Bowl with a Wagtail
A wagtail perched on a rock amid flowing water is depicted in white lines on a grey ground. Utensils like this, which feature outlined motifs against a grey background, are known as Nezumi Shino ware.
This bowl is characterized by a distorted shape that flares out widely from the body. It was used during the tea ceremony to serve food, with fish or other flame-broiled snacks piled on top. It has feet so that it can be used on straw tatami mats. The bowl is covered with designs right up to the rim, perhaps because it was meant to be placed on the floor and viewed from above.
This bowl is an example of Shino ware pottery, which was produced in the Mino kilns of present-day Gifu prefecture. It is made from a white clay unique to Mino. By chance, an area of clay in the center of the bowl was neglected when applying the iron oxide slip pigment. This happened to look like a rock and thus gave rise to this improvised design. The wagtail and flower water motifs were then engraved on the slip section, which had turned a distinctive mouse-like gray during the firing. A glaze was then applied to the whole body to give the bowl a glass-like coating. This serendipitous process has created a truly unique design.