Friday, December 2, 2016

KAWAKUJIRA

Illustrated is a broad and generous Karatsu-kawakujira (whale's mouth) decorated guinomi by Ikai Yuichi (b.1963). Ikai, a native of Kyoto and the Gojo-zaka area first studied with Shimizu Yasutaka and then Ningen Kokuho, Shinizu Uiichi before moving north of Kyoto to set up his Kihei-gama noborigama kiln where he has honed his skills in both celadon and ash glazes. At just about four inches across this guinomi is a handful and the pebbled, kairagi crawled surface just adds to the pot making for a blend of sight, touch and taste while in use. With many pots the sense of touch is overlooked but with a guinomi like this, Ikai hasn't failed to include any of the senses from the view of the pot, the smell and taste of the sake, the feel of the surface and the sound of the ubiquitous toast; kanpai!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

STILL NOT A SUGAR BOWL

I put together a rather short video slideshow of a small covered pot finished off with combed slip and my current go to Oribe glaze. This is another of the smaller pots that I have been making, Western style tea caddy to fill in spots around the kiln for the glaze firing that I fired several weeks back. This caddy measures about four and a half inches tall and though good for tea, it can be used for just about anything one's mind can conjure up. Since I am trying to do something, Khan (the feline studio assistant) is sitting in my lap as I type and thinks it is perfect for cat nip, we will see.

Monday, November 28, 2016

AND THEN THERE WAS FOUR

Illustrated is a quick photo I took a short while back after our trip to southern CT to deliver pots to several galleries and though not what traditionally springs to mind, this meeting of East and West worked perfectly. As with our trips in the past we make our way in to Guilford to a nice wine shop we like and who's owner is rather knowledgeable, to Nick's Place for cheeseburgers and onion rings and right next door to Meriano's Bakery for cannoli. There were originally five cannoli but we split one on the way home from CT so the photo shows the remaining four with an unknown Oribe hachi as a backdrop. I suspect I could have fit quite a few more cannoli on the hachi but we couldn't have eaten them fast enough and quite certainly five was more than enough of an indulgence as it was!
"Can one desire too much of a good thing?"  William Shakespeare (As You Like It)

Friday, November 25, 2016

INTIMACY

I was recently exchanging photos and emails with a fellow collector when they asked, where are the big pieces? I had to remark that we actually have very few large pots and have instead concentrated on pieces that circle around the sphere of the tea ceremony. These pots are mostly comprised of chawan, mizusashi, chaire and flower vases with some kogo, tokkuri, guinomi and yunomi thrown in for good measure and a certain degree of happenstance. In reality, our collecting has been mostly about the intimacy of objects that can be easily handled, fondled even and studied at arms length to get the fullest sense of the aesthetic and purpose. I am not excluding larger pieces intentionally, it is just that more often than not large pieces just lack the intimate nature of a chawan and surely the scale becomes imposing to handle, display or store and after years of being around potters and other artist who I have collected from and traded with, storage and display space is at a Ginza like premium in our small home.
Creating an intimate connection, this low, rounded Iga chawan feels right at home in the cupped hand, as if it were made to to fit me alone, though it fits equally as well in the hand of my wife and a few others who have handled it. The ability to finish a chawan so that the bottom and kodai work well together and are pleasing not only to the touch but to the eye is a well practiced skill won through years of trial, error, experience and dedicated patient observation and in this case it was created at the hands of the Iga specialist, Kojima Kenji. For this low and open chawan, Kojima first place a healthy swath of slip glaze around the mouth of the bowl which opens to a fire flashed rear where the face and back of the interior is covered in a coat of all natural ash glaze accumulated through an intense, near week long firing of his anagama kiln. Though simple in form and foot this bowl gives off a rather comforting intimacy that creates that sense of having know the piece for a very long time and what could be better than that?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

NON_FUNCT

If you have ever had the opportunity to visit the Kawai Kanjiro house in Kyoto or see any of his non-functional, sculptural works you can't help but be enthralled with his array of decorated wall plaque. He created these plaques in a variety of forms, sizes and styles using varying glaze combinations, neriage or slip trailed decoration, all techniques and ideas he passed on to his many students. The illustrated gosu wall plaque is by one of his very last students, Mukunoki Eizo and certainly shows the influence and instructed canons of his master. First made in a press mold, the clay is removed, firmed up and then slip trailed and following a bisque fire it is glazed over in the easily recognizable Kawai gosu creating a stark visual that makes for a rather direct non-functional work in clay. I will interject my personal belief that even non-functional objects have a rather distinct function; to enrich and help construct an environment, in other words, to please the eye and I think that Mukunoki manages that task with a few quick passes of a slip trailer and a little bit of flair.

