Friday, September 22, 2017


This particular guinomi is one of those small gems that make it easy to understand not only the love of saké but of guinomi, salt firing, wood firing and the work of Ningen Kokuho, Shimaoka Tatsuzo. Though diminutive in scale, the is nothing small in the execution, design and firing of this guinomi having all of the bells and whistles a viewer or collector would want from the potter. From form, purposeful and well cut foot, impressed rope decoration and a mixed, misty infusion of cobalt from the salt and ash from the wood firing, everything comes together to paint a portrait of a perfect Shimaoka piece. All that is left is to get out a truly wonderful bottle of bourbon (or saké) and revel in "how sweet it is".

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Over the years I have received and shipped a number of packages, far too many to count or even remember at this point but ever now and again a package arrives and it is the packing as much as the contents that is quite memorable. The picture shows just why the packing struck a cord; the teabowl was exceptionally well packed within and without of the wood box and then using boxes that were certainly on the large size for the small tabi-chawan, each was perfectly packed with peanuts full to the top so that everything was as tight as could be. When I received the pristine package I knew immediately the packing was undertaken with absolute consideration that the pot would arrive intact even if dropped out of a plane at 30,000 feet. Because of the appearance of the box I knew to document the unpacking and left the package just as you see it so that I would have a record of a packing job that merits an A+ if not higher. Though I might not use boxes quite as big to cut down on the expense, there is a new standard. I thought I would mention, the tabi-chawan is by Koyama Naohiko and having had the chance to handle it for a couple of days I will put together a video slideshow of the pot in the near future.
(I apologize if it seems like I am a bit too excited about packing but over the 30+ years of collecting the number of damaged pieces I have received or have heard about makes really sound packing almost as important as the pottery itself.)

Monday, September 18, 2017


I am not sure where I got infected but somehow I got this bug to throw a group of covered jars where the flange is in the bottom half of the pot. Pictured are the parts for two of the four tops/bottoms that I threw; pots that will be slipped, carved and one for the sunset and leaves design and the last one will be thick combed slip and all four will have various ring knobs or thick slab handles applied. This particular group is of smaller covered jars that will fit between larger bowls allowing them to fit in various spaces acting as filler and I suspect I will use the iron yellow, Ao+ and Oribe glazes to finish them. Step one was obviously throwing them and tomorrow I will tool, assemble and slip them and if they firm up enough, carve them in the evening. I'll post a few photos of the pieces in their green state and again once they are glaze fired which at this moment seems like a long, long way off.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Our first contact with the work of Ochiai Miyoko (b.1946), who lives and works outside of Kyoto in Shiga-ken was back in 1983 through the JAPANESE CERAMIC TODAY exhibition. In the exhibition was a small T'zu Chou style tsubo with a lively black fish, detailed with sgraffito on a nearly pure white background, the piece and effect was quite elegant with an aire of nobility thrown in for good measure. Over the years we saw her work here and there including several pieces on our trips to Japan in the 1990s but it wasn't until we first hopped on the internet super-highway that we found our first Ochiai that was for sale; in fact one of our very first purchases, a T'zu Chou floral vase over the pc was with Robert Yellin back in the late 90s.
Flash forward to the present day and we recently stumbled on to a rather attractive Ochiai bud vase with the very same decoration as was on the Kikuchi tsubo in the 1983 exhibition. Standing about six inches tall this ko-tsubo has a rather graphic sense to the decoration and the pot is both delicate and well thrown with a small, raised foot. I took a number of photos of the piece and built this short video slideshow to try to capture the volume and presence of the pot, hopefully the video will paint a fuller picture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


At first glance, I am reminded of the earlier works of the late Mashiko Ningen Kokuho, Tamura Koichi as well as another potter many thousands of miles away, John Glick but as you study this pot, the image there are tell tale signs that it was the ex-salary man turned potter Takauchi Shugo that made this inspired mizusashi. If you start by looking past the surface, the form is somewhat similar to those used by Takauchi early in his career along with those of angled planes creating unique and interesting pottery that was either simply glazed and reduction fired or at times salt and wood fired. Once you turn your attention to the surface the use of slips, oxides, carving and sgrafitto are all classic techniques that Shugo has employed through his entire career as an innovative potter; his use of space and movement through design is a particular hallmark. To finish off the pot, Takauchi Shugo has used a hexagonal, recessed lid that fits the piece quite well and the stylized animal knob is seen on a number of his earlier thrown and hand built pots that have lids. Though I can still see the influence of Tamura Koichi's camellia blossom tsubo which was made in the very late 1960's, how can a potter not be influenced by one of the giant's of Mashiko while remaining true to his personal vision and vocabulary.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Though my wife and I use pottery by a number of potters, there are left-over pieces from commissions that I have made that we use for most our meals, some dating back to when we lived in Cleveland. As I would make commissions, I would make extras to ensure that the order was filled with "perfect" pieces and the left overs ended up in our cabinets for use.  Due to a number of moves, mishaps, crazy cats (both Jun and now Khan), we have lost several pieces over the years where sets became pairs and sometimes lone survivors. Though I was done throwing for this current cycle; a slight mishap took the life of a well-used salad bowl and where there was once four, now there is only one remaining. One of the advantages and perks of being a potter is that when you need something, either new or a replacement, you can just go to the studio and get them made. Before working on a variety of other tasks today and now putting off my last bisque just a bit; I sat down and threw four terra cotta salad bowls that will either be black slipped and carved or slip trailed, not sure which way to go at the moment though I did make up some fresh black and white slips if that is the way I, I mean Mindy decides I should go. At any rate, we should soon have at least a new pair for us to use and I am always reminded of the Three Stooges in spirit if not in actuality; "you break'em, we'll make'em and bake'em".

