Celebrated ceramic production in Shikoku

The birthplace of Tobe ware
Tobe ware is generally considered to be pottery produced primarily in the vicinity of Tobe town, Iyo city in Ehime prefecture. This area has been known for various types of ceramic production ever since Sue ware was first produced here in the Eighth century. Since the middle of the Edo period (1615-1868), the area has been celebrated as a location of ceramic production due to its advantageous location for ceramic kilns with its surrounding mountains and sloping ground. The Tobegawa river, which runs through the center of the area, aids in the production and transportation of the ceramic works, while supplying the power required for water turbines to pulverize raw materials. 
The beginnings of Tobe ware
The oldest records regarding the name “Tobe ware” (“Tobe yaki”) is found in the History of the Ôzu Domain (Ôzu hiroku) from 1740. It references specific ceramic bowls and dishes that were made in the Tobe area, and that ceramic shards similar to Karatsu ware from Kyūshū were excavated from the remains of an old kiln in the area.
The beginnings of porcelain
Historical records state that the very first successful kiln firing occurred in 1776 (An’ei 6), while the earliest excavated shard of porcelain found in an area kiln is dated to 1779 (An’ei 9).
Antique Tobe ware
Ceramic works produced during the Edo period (1615-1868) are called “antique Tobe” (“Ko-Tobe”). Pieces of Tobe ware during this period developed predominately as “blue-and-white” (“sometsuke”) porcelain with dramatically painted designs of cobalt blue underglaze applied with elaborate brushwork. 
Transition from the Edo period (1615-1868) to Meiji period (1868-1912)
Tobe ware in the Edo period began as earthenware, then developed to blue-and-white porcelain, eventually culminating in elaborately painted works with multi-colored overglazes. In the Meiji period, further inventive techniques were introduced establishing a multitude of styles.
Iyo bowls
During the Taishō era (1912-1926), Tobe ware began to be exported to China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. It included works that were most predominately decorated with elaborate blue-and-white stenciled designs, called “Iyo bowls.” 
Locally produced raw materials
Clay material, called “tōseki,” used in Tobe ware was locally mined at the base of Mt. Shōji.
Making clay
Mined raw material, called “tōseki,” was pulverized with traditional machines and mixed into clay used for porcelain production.
Baizan kiln
In 1882 (Meiji 15), the Baizan kiln was established by Umeno Masagorō. It has become the main kiln for traditional Tobe ware. It specializes in works for daily use, including serving plates and flower vases produced in simplified white porcelain shapes decorated with elaborate blue underglaze designs and multi-colored overglaze painting.
The evolution of the potter’s wheel
Traditionally a potter’s wheel manually powered by a kick-wheel was used in the production of Tobe ware, but in 1950 (Shōwa 25) production transitioned to the use of an electrically powered potter’s wheel. The electric power potter’s wheel allowed for the use of plaster molds that standardized the process for mass production.
The works are trimmed one by one manually.
Chinese grass motif, “Karakusamon”
The Chinese grass motif, or “Karakusamon,” is one of the most traditional patterns used on Tobe ware. The motif generally looks as if it is standardized, but there are subtle variations in the design depending on the workshop. 
Applying glaze
The entire surface of each work is covered in a light brown glaze that eventually becomes transparent to reveal blue underglaze patterns when fired.
Initially the unglazed works are fired to 900-950 °C, and then fired again to 1300 °C after applying glaze. Historically, the works would have been fired in a climbing kiln built on a slope, but now it is common to use gas kilns. 
Climbing kiln
There is a six-chambered climbing kiln still in existence at the Baizan kiln site, where you can experience this traditional mode of firing.
Studio pottery movement
In 1954 (Shōwa 28), members of the studio pottery movement including Yanagi Muneyoshi, Bernard Leach, and Shōji Hamada visited the kilns at Tobe. They promoted the ideals of the movement that called for a return to handwork from the mechanization that had occurred in the modern era. 
Design reform
In 1956 (Shōwa 31), the celebrated potter Tomimoto Kenkichi (1886-1963: designated Important Intangible Cultural Property and awarded Order of Cultural Merit) visited Tobe to encourage a modernization in the design of Tobe ware. Tomimoto also introduced Fujimoto Yoshimichi (1919-1992: designated Important Intangible Cultural Property) to teach in Tobe. Because of this combined influence, Tobe potters strove to improve and refine their technique by forming research groups and holding exhibitions in order to introduce the concepts of the studio pottery movement. Many patterns and shapes of contemporary Tobe ware originated during this time. 
Contemporary Tobe ware
A wide variety designs and styles make up contemporary Tobe ware including white porcelain, blue-and-white ceramics, celadon porcelain, and multi-colored overglazed pottery. From individual artisans to larger manufacturers, there are close to one hundred entities creating Tobe ware.
Tobe Ware Traditional Industry Hall
The hall includes displays of both historical artifacts and finished traditional works, along with striking examples of contemporary pieces. The second floor is reserved for a variety of related programming including solo and group exhibitions.
Tobe Ware Ceramic Center
The center is directly operated by a Tobe ware kiln. The first floor includes an area that sells the latest works in Tobe ware, while the second floor is a studio where visitors may create their own piece of Tobe ware by using hand-building or potter’s wheel, along with traditional materials to decorate the works. 
Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory
Credits: Story

This exhibition is privided by:
Togeikan, Tobe, Ehime

Information:Tobe Ware Traditional Industry Hall
Baizan Kiln
Ryusen Kiln
Sagawa Ceramic Material


画像処理:有賀優(Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory)

English translation:
Laura J Mueller

This exhibition is created by:
Kasai Takae(Kyoto Women's University)

Project Directers:
Dr Maezaki Shinya,Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University
Dr Yamamoto Masako, Ritsumeikan University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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