About Tokoname Clay By Thor Holvila

One of the reasons that Tokoname is famous for bonsai pots is the clay.
I have worked with it for a while now and I find it suitable for all kind of techniques as throwing, moulding and building. It also dries very fast, without starting to crack, which means that you can have a big production going without having to have a large storage. A game changer for a pottery.

What we actually refer to today as ”Tokoname clay”, when it comes to bonsai pots, is a blend produced by Tokoname Ceramicware Cooperative that comes in different colours and properties, but has clay from Seto as a base. * (see note at end of page) For Japanese people, Tokoname clay is synonymous with a red low fire clay used for the teapots that were manufactured here from the 19th century onward and became very popular since it was believed that the red clay added to the teas healthy properties. Today's Tokoname clay needs to be strong and fired stoneware at high temperature, therefore the mix with Seto clay. But most of the bonsai potters mix several Tokoname clays to get their own clay, and they usually consists of 2-3 different Tokoname clays




Shuuhou adding his secret ingredients to a mix of 3 different Tokoname clays.




The 3 different clays used by Shuuhou, same mix has been used for 3 generations.



The unique blend of Shuuhou is ready to use.

Today, the only one that can sell Tokoname clay is Tokoname Ceramicware Cooperative. To buy from them it requires that you are a member and a professional ceramist from Tokoname. When I talked with Mr Tanaka, who is in charge of the production, if it was possible to buy he agreed on a small amount. Larger quantities demands membership. * more info at the end of the page. 

I was fortunate to get the chance to visit the factory, thanks to Kataoka San, and was able to document the process of the clay from start to finish. I want to share this with you here. 



The red clay from the old rice fields dries in the sun.

3 out of 13 clays produced today at TCC that has been in use for hundreds of years. They are also the most common clays blended by the potter himself.



This clay has been used for over 1000 years here in Tokoname.




The clay is ground, cleaned and then mixed up with water.




Then its moulded into ”cakes” and pressed.



The red Tokoname clay ready for use.

Thanks to Tokoname Ceramicware Cooperative for letting us see and learn about the process and the clays.