I am not sure exactly when I started making these dervish jars, at least back to CT, they are based on moving images of "whirling dervish" that I saw in movies as a teen, probably about the French Foreign Legion or Chinese Gordon from the movie KHARTOUM. Making the form and keeping the top from collapsing or warping was a challenge at first but I have long since worked out the problems of making them and have fashioned them in stoneware, terra cotta and even the odd one in porcelain now and again. This particular jar was thrown out of terra cotta, black slipped, carved in the "grasses" pattern and then later fired with a clear glaze and the knob of the lid is thrown/tooled to resemble a spindle on a spinning top to try to tie the pieces together. I am not sure what the largest of these jar measured, perhaps 18" across but this one was about 14" or so when fired and the foot a bit broarder than most. Though they are less stable with a smaller foot, the contrast and taper makes for a rather dramatic appearance and makes the piece seem like it is in dramatic motion, whirl on.
Monday, July 24, 2017
Illustrated is a rather simple, functional and direct Shino chawan that is as much about the beginning as it is anything else. This robust Shino chawan was made by Tsukigata Nahiko sometime during the early 1960s and is the earliest teabowl by him that I have ever seen and the bottom of the box has a large archaic looking red seal stamped on it that looks like something out of the middle ages. Thrown out of a familiar looking clay, the body was first dipped in an iron slip and then a Shino glaze and where his fingers held the bowl, rich red patches punctuate the surface along with areas where the slip has worked its way through the glaze to create a sense of chaos and reaction. The shape of the bowl is a bit conservative but if you look carefully you can see what will become the more classic Tsukigata foot and the space he uses at the base, lift of the pot and the shadow line all give hints as to where they will evolve. Though this was just the beginning for Tsukigata Nahiko, he could have easily been content with marrying the styles of Momoyama and his master but he set about an arduous and determined route and found his way to the path of where demon Shino and the ferocity of the flame meet head on.
Friday, July 21, 2017
Illustrated is a rather large porcelain sometsuke hachi by one of my favorite modern Japanese painters; Sato Katsuhiko. The bowl is a bit wonky having been thrown a bit unevenly but the wonderful overall floral/ foliage decoration makes a great frame for the fierce (?) Fudo painted in a medallion at the center of the bowl. Having seen a lot of his two-dimensional work and how well constructed the images are, I am always impressed by his ability to orchestrate the surface of a three dimensional object which he does quite well. The use of the cobalt blue decoration of a variety of hues really animates the piece and gives the impression that it was painted with a variety of colors where only the one in varying thicknesses are in use. I never tire of encountering ceramic works by Sato, each one is a playful expression and excercise that is a beauty to use and to just plain admire.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Ever year on this day I take a pause, a moment of reflection to remember a remarkable potter. A pioneer in firing a traditional anagama, both Shigaraki and Iga pots are left as a testament to the talent, insight and dedication of Furutani Michio. I also take a few moments to reflect on those all too few moments of being at his studio, his warm smile, his nobility and all of those wonderful wood fired pots.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
I have seen and handled a great number of pots by Kimura Morikazu over the years but this particualr style always captures my attention. Kimura has creatively arranged his glazing in such a way to create bands of various colors at differing levels around the pieces, in this case the rich iron band around the top of the chawan is contrasted against the rest of the bowl which fades to black and the entire piece is covered with oilspots making for a rather attractive and compelling surface. This chawan was made back in the 1980's and was wood fired but like many of his pots, it defies being dated as it has a rather timeless quality that is connected all the way back to the birth of the technique in China to the creative applications of present day potters working with in this oeuvre. I hope the slideshows gives a fuller perspective of the chawan and hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed handling the bowl.
Monday, July 17, 2017
I have made a lot of pots over the years, with pots being shipped all over the US, some to Canada and quite a few other destinations as well, I think 21 countries in all. A number of these pots were sold through sales, galleries, craft shows, out of the various studios and now through internet sales, truthfully it is impossible to keep track of them and at times they are hard to recognize in description or even photos ( especially those from the CSU days). That being said, there are also times when it is easy to recognize a piece through shape, lip, foot, clay color, pierced holes in the foot for hanging and the overall posture, I believe the photo is just one such bowl. I'll add the caveat that I am 99% sure this is my pot, acting as a prop along side James Spader and Brian Dennehy in the TV show, BLACKLIST. I suspect the bowl was bought at a gallery in Maryland or Virginia where I showed, both now defunct. Exactly how the v-bowl got there is beyond me as it is the second pot that has shown up as a prop, the other a short lived Canadian TV show, so go figure. I am kind of honored that the show runners used the bowl exactly as I would hope as a focal point of a person's table, filled to the lip with 'stuff' just as the bowl was intended. This bowl may be just a prop but for a fleeting instant it was center stage and after all the television transmissions are on their way out in to the cosmos and who know who will see* the bowl next perhaps the inhabitants of Gliese 581c?
