Japanese Bizen-yaki Oil Pot | Abura Tsubo

Japanese ceramics have long been part of western museums and art collections from the postwar decades on, as Japanese pottery techniques and concepts exerted profound influence on ceramic art outside Japan.

Bizen, one of the six major kiln production/sites has a history going back some one thousand years to the Heian period (794-1185), when the ware was already gaining in recognition. At the end of the Muromachi period (1392-1573), the rustic, undecorated qualities of this ware met with particular favor among the tea ceremony enthusiasts, resulting in the making of many tea bowlstokkuri (sake pourers), guinomi (sake cups) and hana and abura (flower and oil) jars for everyday use. The creative process during firing often produced unexpected changes of color and surface effect. It is, in a sense, a “natural art”, as no two pieces of Bizen-yaki ware are the same.

This Bizen abura tsubo has a narrow neck and mouth on a flattened-round base, and has a carved crescent moon shape on the underside. Bizen ware does not employ chemical glazing, for the clay has a lot of iron content. The color variation of this piece ranges from red to mottled ochre-brown, which is achieved by the use of natural ingredients when fired, mainly pine trees. The colors of this piece, as noted are uncontrolled and result from the location of the kiln, the ash, and general firing factors such as temperature and wood used in the firing. Its natural look and warmth are expressive of the very earth from which it came. The piece is in excellent condition. Approximate Age: 1934. Unsigned. Dimensions: 10-0” dia. x 4 ½”h

Note: Although this piece is classified as a Bizen-yaki Abura Tsubo (oil pot) we personally think it is a flower vase (hana tsubo) because of its weight and size. Many pieces in this style are found in the Japanese tokonoma carrying a single bloom or branch.

Sadly, the kiri wood box that contained the piece was destroyed, and only the identification tag remains. It translates: Bizen orange-red pot. There is no standard signature, but in our opinion, the crescent moon shape that was deliberately carved into the bottom of the piece seems to be the artist signature, and similar to the traditional stamp that was often used. Unfortunately we cannot find any information on the subject.

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