Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Like a lot of the rest of the country, the weather has not been exactly ideal here and there are those times when I am certain I may never see sunshine again and the past two days have been just that. Yesterday we had ice and snow with more ice on top building creating a blanket of crusty ice across the region, but no sun to speak of and today between intermittent icy rain and thick fog the day has been bleak at best until for a brief few moment that sun poked through the clouds and the resulting picture is the momentary result. I grabbed the camera and took the shot just in time for the sun to disappear and then checked to see if the camera captured what my eye had seen and luckily enough it did. Half cloaked in darkness a chaire emerged from the shadows to reveal a wonderful surface of ash with a rich bidoro drip reminding me of an ice coated rock face in the midst of a spring thaw. This particular Shigaraki chaire is by the late kiln and pottery master, Furutani Michio and was made sometime in the first decade of his career. I have made a slideshow of the pot and will put it up at another time but I thought for today, this image would suffice and would make a dreary Wednesday just a bit brighter.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Last week I posted up a detail shot of a lid that I repaired with pewter lacquer and thought to post up a picture of the overall view of the pot. Though not particularly large, I thought the pot had come out rather nice with a thick slip combed texture under one of my Oribe style glazes in which the exposed clay through the slip and depth of the recesses makes for a wide array of glaze effects and color variations. Though I have broken my fair share of pots over the years and have grown somewhat callous to the process, I just didn't want to break this piece and decided that the slight repair was more than enough to save the pot from the shard pile. I should also say that had the lid or body of the pot cracked due to my throwing or drying I would have broke it without a second thought but having foreign matter in the clay is just a variable I have zero control over and in my mind the mitigating circumstance.

Friday, December 25, 2015


I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone the Happiest of Holidays, a Merry Christmas or Festivus to all from Khan and the folks here at I, POTTER!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I have had this photo on the hard-drive for some time and decided it was time to put it up on my blog. I came across this doing some web surfing, I think I was specifically searching for Hamada Shoji and this pot showed up and it was an immdiate case of instant association. The reason I kept it, besides being a classic and nice example of Okinawan pottery was that I could not help but be reminded of Christmas by the overall appearance of the piece. To the best of my knowledge this mizusashi is not marked/ signed but has many of the classic signs of traditional modern Okinawan (Ryukyu) pottery with a heavily slipped body, carved decoration, addition of rich colored accents, iron and or gosu highlights, a good quality clear glaze and lastly overglaze enamel decoration. In this case the bright red and green overglazes coupled with the copper and cobalt washes and a tropical theme makes me think of a San Diego Xmas and despite knowing better, I can't help but think of this pot as the first Xmas Okinawan mizusashi that I have ever seen. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2015


I recently fired  a glaze kiln and everything seemed to have gone well until the final inspection. One larger Oribe combed slip jar had an issue, near the knob on the lid what appeared to be a small amount of metal boiled out of the clay leaving something of an odd crater. I spent a lot of time looking at the lid under a magnifier and suspect it was a small piece of metal banding strap that melted out of the piece and for anyone keeping track, this is the second such incidence. After thinking about what to do next, I was rather reluctant to just break the piece and instead I used a dremel and ground out the area and then filled it will a pewter infused lacquer to fill the void. While I admit I would have preferred this not to happen, I think the repair adds a little something to the pot and quick frankly I thought the pot came out rather nice and just didn't have the heart to just take a hammer to the pot. I am not one to let damaged or cracked pots out there but I think in this instance, I would give it a pass.

Friday, December 18, 2015


There are a large number of pots, both Eastern and Western that make me think of the Rosanjin concept that a pot is complete when it is being used. There is beauty in use as can be seen in this photo from a catalogue on the late Bizen Ningen Kokuho, Fujiwara Yu (1932-2001) as the magnificent color of the rectangular tray is made all the richer with the red crab and green garnish. The light coating of ash highlights the edges and corner while the potent fire color has painted the tray for with captivating tones of  reddish-orange and purples spotted with drops of charcoal grey and even blues. I can imagine this is a striking piece without the window dressing but it is in its use that this tray really comes to life and fufills the purpose and aesthetic that it was created for. As Yanagi put it, beauty born of use but in this case it is the beauty in use that tells the fullest story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Now and again I decide to try to make something out of round and set a limit to see what can be done in that block of time. I decided to make a square vase form that would then be heavily slipped and these flower blocks are what I came up with. Thrown round without a bottom and then quickly squared on the wheel I used my heat gun to firm them up and then rolled out a quick slab for the bottom of the pot. Once the base was attached and a quick coil attached around the base interior I slipped and combed the first vase and then set about making a second which was a bit bigger and managed to take less time than the first. They both came out just about as I saw them before they were made and I will likely glaze them in the Oribe or Ao+ once they are bisque and ready to glaze. Admittedly there is nothing ground breaking in any way about these two flower blocks but when 90% of what you make is round, getting out of the round and altering the routine is reward enough in itself.
"Routine is not organization any more than paralysis is order." Sir Arthur Helps (1813-1875)

