Friday, February 7, 2014


Perhaps my favorite potter who made mallet style vases was Arakawa Toyozo, I know it is not too great a stretch and an easy choice, but many of his pots just don't appear to have been thrown, rather conjured from his mind's eye. His ability to create pots that are the purest embodiment of the tea ethos are unrivaled in 20th century pottery. Having been fortunate enough to see several examples in person and quite a number in books and catalogues, his kinuta forms in Shino, Seto-Guro and Ki-Seto set a monumental standard for the form for his students and just about every other modern potter. From my perspective, it is one of his students that took to heart what Arakawa was trying to express through this particular form and that student was Tsukigata Nahiko. From early on in his career, Tsukigata pursued the ideal of this form, warping it and perfecting it to his own vision over time and like his master (sensei), he created forms that are casual creations that are also spontaneous and unconscious apparitions in clay. Over his more than five decades of potting, Tsukigata left a large number of kinuta forms in a wide variety of styles and each one is a distinct exercise in creating forms that follow in the footsteps of his teacher, a tradition and a pathway that he emblazoned through his unique and bold voice.
Illustrated is an Oni-Shino mallet vase by Tsukigata Nahiko from a portfolio published in the 1980's. I doubt a piece can get more classic for Oni-Shino with a wide array of effects and beautiful green ash built up around the shoulder and cascading down the body of the pot. The posture and appearance of the piece draws direct correlations to worn and weathered wood mallets used, abused and left out exposed to the elements gathering more and more character as time goes by. The contrasting angles of shoulder and mouth happen effortlessly as an extension of a potter who was both familiar and comfortable with the concept through years of studied creation of this casual form. This level of simplicity coupled with such a complex surface is the result of mastery of material, process and fire, that began, the day Tsukigata entered the workshop of Arakawa Toyozo and continued throughout his life in clay.