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Imari Ware

Arita is a town in Japan and from 1616 was one of the first sites in Japan to manufacture porcelain. They had a thriving export business, primarily focused on Europe and later to North America. The ware produced was a varying mixture of styles based on Chinese, Korean and Japanese porcelain and tempered to European ideas and tastes. 

Arita porcelain produced for Europe was exported from the city of Imari and Imari porcelain became the European collector's name for this ware. 

Earlier Imari ware had simple, hand painted blue decorations. Later the designs became more intricate and colorful with blue used to edge borders and backdrops. Afterward, other colours such as rust red, green, and gold were added and this iconic colour combination proved to be very popular in Europe. 

"Whilst ‘Imari’ is a generic term for the wares of the Arita region, there were distinct decorative styles linked to the location, kiln or clan-family that produced the ware. 

The best known styles are Ko-imari, and Iro-Nabeshima where the colour palette was restricted to red and blue, and the more colourful Kakiemon where the basic blue and red imari colours were supplemented by green, yellow and other colours. 

Gilding, catering to European tastes added richness to the ware. Motifs common in classical imari ware (and copied by European potters) include pine, prunus and bamboo, the chrysanthymum, and the crane."


See a Wikipedia article on Imari ware


Japanese (Arita) Imari Porcelain c.1700 



European Imari Ware

Made mostly for export to the West, Imari ware was also imitated by Chinese and European potters. By the 18th century there was so much Chinese Imari ware available in the export market that Japanese Imari became prohibitively expensive. 

European imitations of the oriental Imari Ware were quickly produced by the major European factories of Meissen and Vincennes and in the early 1800s the Worcester factory produced the first British ware copying the palette and design of the Japanese and Chinese ware. 

Other British manufacturers followed and in modern times the term ‘Imari’, has been applied to any porcelain decorated with the striking deep blue, red, green and gold colour palette and figurative motifs of the original Arita Wares. 

English factories such as Spode, Minton, and Worcester produced their own versions of Imari. With Royal Crown Derby becoming the best known European manufacturer of Imari-styled wares and a 2005 catalogue of theirs features ‘Japan (Old Imari) solid gold band giftware’.





Josiah Spode   Date: 1790-1820

A deep saucer decorated in the ‘Imari’ style and colour palette of cobalt blue, iron red and gold.

Royal Crown Derby Porcelain Co. Ltd   Date: 1900-1910

Typical Royal Crown Derby Imari Ware. This is pattern 2451 in the tableware range

courtesy: Pottery Histories
Images: Lema Publishing Ltd, publishers of ‘Tableware International’ www.tablewareinternational.com




Examples of Imari style ware produced by North Staffordshire (English) potters:



John Ridgway & Co    c.1830-55 produced ware in a wide range of Imari style patterns


Hicks & Meigh

Stephen Folch

George & Charles Mason

Francis Morley





C Hobson & Son

While many English pottery continued to produce quality, well decorated Imari-style ware the demand for low-cost ware resulted in decoration which was quickly executed. 

This example by Charles Hobson & Son is crudely decorated with heavy and imprecisely painted blue and orange areas and thick, varying gold lines.  

Over time, the term “Imari” came to mean any densely decorated, gilded porcelain featuring Oriental style motifs in vivid shades of gold, green, red, and underglaze blue.



crudely decorated trio by H. J. Colclough in a European Imari style pattern

This mass produced Imari style ware has a printed pattern with hand painted colouring and gilding. 

The often crudely applied transparent colour allows the print to show through. 

Cobalt blue is applied as accents. 


photos courtesy: Paul Bonas






Wild & Adams

George Procter & Co 

Diamond Pottery Co




George Jones

Blyth Porcelain

Doric China Co




C Hobson

Thomas Forester

Thomas Bevington





Hanley Porcelain Co

Royal Albion China

Lingard, Webster & Co




c. 1870-87










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