signature and age written next to the koudai and its translation below (a larger version of below photo available here). Comes with the original high quality shiho-san paulownia tomobako or storage box, which has been worn through time.


Thank you very much!

還暦 素雪
Sōsetsu, 60 years 

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.

Ki-Seto is also said to have been the outcome of the attempts of potters to recreate Chinese celadon wares. A fortunate mistake through which a new ware was born. The ash glaze looks like deep-fried tofu and has been termed aburaage-de. Almost all Ki-Seto wares are serving utensils – except some few tea bowls.

Old ki-Seto chawan are really rare items.