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satsuma

Satsuma Pottery

Satsuma pottery was made in or around Kagoshima in Kyushu, Japan in the later part of the 19th century through to the early 1920's in Satsuma in southern Japan.

It is also known that in the same location, there were kilns making pottery going as far back as the 16th century - so the location on the southern island of Japan was already steeped in pottery making history.

Why is it called "Satsuma"?

The term Satsuma, derived from the location where they were made then became the way that the pottery was described.  A typical piece if Satsuma pottery will be of a yellowy complexion and usually decorated with intricate and minute Japanese figures, landscapes and even dragons.

The designs also feature a form of decoration called moriage which is a term used to describe the use of raised enamel of Japanse pottery.

How was Satsuma Pottery made?

The clay used to make the Satsuma Pottery also differs depending on the location the item was made. For example, the clay used from the Kyushu area gives a darker tone to the pottery where as clay used from Kyoto gives a lighter appearance. The darker clay from Kyushu also allows the crackled glaze to have a darker, more pronounced appearance.

The Satsuma pottery business was also in full effect to mass produce many pieces of earthenware for export to Europe and America and there more perhaps more than 20 factories producing the pottery.  Therefore the majority of the pottery items from this location may be low quality and common but there were also makers of amazing fine pottery at the same time too.

satsuma saucer marking

The process for making Satsuma Pottery in Japan typically involves several steps:

Preparing the Clay: A mixture of Kaolin, Feldspar, and Bone Ash is used to create the unique, light-colored clay used in Satsuma Pottery. The clay is then molded by hand into the desired shape.

Biscuit firing: The piece is then fired at a low temperature to harden the clay and to remove any excess moisture.

Glazing: A clear glaze is applied to the surface of the fired piece to give it a smooth and glossy finish.

Hand Painting: The piece is then decorated by hand with intricate designs and motifs using enamel paints.

Final Firing: The painted Satsuma Pottery is then fired again at a higher temperature to help fuse the glaze and paint to the surface.

Finishing: Finally, after the last firing, the pottery may be further polished or given a gold or silver trim to complete the decorative process.

This manual process is hard to replicate by using machines, stamped or printed designs. You will only get a true antique masterpiece when it is created, painted and finished by hand.

Why is Satsuma Pottery popular?

There are several things that Satsuma Pottery is famous for and can be identified using these things.  The pottery nearly always has a cracked glaze and it also does not ring when tapped like some other china pottery does. 

The craqueleuer of the glaze was done on purpose by the maker and is not a sign of the age of the piece as many people think.  The early pieces of pottery made in the Satsuma region were covered in a thick heavy glaze and the pieces are very rare and are seldom found at auction.

These earlier pieces do not feature many surface designs.  The highly collectible decorated pieces were made in the 19th and 20th century.

Another hallmark of the Satsuma vase, bowl or piece of pottery is the design that adorns the piece.  Lavished with scenes of Japan, the images are tiny and intricate and are possibly the most fascinating thing about the vases you can buy.

Images of people, immortals, dragons, flowers, landscapes, birds and events are all hand painted onto the pottery surface and then a light glaze is put over the surface which then cracks slightly.  These items are very beautiful pieces and are very collectible.

The factories and makers of Satsuma also produced smaller pieces such as bowls and geisha buttons which are also hand painted with the most amazing intricate images.  The small sets of satsuma pottery buttons are highly collectible too and are a perfect addition to any satsuma collection.

Some quick buying tips for the Satsuma collector

When buying a Satsuma bowl, vase or piece if satsuma pottery, the marking on the piece will usually denote the name of the factory or company who has produced the item.

Due to the fact that there were so many makers of this fine china and export pottery, the markings will vary from piece to piece. If the item has the words "ROYAL SATSUMA" or the word Satsuma written in English, then it will be a fake, made for the mass market and possibly made in China.

hand painted made in japan satsuma marking
Not a good sign if you are looking for an authentic antique Satsuma Piece.

