The 15th. of every month the Nara Antique Dealers auction takes place in Nara. It is a 4-6 hour event that sees the auctioning of hundreds of lots. This last Saturday these Shoki Imari soba chokos passed through. As a side note, even though they are now called soba chokos, in their time they were called chokus. They are from the beginning of the Shoki Imari period, putting them being made around 1620-1625. The date can be pinpointed to that window because they haven’t been bisqued. They were fired green. Work from this period is very rare.
Unbisqued ware is much more interesting than bisqued. It has a wilder feel to it. More pinholes, crawling, places where the glaze bunches or fails to adhere. The reasons for starting to bisque are mainly to get a more consistent product. If one is loading a wood kiln with thousands of pieces it is best to try to maximize results. The flip side is that the work loses some of its more uncontrollable aspects, aspects that are very interesting.
Some of the points that a collector would look for in work of this era is the gosu, a natural type of cobalt, is very impure and subtle. Later gosu was more highly refined and subsequently had a stronger color to it. There is debris from the kiln visible in the bottom of one of the chokos. It is something that says the ware was fired without saggers. One more point is the lack of “glassy-ness” of the glaze. The pressure in a wood kiln is much lower than a gas or other type of kiln. I believe this lack of pressure gives the glaze a quality that is softer.