The History of Japanese ceramic tile, pottery, and earthenware

Like us, you’ve undoubtedly been blown away by Japanese art. No material has a richer history than ceramic, and Japanese ceramic work has been a staple in design for thousands of years. Ceramic has been used as a base for several creative art forms since the genesis of aesthetic architecture itself. Defined as, “heated clay made into earthenware, porcelain, or brick,” ceramic is stunning in its organic composition. Take a journey with us as we uncover the colorful backstory of Japanese ceramic tile and ware. Learn how the process has evolved over time. 始めましょう! (Let’s get started!)

Read article

04 / 08 / 2022

Back to the Beginning

 Japanese ceramic is old – and we mean really old. The first evidence of functional ceramic dates back to the Neolithic period (a.k.a. the stone age). Earthenware is also ancient, as it was created in the early Jōmon period between 10,500–300 BC. It’s easy to see why Japanese craftsmen take so much pride in the history of their work.


Treasured Traditions

 The ceramic method is deeply cherished, a part of several esteemed traditions. For example, ceramic pottery and stoneware are integral parts of the classic Japanese tea ceremony. Plus, ceramic tiles have been used for practical purposes, like roofing and interior design. Japanese tiles were first used in the 6th and 7th centuries, and they’re still super popular today! It’s not hard to fall in love with the timeless allure of ceramic.

Japanese Colorful Pottery – Bowls

Majestic Materials: Toki vs Jiki

 Let’s get into the specifics of Japanese ceramic. Naturally, there are several different kinds of ceramic ware. The main two categories are, “Toki” and “Jiki.” Toki refers to pottery while Jiki means porcelain. Japanese porcelain is a vitrified version of ceramic, made with crushed pottery stone.

Toki (pottery) can be split into two main groups: “Doki” and “Sekki.” Doki is earthenware and Sekki is stoneware. What’s the difference between earthenware and stoneware? It’s simple! Stoneware is baked at a higher temperature for a more resilient surface. The wide array of ceramic-based materials has something for everyone.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again!)

 Japan is the ultimate destination for ceramic enthusiasts, as the country is home to the oldest ceramic on the planet. Ceramic has been used for both practical and aesthetic purposes, so it’s no wonder the material has stood the test of time. However, while ceramic has had a major resurgence in recent years, there was a time when its popularity waned. In the early 20th century, the restriction of international trade and cultural exchange affected the Japanese ceramic industry. Today, Japanese earthenware and pottery is more revered than ever, with handcrafted ceramic tile serving as a foundation for modern homes across the globe.


Wabi-Sabi: Imperfectly Modern

 Looking for the ultimate Japanese home décor inspo? The concept of Wab-sabi is a Japanese philosophy that has been applied to interiors for centuries. Often referred to as the birth of minimalism, Wabi-sabi was a response to the overly ornamental décor movement that preceded. A rejection of lavishness and excess, Wabi-sabi made way for Japandi and other international minimalist movements.

What makes Wabi-sabi applicable to ceramic décor? Wabi-sabi embraces the perfection of imperfection. Ceramic materials are beautiful for their natural state, complete with charming imperfect details. When clay is handcrafted and fired without mass-production machinery, it retains a one-of-a-kind appearance that adds to its visual character. If you ask us, we LOVE the look of an organic interior full of unique details!


A Blend of Color & Minimalism

 While Wabi-sabi might be focused on doing more with less, Japanese ceramic comes in a wide variety of colors and designs. Vibrant and detailed or sleek and simple, Japanese ceramics have surely transformed over the years. Ancient Japanese ceramic ware was full of ornate patterns and vivid colors, but functionality and a cleaner look crept up over time. These days, you can find both Japanese pottery and ceramic tiles in a wide array of both ancient designs and modern displays. One thing’s for sure, every piece of Japanese ceramic earthenware tells an exceptional story.

Agave blue 2×8 ceramic subway tiles from Zia Tile.

Add Ceramic Tile & History to Your Space

 Japanese ceramic ware may be the oldest form of clay art and décor, but it’s not the only material with an intriguing history. Clay-based tile and stoneware has been a structural staple all over the world. Our Moroccan zellige tiles tell their own unique story, as well as our high-fired ceramics that are developed in a potter’s village outside of Nagoya. No matter which loo or origin story speaks to you, turn your home into a space with a rich cultural narrative.

Related Posts