Lucky me! I snuck in on a special tour of a very cool (and FREE) exhibition going on at the British Museum.
Made in Japan talks about a family of Japanese potters called Kakiemon (pronounced kaa-kee-ey-moan) who are famous for making very colorful porcelain dishes for 400 years. That’s a long time for a family business!
Kakimon family is pretty unique. Instead of selling their porcleain to the Japanese, they thought it would be more fashionable to sell to the West. That is, mainly to the Dutch, who had exclusive access to Japan around the 1660s-1700s. They made colorful designs on their signature milky-white surface that sold for mega-bucks in Holland, France, England and more. So popular were they that copy cat versions were being made in China first, then in Holland and even in England. Everyone wanted a piece of Kakiemon porcelain. Who wouldn’t! They are gorgeous!
My favorite is this swirly flower dish. I think this would be a perfect dog bowl where my daily meals could be served in. It’s huge! I can eat like a king and even sleep in the dish when I’m full and waggy tailed out.
Our tour guide, Professor Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, explained that you need special porcelain stone called tōseki (pronounced ‘toe-say-kee‘) to make porcelain, which I’m sniffing, but wasn’t that interesting.
In Japan, no one really knew how to make porcelain until this man named Ri Sanpei discovered heaps of the stuff in a quarry in 1616 in a place called Arita. It’s, like, a tiny village way south on the small southern island called Kyushu (it is part of Japan).
Then, a man called Sakaeda Kizaemon figured out a way to make bright colors to decorate his designs with. His reds were so pretty and delicious, like the color of a juicy ripe persimmon fruit. Persimmon is called kaki in Japanese, and so he got this name called Kakiemon, or like ‘the persimmon man’, given to him. Pretty neat, ey?
Professor Nicole also showed us some brushes. One was super thin and wimpy. The other was fat and bushy. The thin ones were used only by men to paint the fine lines. The fatty brushes were for women who filled inside the line work to color in the bits and pieces. Hmm…I smell a bit of gender stereo-type here…
Check out this video made by the British Museum film crew!
Made in Japan Kakiemon and 400 years of porcelain
23 June – 21 August 2016
Free, British Musuem, Asahi Shimbun Display