Friday, September 10, 2010


I have been interested in chawan and more specifically Shigaraki and Iga chawan for a long while. Though there is a myriad of shapes, it is the tsutsu-gata, cylindrical form that I am very fond of. The concept of the cylinder would seem somewhat defined and finite, but there are a number of Japanese potters who make the simple form so articulated and animated and distinctly their own in a nearly infinite variety of subtle interpretations.

This anonymous Iga chawan has a wonderfully glassy surface which at some point in the past, covered the makers mark and now the identity of the potter is lost. The robust form was fired on its side on clamshells and has compressed a bit to alter the tapering cylinder. The shallow glass coating is all running to the clamshell marks left, fossilized from the firing. The play of the horizontal glass running opposed to the verticality of the form is frozen in a moment when the chawan was pulled from the hot kiln, hikidashi style to cool and freeze the surface forever.

The second chawan is an older Shigaraki piece by pottery maestro Tsujimura Shiro. The surface is the opposite of the previous chawan, showing minimal natural ash deposits, rather favoring the rich hi-iro fire color that accentuates the wonderful posture and form of the bowl. The “wonky” lip just adds to the motion of the form and beckons the viewer to look within the chawan. What will you discover?

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