Friday, September 8, 2017


I have to admit almost nothing I see made by Suzuki Goro surprises me anymore. My first exposure to his work back in the mid-1980s were as disparate and far afield from each other showing various styles, techniques and surfaces which he is now rightfully well known for. I have seen Suzuki work, seen several videos of him working and handled quite a few of his pieces over the years and despite the diversity there is a quality, essentially how he handles clay, how it is pushed and manhandled that prevails in each and every pot. The illustrated pot is an excellent earlier example of his work, fired Shigaraki style though maybe it is best classified as haikaburi style; this deformed wood fired mizusashi has a wonderful posture and attitude that manifests itself in most of his work quite naturally. Without ever forsaking function and purpose, Suzuki creates these pots that stretch the rational of pottery making and in doing so his pieces have at times a fantastical and lyrical presence rooted in strength and conviction. It is always easy to praise a potter who is known internationally and is a favorite among critics, scholars and collectors but in respect to Suzuki Goro it is always easy to see and understand why his pottery has an allure unlike any other potter today.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Illustrated is another of the highly textured teabowls that came out of a firing back in early August. In this instance I allowed two various textures to decorate and animate the surface under an Oribe style glaze with the one being created using a kushime technique and the other occurring as the bowl was expanded in throwing. In the end, this has created three distinct textures, the third being where the slip was combed away from the iron rich clay showing as dark valleys between the highlighted Oribe over the white slip. I would like to say that everything I do is well thought out and pre-planned but anyone who is actually a potter knows quite the opposite is true especially as a style, technique, new glaze or new clay is being used for the first hand full of attempts. At first glace the overall shot of the teabowl looks about like a number of pieces that have come before but as you look at the detail shot it is immediately apparent that another dimension has been added to the piece and since I can rarely stand or sit still, that is just what the potter ordered.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Illustrated is another of those macro detail shots that highlights the complex, diverse and even magical surfaces that Tsukigata Nahiko was capable of through his mixture of clay, iron, ash, feldspar and fire reminding one of a rich orchestral symphony or the complexity, flagrance and palette of a fine wine. In this particular case the rich iron surface has combined or coalesced in to shimmery, copper and golden crystals that border the runny iron with small areas of ash coated feldspar popping through to the surface. While looking at the rich, deep red iron to purple tones of the surface these areas of intensely complexity punctuate the surface and create small and wondrous universes circling the cosmos of the entire chawan. Though this may be a rather bold statement, I can't think of many potters who have created and painted so many pots with so few materials as Tsukigata though I know there are others. But as I look closer and closer at his work it is the balancing act of artistic singularity, simplicity and complexity that keeps bringing me back time and time again; a conversation so informative it is at times a rather formal lecture of what are the possibilities.

Friday, September 1, 2017


Thrown out of an iron rich clay, this Okinawan style, enameled chawan was first coated in a thick base of white slip, later glazed in a  'coral and rice ash'* clear glaze with a running iron lip before the subdued yellow and rich red and green pigments were painted as overglaze. This simple bowl was made by Shoji Hamada and in many respects typifies his enamel ware pottery in that the colors are vivid, the brushwork is strong, decisive and fast and the designs/ decoration have a common sense of nobility and honesty to them. This wonderful brushwork is the result of years of "doing" and in regards to the enamel pottery he would decorate up a group of pots and fire them to just under 1500 degrees over a short period of time allowing for a quick turn around to confirm the quality of the brushwork, enamels and the decoration thus making adjustments easier for future firings. Everything about this chawan has the look of simplicity but rest assured, from choice of materials, the throwing/ tooling and the direct and spontaneous brushwork are all both complex and masterful.
(* see Susan Peterson; SHOJI HAMADA)