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Antique Japanese Jar W Lid Satsuma Meiji Koro Gold Gild Pottery Porceline
Antique Japanese Jar W Lid Satsuma Meiji Koro Gold Gild Pottery Porceline
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Satsuma Pottery Vase Japan Samurai Swordsman Hand Painted Asian Japanese Antique
Satsuma Pottery Vase Japan Samurai Swordsman Hand Painted Asian Japanese Antique
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antique Japanese satsuma pottery vase
antique Japanese satsuma pottery vase
£127.70

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Japanese Satsuma Pottery Vase Kinkozan Awata Ware C 1840 Edo Period
Japanese Satsuma Pottery Vase Kinkozan Awata Ware C 1840 Edo Period
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Antique Signed HAYAKAWA Japanese Meiji SATSUMA Pottery Vase w Figures Mountain
Antique Signed HAYAKAWA Japanese Meiji SATSUMA Pottery Vase w Figures Mountain
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Japanese antique pottery satsuma Vase  EDO Gosu Blue Shimazu Mon
Japanese antique pottery satsuma Vase EDO Gosu Blue Shimazu Mon
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Antique Signed HAYAKAWA Japanese Meiji SATSUMA Pottery Vase w Figures Mountain
Antique Signed HAYAKAWA Japanese Meiji SATSUMA Pottery Vase w Figures Mountain
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Japanese antique pottery satsuma Vase Koro Jar  EDO Gosu Blue Shimazu Mon
Japanese antique pottery satsuma Vase Koro Jar EDO Gosu Blue Shimazu Mon
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Antique Japanese Meiji Period Matsumoto Hozan Satsuma Pottery Tri Footed Censer
Antique Japanese Meiji Period Matsumoto Hozan Satsuma Pottery Tri Footed Censer
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satsuma

Satsuma Bowl

If you are looking to buy a Satsuma bowl, then you are in for a real treat.  These small pieces of Japanese pottery originally made in the 19th century on the southern island of Japan are highly collectible and beautiful items.

The bowls come in various different shapes and sizes and feature the classic and well known style of decoration that has made the satsuma name, method and items like the bowls such as the satsuma buttons popular.  In fact, the bowls and smaller items may be less valuable due to their size, but the designs and decoration is often more intricate and beautiful than the larger pieces of satsuma pottery.

The Satsuma style of pottery has been made in Japan for hundreds of years and can be best described as a thin, transparent, cracked glaze over a finely decorated piece of creamy or beige pottery.  This style of bowl was also mass produced in the Japanese region and was exported all over the globe.

One of the things that has made Japanese Satsuma pottery so popular is the designs that adorn the surface of the items.  It is common for the pieces from the 19th and 20th century to be heavily illustrated and decorated with scenes from Japan featuring people or animals or Japanese landscapes.  You might think that a small bowl was not able to be decorated in the way, but the amazing artwork on the Satsuma bowls is amazing.  Using gold, raised enamel and minute images, these bowls are amazing collectors items and look beautiful as part of any display.

Some of the Satsuma bowls have handles which might indicate that they were actually used to serve food or store items for carrying.  There are also bowls that are larger in design and feature a lid and handles, making them look more like a jar than a bowl.

Due to the number of makers of this style of Japanese pottery, there are many identifying marks on the pieces you will find at auction.  Also, as the items were mass produced and also copied by other countries such as China, a good rule of thumb is that if the item says SATSUMA on the bottom - then it is not originally from Japan.  Many makers and copiers of the Satuma style thought that putting the word SATSUMA on the base of any fine pottery item that looked as if it was made in the same way or from the same location as all of the other, more expensive bowls, vases and plates that people would think it was authentic.

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Antique Japanese Satsuma Lobed Bowl Shimazu Clan Signed Meiji Figural Florals 7
Antique Japanese Satsuma Lobed Bowl Shimazu Clan Signed Meiji Figural Florals 7
$49.99
Antique 19thC Japanese Satsuma Detailed Signed Painted Bowl NR
Antique 19thC Japanese Satsuma Detailed Signed Painted Bowl NR
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Rare Japanese Meiji Satsuma Bowl W Handle By Kinkozan
Rare Japanese Meiji Satsuma Bowl W Handle By Kinkozan
$2,999.00

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Japanese Satsuma Bowl signed
Japanese Satsuma Bowl signed
$8.02
Japanese Satsuma bowl Meiji Period Signed
Japanese Satsuma bowl Meiji Period Signed
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Antique Japanese Satsuma Porcelain Bowl Hand Enamel  Gold Decorated 12 Stand
Antique Japanese Satsuma Porcelain Bowl Hand Enamel Gold Decorated 12 Stand
$100.00

