Shigaraki: Potters' Valley

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For over seven centuries, farmer-potters of Shigaraki, a rural valley outside the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, have fashioned from the unique clays of their region a broad variety of storage jars and tea ceremony wares that occupy a key place in the esteemed aesthetic of wood fired stoneware. This long out-of-print classic work by Louise Cort brings together all facets of the valley's fascinating political, economic, and artistic history to present a comprehensive portrait of these appealing wares and the potters who produced them. Her careful study of stylistic development permits more accurate dating of the early wares than ever before and reveals both the stylistic limitations imposed by Shigaraki's singular clays and the influence of pottery makers and markets outside of the valley.

The voices of the potters themselves are heard in the author's detailed descriptions of throwing, glazing, firing, and kiln building, while invaluable supplemental information includes chemical analyses of the valley's clays; commentaries on Shigaraki wares by potters from outside the valley; an account of early twentieth-century life in the valley by a woman who was both the daughter and wife of master potters; a thorough assessment of kiln-site investigations; and the full text and illustrations of a government-sponsored 1872 study of pottery production in the valley, never before published in its entirety, and which includes complete formulas for the distinctive Shigaraki glazes.

This informed, intimate account of the history of Shigaraki ware and the people who make it is both a rich, human document and a meticulous study of styles and influence, texture, and technique.

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Imperial Bounty
Medieval Wares
TeaStorage jars

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About the author (2000)

Louise Allison Cort is Curator of Ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. She has published widely on the subject of ceramics. Bert Winther-Tamaki is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of "Art in the Encounter of Nations: Japanese and American Artists in the Early Postwar Years "(2001).

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