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Dragonware and Moriage Pottery

During the late 19th century, techniques used by the makers and styles of oriental pottery such as Satsuma and Dragonware began to evolve and progress as the potters became more skilled and had access to better and more advanced machinery and kilns.

The use of Moriage is widespread throughout the range of Japanese and Chinese pottery that has been available over the last 200 years. Moriage is the term used to describe the layering of small beads or lines of slip clay onto the surface of the pottery, vase or bowl which is then glazed over to leave a relief that can be felt and seen. The Moriage beads were often painted gold after the glaze had been applied, giving the pottery item a unique and special finish. The beads were all placed onto the pottery by hand before it was fired in the kiln. Later, when the mass production of such items was started, the addition of the slip clay beads was replaced by adding small dots of enamel which speeded up the production time of each of the items.

Moriage was also taken one step further and was used to create pottery vases and barrels that have heavily stylized relief designs. Pottery such as Dragonware featured this style and method heavily. The term Dragonware is used to describe a pot or vase that has an oriental dragon motif that has been built up using fine layers of slip clay, making a deep relief of the dragon or serpent that curls around the outside of the piece of pottery. Slip clay is a thick liquid clay that is used to make porcelain and pottery. The Dragonware was then painted in bright colors with scenes or images of Japanese or Oriental life, and the dragons were usually left with a minimal or white coloring. Although it began to be made in the late 19th century, Dragonware is still made today and is still very popular, being exported all over the world.

The raised, 3 dimensional parts of the moriage and Dragonware pieces were often added to the pottery using a technique known as slipwork. This involves mixing the clay with water to form a runny substance which is then poured into a shaped mold and allowed to set for a period of time before being added to the pottery just before the firing process.

Some of the Dragonware and beaded moriage pottery may not be marked, painted with or stamped with the mark of the designer or factory where it was made. It was common for pieces of Nippon pottery to have a small paper label applied which may have now been lost or destroyed.