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Ayatakado Readings

Eggshell porcelain: embodiment of Mikawachi craftsmanship

18 June 2016

 Eggshell porcelain ware (see also Ayatakado notes Eggshell porcelain ware) was actively produced in 19th century Mikawachi mainly for export. Around the beginning of 20th century, the potters in Mikawachi were giving up eggshell porcelain production due to a change in demand, and then no one fired this miraculously light and thin porcelain in the end.

 It requires long time and great effort for restoring skills and techniques once succession of a production method comes to an end. Countless years had passed since the last piece was fired, Fujimoto Gakuei, the 13th Hirado Tousyo, needed many technical solutions but had difficulties finding them before realizing the eggshell porcelain today. That was the time for him to explore the production method of the porcelain that amazed people in the world in the 19th century. That was also the time for him to know true craftsmanship of old Mikawachi.

 Fujimoto Gakuei tells us what made him decide to work on recreation of the eggshell porcelain.

“We had some pieces of eggshell porcelain at my home. I grew up seeing them but they looked simply pieces of thin ceramics to me then. However, after I had mastered the forming and firing skills, I realized that they were something very special. I realized how challenging it was for the potters in the old days to create such thin ceramics with firewood kilns. I could see their spirit and craftsmanship in the eggshell porcelain. That was when I wanted to try to make it, but it was too difficult for me at that time. Then I started researching on it.”

He also tells what the eggshell porcelain means to present day Mikawachi

“The eggshell porcelain ware I've seen outside Mikawachi were fakes made by slip casting, and even handcrafted pieces were not good in quality. In Mikawachi, however, the craftspeople here made truly brilliant eggshell pieces in the 19th century. That makes our identity that let us know who we are.”

The 13th Hirado Tousyo is a successor of the craftsmanship that has accumulated in Mikawachi for 400 years, which is a driving force for producing modern age masterpieces.

Hirado Tousyo

Hirado Egg-Shell Ware & Mikawachi Porcelain of Japan: 400 Years and Beyond