The first porcelain to be produced in the Kutani area was in the 17th century, when a member of the Kaga clan, Goto Saijiro, who had studied the techniques of making porcelain in Arita in northern Kyushu, set up a kiln making Kokutani ware, a suitable porcelain clay having been discovered in the area.
While Kokutani or "old Kutani" ware combined the generosity and splendor of the culture of the Kaga clan, it developed into a unique form of porcelain with a strength and boldness all its own. At the end of the 17th century, however, production suddenly ceased. Firing did not begin again until the beginning of the 19th century, when the revival of Kutani Yaki was produced. Many different kilns appeared each with their own unique design style helping to establish this production center. There was the Mokubei style of the Kasugayama kiln, the Yoshida kiln which tried to echo Kokutani ware, the fine drawing in red of the Miyamoto kiln and the red and gold highly figured designs of the Eiraku kiln.
The true intrinsic quality of Kutani is its multi-colored over-glaze enamel images. It is characterized by its use of heavily overlaid Japanese pigments, namely red, green, yellow, purple and prussian blue, and bold outlining. What is perhaps unique to Kutani is the way that the enamels appear even more brilliant because of the restrained coloring of its slightly bluish ground. Various piece of tableware are now made in a number of Kutani styles, along with flower vases, some ornaments and beautifully adorned sake flasks.
Kutani yaki has multicolored pictures in addition to an inherent distinctive quality. Gorgeous and openhearted linework is colored with green, yellow, red, purple, and navy Japanese pigments, producing a dignified brilliance, characteristic of Kutani yaki. The bluish porcelain unique to Kutani helps to bring out the gentle colors of the pictures.
How to make
Local pottery stone is used to make the clay used in the porcelain, which is then formed using a potter's wheel or casting method to create the unglazed work. Detailed pictures are applied then colored in. Powerful black and white pictures like ink paintings are then have colors that are not yet apparent gently applied. Through firing, the colors appear in beautiful brilliance, transforming into glass and bringing vivid color to the white porcelain. The drawn lines and sharp brush techniques, and the dignified pictures are what makes Kutani yaki.