Netsuke (根付) [netsɯke] are miniature sculptures that were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function (the two Japanese characters ne+tsuke mean "root" and "to attach"). In English the word may be italicized or not, with American Englishtending to favour the former and British English the latter.
Traditional Japanese garments—robes called kosode and kimono—had no pockets; however, men who wore them needed a place to store their personal belongings, such as pipes, tobacco, money, seals, or medicines. Their solution was to place such objects in containers (called sagemono) hung by cords from the robes' sashes (obi). The containers may have been pouches or small woven baskets, but the most popular were beautifully crafted boxes (inrō), which were held shut by ojime, which were sliding beads on cords. Whatever the form of the container, the fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was a carved, button-like toggle called a netsuke.
Netsuke, like the inrō and ojime, evolved over time from being strictly utilitarian into objects of great artistic merit and an expression of extraordinary craftsmanship. Such objects have a long history reflecting the important aspects of Japanese folklore and life. Netsukeproduction was most popular during the Edo period in Japan, around 1615–1868. Today, the art lives on, and some modern works can command high prices in the UK, Europe, the USA, Japan and elsewhere. Inexpensive yet faithful reproductions are available in museums and souvenir shops.
Okimono, small and purely decorative sculptures, were often made by the same artists who produced netsuke.
Nerikomi is a contemporary Japanese term. Marbling ceramic techniques were used in Egypt and China and through the Romans to the West. Early ceramics in the Stoke-on-Trent use more than one colour of clay for decorative effect. In England this was referred to as agateware. In Japan there are a few pieces from the Momoyama period, and Edo period, as well as Mingei and there was an explosion of it from about 1978–1995 due probably to Aida Yusuke's advertising and to Matsui Kousei who refers to his work as neriage.
The term started being used in the 1970s to describe related kanji neriage. Yusuke Aida was on a television commercial for Nescaféand it seems to have entered the vocabulary at about that time when his nerikomi coffee cups were available to the first people contacting the advertisers.
Slabs of different clays or clays colored with stains or oxides, are stacked, folded, pressed into logs, sliced, and arranged to form a vessel. In this way, the numerous stacked layers appear as fine undulating lines embedded in a surrounding color in the finished vessel.