Monday, December 14, 2015


I put together a short slideshow video of a vase that arrived here recently. The piece is a Shino and haiyu glazed vase by Oribe and Shino specialist Higashida Shigemasa and is basically a mix of feldspar and ash on the surface. Using his signature Hakusetsu Shino, this vase shows a very strong deconstructivist style that is married with the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese ceramics. This blend makes for a rather unique and idiosyncratic visual that is easily recognizable as the work of Higashida Shigemasa for which he is so well know for in Japan and abroad. Each angle and manner of presentation presents an entirely new landscape to the pot, with each turn of the piece the pot communicates a more and more complex narrative which is another signature associated with Higashida's work.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I had another one of those conversations regarding kamakizu the other day and let's be clear for the record, the word is easily defined; kama = kiln and kizu = flaw. In this case they were extolling the virtues of kamakizu and the wabi/sabi aesthetic and how this enhances the keshiki landscape of a pot. Now I am all in on the fact that cracks in certain vessels add to the sense of austerity and rusticity of a pot but a vessel that is intended to hold liquid, especially hot liquids is made all the worse with a crack that leaks. All you need do is ask the little Dutch boy about cracks and get his two cents. In the numerous times that I have wood fired going all the way back to 1989, I have never once seen a potter in the US or Japan jump for joy when a pot came out with a crack that in essence negated its purpose. What was missing was any commentaries about aesthetics and wabi/sabi, not a whisper, a cracked pot is a cracked pot. I have written and firmly believe in the sense of scarred beauty as it relates to wood fired pots and even see the appreciation of a pot with a crack that stands as a visual testament to the fury and violence of the process. At the end of the day, a chawan, yunomi, mizusashi or what have you is intended to hold liquid first and foremost and when it fails at that task, how does a kamakizu enhance the piece in any real or tangible way?
(I know, not much in the way of a rant but I thought I would warn off anyone that wasn't particularly interested in my editorial position on this issue. Any rebuttals, responses, criticisms or objections can be addresses to my attorney at the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I am not a huge fan of making clay these days, even in small batches. Back at Cleveland State, Kent State and a few other place I have worked, I made huge amounts of clay, from dry to wet, from start to finish and by lots I mean tons and tons of clay for myself and various classes as the studio tech. I paid my dues and now have clay made for me or I buy commercially available clay for most of what I use. Like everything else though on occasion I get this bug to make up a clay body that I used to mix with my stoneware clay that I also made myself and we are off to the races. I tend to work in small batches, about 25 pounds dry for each and mix them up to a slurry consistency and then dry each of them separately on plaster until they firm up and wedge them together until they are completely homogeneous. Now after way too much work, they are ready to use.
I'll start by saying this picture is not of clay ready for neriage, this is the first wedge and cut of the mixed stoneware and iron rich clay that I made to be mixed. I wedge the clay 50 times or so and then cut it in half, reverse the surfaces and then do the same at least two more and usually three more times to get an absolutely thorough mixing of the two clays. I realize this may seem to be more work than it is worth but it creates a very different surface with the various Oribe and iron yellow glazes and throws like a dream. One of these days I need to get someone else to make a ton or so of this clay for me then I can just open the box and bag and throw.

