Friday, October 17, 2014


If you think of Shino in a broad sense, one naturally thinks of Muji-Shino, Aka-Shino, Nezumi-Shino and E-Shino and the stellar pots and surfaces of modern masters like Arakawa Toyozo, Kato Tokuro, Hayashi Shotaro, Suzuki Osamu, Wakao Toshisada and Hori Ichiro among others. Though there are variations within the glazes used by these and other Mino specialists, the glazes are readily identifiable and have a similarity in surface, appearance and styles. On the other hand there is Oni-Shino which varies radically from the traditional Shino and has such wild variations even within the context of what is that glaze. Though a number of modern potters make what they term Oni-Shino, for simplicity sake, I am only referring to the works of Tsukigata Nahiko. Tsukigata's use of Shino and iron together with ash from the wood firing created a myriad of effects and surfaces that had never been seen before his creation and rarely since his death in 2006, though his son, Tsukigata Akihiko carries on the style and techniques rather well. It is the serendipitous portions of clay, Shino and iron glazes together with a balanced addition of ash that builds spectacular surfaces that are conveniently stirred together with the assistance of the fury of fire in his anagama wood kiln. Each and every pot a canvas and each and every piece radically different but intimately connected in an exciting body of work.

Illustrated is a detail shot of a large Tsukigata Nahiko mizusashi that I recently handled. The contrast between the iron, ash and pure translucent Shino is quite astounding but the real standout variation is the state of the iron which has made glaze runs down the surface of the pot. If you look carefully, you see thousands of iron crystal speckles looking like copper filings in a rich Japanese lacquer as if painted intentionally on the pot. As you turn the pot and catch light from various light sources, the surface appears alive, moving and animated with what happens by inspired and well practiced design or fiery happenstance, though one can't thoroughly dismiss a determined potter's spirit either. I can't exactly say I am surprised at the rich variation in this pot or others by Tsukigata Nahiko, but I can say, I am constantly amazed by them.

"How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life." Marcus Aurelius

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