Monday, July 16, 2018


Two cycles back while I was finishing up an order and some commissioned pieces I ended up with a number of odd areas that needed to be filled and set about making a few filler pieces that were not teabowls. What I hit upon were several small ewer forms that have some of that Kohyama Yasuhisa influence but were mostly influenced by an old Sueki ewer I had seen and studied some time back. The bodies, thrown off the hump are simple closed forms resembling larger river stones with a thrown neck added and small feet pulled off each pot. The decoration is black slip under an Oribe style glaze with each ewer perched on three small feet and the lip had the black slip sanded off to create a focal point. In truth, these are rather small and wouldn't hold much sake or bourbon but it would be more than enough for soy or some other such condiment which was my real intent.

"The least movement is important to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble." Blaise Pascal

Friday, July 13, 2018


Illustrated is a rather solitary henko form by Kawai Takeichi. I like this form quite a bit as it is simple, has rather honest lines and acts as volume for a expressionist style painting created through glaze and fire. The base glaze for this pot is Takeichi's simple ash glaze which is a good back drop and helps activate the additions of shinsha, tetsu-yu and a copper based addition to the frenetically executed decoration. Though clearly not by his master, Kawai Kanjiro, the concept, form and pace of execution can easily be spotted in this piece which is a wonderful addition to the Kawai school of pottery making though a clear voice articulated by Kawai Takeichi rings true in this piece as it does for the vast majority of his work. It must have been intensely difficult adding to a modern tradition without making copies and various other stylistic faux-pas related to one's master while clearly creating a large body of work the is a blend of one's heritage and one's inner voice. As I survey Kawai Takeichi's body of work it is obvious that he learned so well from a master that taught above all that, "everything is but an expression of the self"*.
(*From THE WINDOW OF LIFE by Kawai Kanjiro)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


A while back I had the opportunity to study and photograph a nice, early Kohyama Yasuhisa Shigaraki mentori-hanaire which is a master class in faceting and surface. In taking quite a number of photos for my personal reference and for an impending slideshow video, the vase was put up on a shelf which is one of my favorite places to look at pots and in the late afternoon as the sun pours in, the pot though bathed in light begins to recess mysteriously almost disappearing as the sun goes down. This time of day let's me see details, lines, marks that may other wise go un-noticed reminding me of several old movies like McKENNA'S GOLD and THE VALLEY OF GWANGI where the characters wait on the sunlight to point the way to their treasure or goal. This particular photo shows off not only the form created through the faceting process but also high lights Kohyma's trademark pebbly surface created by a specific process nurtured through years of firing experimentation and adaptation which builds up ash through a skillfull use of stoking, temerature fluxuation and a unique baffle system at the rear of the kiln. The sun also brings out the range of colors on the vase ranging from greys, blues, corals, faint iron reds and even peach tones creating a pointilist style expression written across the planes, angles and curves of the form. Late afternoon is a great time to look at pots after a day of throwing, tooling or glazing making me look forward to tomorrow where the process starts all over again.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Illustrated is a 3-Vu collage of a recent Oribe style vase thatI made and fired. It is a waisted form with protruding points at the foot, waist and the lip that help define the shape and act as points of visual interest in breaking up the surface. I attached lugs to either side of the lip/ mouth area which I finished off with a stamp I happen to favor which adds a bit of texture for the glaze to react with along with. The edges where the Oribe breaks a bit makes for an amber to light green, clear boundry at various points of the pot adding a bit more visually to a pot covered in a single glaze. The black decoration under the glaze is of a modified "enso" style circle I use and a square and triangle sitting atop each other on the other side and between the main visual elements I have used a design based on a combination of a Rimpa design and the haori decoration from the Chushingura. The close up of the mouth gives a good idea of what the glaze actually looks like in person with a variety of varying colors and textures all captured in the depths of the surface. And before anyone says or thinks it, I know it is just a vase but at least it isn't another teabowl, that is likely saved for next week.

Friday, July 6, 2018


Some time back, about 2 years or so, I posted up a lid detail of an Iga mizusashi made by Imai Yasuhito. Quite recently I received an email asking if I could post up a full picture of the mizusashi so I searched through one of my storage devices and found this photo. I should say that I did not take these photos, rather they were found floating about on the web and I apologize to the owners of the images for using them but I though this piece too nice not to share. Obviously the surface stands out as a pot that was subjected to a wonderful firing and the form is one of these old forms that many modern potters like Furutani Michio, Kanzaki Shiho (d. 2017), Sugimoto Sadamitsu and numerous others have used as an inspiration. This particular mizusashi has that perpetually wet appearance as if it is a pair of stacked stones in a garden that are constantly watered to bring out the best of the sculpture, an ash surface frozen by fire. I looked for other photos of this piece and came up empty and hope this single image will fill in the blanks where all the lid detail did was leave more questions than answers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Happy Fourth of July to everyone here in the US and hope everyone else around the world is having a wonderful Wednesday!