Monday, December 7, 2015


This is one of those photos I wish I could say that I took and if I could it would mean I was able to handle this very cool pot by Wakao Toshisada. At times I forget that Wakao has made Oribe pots to go along with his phenomenal Shino works of both traditional and Rimpa inspiration and this large o-sara plate is one of those pieces that is very hard to forget. Cloaked in a great Oribe glaze the top-side is impressed with an undualting texture that runs the entire length of the piece but it is the underside, perched on three attached feet that the real beauty of this glaze becomes highlighted. Along the trail where the glaze was in motion and even formed a suspended drip, the illusive luster that rises to the glaze surface is in full view; a halo of various colors that many good Oribe pots exhibit but are rarely captured in photographs. While good lighting may be the key the truth is that irrespective of the skills of the photographer the luster is ever present just waiting for the right light source to illuminate the surface and unlock the nuances of the royalty of copper glazes.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I am amazed at the nature of photography, it seems that for the average person with a camera what results is a pot that either looks better in the photo or much better in person than the photos displays. I understand there is an art, a discipline to photography but let's face it, most of us are just not great photographers. Case in point is that I recently saw a yuteki temmoku pot by Kimura Yoshihiro that was just not that interesting, than I got to see the pot in person, what an incredible difference. In the original photographs the surface looks flat, almost lifeless and with just the hint of any color variations, in hand the surface is alive, in movement like a cosmic dance. The "oilspots" are each composed of a number of colors from black rings, rusty partridge feathers, hints of blues and greens and even hues of silver graded neatly in size from large at the top and growing ever smaller down the pot. I tried my best to capture the actual surface in a photo and came about as close as I can with my camera and tungsten bulbs what a difference a photo can make, now I know why  there is the old adage about pictures but it really should say,  "a good picture is a worth a thousand words".
"Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution."   Ansel Adams (1902-1984)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


When I first saw this photo I immediately thought of some far off geometry lesson cloaked in a filter of green glass; it reminded me of the doodling I did in high school instead of concentrating on the subject at hand. There is a sense of geometry to much of the work of Usui Kazunari (b.1954) and this futamono covered box shows a pristine attention to detail that goes well beyond precision to create a piece that is immediately visually engaging and contemplative. Born and trained in Seto  and studying under Kato Shunto, Kazunari studied at the Nagoya University of Art before establishing his own studio in 1984 and has had a splendid career focused on a modern interpretation of Oribe with surface decoration that specializes in incised and inlay work. Using crisp incised lines and areas of inlaid color, the surface shares a wealth of color that communicates like a modern day artistic rendering of a mathematical fractal. If one were to simple describe his pots they could easily come across as technical exercises but when you see the finished piece nothing could be farther from the truth.

Monday, November 30, 2015


Illustrated is a detail shot of two vases with saucer style mouths that are flanked by a series of rings that allow the glaze to pool in little depressions made using the end of a wood tool. I like putting these depressed areas at various points around my pots to help collect and build up the glaze as it moves to create richer and visually fixating points for the various pieces. The use of this technique works well with not only glaze but slip as well as I usually wipe of the slip from the high points creating yet another visual texture to the surface which can be seen on the saffron, iron yellow vase on the right while the vase on the left clearly shows what happens as the Oribe pools and creates blue-green tendrils in each of the rings. I realize this is not rocket science but the rich, more diverse and engaging you can make the surface, the better the story the pot will have to tell and that is what I am constantly after.
"The next pots is always going to be better than the previous one, that's your motivation." John Leach

Friday, November 27, 2015


I put together a short slideshow video of a Bizen hikidashi-guro chawan that just arrived here. Made by Akiya Masao a student of Isezaki Jun, Ningen Kokuho for Bizen ware this is part of a more modern movement to create both Kuro-Bizen and hikidashi-guro style tea wares. As a combination of both styles this pot has a rich black surface with large areas of runny and glassy ash created by pulling the pot out of the kiln when the surface is actually liquid and once pulled from the fire and allowed to cool, the surface is permentantly frozen in time. The bottom of the chawan also exhibits the scarred remains of a group of shells on which the pot was fired, each flanking the kodai like feudal guardians of the four directions (Shi-tenno) with a gravity defying rich green-brown bidoro drip hanging precariously off the base of the bowl testifying to the liquid quality of the ash just before it was removed from the fiery embrace of the kiln

You can see more of the Akiya chawan over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I made a short video of an Oribe teabowl I made and fired recently. I usually throw a group of four or five teabowls that I then alter and manipulate to create the forms I am after and that feel comfortable in the hand, though working in a short series, they are crafted one at a time with each piece adding to the next. This particular bowl is stoneware with a thick porcelain slip surface which brightens the rich Oribe surface which coveres the piece. I enjoy making these thrown and manipulated bowl which are finished with hand cut feet using a simple, sharpened piece of bamboo. Though these teabowls are inspired by several modern Japanes potters, I think that I have hit upon several forms that are my own, unique to how I work and in a scale that interests me beyond being tied to the traditional chawan. I know I have quite a few of the 10,000 hours left to get where I want to go but one piece at a time the pots get closer and closer to what it is I see in my mind's eye.

