Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Like most pottery, there is Bizen that I do and don't like, then there is Kaneshige Michiaki (1934-1995). Michiaki was an outstanding potter who made a subtle yet substantial contribution to Bizen-yaki prior to his all too soon departure. Son of legendary Bizen potter, Kaneshige Toyo, brother to Kosuke (b. 1953) and father of Iwao (b. 1965), Michiaki's career was filled with acolades and milestones including his contact with many of his father's circle of friends, such as Arakawa Toyozo and the highly influential Kitaoji Rosanjin and Isamu Noguchi at the family kiln. Kaneshige Michiaki was also named Okayama Prefectural Intangible Cultural Property in 1990. In the end, what set Michiaki apart from the throngs of Bizen potters was a distinct vision and firing style that is obvious when looking at his body of work or a singular pot. The way in which he handled clay, created vessels and fired his pottery speaks of a potter who made full use of the past while striving to add something to the tradition amplified by his own powerful voice; from guinomi to tsubo, his individuality is echoed in his pottery.
"Tradition (dento) is sometimes confused with transmission (densho). Copying Momoyama period (1568-1615) pieces is transmission. Producing contemporary pieces incorporating Momoyama period techniques is tradition. Tradition consists of retaining transmitted forms and techniques in one's mind when producing a contemporary piece. Tradition is always changing. A mere copy of an old piece has not changed, it is nearly the same as its prototype of three hundred years ago. Tradition consists of producing something new with what one has inherited." An excerpt from an interview with Kaneshige Michiaki conducted by Robert Moes and published in MODERN JAPANESE CERAMICS IN AMERICAN COLLECTIONS.
Illustrated is a squared and pierced Bizen vase by Kaneshige Michiaki. The rich purple-red fire color surface is highlighted by ash which has settled on the vase during the intense firing adding to the geometric design repeated through the sides and top of the vessel. The structure appears just a bit visually precarious, yet in reality the form is bolstered by the creative experience of the potter and the heat of his Bizen kiln.

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