The biometrics of ceramics.

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Do you know some potteries in Japan have unique fingerprints? If you are a potter, have you try playing with decorating the base of your ceramics works? In Japan, from reading the footing and the base, one can actually identify the origin and the makers of the piece.


I was super lucky to have the chance to learn from our friend, the Hassen Takatori family, about yet another interesting characteristic of Takatori ware. Takatori is historically reputable in making premium tea-ware under the guidance of tea master Kobori Enshuu for centuries. An important piece of teaware, prized by all tea practitioners is the tea canister call "cha-ire"茶入. (read Takatori background)


In Japan, pottery wheel turns clock-wise, while China and Korea throw counter-clockwise. After completing throwing a piece of work, instead of stopping the wheel and pull the wire cable to cut the piece off the hump like in the West, Japanese potters leave the wheel spinning and quickly pull a piece of thread to trim the work off the hump of clay. Takatori inherited a special trimming technique in pulling the thread to create a unique vortex / spiral mark at the bottom of the work, call "itokiri". This mark shows the direction of the wheel as well as the entry and exit point of the thread. For marks created from counter-clockwise-wheels, it is call "karamono itokiri" 唐物糸切りbecause of the Chinese influence. ("Karamono" means object from Tang Dynasty)。


Since everything is hand-thrown, each of the imprints is one-of-a-kind. This is the fingerprint of the ceramic piece, and it is applied only to tea canister. It takes tremendous skills to achieve these itokiri marks. Next time you pick up a Takatori tea canister, or attend a Japanese tea ceremony, pay attention to all the tea ware and you will find very interesting details in all of them.



LOVE visiting to Koishiwara, it's a trove of pottery intelligence! Looking forward to learn more!


Brainstorming iconic story of Takatori ware.


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