How Iga-yaki donabe is made

From Earth to Donabe

The clay of of Iga region comes from 4-million-year-old earth layers which used to be the bottom of Lake Biwa. From this special historic porous clay, which naturally has the high absorbency and heat retention, all the Iga-yaki (traditional Iga-style) pottery is made. Each of Nagatani-en’s Iga-yaki donabe is truly an artisanal piece of work. It takes about 2 weeks for a donabe to be made.

We would like to show you how donabe for everyday use is made in Nagatani-en through the photos of “Kamado-san” making process. Each “Kamado-san” donabe is born after a long process of care and detailed works by many experienced craftsmen.

Forming the clay

1. Forming the clay
By using the plaster mold, clay is formed into “Kamado-san”.
Shaving

2. Shaving
After the forming, each “Kamado-san” is shaved with a plane to make the rough surface.  By doing so, the surface area to which the heat will directly reach becomes wider.
Attaching ears

3. Attaching “ears”
The handles of donabe, called “ears”, are glued by the clay which is thinned with water.  The lady with the hat has been an expert of attaching ears for 20 years.
Drying

4. Drying
Before the first baking, “Kamado-san” is dried in the air for 1 week.  Because “Kamado-san” is made thicker than regular donabe, it’s important that it dries slowly.
First baking

5. First baking
The first baking is done in order to make “Kamado-san” solid after it’s dried.
First glazing

6. First glazing
Thin glaze is applied as a base.
Final glazing

7. Final glazing
Denser glaze is applied as a final touch.  It takes two people for this work.  One person glazes a “Kamado-san”, and other person wipes off the excess glaze as well as checks the final quality.
Final baking

8. Final baking
In the large gas oven, “Kamado-san” is baked for 12 hours, then cooled down for another 12 hours in the oven.
Out of the oven

9. Out of the kiln
Even after 12 hours of cooling down, these “Kamado-san” right out of the kiln are still very warm.
Inspection

10. Inspection
Once completely cooled down, each “Kamado-san” is carefully checked by expert eyes, then put into a box.  “Kamado-san” is now ready to ship.