Friday, January 18, 2019


Before anyone says anything, yes, another stupid cat photo. Back just before Thanksgiving my wife and I made our way to a fellow collectors home and then brought back a number of pots that the owner wished to part with and of course, Khan immediately was attracted to the big Oribe one first chance he got. In using the floor as a staging point for photographing what I did not realize was that the owner had a small slip of paper inside the large Kato Toyohisa Oribe jar as a means of identification and though I missed it entirely, Khan somehow did not. As I was photographing another piece, I realized that Khan was doing absolutely everything possible to get himself entirely in to the jar as his arm was just not long enough to reach the slip of paper. I retrieved the "cat toy" and showed it to Khan at which point he totally lost interest and went off to sleep somewhere. It is amazing how being brought up around pottery, he is extremely gentle with the pieces and even more surprising that he is just as aware of a piece of paper in the bottom of a jar at twenty paces.

"Time spent with a cat is never wasted."  Sigmund Freud

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


I really don't know a lot about Akazu-yaki other then it springs from Aiichi Prefecture and is considered under the general umbrella of Seto pottery finding its roots going all the way back to the Heian period and Sueki wares. What is quite obvious is that this mizusashi has a classic Mino-Iga appearance of a feudal vessel with a rather rich surface composed of ash and iron glazes and was made by Akazu-yaki potter Kato Tsuneyoshi (Tsutsumi?). Like the ware itself, I don't know much about Kato Tsuneyoshi but based on the vessel, it is exceedingly well crafted with a well articulated surface, classic lugs and handle applied to finish off the pot and did I mention the thick green pool on the lid surrounding the handle? Besides the stoic, medieval form, the depth and luminescence of the ash really catches my attention, soaking the form in a beautiful surface of varying green bidoro which is punctuated  by areas of a translucent and opaque iron evoking the image of a waterfall pouring down the pot, a narrative painted around the pot in glaze and experience. Some of the most beautiful effects take place around the mizusashi as the base projects creating a strong and stable platform for the piece where ash and iron are highlighted as they collect creating a vivid boundary of deep green and iron from the cascading glazes. Though this is the first and only pot that I have encountered by this potter, it is quite clear that he is quite well practiced based on the way the mizusashi is potted, through the dignity and purpose of form and the skillful application of glaze and I look forward to my next (?) encounter with Akazu-yaki by Kato Tsunayoshi .

Monday, January 14, 2019


The illustrated teabowl came out of a firing about a month (?) back but honestly at this point, I see everything as a blur and keeping track or who, what, where and when is more a suggestion than an absolute. In faceting this bowl I accounted for two very distinct raised bands around the body as both a tactile and visual element as well as to allow the glaze to build a nice deep ring at the top of all of the protruding points. Once set up after throwing, I poured a thin coat of white slip at two spots on the piece which accounts for the distinct areas that are brighter than the rest of the bowl and the surface worked well with a nice mottled affect moving from rich, deep green to areas of iron creating a rather natural patchwork effect. The foot is a simple tooled one with a notch cut out for both functional and to break up the circular regularity. I am enjoying making this style teabowl, none come out exactly the same and there is a spontaneity and directness to the process and form which presents a new angle on my thrown pieces.

Friday, January 11, 2019


Illustrated is a screen capture for a wonderful old Japanese documentary that I found about Arakawa Toyozo. The fact that this is subtitled is certainly a bonus but seeing footage of perhaps one of the most famous potters of the 20th Century gives one a great insight into a way with Shino. This documentary was made circa 1968 by documentary film maker/ director; Matsukawa Yasuo (1931-2006) and is known by its Japanese title, IMA WA MUKANSHI SHINO TO OKINA. I don't want to say that such videos are rare but they are not seen frequently enough outside of Japan and any insight in to the nature of a master's work is certainly not to be overlooked.

"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. All is a riddle, and the key to a riddle is another riddle."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Illustrated is a lovely ink painting by veteran Mino potter, Wakao Toshisada. Though best known for his classic Momoyama inspired or Rimpa influenced pieces; Wakao has created quite a few kakejiku and shikishi covering a broad field of subject matter, of which this nasubi eggplant scroll is one. What brought this piece to mind was that tonight is vegetarian dinner night and my wife mentioned eggplant and pasta, should I mention I am not a huge fan of eggplant? A compromise was struck, and my pasta will be with charcoaled onions and peppers, though she is sticking with the eggplant for herself. All this discussion of the evil purple solanum made me remember that I had a few illustrations of an eggplant scroll by Toshisada so I sought it out and here it is in all its simplicity. At its core, this painting gives me a quick flashback to the famous Mu Ch'i scroll of six persimmons, though I am not exactly sure why. Admittedly if you told me about a painting of two eggplants, I am not sure it would distract me from counting sand but after seeing the way the ink was applied, the nasubi casually displayed and portrayed and the use of the surrounding negative space, I am sold on eggplant, in ink if not in actuality.

Monday, January 7, 2019


I'll start out by saying that this is not a mug, it is a bowl with a "stabilizing" handle. I first started making this type of bowl way back in the early 90s when a customer showed me an old, redware bowl with a handle on it dating to the late 19th or early 20th century. To be fair, it was a bit more like an oversized old fashioned dinner coffee cup but it was intended as a bowl for soup or what have you. I modified the general idea and added a straight sided collar to keep things from sloshing out or spilling from the bowl while in use and added a handle that was more about stabilizing the form rather than as a full on handle though it functions perfectly well in that capacity. The customer was pleased with the idea, I made six or eight for them and have been making them ever since in some incarnation or another since that point. This one is of thrown stoneware, impressed medallions around the belly and glazed in a temmoku that has areas of a blue tint and breaks to a fine rust where thin. My wife and I actually still have a terra cotta set that I made back in Cleveland and we use them for everything from soup, chili, ice cream, stew and just about anything else you can eat out of a bowl.

Friday, January 4, 2019


We had our first day of real sunshine here today, the first in a long time so I took the opportunity to move some pots around and let the sun shine down on this small pot. Besides being a gift from Warren MacKenzie way back in the 90s, I have always been quite fond of this amber celadon and wood ash glazed "utensil holder" for the purposeful form, the wonderful texture, the thick, durable mouth and the applied feet which change the shadow line of the pot. Thrown out of porcelain, this pot has a great weight to it, made to stand up to the rigors of daily use for which it was intended though it is used infrequently here instead holding a place of reverence as well as serving as an ideal about what it means to truly be a functional pot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


                                Warren MacKenzie 
      February 16, 1924 – December 31, 2018


Illustrated is a rather classic Shigaraki tsubo with a traditional net pattern paddled across the surface. This large tsubo was made by veteran Shigaraki staple, Takahashi Shunsai  and is fired in a rather typical fashion for the potter with areas of wet and dry ash coverage together with areas of fine hi-iro fire color. Born in 1927, Shunsai studied under his father Rakusai III who is credited with bringing attention back to traditional Shigaraki pottery of the region as well as revitalizing the tradition as a whole. Takahashi Shunsai's works follows in his father's footsteps where he has added his own voice to the family business which is balanced against the work of his brother Rakusai IV. Did I mention it was big, at over 13" tall and 17" wide it makes for a rather impressive, timeless display piece that captures what 20th century Shigaraki is all about while having just a hint of the modern in its bearing and form. There is a rather nice catalogue which showcases Shunsai's jars; THE SHIGARAKI WARE; NAOKATA'S TEA WARE & SHUNSAI'S JARS, illustrating a number of wonderful tsubo and surfaces that any 20th or 21st Century Shigaraki potter would be proud to create.

Monday, December 31, 2018