Monday, November 20, 2017

NO. 2

I decided to take a photo of another Furutani Michio Iga mizusashi out of the same catalogue as the one last week to show not only the exceptional surfaces that he was able to achieve but also to showcase a rather unusual form of the potter. Over the years I have been consistent in my view that every time you think you have a handle on the scope of a particular artist, potter you encounters something akin to a curveball. I find this especially the case when dealing with Hamada and Kawai, I'll see an exhibit, get a new book or catalogue and there on the very next page is a pot that is just not typical or "usual" for the potter. I find this Iga mizusashi a bit different for Furutani Michio but I will admit as I look at the surface and the lid it is immediately apparent what I am looking at. I guess I thought to put up this photo and the other to just share what I can not help but think are among the finest Iga mizusashi of the modern era.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Back when we used to live in Cleveland my wife and I would spend time visiting The Verne Collection, run by Mitzie Verne and her son Michael. For a short time they were collecting modern Japanese ceramics during visits to Japan and selling them at their gallery which at the time was located at the John Carroll University. Among the artist that they carried, at our recommendation was the Iga potter and ceramic artist, Ohira Kazumasa who made this fine set of five plates that are patterned as leaves, these were among a group of his work that we acquired from the Mitzie back when times were much simpler and prices were very reasonable. At the time, very few Westerners knew about Ohira's work and the Verne Collection was in most likelihood the first to carry his work outside of Japan and offer his pottery in the West which included his block style vases, plate sets, two very large chargers and various other pieces. Over the years we would pull this set of plates out and use them but before last week, I had never photographed them and thought to put together a short slideshow video to give the perspective of how enjoyable these pieces have been for use and display for over two decades. Please enjoy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


I like getting surprise packages and one just arrived from Japan yesterday filled with over 30 pounds of misc. catalogues. In the group was a nice Tsukigata catalogue as well as two on Furutani Michio, one being the source for this illustration. This wonderfully fired, Iga mizusashi is one of only a few of this form that I have seen and based on the surface it must have been in the most opportune spot in the kiln which must have yielded some rather spectacular pots and surfaces. I love this type of firing with lavender, grey ash, hints of deeper greens, blues and emerald tones about the surface with a bright ash belt created around the middle of the piece in the depression. I find this to be a rather inviting pot and love how it goes from dark to light as you move up the pot which is topped off with a classic Furutani Michio style lid that sits within a well defined galley just above the surface of the pot. I will admit it is a bit like Christmas when I get the occasional group of catalogues but now I am making my next Christmas list and this mizusashi is right at the top.

Monday, November 13, 2017


I threw this green pair of Oribe style bowls at the request of a customer. I was asked to throw them the way I would normal teabowls that I make but they would be used in a variety of functional roles and likely not for tea. The pair was thrown with slightly undulating lips which is created by altering the pressure while throwing making a few low and high spots and the interiors are slip free so as to have no overt texture which may get in the way of a spoon (or spork) while in use. As most potters, there is no way to control how someone will or will not use your pieces as I have discussed in previous post nor would I necessarily want to, to be quite honest. I'll make stuff and how it is used at its new home is fine with me and let's face it, it is easy for me to imagine a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream or a bowl of chili surrounded by some homemade corn muffins as props for my pots.

Friday, November 10, 2017


My post from the other day got me thinking about the number of Takauchi Shugo pots I have handled over the years but specifically reminded me of a rather interesting mizusashi that he had made that was based on the teoke form. Illustrated is a rather unique Oribe teoke-mizusashi by Takauchi which was thrown and then hacked at, sculpted, incised and engraved to which a squared lid was added to complete the package. The rich, deep oribe accents every nook and cranny of the form, high lighting all of the rips, tears and marks left by the potter while the clear glazed areas show off the abstract stylings that Takauchi Shugo is well known for. The interior has a deep pool of Oribe glaze that draws the viewer in to the pot and the carefully placed recesses along the horizontal handle fits well in the hand for easy carry. I have to admit that if you were to try to explain the concept of this piece, I suspect must people would have a hard time thinking it would work out well in terms of form and function but having seen it first hand, I can certainly attest to the fact that if anyone was going to make this work it was going to be from the mind and hands of Takauchi Shugo.
(BTW it occurred to me that I have handled two other Takauchi Shugo mizusashi and if I can find the photos will post them up at a future date as well.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


