When you hear the word “Oribe”, the stoneware covered with dark green glaze probably comes to your mind. The glossy deep green glaze called Oribe is popular and frequently used to decorate stoneware in Japan. The Oribe also refers to a style of pottery forming and decorations, which uses several different creative techniques and glazes making diverse types of ceramic vessels.
Named after a feudal lord and influential tea master Furuta Oribe (1543/44-1615), Oribe ware was originated in Mino region (present day southern Gifu prefecture) in the late 16th century. Although the ware bears his name, no historical record proves the connection between Furuta Oribe and the origin of Oribe ware. He was an iconic figure among tea practitioners in then capital Kyoto, and he set the trend and made the utensils he used stylish. Furuta Oribe redefined the trend of ceramics. Before then, exquisitely made teabowls imported from China and Korea were highly valued and used in the upper class circles.
The leading tea master, however, used waggishly warped tea utensils that were domestically manufactured in Mino and neighbouring Seto regions. Being independent from the aesthetic value of the foreign ceramics, the potters in those regions used their creativity to make asymmetrical, sometimes deliberately deformed ceramic vessels with decorations of abstract painting designs and distinctive glazing that emphasised their free expressions. For some reasons, one of the styles produced in those regions came to be called Oribe in later years. The free-spirited and bold Oribe ware represents the paradigm shift that Furuta Oribe made in ceramics production history.
Present-day potters in Mino and Seto make pieces in the way the potters in those times did. Not only do they just follow the creative techniques the pioneers established 400 years ago, they also use their free spirit and imagination to create something new and unconventional like old potters did.
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