World Pottery

Shino Glaze: The Unpredictable Beauty of Traditional Japanese Pottery

Shino glaze is a type of glaze that originated in Japan in the 16th century, during the Momoyama era. Known for its thick, creamy texture and unpredictable nature, Shino glaze has captivated the hearts of potters and ceramics enthusiasts worldwide.

This article explores the history, characteristics, and techniques of Shino glaze and its influence on traditional and contemporary ceramics.

History of Shino Glaze

Shino glaze has a rich history that goes back to the late 1500s in the Mino region of Japan. It was the first white glaze used in Japanese ceramics, starkly contrasting the earlier preference for green and brown glazes. The name ‘Shino’ is derived from ‘Shiro,’ which means white in Japanese.

The glaze was originally used in the production of tea ceremony wares. Tea masters of the time appreciated the wabi-sabi aesthetics — the beauty in imperfection — of Shino glaze. The glaze’s unpredictable nature resulted in unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, each with its character and charm.

Characteristics of Shino Glaze

Shino glaze is known for its thick, creamy texture, which ranges from pure white to a soft, milky color. It also tends to crawl, creating irregular patterns and a textured surface often likened to orange peel.

One of the most distinctive features of Shino glaze is its unpredictable behavior during the firing process. It’s sensitive to firing conditions and how it’s applied, resulting in various effects. For example, carbon trapping, a phenomenon where carbon gets trapped in the glaze during firing, can create smoky gray to black patches on the surface. This unpredictability is considered part of the charm of Shino glaze.

How to Use Shino Glaze

Shino glaze is typically made from a combination of feldspar and white clay. Historically, a specific type of feldspar called “Nagoya” was used, but nowadays, potters use various types of feldspar. The mixture is often sieved to ensure a smooth consistency before use.

Applying Shino glaze requires a unique technique. Unlike most other glazes, where the pottery is bisque-fired before glazing, Shino glaze is often applied to greenware (unfired pottery). The piece is then once-fired, skipping the bisque firing stage. The glaze is applied thickly, and the pot is slowly dried to prevent the thick glaze layer from cracking.

Firing Shino Glaze

Firing Shino glazed pottery is a delicate process, usually done in a gas or wood kiln, as these allow for the reduction atmosphere needed to achieve the desirable effects. The firing process is long, often taking up to several days, and requires careful monitoring. Potters must often adjust the kiln’s atmosphere and temperature throughout the firing process to achieve the desired results.

How to Make Your Own Shino Glaze – Step-by-Step

Creating your own Shino glaze is a rewarding process that allows you to customize the color and texture of your ceramic pieces. It involves mixing several ingredients and applying them to your pottery before firing. Here is a simple Shino glaze recipe that you can try at home:


  1. Nepheline Syenite: 750 grams
  2. Soda Ash: 250 grams
  3. Bentonite: 50 grams
  4. Water: enough to achieve the desired consistency

The Steps:

  1. Safety First: Before starting, ensure you are wearing a dust mask and gloves to protect yourself from inhaling any harmful substances and to protect your skin.
  2. Mix Dry Ingredients: Combine the Nepheline Syenite and Soda Ash in a large mixing bowl. Mix these dry ingredients together until they are thoroughly combined.
  3. Add Bentonite: Next, add the Bentonite to the mixture. Bentonite will help keep the glaze ingredients suspended in the water, preventing them from settling at the bottom of the container.
  4. Add Water: Slowly add water to the mixture, stirring continuously. The amount of water you add will depend on the consistency you desire. You’re aiming for a consistency similar to heavy cream.
  5. Sieve the Glaze: Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, pass it through an 80-mesh sieve. This will remove any lumps or impurities and ensure a smooth glaze.
  6. Application: Allow the glaze to sit for a few hours or overnight before using. Apply the Shino glaze to your bisque-fired pottery using a brush, pouring, or dipping methods. Always ensure that the glaze is well mixed before application.
  7. Firing: Once the glaze is applied and thoroughly dry, it’s time to fire your pottery. Shino glazes are typically fired at high temperatures, around cone 10 (about 2345°F or 1285°C).

Remember, the final appearance of your Shino glaze will depend on many factors, including the clay body you use, the thickness of the glaze application, and the specific firing conditions. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and try different variations to achieve your desired results!

Please note: The chemical substances used in glaze recipes can pose health risks if incorrectly handled. Always use protective gear when handling these materials, and ensure your workspace is well ventilated.