I remember the first piece of Oribe style pottery that I saw by Takauchi Shugo nearly 30 years ago, it was a tall, wonky bucket vase form with a sculpted handle passing through either side of the raised handles. The surface was a mixture of gouged out channels and incised design covered over in a rich, deep green Oribe glaze which straddled tradition and modern quite well; a similar piece can be seen In Rupert Faulkner's book, JAPANESE STUDIO CRAFTS on page 33. The illustrated mizusashi is a much later piece by Shugo, still skirting the conventions of traditional pottery while making a rather adventurous and contemporary statement adding a fresh approach to Oribe-yaki. Glazed over in a wonderful, dark Oribe glaze with areas of clear glaze high lighted by spontaneous, abstract designs unique to the potter, this mizusashi is a remarkable statement about the potential of traitional tea vessels that push a bit at the boundries, this is surely where Takauchi Shugo shines the brightest.
"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way."  Aristotle

Monday, November 6, 2017


Recently I ended up firing several kiln loads of pots that were a mix of my regular stoneware, porcelain and the high iron stoneware that I have been making up myself in small batches of about 40 to 50 pounds of clay at a time. The reason I even mention this is that I am pleased with the variety and range that I get from the glazes I use on the pieces making it seem like they are different glazes as opposed to different clay bases which alter the appearance. The only real exception to this is the use of my temmoku on the two stoneware bodies where it comes out almost identical but on the porcelain it is just a tiny bit translucent making for an interesting effect especially over stamped decoration. The illustrated Oribe style jar was thrown out of the iron stoneware and then had a thick band of combed slip applied, over the slip it is an intense, mottled green but over the rest of the body it has a thick, deep green appearance with mossy tendril effects from the additional iron in the clay mingling with the glaze. Though it isn't terribly different then the effects on the regular stoneware it is just different enough to create a surface and appearance that is both related but apart from one another providing just another avenue to explore in the ongoing search to see what else I can get copper to do.

Friday, November 3, 2017


Considering the timing, I remembered that I had a short NHK video on the hard-drive of Tsuji Seimei and decided to post it up to Youtube. At the moment, there is an ongoing exhibition of the works of Tsuji Seimei at The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo which showcases the work and diversity of a rather divergent, traditional based potter who specialized in creating Shigaraki pottery among others. I hope there is enough to glimpse the genius of the this exceptional 20th Century potter in this short video clip, enjoy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


sumptuous; (adjective) extremely costly, luxurious, or magnificent
When I think about Banura Shiro my mind often strays to the sumptuous Rimpa art of the Edo period with Ogata Kenzan and Korin among others, the extravagances of the court and the wealth of the merchant class who patronized so many of the artists and craftsman.  I think that Banura would have fit right in with his classic yet individual flair for form and graphic surface decorations and certainly with his use of gold and silver added to his pottery of which this illustrated chawan is an excellent example. In many respects this teabowl is like a decorated screen with a gold background that further serves to highlight and accentuate the silver leaves casually placed about the surface, this chawan could have just as easily been created in 1750 as the 20th century. As most potters can likely attest, the use of gold and silver is a complicated tight rope to walk, the balance, amounts and design all need to be very carefully considered and well thought out prior to execution or the results become more than a bit "hadé" (gaudy). For Banura, he employed a wonderful visually and tactile texture behind the gold which breaks up what could otherwise be a rather ostentatious and even boring surface. Creating a gilded surface of varying hues, intensity and concentration showing off an understanding of how far to go without going any further, though rich and elegant it manages to remain just mysterious enough to engage the viewer and get a dialogue going.

Monday, October 30, 2017


Over the weekend we bought candy for the impending knock on the door which signals that Halloween is upon us again. We decided on two ceramic pieces for the candy, one a large lip bowl in temmoku and iron glazes and on the shelves near the door this recently fired small Oribe style covered jar. The contents give a sense of the scale to anyone familiar with the "fun-size" candy bars and also points out the function and practicality of hand made pots, especially when chocolate is involved. This covered piece held the contents of one 11 ounce bag with some room to spare, in other words, it is a good size and rather accommodating for any of your favorite treats. Happy Halloween.