Tea Bowl Series—Kiseto

< 'Seto' is the name of one of the Six ancient Kilns of Japanese history. Based in Owari Province (now know as Aichi), there are legends that Kato Shirozaemon Kagemasa studied high firing techniques while traveling in China, and brought these teachings back to the Seto area in 1223 a.d. To make a long story short, (there is plenty to study on line)- the pottery of this region became so popular that and widespread that the word 'Seto' became synonymous for ceramics made in Japan. Kiseto is the term used for the yellow type of this ceramic. This color and style was developed in the 1600's- Momoyama period. Porcelain clay is thrown, bisque fired, glazed, then fired again to 2,300 degrees F'. The pieces have a warm buttery rich color to them as they leave the kiln. A mat finish is found on pieces that were fired to a lower temperature (under fired). The pieces that were fired to the appropriate degree are shinier. Objects look as if they have been carved from blocks of creamy yellow butter by Tibetan Monks. Rich green glaze can blush in places or drip down the sides. Tea people love this and look for these cascades of green pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Sometimes the glaze does not 'fit' the bowl and small interlacing cracks develop adding even more interest. Late at night if the house is very quiet and there is a bowl or other object at hand, one can be lucky enough to hear a tiny 'ping' noise as a new crack fractures into the latticework of the glaze. This happens due to a change in air pressure, or a slight drop in temperature. Kiseto bowls are soft to the touch and a pleasure to hold. Sen no Rikyu favored such a bowl.

It has a quiet beauty and elegance that words fall short in describing. There is a bewitching quality about Kiseto that makes it a classic in any collection of Tea utensils. Great museums throughout the world have also amassed examples of this beautiful ceramic style to display in their glass cases. It is still possible to buy good Kiseto ware…I better start saving; this is going to hurt my wallet.

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