Seto Underglazed Ware


At the beginning of the 19th century, local people returned from Kyushu armed with the techniques for firing porcelain and a way of applying decorations using a soft Southern Sung Dynasty style of painting with great charm that they had learned from a specialist painter.
Learning from each other, great developments were made and all the skills and techniques used in making this unglazed ware were finally established by the middle of the same century. Ways peculiar to this ware were gradually developed by depicting motifs derived from the nature of the area by decorative artists whose efforts were finally rewarded.

Then in the Meiji period (1868-1912), production of this decorated porcelain was perfected further and expanded to include the making of large pieces such as jubako or stacking boxes, lamps and tables besides a more regular line of tableware, all of which are still being made today.

The greatest feature of Seto Sometsuke Yaki lies in the way the detailed patterns are applied with a brush directly onto the surface of the unglazed clay. The technique of firing to obtain a tasteful design and the technique used to apply the detailed patterns of birds, flowers, insects and scenery with a brush on the surface of the porcelain using an indigo blue glaze are the special features of the ware from this area. A great deal of tableware is made alongside of articles used in the tea ceremony, items associated with incense, and a number of other interior items.


The main characteristic of Seto Sometsuke yaki, is how delicate designs are sketched directly on the bare surface after bisque firing. The indigo-colored porcelain paint is used to paint birds, flowers, insects, and landscapes on the surface of the porcelain in fine detail. This, as well as the firing techniques used that give the pictures a wet quality are unique to this craft.

How to make

Potter’s wheel, casting, and hand forming methods are used to make the works. The bisque-fired works are painted with designs, or works bisque fired at a low temperature are painted with underglaze decoration before the final firing.