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Identifying forgery  &  Restoring broken pottery

Fakes :
When antiques are admired and collected with a handsome pay, forgeries emerge.
I saw many bad fakes on occasion.  And now it happens more often on the Internet sales.

    Fakes usually shows its slight sneakiness in appearance and some details  (even on a bargain price tag)

    This vase was from an Internet auction.  If you have never seen authentic Momoyama Iga vases before, you could easily be fooled.  The vase (above) is slightly short for this type of vase and the handles are of poor quality.  The wood ash effect doesn't look natural and some chemical make-up seems to have been put on to make it appear like old patina.
    In my opinion, it was forged in a small gas kiln.

Genuine Iga flower vase

<28.6cm h.>
Momoyama Period (1573-1615)
Collection of
Tokyo National Museum


    Despite clay and glaze are as almost same as four centuries ago, this 'Black Oribe' (2 images on the left) look suspicious in many details.  Because modern-day fakers are after easy money-making and don't seem to have a right mind-set for reproducing real Momoyama vessels.  I once met a forger who was trying to copy Momoyama style on an electric wheel(not a kickwheel?!) and in his electric kiln(not even wood-fired??).  I saw many fakes like this weak bowl were everywhere in his studio.
    Although it is said that beauty and ugliness have one origin, the genuine 'Black Oribe' (on the right) shows us its eternal charm, while the faked 'Oribe' charm seems to fade very quickly.

Here's two 'Echizen' spouted jars. <approx. 19.0cm h.>   Both are genuine.
Question:  What's the difference then?
Answer:     One on the left was made in late Edo Era (early 19th century) and the other was made over a century later (late 20th century).
See a couple of different firing techniques have been applied on them.

Kintsugi :
'Kin-tsugi' (gold joint) is one of traditional restoring methods for cracked ceramics.
Instead of concealing damages, it gives a new look to broken treasures.

Imari Dish
<15.5cm d.>
Edo Period (early 17th century)

Black Oribe Tea Bowl
Momoyama Period (1573-1615)

Karatsu Sake Cup
<5.7cm h. 7.6cm d.>
Momoyama Period (early 17th century)

    When I was still at university, I used to visit Nara (an ancient capital of Japan).  I always stayed at the same old inn near Todai-ji (Great Eastern temple).  The inn was old enough to collapse at any time but was cheap enough for me to stay twice longer than in usual hostels.   So my small budget could spend on Zen temples and museums to visit, and afford some small antiques.
    There, I met an elderly restorer for 'National Treasures of Shosoin'.  People called him 'Sensei' (master) with admiration.  Despite our big generation gap, we shared the same interest in antiques.  His professional and scholarly knowledge opened my eyes to real antiquities and helped me to understand more.
    One day, I was asked to go to an old lacquer supplier in Oaska and pick up some materials for his restoration work.  The following day, he taught me how to handle 'ki-urushi' (raw lacquer) and pure gold powder with other traditional restoring methods.  That was how I learnt this old restoring skills called 'kin-tsugi'.  I didn't know what I was going to do with the skills I learnt at that time, but liked the idea of giving a second life to vessels once thought to be dead.
    Later I learnt the old inn was a lurking place among famous scholars and artists.

    Since then I have been restoring many broken ceramics with 'kin-tsugi' and occasionally get a commission to restore old broken porcelain and pottery. I am also asked to identify Japanese antiques for museums, art dealers and private collectors.
    I feel very strange that after decades my knowledge and 'kin-tsugi' became really useful.

. . . And Go Beyond

    Some are not only restored but also given a new meaning of life.

Yobi-tsugi :
    This method has been developed for imperfect treasures. Instead of lost original pieces, some similar sherds are needed to replace them.

Tea Bowl "Gojyusan-tsugi"
<8.5cm h.>
The similar sherds from Momoyama-kiln sites
have been assembled in the 20th century.

    This cylindrical Shino bowl is named after the 53 inn-places on "Tokaido", the main route which used to run between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto.  Because the bowl was lacquer-glued together with many sherds and made into one tea bowl.  Most 16th century sherds were recovered from old kiln excavations.

Tomo-naoshi :
A repair with only original pieces is called 'tomo-naoshi' or 'tomo-zukuroi'.

Tea Bowl "Jyumonji"
<14.9cm x 14.1cm d. 8.0 cm h.>
Ri Dynasty (15th-16th century)
Mitsui Bunko Museum (Tokyo)

This tea bowl was once owned by the famous samurai tea master, Furuta Oribe (1544-1615).  The name "Jyumonji" (cross) was given after Oribe cut down an over-sized bowl. Interestingly, Oribe was one of earliest Christians in the 16th century feudal Japan.

I have a small 'Kintsugi' workshop in my flat and accept damaged or broken ceramics which is needed to be restored.  More information can be found from my new website 'kintsugi-vessels.com', is due to launch soon.  Please send me your email with detailed photos of broken ceramics, if my advice is needed.  (Gas)

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