Design decisions

Just a few undeveloped thoughts about the cups…

Since the variety of designs is amazing, how were the designs decided upon? Stamped patterns were made by professional artists and relied on some set patterns. But who decided on those patterns? Why do some design elements appear on the right side and then on the left side on other cups? Is this random?

And how about the combinations of symbols? Do blossoms with helmets mean something different than blossoms with flags? Or is this, too, a random choice of the artist? One collector whom I know concentrates on a single design: the Imperial kikusui (water and mum). Thanks to his focus, I have noticed an incredible number of variants to this single symbol. Can we attribute these to the whims of the artists? Or do the variations carry a multitude of nuanced meanings?

Take a look at this beautiful cup.

Electric Lighting Skills

Electric Lighting Skills

(Inscribed ‘Electric Lighting Technical Skills, Graduation Commemorative, Heavy Artillery Firing Academy.’)

There are quite a few symbols here: crane, turtle, star, cannons, and bolts of energy. The latter was a stroke of genius because it adds incredible vibrancy and power to what was otherwise an ordinary cup. But aside from that, the artist made a concious decision to include all the rest. Did he make it on his own? Was he shown what design to make?

How about this one:

Tachiarai Air Corps 

The artist left his name on this one (marked in red). His design is simple: a plane, clouds, and trees. The latter are probably pine trees, a symbol of endurance. Simple, yes, but how elegant! The plane rises, and the clouds billow into a soft frame that highlights the plane. Was the artist given free reign here, such as ‘Hey, Hattori, your next project is a cup from the Tachiarai Air Corps. Make it nice.’ Or was he told what to include? Or did he look at a collection of possible designs and just pick one–or take elements from a few and combine them on his own?

Take a look at these flags:

Crossed flags appear often on cups and other items. They are used as a symbol of celebration. But these flags appear distorted. Was the artist unskilled? Does the unusual shape mean something? Or is it a somewhat abstract version of the flags?

I suppose I could go on and on asking the same types of questions. It seems no obvious answers will come without doing research, such as interviewing kiln workers and other people associated with porcelain production.

Published in: on September 26, 2008 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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