After several failed attempts to hire a Japanese porcelain painter, Rookwood Pottery founder Maria Longworth Nichols convinced Kataro Shirayamadani to join the firm in 1887. Nichols and Shirayamadani met the previous year at the Thirteenth Cincinnati Industrial Exposition, where Shirayamadani and other artisans appeared in a traveling “Japanese Village.” The master decorator remained at Rookwood Pottery from 1887 until his death in 1848, a period of 52 years during which he contributed to the pottery's international acclaim.
The incised dragon that slithers across the front of this vase is typical of Shirayamadani's _oeuvre_, predominated by Japanese motifs. The master decorator expertly applied Rookwood Pottery's "Tiger Eye" glaze, noted for its luster and notorious for its unpredictability, to the design, highlighting the head and serpentine body of the dragon with flecks of gold. The firm retained this vase, originally one of a pair, for inclusion in its display at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, for which it was awarded the _grand prix_.
* DMA unpublished material.
* Hannah Sigur, _The Influence of Japanese Art on Design_ (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2008), 195.