Friday, October 29, 2010


I have always been a huge fan of Shino. The beauty of Momoyama Shino, contemporary Western Shino and especially modern Japanese Shino are all of interest to me. If you look over the past 60 plus years, the Japanese have resurrected and added to the Momoyama tradition with a wide variety of styles and glaze types. The three major pioneers of this resurgence of Shino were Kitaoji Rosanjin (1883-1959), Kato Tokuro (1898-1985) and Arakawa Toyozo(1895-1985). It was the trail blazing inroads of these three that ushered in the interest of Momoyama Mino. They were followed by a number of great potters who used and built on their foundations. Potters like Suzuki Osamu, Kato Kozo, Hayashi Shotaro, Wakao Toshisdada,Yoshida Yoshihiko, Ando Hidetake, Toyoba Seiya and a number of others are adding to the Modern Momoyama aesthetic.

Within the modern Shino fold, there are two potters who stand out as innovators and eccentrics. I am talking about Tsukigata Nahiko (1923-2006) and Kumano Kuroemon, the bear of Echizen. Kumano’s pots are bold, hard fired and mostly oburi in nature and he uses what he calls Kumano-Shino and Matsuzaka-Shino (after a type of feldspar he uses) on his pots and they are then fired intensely in his anagama at nearly 1500 degrees Celsius. Kumano’s works are immediately recognizable for their scale and extreme surfaces.

Tsukigata Nahiko would seem to be the opposite of Kumano, reserved, introspective and on a spiritual journey to enlightenment of mind and work. He was an accomplished shakuhachi player, calligrapher, oil painter and sculptor of which many of his bronzes were cast in editions. Tsukigata studied and worked with Arakawa Toyozo and inherited a certain amount of his style, technology and firing methods. But there the similarities end.

After working with Arakawa, Tsukigata began to experiment with styles and firing methodology. He worked in Ko-Shino, Shino, Nezumi-Shino, Aka-Shino,Ki-Seto, Kohiki, Hagi and even Shigaraki. Then he coined the now famous term, Oni-Shino and also Oni-Iga to describe his new work. His Oni-Shino works are raw power and present a landscape, unseen in Japanese pottery before his “creation”. They are essentially Shino and iron glazes fired in an anagama to cover and activate the glazes with the deposit and build up of natural ash glaze circulating in the kiln. Tsukigata fires his kiln to a very high temperature and through the use of different types of wood, he is able to build up ash on his pots that fuses, like glass over the course of the firing. The results are wondrous.

The approach to wood firing Shino is a pathway of dedication. Since the 1950’s many potters have chosen to gas fire as a means of control, repeatability and expediency. The choice of the anagama and all of its variables makes each pot unique because of the process. For Oni-Shino, there can be no short-cuts.

Through wood firing his pots, Tsukigata made sure the each pot would have a differing story, a narrative, ensnaring the viewer with a tale of the intensity of the potter, process and the fire. His chawan, mizusashi, chaire, tsubo, hanaire, wall plaques, tokkuri, guinomi and yunomi, though all related through the potter, clay and process, stand alone as a statement in which the past and present collide through the violence and velocity of flame.

As you study Tsukigata’s pots, you can see the strength of potting, the quality of the clay, his attention to detail, the Shino and iron glazes over run by ash deposited during the firing. But as you look closer, you can see the furrows cut through the Shino glaze, like tamadare runs, by the ash built up like molten lava and running down the surfaces of the pottery. Within the running ash and areas of built up ash, there is a myriad of pattern; matsukawa-ji (pine bark ground) and chirimen-ji (crepe silk ground) spring to mind. There is much to see in his work with a dialogue that stirs the imagination.

I have been very fortunate to see, handle and study a number of works by Tsukigata Nahiko. In time, I began to realize that the Zen aphorism, Zoki-Nichigetsu (Together sun and moon all the brighter) is very indicative of Tsukigata. The meaning of this aphorism is that with each and every new enlightenment (his) heart shines all the brighter. With each new pot, each new firing, he came closer to the creation of his ultimate Oni-Shino.

There is a great book on the Oni-Shino works of Tsukigata Nahiko, simply entitled; ONI-SHINO. The array of work is breath taking and these serendipitous creations are truly the soul of the fire and artistry of Shino intertwined. “The reddish pottery created from the flame that could make an Ogre cry… from here Oni-Shino is born.”* Today, there is a large number of pots being made and described as Oni-Shino, but when I think of that term, only one name springs to mind and that is Tsukigata Nahiko……………….

Illustrated is a large Oni-Shino Chawan (used with the permission of a private collector) and a close-up of a Oni-Shino hana-ire, both by Tsukigata Nahiko.

(* an excerpt from ONI-SHINO by Tsukigata Nahiko)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your post. I have in my possession, one of Tsukitata's guinomi. It was a present from someone who knew him. I didn't understand this form, and my friend, who doesn't speak English, could not explain it to me. Your article has helped very much.