Nerikomi Technique

Thivo at Work

The word Nerikomi is Japanese in origin. However the art of making fired vessels from myriad pieces of colored and stained clays has been practiced more broadly, and for far longer, than this accepted name would imply. In fact, Nerikomi of a sort was practiced by Egyptian, Roman and early French potters. And as an independent art form it probably reached its zenith during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries.

To create Nerikomi ware, clay is mixed with ceramic stains and metal oxides. The colored clays are rolled into slabs, then stacked, folded and pressed to form a log. Slices of the log are cut, stretched, twisted and arranged in a mold to form a vessel.

This technique allows the pattern to penetrate through the vessel wall so that the identical pattern is visible on both inside and outside the vessel. The formed vessel is allowed to dry to leather hard consistency when both the internal and external walls are painstakingly scraped to a uniform thickness. Forming, trimming and smoothing the vessel’s edges and any piercing of the walls of the vessel are also completed prior to bisque firing. Once fired, the vessel is carefully cleaned and inspected. Those vessels which pass this inspection are given a coat of transparent glaze and refired to provide a uniform and smooth transparent surface.

Nerikomi is a true thief of the artist’s time. Of all ceramic techniques, it is perhaps the most time consuming. Yet it offers limitless opportunities to create distinctive colored designs and patterns within each piece of work. For example, traditionally Nerikomi has been limited to the creation of functional objects. But Thivô has expanded its application to many beautiful sculptural forms and vessels.

Every piece is one-of-a-kind artwork. In some of Thivô’s work, holes of varying sizes and shapes, random or in patterned series, pierce the surfaces. She calls them “windows”. She compares them to the “windows” in landscapes, the hollows and gaps in trees, clefts in rocks, and cavities under big tree roots.

About Nerikomi, Thivô says. “Working with colored clays is a challenge and always difficult. Nevertheless, this technique allows me to uniquely integrate forms, surfaces, colors and contrasts. The translations of color and texture, and of light and shadow, literally move and change through the wall of each vessel”.