What’s “Blue and White” pottery and it’s history

“Blue and white pottery” are called “Sometsuke” in Japanese. Pottery and porcelain are decorated under the glaze with a blue pigment, generally cobalt oxide.

The following gallery shows my recent “Sometuke” works.

What is the “Gosu”

The cobalt pigment is one if of the very few that can withstand the highest firing temperatures that are required. Historically, many other colors required over glaze decoration and then a second firing at a lower temperature to fix it. This painting method is called “Uwaetsuke” (Over glaze painting)


The origin of this decorative style was imported from China.  White Chinese  stoneware with their own glazed, white pottery and added decorative motifs in blue glazes.

Blue and white decoration first became widely used in Chinese porcelain the 14th century.

Blue and white ware making is appearance in Japan.   Where it was known as sometsuke. Various forms and decorations were highly influenced by China, but later developed its own forms and styles.

Gosu and how to use of it

A variety of the “Gosu” are available from pottery supplier.  Blue, Black and also various colors of the gosu  is available.  Some of them are come as powder or paste.

In kyoto (Kiyomizu Yaki), a gosu is crushed by the grinding ball mill for a month.

How to use the gosu:                                                                                                              Use the gosu with tapped water or green tea.   Some pro pottery painter prefer using green tea over the water. If green tea is used, make sure that all tea waste are removed.

Green tea contains “tannin” component. This main green tea component will combine with cobalt oxide and become tannin oxide. The tannin oxide will work as adhesive.

How to mix own “Gosu” -Formulation example

Here’s formulation example:

  •  Cobalt oxide    20
  • Nickel oxide    10
  • Manganese dioxide 10
  • Kaolin 50

Please use as reference only and be careful to make at your own risk. The final results are not guaranteed. 

How to practice “Sometuke”  YouTube


How to improve your “Sometsuke” techniques

  • Use quality paint brush, need high quality fine point brush for line drawing (Known as “Kotsugaki”) and “Dami ” brush–a fat brush to paint wide area.
  • Grind gosu well with a mortar and pestle
  • Decorate a lot of works–More you do, become better

Travel to Tanba-pottery | One of six ancient pottery in Japan


Tanba Pottery is also named Tachikui Pottery after Tachikui, the place of its origin, with its origination being as far back as the last Heian-the early Kamakura period (1180-1230).

It is counted as one of the ancient six potteries in Japan with Seto, Tokoname, Shigaraki, Bizen and Echizen. Everyone is very fond of Tanba Pottery.

Indeed, anyone can see something of solid and elegant simplicity , coming from its simple and calm appearance and its typical dark brown or black glazing.

The “Sueno-Sato”  (Tanba Pottery village)  has very beautiful scenery, with green hills in the east and west, and cultivated fields between them, through which a stream, the Shitodani, runs down from north to south.

The kiln used here is of very unusual shape and is built on the sloping surface of a hill. It is inclined, and they call it “Nobori Gama”(Inclined-kiln).

Modern Tanba Pottery

A variety of pottery from 50 studios are on display for sale from traditional Tanba-yaki wares to modern artistic works at the “Kamamoto-Yokocho” (Ceramic Shop)

Ancient Tanba Pottery works

Some ancient Tanba pottery works are displayed at Hyougo Pottery Art museum in Tachikui.

Some of works were made back in 800 years ago at the Muromachi period.

Oldest Kilin in Tachikui district

The special kiln, “Nobori Gama”, which has been used here since Momoyama period, can be found nowhere else but Tachikui, and is so unique and old that the Government has added it to the Intangible Cultural Properties, so that this may remain forever.


The pottery makers at Tachikui are working with modesty and sincerity, living their lives as farmers, and as artists, keeping in their minds the pride of having inherited this kiln and soil for 800 years.