Obori Soma Ware

Fukushima

Indications are that the origins of Obori Soma Yaki go back to toward the end of the 17th century.
Under the patronage and protection of the local Soma clan the kilns flourished and by the middle of the 19th century, there were more than 100 at work, making it the largest production center in the whole of the Tohoku region of northern Japan. With the changes which took place in the commercial sector on entering the Meiji period (1868-1912), the number of working kilns fell and now there are just 24 at work. Fueled by the 300-year-old heritage of ceramics in the area, however, the creative spirit is still alive.

The majority of pieces are glazed with a clear, glasslike celadon glaze, verging on green. Overall crazing is also a common feature, which makes this ware all the more approachable. The source of the celadon glaze is found locally, but it is not the only glaze used. An ash glaze as well as an amber colored one and a white slip glaze are also used. There are now making vases, tea bowls, cups and flasks for sake and other distinctively decorated pieces.

Feature

Obori Soma Yaki is primarily known for producing ceramic pieces coated in a glaze of celedon blue. Another well known characteristic of Obori Soma Yaki pieces is the “Ao-hibi” or cracked blue pattern that covers the works - created by the fine cracks within the surface. The stones used for producing the celedon blue glaze can only be found in the Obori region of Fukushima, Japan. In addition to celedon blue, ash colored glaze, clear glaze and white glaze are also used for the ceramic pieces.

How to make

Local clay earth is used to make the pottery clay for the pieces. This soil is immersed in water, reduced to mud and then separated into the clay that can be used for pottery and other components that will be discarded. The mud which has been sorted this way is dried and made into pottery clay and the well kneaded clay is shaped on a potter’s wheel. Once the clay is shaped, it is dried in darkness. Once it is completely dry, the piece is fired in a kiln at about 950 degrees. After the clay is fired, a picture is drawn on the surface, and the famous “Hashirikoma” running horse drawings are something that can only be found in Obori ceramic pieces. After the picture is drawn, the surface is covered in glaze and then fired once more in the kiln at between 1,250 to 1,280 degrees to finish the piece.

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