Friday, June 29, 2018


During my stay with Kohyama Yasuhisa back in 1993 I made a plan to go in to Kyoto one weekend as my wife's birthday was approaching and I figured how could I not find something special in such a city? I arrived in Kyoto about 9:30am and got something to eat and set about going to a few department stores and after that decided to wander the streets to see what I may discover. Using a flyer I had found I was looking for a small shop that specialized in silk incense figures when I made a wrong turn and suddenly found myself a bit turned around. As I was wandering I suddenly passed by a rather interesting but small gallery space and decided to go in and to be honest I am not sure who was more surprised, the potter and gallery owner or me. What I had stepped in to was an exhibition of exceptional Asahi-yaki pottery (from Uji, just outside of Kyoto) by Matsubayashi Hosai XIV  (1921-2004) who was there with his son, later Hosai XV (1950-2015) and though they were very polite and inviting, I think they thought I was looking for something a bit less expensive and truthfully, there was hardly a piece there beyond hashi sets and futaoki that I could have purchased. As best I could I explained I was staying in Shigaraki and with whom and the mood changed as the next thing I knew I was handling chawan the cost quite a tidy sum. In the end I did find several nice gifts for my wife, though not Asahi-yaki and what was a wrong turn was made right in what remains to this day an exceptional experience.

Illustrated is an excellent example of a Asahi-yaki chawan by Matsubayashi Hosai XIV made sometime around my encounter with him in the early 1990s. The form, throwing, foot and surface covered in gohon style spotting are all textbook Asahi characteristics and the hallmark of the Matsubayashi family who have played an important role in Kyoto pottery and tea ceremony going back centuries.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Illustrated is an Iga sake bottle by Kojima Yousuke (b. 1976) and simply put it is a tokkuri created by design. Though it seems only a simple and well fired tokkuri, Kojima Yousuke has the dual benefits of being trained by his father, Iga veteran, Kojima Kenji but he also studied at the Kyoto Culinary Institute which has sharpened his senses to the purpose, display and function of the pottery that he makes in conjunction with food and beverages. This particular tokkuri  is a great size and form and fits well in the hand and has a perfect base for when at rest or at the ready to be used, the surface is classicly wood fired with the neck and mouth just inviting one to use it. Kojima set up his own studio/kiln in 2003 and has had several shows, including together with his father and is carried by a number of galleries, many of which carry either wood fired or more traditional pottery. I have used the old axiom, regarding the apple not falling far from the tree which is not always so with father and son but in this case, Kojima Yousuke shows many of the influences,understanding and promise of Ko-Iga that makes for a potter on the rise and a reflection of his master.

Monday, June 25, 2018


I put together a rather short slideshow video of a bowl that was fired a few weeks back using my new NOA (Nuka Oatmeal Ash) glaze with masked white and black slip decoration underneath. I like working with bold geometric forms as design and the X and O flanked by the varying stripes works well around this bowl form. By ash glaze serendipity, there are a number of contaminants in the ash that I used and in this case, copper spots showed up on the inside floor of the bowl and directly over where the X marks the spot. Not planned but of all the places for a copper spot to show up, this is arguably highest on the list.

Friday, June 22, 2018


About a month or so ago I was navigating the ubiquitous auction site on the web looking for a classic CD from the 1980s and stumbled on this chawan. I'll start by saying my finding this chawan was neither intended nor planned and how it popped up while looking for a China Crisis CD defies logic; at any rate the price was certainly low enough so I figured why not. This chawan is by mingei stalwart and Kawai Kanjiro pupil, Ueda Tsuneji and though it doesn't have a box sometimes you just have to collect a piece, box or not. Though the form of his nerikomi chawan are not exceptionally challenging or innovative, there are restrictions as to how far you can go using a slab of patterned clay without destroying the pattern in the process and this piece does show a small amount of post molded throwing in the form, lip and where the foot was attached. Perhaps making up for the conservation and fully functional form is the crisp, detailed and rich nerikomi pattern which shows very clearly on the inside and outside of the bowl. The use of various glazes, a clear glaze, temmoku and an additional iron glaze showcase and accentuate the pattern and bring a sense of movement to an otherwise stiff form. Beyond the laws of physics, there are laws and restrictions that apply to ceramics that most collectors fail to realize and I can tell you from experience, the more you fuss with nerikomi and neriage clay the mor the pattern breaks down, gets muddled up and becomes unrecognizable and it is obvious that Ueda Tsuneji developed an exacting way to work that prevented this from happening and leaves the viewer with a sense of awe.