What is Nerikomi Pottery?

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The world of pottery is rich with numerous techniques of pottery building. Once you start exploring it one by one, there is no looking back. It is a continuous journey of exploring various innovative ways of pottery making. The Nerikomi pottery is a fantastic pottery building technique that comes with an attractive mixed patterned design.

The Nerikomi pottery technique is an artistic form of pottery building, which originated in Japan. The name is derived from the age-old pottery-building tradition of Japan using colored clay.

What is NeriKomi Pottery?

Nerikomi pottery is a Japanese term that refers to Japanese pottery agateware. The ceramic marbling technique first started in Egypt and China. The simple and straightforward way of pottery building with colored clay is also known as neriage. The main characteristic of the Nerikomi pottery lies in its special attention to detailed decoration.

The word “neriage” or “Nerikomi’” is used to define the term of a specific-colored clay process. In England, this process is known as ” agateware.” The natural occurrence of the light-colored clays is specially stained to create various extensive and unique looks.  It includes the technique of laminating different colored clays in one place before throwing them on the wheel to achieve a fine spiraling or swirling effect of the blend.

The history of this marbling technique dates back to China during the time of the Tang Dynasty of 618- 907 CE, and it became popular in Europe during the 17th century.

Neriage or clay kneading technique of the Nerikomi pottery includes piling up of the colored clays, which are kneaded together. The Nerikomi pottery design refers to the creation of various patterns that come with the cross-sections that appear on the surface of the ceramic wares. The various colors of the clay contain multiple elements that need to be treated with care to prevent the loosing of the blocks. The complete pottery comes with the same created pattern on the surface, which is the distinctive feature of the Nerikomi pottery technique.

How is the NeriKomi Pottery prepared?

Not only the appearance of the Nerikomi Pottery is unique, but also it features a fascinating technique of preparation that looks amazing. Here is the method that is used to prepare the Nerikomi pottery of Japan.

1. Preparation of the colored clay:

The pleasure of the Nerikomi pottery lies in the achievement of a fantastic design. The colored clay is prepared before opting for the building of the pottery shape.  Clays that work better with clean slicing are used to work with the Nerikomi technique. Most of the potters use white clay that is colored by adding various colorants. Many potters prefer to work with stacked colored clays that are wet and blended smoothly. To make the clay moist, add water, and leave it like that for a week to become wet properly. Good quality white clay, like AMACO AMA46318R Air Dry Clay, is used by many potters.

2. Application of colorants in the clay:

Multiple colorants are added to the white clay to achieve the tint.  Potters use various colors to get the desired shade. Combining two different colors creates a brilliant, lovely shade. Most potters prefer the usage of light shades that look amazing while various decorations are added.

Here are some of the colorants that are used to color the clay.

Colorants The various shades that it produces
Antimony Yellow
Cadmium Bright red
Gold Pink, purple, red
Ilmenite Black, gray
Platinum Gray
Iron Chromate Brown, gray, and black


3. The blending of the colored clay:

After adding the colors, the clays are adequately blended to achieve the clay’s spiral patterns. The lump of the clays is mixed slowly using a little amount of moisture while wedging. The processing also includes the application of more colorants if needed.  Most of the potters use clays that shrink compatible together.

4. The Colored clay processing of Nerikomi:

Here are the steps that you need to follow to process the colored clays for Nerikomi pottery design.

Step 1: The Nerikomi design is achieved through the proper processing of eh colored clay. It starts with placing a thin slab of one color above another uncolored clay block using a finishing line. Then the slabs are rolled together from both ends to create a double spiral. The slabs are placed together on the working canvas for putting pressure to create the center of the block with double spirals.

Step 2: The clay stripes are created by stacking the thin slabs of various color combinations. Each half of the block is cut to create a typical Nerikomi-sectioned pattern.

Step 3: The double spiral squares are slammed to make them flat from all sides. Potters use the wedging technique to force the corners to meet each other. And again, the blocks are slammed to create a square shape.

Step 4: The slices are wrapped with other colored blocks to create a beautiful design. Therefore, the blocks are gently slammed to strengthen the blocks correctly.

Step 5: The slices are peeled off carefully from the block. The decorated slices are stored carefully in wet paper or cloth pieces to retain their suppleness. The slices need to stay wet or slightly damp so that you can easily roll them over a slab of clay.

Step 6: Then, the slices are placed uniformly on a rolled-out slab. It is carefully stitched with the clay slab using a rolling pin. It creates a unique imprinted effect as the designed blocks are placed.

Step 7: At the end, the clay slab is used to create various pottery shapes, which brings out the very distinctive Nerikomi pottery design.


The Nerikomi pottery technique gives a distinct idea about Japan’s pottery-making tradition. Not only the soothing color combination of the pottery technique but also the labor-intensive artistic creation of the decoration makes this pottery worth drooling for. The age-old Japanese practice is all about intricate and delicate patterns that look more than amazing. At the same time, if you want to learn the Nerikomi technique of pottery building, you have to learn it properly step-by-step to incorporate your innovative artistry with the traditional touch of Japanese pottery making.

Happy Sculpting!

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