Friday, April 28, 2017

A LITTLE SALT, A LOT OF WOOD

For those who have not fired a wood kiln, rest assured there is a lot of preparation, planning, work and wood involved in getting the job done. In the case of this chawan it is all about a little salt and a lot of wood to create this beautiful surface on a rather loose and casual chawan by Enyu specialist, Ajiki Hiro. Though he is well known for his rather patterned, faceted chawan with additions of rich blues, reds and gold accents to name a few, it is the loose style of chawan defined by its sense of rhythm that attracts me to this bowl. A rich, playful style can be seen in the posture and attitude of the pot which is then completed by firing it in his wood kiln to which he adds salt at high temperature to add to the already ash coated surface. Entitled "Autumn Wind", the powerful fall winds are painted on this chawan by the intense velocity of the flame in the kiln which creates a lasting canvas of dynamic movement echoing the sometimes ferocious inclinations of mother nature. I hope this slideshow video conveys the truest sense of this chawan as it was a pleasure to handle and photograph. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MAKING ARRANGEMENTS

I happened on this image and was struck by how such a simple and stark floral arrangement can add so much to a vase. The rich green of the pine needles serve as a vivid backdrop for the single white bloom all emerging from this large and powerful modern Iga vase by Kojima Kenji. The vase is its own landscape of rich fire color, melted running, wet green ash and a sweeping area of charcoal effects painting a backdrop to the arrangement which seems quite natural in the new surroundings. Kojima Kenji has made an in depth study in to the history and aesthetics of Ko-Iga and has combined that pursuit with that of studying flower arranging which only adds to complete his masterful vessels. I realize this was arranged specifically for this exhibition but I envy the owners who have this vase at their disposal to make such arrangements when ever the mood moves them.

Monday, April 24, 2017

SUMO-SIZE ME; THE VIDEO

I realize this sounds a bit corny but I just decided to embrace the "corn" and put together a short video slideshow of this recently fired teabowl. The bowl is quite large though ironically I have actually handled a chawan by Kumano Kuroemon that was a bit larger and since my thought is that despite the term teabowl, this pot can serve just about any use someone can think up. I have always been grounded in function but at a certain level I believe it is necessary for a user to grasp adaptibility and accommodate themselves to the use of a pot or any other hand crafted object, think about all the chairs you have seen in museums that scream just about anything but comfort! Have fun with the video.

"We must make the best of those ills that cannot be avoided."  Alexander Hamilton

Friday, April 21, 2017

PRESS MOLD

When I look at the press molded hachi plates designed and decorated by Hamada Shoji, I am always struck by the classic utility and economy of the forms. Designed for real use, a sense of beauty and the goal of making multiples, the forms are simple yet exceptionally functional for a wide array of chores, the least of which is to help define an environment. Each of these plates is carefully constructed, made almost as a canvas for the master; from rich and earthy glaze combinations, vivid swirled glaze pours or classic Hamada designs, each piece is both unique and linked to those that have come before and those that will be made after. There is a distinct lineage in much of Hamada's work and like the molded pieces of Kawai Kanjiro each piece starts as a similar and singular form but with the attention of Hamada each piece becomes an extension of his rich vocabulary that adds to the mingei tradition with which he navigates. Though as much art as they are craft, these pots are the epitome of what can be used and what can be appreciated.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DRIFTING IRON

Once again relying on an old tech stainless steel glaze atomizer, I have been running tests using my iron clay stoneware, stoneware slip, clear glaze and a good even coat of the sprayed oxide glaze. Though the iron/manganese/cobalt overglaze was sprayed on as a thin even coat, it seemed to run, drift and pool at various spots on the surface where gravity played as much a role in the final appearance as anything that I did. As you can see in the detail shot, the oxide rich glaze just seemed to drift down the natural channels created by the slip creating an interesting tiger stripe style pattern which of course echoes the contours of the surface. Overall the addition of the overglaze gives the piece a rather earthy, gritty appearance that accentuates the texture and form and plays well in a variety of light sources. Truth be told, the use of this technique is going to take some getting used to as there doesn't seem to be any way to control the surface or determine a predictable outcome and of the group fired where one piece had to much glaze sprayed over it came out very dark and quite honesty a bit dull. I have a few other oxide combinations that I have in mind and we will see what other surface are possible, I suspect that if you start adding up all of the possible combinations of two, three and four oxide/carbonate mixtures that I have a lot of work ahead of me. First step, I'll need to make a lot more test pods.
"If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor." Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, April 17, 2017

