Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The term "utsushi" is an interesting one, it can mean a variety of things like; to emmulate, appropriate or to be inspire by, what it does not mean is to reproduce or "an exact copy" as is often presented. An utsushi-mono in relation to a work of art or craft is more about an older work being the archetype for which a modern artist or craftman is inspired by and uses as a springboard to create an object that may only differ through sublties but is not a slavish copy. Within the world of Japanese pottery in many traditions there are objects from chawan, mizusashi and vase forms that are used by modern potters as inspirational works, these are seminal forms that have made their way through history to act as benchmarks, archtypes for modern times. In Shigaraki and Iga there are a number of mizusashi and vase forms that serve as these archetypes which have served traditional potters like Tanimoto Kosei, Furutani Michio, Konishi Heinai and Sugimoto Sadamitsu to name but a few.
Illustrated is something old and something new, on the left is a traditional Ko-Iga vase form that has inspired potters spawning numerous copies both loose and exact (plus or minus) since the day it was first made. On the right is an utsushi-mono made by Sugimoto Sadamitsu, obviously he was inspired by the Ko-Iga achetype also illustrated but rather than make an exact copy, he choose to play with the form a bit, altering the proportions, the rigidity of the base and the angularity of the lugs. By softening the squared portions of the pot, the vase takes on a very different posture and attitude, opening up the form to being a bit more intimate, inviting the viewer to wish to handle the piece as opposed to merely study it. Though the  Ko-Iga surface matches the older vase, the surface on Sugimoto's piece activates the surface and creates a sense of movement that the older piece doesn't have. There is something to be said for being inspired by a work but the true test of individuality is allowing your voice and vocabulary to be easily recognizable and shine through both form and surface.


Monday, April 23, 2018


What you are looking at is a sizable glaze run at the very bottom of one of my Oribe style covered jars. What is immediately apparent is that perhaps just one degree of temperature or minute more of firing and this pot would have stuck to the shelf and most probably pulled off part of the foot ring when it was retrieved from the kiln. As much serendipity as it was anything else, the fact that this glaze stopped just a micron short of calamity is in a small measure due to gaining some familiarity with glazing these pots as well as shutting down the kiln a few degrees shy of the cone melting, all gained from repeated firings and lots and lots of tests. I will admit it is very easy to claim some modicum of experience for avoiding the pot becoming ruined but if luck certainly didn't play a huge part in this affair, why do I still fire most of my Oribe style pots on wads or thin slabs of soft brick?

Friday, April 20, 2018


When I first saw this Shino mizusashi, I was reminded of a number of the post-war Mino potters like Arakawa and Kato Tokuro along with some of their contemporaries that were creating works inspired by the Momoyama aesthetic. This classically inspired pot relies on the past as much as when it was made being both something old but something new at the same time. Though an earlier work by Hori Ichiro it has all of the traits one expects on his pots to this day, from strong and purposeful form to understated decoration and exceptional glaze apllication and quality, though older, it still has the determined strength of works he is currently producing. Hori's skillful use of his underglaze iron and the apllied Shino glaze create a tremendous amount of movement and complexity to the surface. Creating a vivid landscape as if he was brushing an medieval ink brush painting, the atmosphere of the pot has that feudal quality that any Momoyama specialist would be pleased with and I am reasonably sure that viewer and user alike would be more than content for a face to face encounter.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I stumbled upon this photo on the internet which did not have any indication as to the maker but based on some previous experience, I had my suspicions. Doing a bit of searching on the web, I came across the actual source of the illustration and my original thoughts were confirmed, this is a simple Shino kogo by Oni-Shino specialist, Tsukigata Nahiko, several of which I have illustrated in various books and catalogues. Tough in form and treatment it bares a resemblance to his master, Arakawa Toyozo, the glaze as well as the particulars of the form give it away as Tsukigata's work. I think that most people are used to seeing the various incarnations of Oni-Shino, Oni-Iga and Oni-Hagi and his more classical Shino pieces are over looked and not recognized as easily as his other styles of pottery. I find his pots influenced by the Momoyama archetypes and those of his master to be quite original and adding to the vocabulary of the modern Mino tradition they are a simple and contemplative counterpart to his powerful and electric Oni-Shino pottery.

Monday, April 16, 2018

織部 壷

Illustrated is an Oribe style tsubo that I made a while back; it had gotten pushed back on a shelf and was covered in clay splatter and dust and I decided to pull it out, clean it up and take a few photos of it. This particular tsubo is decorated with an incised grasses pattern around the shoulder using the rounded end of an old brush that has lost all of its bristles and has been co-opted as a "what-ever" tool. The Oribe glaze on this piece is one of the hybrid recipes in which I used 60% of one formula and 40% of the other and this color and surface is the result of the testing. The color is very deep and  rich on certain parts of the jar like above the shoulder and in the incised lines but it has thinned down a bit at the should area itself and the glaze began to run down the pot, the effect high lights the decoration and is welcome though it wasn't, at the time expected. I really enjoy working with the variety of Oribe style glazes that I have come up with which has also taught me more about patience and expectation with results that are at times satisfying and rarely absolutely predictable.

"Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper sprinkle cool patience." Wm. Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Friday, April 13, 2018


Though perhaps not a household name outside of Japan, Takezawa Nobuo (b.1944) is a stelwart practitioner of the revitalized Echizen pottery tradition. A product of Echizen himself, born in Fukui, Takezawa founded his pottery, Hachikugama in 1973 and uses locally dug clay and fires in a traditional kiln using techniques that date back centuries to create what is readily identifiable as modern Echizen-yaki. Like the other Rokkoyo, the Echizen pottery was traditionally wood fired without glaze and the resulting surfaces known as shizen-yu or at times haikaburi, the method in which many of Takezawa's works and this pot in particular was fired. The taut thrown tsubo was incised about the surface with a sharp tool and then the firing took over the rest of the decorating and glazing duties of the piece. Covered in a wide array of wood fired attributes, the surface ranges from areas of wet and dry textures and light and dark tones that are both visually engaging and communicate a sense of the old and new and some subtles mysteries as well. Having a reserved appearance if you listen carefully it has quite a lot to say about not only the tradition of Echizen but of the way in which it was fired and about the potter, Takezawa Nobuo himself. I hope this slideshow video gives a sense of all these things and more.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Illustrated is a classic Kawai-mon henko by Kawai Sota (b.1973), son of Kawai Toshitaka and great-grandson of Kawai Kanjiro. This molded henko has all of the classic feel of the work of whom I suspect is his greatest influence, Kawai Kanjiro with a unique and assymetrical form that has excellent lines and curves to define the piece. The henko was covered over in a white slip and later a design was cut and carved away to reveal this evocative Kawai school design that is unique to Sota. Again relying on the past, the vase has been glazed over in an rich, honey ame-yu that can be seen on the works from master to student and student's student tying this piece neatly from past to present. It is certainly apparent where the influences and technology springs from in the works of Kawai Sota but like many of the other Kawai school potters, he has managed to add to the vocabulary that has defined the school for almost 100 years.

Monday, April 9, 2018


After making over a dozen altered square and triangular teabowls I decided to make it a baker's dozen. This teabowl is basically squared but the defining boundries are all tilted angles with the plane of each bowl puffing out a bit to keep a full volume to the piece. It is hard to tell in these photos, but each panel begins and ends in a tilt which runs from about 8 o'clock at the bottom to 2 o'clock at the top and then the slip was applied with my hand to accentuate the effect. Once the white slip had set up, I applied a thin coat of black slip to create the circle/ square/ triangle design and since there are four sides, there are two circles opposite each other to fill out the decoration. Once bisque, the bowl was glazed in my iron yellow glaze which a friend recently likened to a honey ash glaze though no ash or Albany slip is present. I enjoyed making this group of teabowls, breaking the rhythm of "round and round" is a good thing and brings something a bit new even to the pieces that both start and stay round.

Friday, April 6, 2018


I was shuffling through  a disc filled with photos I have taken, looking for a specific group of pictures and saw this detail shot of a chawan that was here a while back. From my perspective, this is the type of complex, mysterious and active surface all rolled in to one chawan that is just alive and electric to the eye and touch. Made by the "Bear", this chawan by Kumano Kuroemon is an exceptional example of his work with such a rich array of activities and surfaces that the viewer is unsure where to start, the thick rich Kuma-Shino, areas of glassy ash and crusty tamadare paint the bowl like a nebulous, cosmic painting of clay as canvas, a handful of materials as paint and fire as the brush. The back, interior of the chawan is covered in ash which is eroding pathways through the Shino glaze ending up and filling the pool with a molten pond of ash frozen in time and covered in various other glaze and ash generated features. When I think about pots with complex surfaces, it is all these details that are apparent in just the singular photo highlighting a Kumano chawan that jumps to the top of the list.
"Beware of the person who can't be bothered by details."  William Feather

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Though the form is famaliar, the surface is one that is not so common, especially on a Tsukigata Nahiko mizusashi. The box is simply marked, ONI-HAGI MIZUSASHI and the piece was likely made in the 1990s and certainly owes some of its style to the pioneering works of Miwa Kyuwa and his younger brother, Kyusetsu. This classic, thick white Hagi glaze was "created by Miwa Kyuwa in the 1960s and came to its fruition with Miwa Kyusetsu in the 1970s and 1980s ushering in a new style of glaze for the tradition which spread throughout the region and ultimately across Japan. Though lacking the black slip under the glaze, this surface by Tsukigata has many of the classic attributes of Miwa Shira-Hagi but as you look closely you can see the wet, iron rich stoneware peeking through the crawled surface resembling melting snow giving hints that this is something a bit different. Naming his borrowed glaze style, Oni-Hagi as he did with most of his glazes and styles, Tsukigata used his glaze with care and thought creating a thin wash of glaze around the foot and at the shoulder to show a contrast within the overall surface. As I mentioned the form is classic for the potter but the bright surface brings a fresh appearance to the pot much like trading a dark suit for a stylish new white one. It is easy to see how the viewer would be drawn to the piece but an even bigger appeal would be the feel of all the hard, bumps and crawling glaze creating texture on texture, what a great sensation.