Kutani 17 pot

Ishikawa Prefecture, located on the central west coast of the Japanese main island, is known for its fresh seafood and unique brand of locally grown Kaga vegetables, as well as being home to the magnificent Kenroku-en, one of the three great gardens of Japan. It is also an area with a rich cultural and artistic heritage, including the porcelain craft of Kutani. Produced mainly in the southern part of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kutani ware is a style of colorful glazed porcelain with a history that dates back to the middle of the 17th century. Well, according to a post on Japanese information compilation site Naver Matome, it seems that the traditional craft is now receiving some renewed attention, as it adapts to more modern tastes with bright, pop designs. And once we saw some of the pictures, we could understand why people were taking notice — the works are positively stunning, not to mention outrageously cute!

The Naver Matome article mentions that there are several factors that have allowed Kutani ware to “evolve” with the times. A huge factor has to be the willingness of Kutani workshops and designers to experiment and create innovative, modern designs while keeping the traditional techniques alive. Kutani ware may tend to be thought of as being classic and formal, something to be used on special occasions, but some of the workshops are aiming to produce Kutani that is more casual and suited for everyday  use. Below are some lovely examples.

▼These wares have simple designs, but with bright colors.Kutani 1 Gallery Suifuyo 1

Photo: Gallery Suifuyo 

▼These cups are also not elaborately decorated, but still have a pop look.Kutani 2 Gallery Suifuyo 2

Photo: Gallery Suifuyo

▼The prints on these plates are definitely cute and funky!Kutani 3 ama blog 1

Photo: ama gallery

▼And there are even designs involving skateboards!Kutani 6 skateboard

Photo: Kutani Choemongama Online Shop

▼The colorful illustrations on these boxes are adorable!Kutani 4 ama blog

Photo: ama gallery blog

▼Of course, you can’t go wrong with cat illustrations.Kutani 5 Fumikichi

Photo: Fumikichi

▼For comparison, this is what a more traditional Kutani piece looks like. Kutani 7 amazon

Photo: AMAZON.JP

Another factor that has given Kutani ware the versatility to adapt and appeal to a wider range of consumers is the Kutani sticker. While conventional Kutani techniques require artists to hand paint each picture onto the ware,  this sticker allows you to easily stick on various designs any way you like, and the result is practically indiscernible from traditionally crafted Kutani ware. Apparently, there are even workshops held periodically in different areas of Japan where you can learn how to create an original piece with the stickers.

▼These Kutani stickers allow you to “stick on and create” freely.Kutani 8 workshop seals

Photo : Kutani Seal News

▼Here’s a video that shows the process of using the Kutani stickers.

▼These wares are obviously for daily use, but the stickers  give them a fun, bright look. Kutani 9 bowl cup

Photo : Kutani Seal News

▼Western designs are also adorable, like the king on this plate. Kutani 10 plate king

Photo: Choemongama Online Shop

▼These mini-plates are decorated with horse images to commemorate the year of the horse in 2014.Kutani 11 horse small plates

Photo: Kutani Seal News

▼The delicate illustrations on these chopstick holders are also made with the Kutani stickers.Kutani 12 chopstick placers

Photo: Kutani Seal News

▼Some more animal images: Who would have thought that boars could be so cute?Kutani 13 tray boar 2

Photo: Claska Online Shop

▼This is another attractive sticker creation — the beige of the dog looks beautiful against the white of the plate and the sheep. Kutani 14 tray dog

Photo: Kutani Seal News

▼Snowmen and penguins look like a winning combination — but then, what else would you expect when you put two cute images together?Kutani 15 tray snowman

Photo: Kutani Seal News

▼This cup looks gorgeous with all the colorful small prints in different shapes.Kutani 16 cup

Photo: Kutani Seal News

▼What an exquisite-looking tea pot! Just seeing this pot is sure to make tea time a whole lot more fun.Kutani 17 pot

Photo: Kutani Seal News

Another aspect of Kutani ware that demonstrates the craft’s willingness to adapt is their collaboration with fictional characters, which has resulted in some adorable original works.

▼For example, there are Totoro mini-cups …Kutani 18 Totoro minicups

Photo: AMAZON.JP

▼… and Totoro plates as well, both products in lovely, soft pastel colors.Kutani 19 Totoro plates

Photo: Chikyuya Online Shop

▼Then there’s also the figure of superhero Ultraman made of Kutani porcelain …Kutani 20 Ultraman のコピー

Photo: Nomi City website

▼… and even a figure of Ultraman’s notable enemy, Alien Baltan.Kutani 21 Baltan Seijin

Photo: Nomi City website

So, what did you think of theses modern Kutani pieces? We thought they look amazing, and we hope  you enjoyed looking at the pictures as much as we did. Really, we had no idea traditional Japanese porcelain workshops were producing such unconventional-looking pieces,  so we have to say we were pleasantly surprised. If you’re ever in Ishikawa Prefecture, these could make for some awfully neat souvenirs. (Oh, and if you’re in Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, don’t forget to also taste some of the lovely sushi available in the city, and maybe even take a ride on a sushi taxi!) We look forward to seeing more exciting new products from the Kutani workshops, because we certainly liked what we saw, and in our opinion, there can never be too much “cute” in this world!

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)