When the precursor to Noritake Co., Limited was founded in 1904 in the village of Noritake outside Nagoya, Japan, the choice was not accidental. The land around Nagoya was rich with kaolin, the type of clay most favored by manufacturers of fine porcelain. Since one of the company’s goals was to produce Japan’s finest china, Noritake needed to be close to the best source materials available.
It didn't take long for the company to achieve its initial goal—by 1910 it could claim Emperor Taisho among its customers. Noritake made dinnerware for the Japanese Navy, and by 1911 its cups, saucers, plates, and bowls were sold in department stores throughout Japan.
This early success was obviously welcome, but Noritake had a second, loftier goal—to supply Western-style china and dinnerware to the West. The first breakthrough on that front was a pattern called Sedan, which was exported to the U.S. in 1914. The ware was simple, predominantly white, with a cream-colored, hand-painted, flower-dotted border.
Other lines of dinnerware were characterized by their liberal use of gold glaze. By the early 1920s, Noritake had introduced assembly-line techniques, which allowed the company to more widely distribute its dinnerware around the world.
Around the same time, Noritake produced a "fancy line," which borrowed from Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque styles. After the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, Noritake’s fancy-line products shifted to embrace Art Deco.
Steering the company in the direction of Western tastes was an Englishman named Cyril Leigh. He promoted both floral and geometric designs in the Art Deco style. He pushed his colleagues to read publications such as Vanity Fair and Vogue, and to study the work of illustrators such as Erté and Homer Conant.
In particular, Noritake designers would borrow liberally from Conant, copying details from his prints of the 1924 Broadway musical Madame Pompadour for their hand-painted plates and plaques. Other classic Noritake imagery depicted nostalgic scenes of quiet ponds or solitary farmhouses in rural settings...
As Noritake expanded its export of dinnerware and fancy pieces, it created a cherry-blossom backstamp for ceramics shipped to the United States; the backstamp, which included the words "Made In Japan," was used from 1921 through 1941. A second backstamp, previously called Komaru and now known as Maruki, featured a symbol that resembled a six-legged spider and was used on pieces shipped to the United Kingdom. A third backstamp from 1914 to 1940 had an "M" set within a wreath; these were stamped on pieces imported by Morimura of New York.
Noritake’s popularity in 1920s America coincided with the acceptance of cigarette smoking by women. The company responded to this opportunity by creating whimsical ashtrays, cigarette boxes, and humidors, many in the shape of women with bone-white skin, often holding or puffing a cigarette. Sometimes the women depicted in Noritake pieces were dressed as harlequins; other times they resembled flappers in iridescent gold dresses.
Other ashtrays with a decidedly feminine look were those with figurals of cats, dogs, and birds perched on their edges. And since cigarettes and cards were joined at the hip during this period, many Noritake tobacco pieces were decorated with hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs, each of which would have a stylish woman’s face at its center.
Two of the most collectible types of Noritake from the 1920s are the so-called Gemini and Sisters bowls. The Sisters consisted of figurals of identical twins on either side of a bowl, whose interior was often decorated with flowers or butterflies. The Geminis were similar, except the figurals faced away from each other and their arms were bent back to create a handle for the bowl. Other bowls had one to four handles in shapes that ranged from wicker baskets to serving platters—windmills at sunset, birds in flight, and fountains in courtyards were typical of the company’s imagery.
For the dining table, Noritake produced honey pots in the shapes of gaily colored beehives, complete with gold-glazed bee figurals buzzing about their outside surfaces. Sugar-and-creamer sets were quite common, as were salt-and-pepper shakers, many of which were shaped like women’s heads or painted in styles that suggested Pennsylvania Dutch influences.
In the bedroom, Noritake fans could purchase "dresser dolls," which resembled the female-shaped cigarette containers but were designed for powder puffs. Hatpin holders, perfume bottles, and trinket trays in rich, lustrous glazes were also produced. The "lemon plates," which sport a single black or golden loop handle, are great for beginning Noritake collectors because they are so plentiful, with the exception of plates decorated with a woman fanning herself. The lemon plates were designed to hold lemons for afternoon tea, so naturally tea services were also manufactured.
Finally, Noritake produced a wide range of vases and containers for plants—from low, square or round vessels for ferns to ornate and even garish flower frogs. Some vases resembled tree trunks, albeit ones with iridescent bronze surfaces; others used traditional Greek shapes as canvases for floral motifs, birds, and the ever-present farmhouses and windmills. Particularly arresting are the vases whose mouths have been bent back so they resemble a pitcher plant, as well as the various styles of fans vases and sconces, which are known as wall pockets among collectors of vintage and antique Noritake.
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An insider's guide to OrangeThe Australian, March 7th
Combining traditional techniques and contemporary design, the glazed white service comprises a 220ml carafe and two 60ml cups, which can double as a herbal tea set. It's chip-resistant and dishwasher safe. More: noritake.com.au. Michelle Rowe. ON THE...Read more
Estate Sale Roundup: February 28-March 2: Cowboy up and head out for this ...Austin Chronicle, February 27th
Mrs Alt, who was President of the Austin Newcomers and an avid hostess, offers an enormous collection of English bone china cup and saucer sets; four china sets from Spode, Noritake, Hubschenreuther Gelb, and Johann Haviland; cut crystal and lead ...Read more
Smart Collector: Incomplete tea sets can still have significant valueArizona Daily Star, February 22nd
The bottom mark is a Noritake-style stamp with a laurel wreath. Many potteries at the time copied or varied the His ceramics, known and collected by fans of midcentury design, were made by Hall China. Today, he's most celebrated for his very ...Read more
Digital Entertainment in the Home: Technologies and Global MarketsSacramento Bee, February 20th
The lack of underlying intelligent network infrastructure as well as the lack of an established high end, middle class has meant that growth in the home entertainment has been smaller and more limited in China. Currently, the digital entertainment...Read more
Glass Expert Dean Six Appearing At Houston Antiques Sale 2/21 - 2/23WUTC, February 19th
The inspiration, driving force and executive director of the Museum of American Glass in Weston, West Virginia, Dean has written extensively on glass and pottery, including recent books on Viking glass, West Virginia glass, Noritake, and Franciscan china...Read more
Fundraising antiques show welcomes special guestChristian Davies Antiques (blog), February 17th
The expert has also written a number of books about pottery and glass, including Franciscan China, Noritake and Viking glass. His interest in glass started at the age of nine during his childhood in West Virginia. He used to collect fizzy drink bottles...Read more
Estate Sale Roundup: February 14-16: Look for treasures around every corner to ...Austin Chronicle, February 13th
Mrs Alt, who was President of the Austin Newcomers and an avid hostess, offers an enormous collection of English bone china cup and saucer sets; four china sets from Spode, Noritake, Hubschenreuther Gelb, and Johann Haviland; cut crystal and lead...Read more
Special Guest Is Dean SixThe Chattanoogan, February 13th
The "inspiration, driving force and executive director" of the Museum of American Glass in Weston, West Virginia, Mr. Six has written extensively on glass and pottery, including recent books on Viking glass, West Virginia glass, Noritake, and...Read more