Friday, June 7, 2013


With time, determination and the inclination, there is a certain amount of detective work that can easily go hand in hand with studying pottery and potters. Many times pots come along that are unboxed or otherwise unidentified and even sometimes the marks are obscured with glaze. Case in point, the illustrated mallet vase is easily lost in the genre of Shino pottery and falls within a niche group of pots that was most likely created sometime after the war until the 1970's. On closer examination, the proportions are familiar as is the glaze quality and the style of underglaze surface decoration making this piece easier to place into its proper perspective. Over the years, I have been fortunate to have seen at least 60 such vases in books and catalogues as well as in person, from the time the potter left his "apprenticeship" and founded his own kiln in 1967 to those pieces made prior to his death in 2006. Though the pots, style and surfaces evolved quite a bit, you can see the thread of continuity between this pot, made circa 1967 and those along his pathway of maturity.
The potter in question is Tsukigata Nahiko and this particular vase reflects his classical training under Arakawa Toyozo. Though there is a stiffness to the throwing, the proportions of the piece are indicative of Tsukigata's sense of form and measure as well as the surface treatment which is a slight departure from his teacher as he was striking out and beginning to create his own style of work. He managed to capture just enough gesture in the clay to help articulate the pot and its surface once glazed and fired. The foot being somewhat rudimentary and dependant on the works of Arakawa though not what we think of in later pots, compliments the piece rather well. If you measure this pot against those made in the 70's, 80's and 90's, you can see the evolution of the form, glazing and firing, but there is a distinct thread that connects the earliest to the later pots among his body of work. Though an early and more formal work, this pot speaks as much about Tsukigata Nahiko as do his later works and without this pot, what would his later works have looked like?
"We must remember, there are no shortcuts in evolution." Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)