A compass from a Japanese ship dated 1957 is possibly from a wrecked fishing boat. Such brass compasses are sought after by collectors. This one is on sale for $1275 at Yelverton Antiques, Motueka, (03) 528 0045.
The word cloisonné refers to the fine metal wires separating the coloured enamels that make up the scenes on these Japanese vases. The mini masterpieces look as though they are painted, but closer inspection shows the cloisonné that captures and separates each tiny piece of enamel.
From the same era, Satsuma ceramics are hand-painted in equally exquisite detail and are the best known of several styles of Japanese porcelain and pottery named after the region in which they were made. Others include Imari and Kutani.
The golden age of Japanese enamelware and ceramics is considered to be 1880 to 1914, from the time when Japan opened itself to trade with the outside world but before mass production reduced the quality and artistry of its wares.
Elaine Strachan of Heritage House Antiques is an Aucklander who has studied this period and written a book entitled My Passion for Japanese Cloisonné, Satsuma and Related Wares. “The best cloisonné and Satsuma was made in the late 1800s and very early 1900s and, as there is no record of New Zealand importing Japanese ceramics at that time, I believe my wonderful pieces must have arrived here with immigrants and travellers.”
Elaine and Alan Strachan travelled extensively in Japan between 1995 and 2000 when their son Ant, a former All Black who now manages the Auckland Blues rugby team, was based there. But Elaine found very little to buy because the early pieces made by individual artists had almost all been exported.
Most cloisonné, Satsuma and related ceramics found in New Zealand today are factory-made and considered heavy and garish in comparison to the delicate individual pieces produced more than 100 years ago. Very few of those early artists signed their work, believing their skill was signature enough. “Artists had their own technique and thus left their trademark,” Elaine says. “Feeling the vibes of a piece is the way to identify it.”
Click on the "photo gallery" link at top right for more images from this story.
Story: Pam Neville
Stylist: Tracey Strange