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Antique Japanese Moriage

satsuma moriage example

The raised lines you can see on this Ginger Jar are a great example of Satsuma Moriage.

Moriage is the term used to describe the fine and delicate layering or placing of clay on pieces of pottery. The type clay that is used for this method is known as "slip" and is thicker and stickier than the clay used for the actual item.  The Japanese potters of centuries ago were enthused with this method and used it to create many brilliant designs over the years.  This technique was not just used by the Japanese potters though, it is a method of decorating fine porcelain and pottery that has been adopted all over the world.

In the case of Satsuma pottery, the clay was often added in small bumps, circles or lumps to decorate the piece. On a satsuma vase for instance, you will see small raised dots, often painted a different color (such as white). These are the moriage layers that are build up slowly as the piece is made, fired during each layer and then more raised areas are added before the piece is finished.

It is also possible that the moriage designs were made as separate mouldings and then applied to the Satsuma pieces.  However, this practice is more likely with more modern pieces.  Beading is also used quite heavily on this style of pottery too, with small dots of clay added to make raised bumps that are then painted when the piece has been fired and completed.  These raised areas on the pottery add to the overall design, making them more decorative and unique, compared to just a painted piece.  The combination of hand painted designs, moriage and beading make some of the Satsuma pieces very collectible and valuable.

Other types of pottery from Japan also used this method of decoration too. Dragonware pottery is famed for it's intricate dragon designs that stand up and are raised from the piece, all classed as moriage pottery. The shame about this kind of decoration is that it can be easily damaged over time and break off. Also some of the paint work, gilding or color can rub off if the pieces are not kept in good condition.  Often, with Dragonware tea sets especially, the moriage areas are often where the handles are, which can lead to some areas becoming damaged, just through daily use.