The Friday feast of historical trivia

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  • Imari cockerel. 1660.

    Imari cockerel. 1660.

  • Kakiemon Sakaida XIV.

    Kakiemon Sakaida XIV.

  • Kakiemon Elephants. C.17th.

    Kakiemon Elephants. C.17th.

Its April 29th. If you’re looking for gifts for loved ones have a browse around our shop.
For something traditionally Japanese and ceramic you may want to visit Arita today, the venue in Japan for one of their largest Ceramics festivals celebrating traditional Porcelain production. The fair runs from today until May 5th, a period known as “ golden week” as it covers the Emperors birthday, children's day, constitution day and greenery day– a number of public holidays.
Arita is a town located on the South West side of Japan, close to Nagasaki.
The potteries of Akita started producing enamelled porcelain items called Kakiemon, from the mid 17th century onwards. The technique was invented by Sakaida Kakiemon, a potter born in 1615. Sakaida refined the methods used for producing translucent white glazes and started the practise of enamelling on to the surface of the glaze. His first pieces were shipped to Europe from the port of Imari, hence the “Imari” name for the pattern.
The Great Ming dynasty which had ruled for 276 years had collapsed in 1644, seriously disrupting the Japanese export market. Sakaida kakiemon is said to have learnt to apply enamel to porcelain from an artisan in Nagasaki the year previously. He capitalised on the Dutch exploitation of the market, which eventually dried up when they shifted their attentions to China ( the Chinese capitalising on it themselves by calling their wares “Chinese Imari”).
Porcelain originated in china, it is a mixture of feldspars, glass, ash and petunse, a naturally occurring mineral. Production can be dated as far back as the 3rd century. It was in full swing by the 6th century and rapidly spreading across Asia. The silk road enabled Porcelain to spread across Europe attracting Portuguese, then Dutch and English merchants who eventually began sea trading.
The word porcelain is derived from the Italian “Porcellana” which is a shell, reflecting it’s translucent quality.
King Augustus the strong of Germany and our own Queen Mary II were both early owners of import Porcelain, there are even pieces called “Hampton Court” , named after two vases recorded in an inventory of 1696.
The fourteenth generation of the Kakiemon family,- Sakaida Kakiemon XIV, was bestowed the title of National Living Treasure by the Japanese government, a recognition of an “Intangible cultural property”.
The Kakiemon family's work has been the major influence for Dutch Delft and Meissen, copied by the factories of Worcester and Chelsea amongst countless others. You probably have at least one item in your home that bears their legacy.

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