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Important Japanese Meiji Satsuma Bowl By Yabu Meizan
Important Japanese Meiji Satsuma Bowl By Yabu Meizan
$2,999.00
Antique Japanese Meiji Period Matsumoto Hozan Satsuma Pottery Tri Footed Censer
Antique Japanese Meiji Period Matsumoto Hozan Satsuma Pottery Tri Footed Censer
$495.00
Japanese Satsuma Porcelain Bowl Blue Cobalt Glaze Gold Gilt Marked Koshida
Japanese Satsuma Porcelain Bowl Blue Cobalt Glaze Gold Gilt Marked Koshida
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satsuma

Satsuma Buttons

One of the more intricate and beautiful types of Japanese Pottery you will find are the sets of Satsuma Buttons.  These porcelain or earthenware pottery buttons are amazingly tiny sewing buttons adorned with beautiful images in the style that the Satsuma region on the southern island of Japan is famous for.

Measuring roughly only 1 inch in diameter, the satsuma button is designed to be sewn on to clothing and features an intricate image or design on the surface.  The design of the buttons often features images of plants or flowers that are native to Japan.  Some buttons also feature images of faces or landscapes and buildings.  The buttons have a hole post on the rear that allows them to be attached to clothing.

The button are all decorated and painted by hand by the skilled craftsmen that made the other Japanese Satsuma pottery such as vases and bowls and the same skill and care went into theses items as went into the larger pieces.  Using an array of colors and the heavy use of gold enamel, these tiny buttons really spring to life.  The artists also employed the use of raised enamel too which makes the buttons ever more pretty and detailed.

The buttons follow the usual method of manufacture that has made the Satsuma pottery very collectible all over the world.  The pottery is of an off white or creamy color and is heavily decorated and covered with a thin translucent glaze which is then deliberately cracked through over heating to give the hall mark look and design to the pottery.  The cracks are known as Kannyu. These hallmarks are the same on a Satsuma Vase.

Often available in sets of 6, these antique kimono buttons may have been made for the Japanese Geisha girls or ladies of higher standing.  Sold as a complete set, it would be possible that the buttons were designed to fit a standard piece of clothing such as a Kimono or coat.  The sets of buttons were also sold attached to a piece of card with thread - so finding an antique set of these with the original card still attached would be highly sought after.

As some of these antique satsuma buttons are quite rare, it is important that you check they are from the region of Satsuma or Osumi.  It is common for buttons to be made by copiers of the style and design as they were so popular when they were made hundreds of years ago.  The original satsuma mark is often a circle with a cross inside followed by the name of the maker underneath, although not always.  Satsuma is the name given to Japanese pottery that was created in that area of Japan, so there may be items that are not what they seem.

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LOVELY BOXED SET OF VTG JAPANESE SATSUMA POTTERY BUTTONS A31
LOVELY BOXED SET OF VTG JAPANESE SATSUMA POTTERY BUTTONS A31
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ANTIQUE SIGNED PAINTED MEIJI ERA SATSUMA CERAMIC W LOVELY FLOWERS 3 4
ANTIQUE SIGNED PAINTED MEIJI ERA SATSUMA CERAMIC W LOVELY FLOWERS 3 4
$50.00
Vintage Hand Painted Satsuma Porcelain Buttons
Vintage Hand Painted Satsuma Porcelain Buttons
$22.00

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PRETTY VTG SATSUMA POTTERY BUTTON W LILAC IRIS FLOWER B6
PRETTY VTG SATSUMA POTTERY BUTTON W LILAC IRIS FLOWER B6
$3.99
Awesome Trio of Japanese Satsuma Buttons with Maple Leaf Branches
Awesome Trio of Japanese Satsuma Buttons with Maple Leaf Branches
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Antique Vintage Japanese Satsuma Buttons Lot 6 Faces Jewelry DIY
Antique Vintage Japanese Satsuma Buttons Lot 6 Faces Jewelry DIY
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Lovely Pair of Antique Hand Painted Japanese Satsuma Buttons w Wisteria Florals
Lovely Pair of Antique Hand Painted Japanese Satsuma Buttons w Wisteria Florals
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VINTAGE HAND PAINTED SATSUMA CERAMIC W 7 GODS ON ONE BUTTON 1 3 8
VINTAGE HAND PAINTED SATSUMA CERAMIC W 7 GODS ON ONE BUTTON 1 3 8
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ANTIQUE HAND PAINTED MEIJI ERA SATSUMA CERAMIC W LOVELY FLOWERS HM SILVER 13 16
ANTIQUE HAND PAINTED MEIJI ERA SATSUMA CERAMIC W LOVELY FLOWERS HM SILVER 13 16
$60.00