The distinguishing features of Kutani porcelain are the intricate pictures and patterns which are painted onto it. Mr. Inagaki uses the five classic Kutani colors (green, yellow, purple, dark blue and red), and adds a few modern colors of his own. His particular skill is drawing fine and delicate lines, and painting beautiful colors and patterns, onto small surfaces, with painstaking ability and concentration. These accessories will really spice up your fashion look!
There may be regional differences in clay texture and color, but the production process behind porcelain art is very similar all over the world. Clay is basically made up of powdered rock and sand: the production process consists of clay forming, drying, firing, painting, enameling, glazing, painting and firing. For porcelain mass-production, different workers will oversee different parts of the process. However, Mr. Inagaki is rare amongst porcelain artisans in that he does the whole process single-handedly, starting with body shaping. From the very start, the way in which the clay is formed will determine the shape, size, weight and durability of the finished item. He plans and thinks through all of these aspects meticulously.
Porcelain differs from pottery in a number of ways. It is made from a fine-grained white clay called kaolin, while pottery is made from common clay. Porcelain is fired to a higher temperature than pottery. It is translucent and “whiter” than pottery. It is non-porous, unlike pottery. When struck, porcelain makes a clear metallic sound, whereas pottery makes a dull sound.
After forming, the porcelain is dried out and heated (unglazed firing). A glaze called Gosu* is applied. The five Kutani colors are then applied and the porcelain is fired to finish it off. Mr. Inagaki draws inspiration for the shapes of his fashion accessories from traditional Japanese good-luck charms (first used in this country over 2000 years ago). He also uses antique-style patterns: round, oval, butterfly, or crescent shapes, decorated with leaves and flowers. The combination of unique shapes and designs with Kutani colors imbues each piece with a powerful spirituality.
*Gosu is a blue-colored paint consisting of cobalt oxide. When it is fired, it turns a dark blue (almost black). The contrast of the dark matt background with bright glossy Kutani colors is stunning.
After the clay is formed, it is dried and fired unglazed. Its body mass shrinks by about 10%.
This picture illustrates the painting process. From right to left, the colors are added. The smallest shapes are about 1cm across.
Kutani color samples, without red (green, yellow, dark blue and purple). The artisan uses different clays to see how the color turns out after firing for each one.