TO EACH THEIR OWN

"For me, creating is about cutting away the unnaturalness by engaging in the act of making." Kato Kiyoyuki
Though best known for his more sculptural ceramics, this Ki-Seto chawan was made by Seto ceramist, Kato Kiyoyuki and despite the vivid, abstract decoration, this is a wonderfully functional chawan. The slightly wet Ki-Seto glaze has created a rich, pebbly texture that is broken up by the incised decoration that was then accented with copper to add a certain zest to the bowl. The face of this chawan has become Kato's canvas of abstraction which allows the viewer to interpret the design according to each individuals set of unique experiences which makes this chawan unique to each and every person who encounters it. I am a huge fan of this type of decoration and chawan as the purposeful, abstracted ambiguity allows for a type of ceramic Rorschach in which it means different things to different people making for a far richer individual experience.

"Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know." Alan Watts

Friday, April 14, 2017

MYSTERY NOVEL

At first glance the illustration is a bit ambiguous and certainly out of context but as you look at the photo, you can catch bits and pieces that may point you in one direction or another. What you are looking at is the bottom interior of a mizusashi and when you remove the ceramic lid you are first struck with the iridescent sheen that covers a great deal of the bottom of the pot which was finished with a crisp swirl to activate the interior though for most of the pots life, the interior is likely to remain a mystery to the viewer. In certain respects, lidded pots are like a well written mystery novel that as you move along from chapter to chapter the story unfolds and as a reader you are clued in as to what exactly is going on if you pay close enough attention. I think good pots are just the same, the allure and attraction of the form, surface and volume of the piece pulls you in and then you lift the lid to see the mysterious contents of the form, in this case  a rich wood fired surface of natural ash coating a Shino glaze to add warmth, depth and a sense of nobility to the pot. For some who have followed along, the pot is a sturdy, powerful Oni-Shino mizusashi which resembles a pair of stacked stones with a roughly thrown ceramic lid with this illustrated detail hidden within. I know it is easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the whole but for a number of the truly gifted potters, the great details construct the great pots and in my opinion, Tsukigata Nahiko had the ability to create details which few can forget even over a lifetime of looking.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

SUMO-SIZE ME

On any given day of throwing I am prone to making my teabowls a bit on the large side. This way of working pre-dates my first experiences with the work of Kumano Kuroemon and was just a natural occurrence in making functional pots. My early thought process was simple, if you made a slightly larger teabowl they could still function for use in the tea ceremony but as a bowl form they had a greater range of uses being a bit larger from soups & salads to sides, chili, ice cream and almost anything you can imagine. On Monday as I was sitting at the wheel I had to throw a group of lids off the hump to go with a series of covered serving bowls and once the group was thrown I found myself with clay left over that I thought was about two pounds and proceeded to throw what ended up being a rather large teabowl form. Once thrown I weighed it out and realized it came in at 2.5lbs and as you can see, now tooled and a bit lighter it is a bit larger than my normally large teabowls. I decided to go with a thick combed porcelain slip for the surface and will likely glaze it in one of my Oribe formulas when the time comes. I am not sure what the prescribed function of this finished piece will be but it certainly has sumo-size me written all over it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

SUMI-NAGASHI

Illustrated is a simple, elegant tsubo decorated in slip, sumi-nagashi (floating ink) style by Kondo Yutaka. In several previous posts I have wrote about Yutaka and his simple yet decisive and bold use of mishima inlay using black and white as his surface and this tsubo is no different though there are hints of grey tones as well. The single, segmented strand of "decoration" draws the eye to the piece and guides the viewer up and around the space with only a hint of disturbance from the pure white form. Though Kondo Yutaka did not work exclusively in black and white, the pieces in which he did show a strong mastery of technique and concept where the two colors play out a dialogue far more conversant than many pots with far more decoration and design. If I were to try to describe Kondo Yutaka to someone who had never seen his work it would be straightforward; he created strong simple forms and made use of very little to speak eloquently about his creative voice.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A LITTLE RED, A LITTLE GREEN

Illustrated is a truly wonderful and inspirational Okinawan style chawan by Hamada Shoji. White slip over stoneware with a clear glaze and iron lip accented by the two color enamel decoration of Hamada's sugarcane design makes this bowl come alive and jump out of the photo. A delicate balance of humility, folk craft and intellect this chawan is decorated in a vivid green and red enamel, the brushwork appears fluid, effortless and immediate. These are all of trademark characteristics of a master in full command of a technique that is as much muscle memory as it is unconscious action, capturing the spontaneity born from a life time dedicated and immersed in pottery and craft. There is very little that can be said about Hamada Shoji, his pottery and his unique decoration that has not been said before but I will only add this play on the mingei axiom, "beauty born of use" to say; this is beauty born of doing.