Shino Glaze Workshops and Classes

For those interested in learning more about Shino glaze and its techniques, workshops and classes are available in various locations. These classes are often taught by experienced potters who can provide hands-on guidance and share their knowledge of Shino glaze. Attending a workshop or class can be an excellent opportunity to deepen your understanding of Shino glaze, develop your skills, and connect with fellow ceramics enthusiasts.

Shino Glaze in Contemporary Ceramics

While Shino glaze has its roots in traditional Japanese ceramics, it has found its way into contemporary ceramics worldwide. Modern potters are drawn to the unique and unpredictable nature of Shino glaze, using it to create pieces that combine traditional techniques with contemporary aesthetics.

Today, Shino glaze continues to be a popular choice for potters around the world. Its unpredictable nature offers a unique sense of excitement and discovery, making each piece a one-of-a-kind work of art. Many contemporary potters respect the tradition of Shino glaze while also pushing its boundaries, experimenting with new techniques and variations to create innovative works.

Shino Glaze and Its Influence on Contemporary Art

Beyond its use in traditional Japanese ceramics and pottery, Shino glaze has also influenced contemporary art. Some artists incorporate Shino glaze techniques into their work, exploring the unpredictable nature of the glaze and its unique aesthetic qualities. These contemporary artists often experiment with new ways to use Shino glaze, pushing the boundaries of traditional techniques to create innovative works that pay homage to the rich history of Shino glaze while also charting new creative territory.

Notable Shino Glaze Artists

Several artists have made significant contributions to Shino glaze ceramics. Among them are Tsukigata Nahiko, a Japanese National Treasure, and Warren Mackenzie, an American potter who studied in Japan.

Tsukigata Nahiko and His Influence on Shino Glaze

Tsukigata Nahiko (1923 – 2006) was a renowned Japanese potter who dedicated his life to the study and mastery of Shino glaze. Born in Niigata Prefecture, he began his career as a Mingei (folk craft) potter, but his fascination with Shino glaze led him to focus exclusively on its techniques. Tsukigata’s work is characterized by its robust forms and the use of thick, white Shino glaze with deep crackles. His innovative approach to Shino glaze, including the use of bold, abstract brushwork, has greatly influenced many contemporary ceramic artists.

Warren Mackenzie and Shino Glaze in the West

Warren Mackenzie (1924 – 2018) was an American potter known for bringing the techniques of Shino glaze to the West. After studying under Bernard Leach in England, Mackenzie traveled to Japan, where he was introduced to Shino glaze. Upon returning to the United States, he began to experiment with Shino glaze, incorporating it into his functional pottery. Mackenzie’s work has significantly influenced American studio pottery, making Shino glaze a popular choice among Western potters.

Collecting Shino Glaze Ceramics

Shino glaze ceramics, with their rich history and unique aesthetic, are highly sought after by collectors. Whether a traditional Japanese tea bowl or a contemporary vase, each piece of Shino glazed pottery offers a unique charm and beauty. When collecting, look for pieces that speak to you personally, as each piece of Shino glaze pottery is unique, reflecting the individual style and technique of the potter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is Shino glaze made?

Shino glaze is made from a mixture of feldspar and white clay. The exact recipe and proportions can vary, and some potters add additional ingredients like silica or ash to modify the glaze’s properties.

Why is Shino glaze unpredictable?

Shino glaze is sensitive to various factors, including the clay body it’s applied to, the thickness of the application, the atmosphere in the kiln, and the specific firing schedule. These variables make the final result of Shino glaze unpredictable and unique for each piece.

Can I use Shino glaze at home?

Yes, but working with Shino glaze can be complex and requires a good understanding of ceramics and glazing techniques. It’s essential to have access to a kiln capable of achieving the required temperatures and a reduction atmosphere. Additionally, always follow safety precautions when mixing and applying glazes and firing pottery.

What are some other types of Japanese glazes?

In addition to Shino glaze, there are many other traditional Japanese glazes, including Tenmoku, Celadon, Oribe, and Ash glazes. Each of these glazes has its own unique characteristics and history.

How do I care for Shino glazed pottery?

Caring for Shino glazed pottery is similar to caring for other types of ceramics. Hand wash with mild soap and water, and avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads that may damage the glaze. Keep the pottery away from extreme temperatures and handle it with care to prevent chipping or breakage.


Shino glaze, originating in 16th century Japan, has captured the imaginations of potters and ceramics enthusiasts for centuries. Its unique aesthetic qualities and unpredictable nature have made it a popular choice for traditional and contemporary ceramics. Shino glaze offers a world of beauty, history, and inspiration, whether you’re a practicing potter or a collector.

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