Monday, November 21, 2016

ACROSS THE BOARD

It probably comes as no surprise that I try to get as much mileage out of various designs/ decoration as is possible. It has absolutely nothing to do with being lazy, rather the truth is that coming up with good designs that work well on my forms is not a walk in the park so to speak; for every design that works there certainly are quite a number of missteps. When it comes to the carved decoration that I do, it is a simple transition to go from terra cotta and black slip to porcelain and black slip as the technique works across the board in relation to various clays and slips. It only makes sense that a design like the scimitar grasses would work in black and white and create a much different visual than that of the rich terra cotta and black. Though the porcelain and terra cotta fire to much different temperatures I usually make a group of  eight to ten of each so that once I get carving I stay in the groove and kill two birds with one stone.
"Pleasure and action make the hours seem short." William Shakespeare (Othello)

Friday, November 18, 2016

UNFILTERED

For a while I have been exchanging emails and photos with a collector in Japan who has a strong interest in the works of Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Kumano Kuroemon. He is primarily interested in pots he will use and has shared photos of his Kumano guinomi and tokkuri which look like that would be exceptionally enjoyable in the using. Large, generous and honest pots made to be used and stand the rigors of an intense firing, Kumano's pots have an unbridled masculinity and strength that few other modern potters infuse in to their pottery. When I think about Kumano, I am immediately reminded of Tsukigata Nahiko, not necessarily in the particular aesthetic but in the clay bravado and spirit which harkens back to the Samurai culture in certain respects. Illustrated is a photo the fellow collector sent recently after a visit to Kumano Kuroemon's studio in which "the Bear" is looking over a group of recently fired guinomi, most with their firing wads still attached. This is pottery in the raw, unfiltered and surely as honest as it get; a glimpse in to the heart of the process.
(Photo courtesy of a fellow collector)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

TORUKO-AO GUINOMI

I put together a rather short video slideshow of a nice toruko-ao guinomi by the late master of this style, Kato Kenji. It has the appearance of being larger than it is, like a chawan or simple bowl for food but its actual scale gives away its purpose. Though I suppose it could be used for water, whisky or even milk, I think that for most viewers its ideal purpose is immediate and undeniable, sake and keep it coming.


Monday, November 14, 2016

AT LEAST ITS NOT ORIBE

I made this porcelain chawan specifically to see what the combination of my temmoku with one of my ash glaze variants would do over a heavy texture and here is the answer. The temmoku became a super rich amber style glaze with subtle flowing tendrils running down the surface culminating in big, gravity defying drips on the underside of the bowl. Though a rather heavily saturated iron glaze, my temmoku becomes a translucent deep amber color which the ash glaze seemed to just melt in to though it creates a rich surface environment that shows hints of iridescence here and there especially just under the bowl where the glazes ran and formed drips. The teabowl was glazed overall in the temmoku and then had the inside poured and then was dipped in the ash to just below the transition line in order to keep the entire surface from ending up on the kiln shelves though the bowl was fired on a thin slice of soft brick as a precaution. Though I was hoping for a slightly more ashy effect, I am pleased with the results and think the porcelain, heavy texture and the glaze combination worked quite well together.



Friday, November 11, 2016

HORNBY ISLAND

For those of you familiar with the work of the Hornby Island potter, Wayne Ngan, there is a lot that could be said about this potter who made his way in clay, bronze and ink in a certain degree of solitude but he would prefer you to just see the work. This faceted covered box form is a simple pot with a glaze that fits the piece like a well tailored suit but it is humble, honest and contemplative the way some really good pots are, beyond being a potter's pot, it speaks of the potter and place where it was made. I am always fascinated by the pottery of Ngan, some pieces are simple, even shy while others are strong and evocative, flip sides of clay's potential which he crafts into dialogues that speak to each and every viewer.