(* Before someone decides to say something, yes I am aware of the inverse square law and its relation to radio signal degradation.)
Friday, July 14, 2017
Looking a bit more like the exotic camouflage of some far away mammal, fish or lizard; this style of yuteki glaze is not something that you see every day. The jewel inspired spots burst out of the yellowish ground creating isolated universes of iridescence and shimming crystals which under the right lighting brings the chawan to life, creating a mysterious and contemplative surface that very few can achieve. Created by oilspot specialists and student of Kimura Morikazu, Sasaki Yuzuru spent a number of years under his master's tutelage as well as studying at the Kyoto ceramic Research Institute before establishing his own studio/kiln in Fukui (1979) allowing him to focus on this pursuit and creating pots and surfaces that almost defy logic and showcasing a long term dedication to his craft and art. In certain respects as I study this pot it appears like I am staring at the handiwork of a pointillist master who has place every spot exactly where it should be with the rich dark lip and highlighted band of blue-grey iridescent spots running around the center circumference of the bowl. At the end of the day it is the experience and his years of making, testing and firing that has created this exotic chawan surely setting him apart from his contemporaries and making it easier still to say, "Sasaki Yuzuru made this".
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Illustrated is a wonderful little saidei (layered clay) kogo by the late Miyashita Zenji (1939-2012) created by building up layers upon layers of colored clay on his ceramic canvas. Having grown up around clay, his father Miyashita Zenju (1901-1968) was a veteran porcelain potter and glaze magician, Zenji discovered his saidei technique and literally wrapped his evocative and creative forms in his multi-colored surfaces and though this kogo is simple in form it creates a lyrical surface that speaks to distant and exotic landscapes to destination far off both real and imagined. Miyashita's use of color and texture in balance on his forms illustrates a potter's intimate knowledge of his clay, form and material as well as an evolving aesthetic as his works and ideas matured. Though small in scale and at times easy to overlook, this saidei kogo is an excellent and mature example of Miyashita's oeuvre and speaks about a purity and honesty of a potter's vision.
Monday, July 10, 2017
If I am set in to auto-pilot, I can sit at the wheel, music blaring in the background and throw round thing one after another, obviously, the wheel spinning in a circle has something to do with that. Though I enjoy round pots, now and again I find the need to break the form given from the wheel head from throwing and altering the piece either with a few subtle gestures or at times by radically altering and even reassembling the clay. In this particular case, I took a couple of low serving bowls and just moved them a bit to form soft squares, most noticeable at the mouth and rims. This is another of those "no rocket science" moments where just upsetting the form a bit changes the piece quite a bit and also adds somewhat to the actual use of the piece. As you can see the exteriors have had thick white slip applied which has been combed and once bisque will likely be glazed in the Ao+ and Oribe. I know it really doesn't seem like a big difference but by squaring the forms just a bit it breaks that rhythm of not only the throwing but the aesthetic outcome as well.
Friday, July 7, 2017
I will not get involved in the meaning or implications of this Zen Buddhist expression but it reads; HONRAI MUICHIMOTSU, a single line calligraphy that the great Zen pioneer Hakuin Ekaku and many other liked to brush. This particular scroll is by the highly versatile painter, calligrapher, sculptor and potter, Tsukigata Nahiko. Brushed in a thick and bold black ink, the easily identifiable calligraphy stands out against the stark white paper which is punctuated in three spots with the read seals of the artist. The mounts are very well done but are simple in that they don't add any conflict with the ink though they frame the painting to the fullest. The scroll is hung in a spot which the owner has "designated" their Western tokonoma and on a lacquer stand there sits a simple, bluish white Yi Dynasty style 20th century Korean vase which happens to be in-between its floral garnish at the moment. In receiving this photo I am reminded how easy it is to create small accents of Japan within an otherwise thoroughly Western environment.