In the summer of 2002, the late Bill Hunter and his wife Dora donated their entire collection of Asian antiques, carefully assembled over a lifetime of travel and antique hunting, to the Museum. The Hunters were long-time residents of Seattle, Washington, where they developed a passion for Asian artifacts through their membership in the Seattle Art Museum. Their collection began with a visit to an antique store in Victoria, British Columbia, where two Japanese Imari ware chargers caught their eye.
Imari ware was intended for sale in foreign markets and was named for the port in the southwest part of Japan from which it sailed. These intricately decorated porcelains were produced at the nearby kilns of Arita, not far from which significant deposits of kaolin, or porcelain clay, had been found during the seventeenth century. This discovery allowed Japan to take over the porcelain trade previously dominated by China’s Jingdezhen kilns, which more or less ceased production with the collapse of the Ming dynasty in 1614. The lavish and intricate designs of Imari ware were achieved by firing each piece three times at successively lower temperatures: once with the cobalt blue painting and a clear glaze, a second time to fix the overglaze enamels, and a third time to fix the gilding.
Although especially passionate about Chinese and Japanese porcelain wares, the Hunters also collected and gave to the Museum Southeast Asian ceramics, a number of netsuke (carved fasteners from Japan), and small ivory carvings.