Friday, November 20, 2015


I consider myself fortunate to have been able to study, work and fire with Kirk Mangus back in the early 90s. Watching him throw and then decorate his larger pots was quite a spectacle; a blend of speed, strength, determination, spontaneity and purpose. I was at Kent State when Kirk created the illustrated covered jar which is a fond memory as much a grand learning experience as it was pottery theater. He started by wedging two large amounts of clay and then centering the first amount of clay and then slamming the second one on top and centering it and the entire mass. Once centered he began the process of opening the clay up and making it rise from the bat, nearly 20" tall  with walls purposefully left thick to accommodate his style of deep relief carving.  After a few days the clay had set up enough and he first addressed the lid to make sure it made a good fit and then with a knife, simply cut away the excess in sharp, crisp facets to reduce the weight, then the carving of the pot began. Taking a moment he walked around the pot surveying the surface, form and obvious steps to the piece and wielding just a couple of tools he set in the raised boundaries that separated the panels before just going at the pot like a focused dervish in a well practiced attack. His cuts were fast and exceedingly direct and I did not see him hesitate even briefly and then the pot was done. Even though I know his menagerie of designs and elements was well practiced it was still quite the experience that I have yet to forget even a moment of.

"Every man's memory is his private literature." Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Looking a bit more like a medieval storage than a modern mizusashi this pot owes its creation to a adherence to tradition and an eye to the future. Made by Osako Mikio this Tokoname mizusashi finds its roots in Kamakura to Edo era storage jars while uniquely blending the old with the modern approach that was first espoused by Ezaki Issei and carried on by two of his students; Osako Mikio and Takeuchi Kimiaki. This mizusashi has a rather feudal form and simple lid with a surface of rich textured running ash which has created a pot that has an exceptionally utilitarian feel balanced with the complexities of the Chanoyu for which it was both intended and well suited. Synthesizing the formal and the everyday, Osako Mikio created pots that are conversant in both their purpose and the casual nature they reflect. Finding its origins in the old, this modern pot is a classic addition to the Tokoname tradition and a unique vision that clearly points to a dedicated potter.
"Every pot has its lid."  Old Proverb

Monday, November 16, 2015


Illustrated is a composite photo of a 14" tall paddled Oribe vase that came out of the last kiln firing. Initially I decided to photograph it in situ and after looking at the pictures decided to add another picture with better lighting. Though the photo with the vase in use came out rather nice most of the detail is lost in the shadowing of the floral arrangement and in order to get the full perspective of the pot I combined the photos so that the real details, surface and color were visible. The vase was paddled when the clay was just thrown and actually before the neck and shoulder were fully formed and then fine tuned after the brutal assault giving a nice texture to the base as well as breaking up the stiffness of the form. The Oribe I am currently working with has a wide array of possibilities and certainly appears very different under different light sources making this possibly one of my favorite styles to work with. I know I have said this previously but Oribe makes for a nearly limitless palette of surfaces and I doubt I will get even close to exploring even a fraction of its potential.

Friday, November 13, 2015


Illustrated is a well fired and somewhat formal Shigaraki hanaire by Honiwa Rakunyu II. Excelling at making traditional chadogu, Honiwa's work is immediately identifiable  and processes a disciplined dedication to the craft of tea ware and many of his pots have attested boxes by both Buddhist priests and chajin alike. This vase created for the tokonoma displays an extreme between front and back with the face coated in a rich charcoal surface with melted green ash above the shoulders and the rear a combination of warm flashed area at the center with ash in various hues about the sides, base, neck and attached lugs; the pot has been painted by the fire with a wide array of brushes making for a surface that has a rich story to tell about its adventure. I was fortunate to have met Honiwa Rakunyu on several occasions and see a large number of his chadogu many fresh out of the kiln, his formal sense created objects for tea that most any chajin would be pleased to use. There is little more that a potter can ask to leave behind as a testament to his vision and dedication to a tradition at odds with and also perfectly in step with a new century.
You can see more of this vase over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Illustrated is another Shino mallet vase by Mino veteran, Yamada Seiji. Though similar to one from a previous post, this form is far more sturdy and purposeful as if it is an exact copy of a well used and weathered wood mallet that has seen years and years of serious and abusive work. Yamada created this piece with a  short neck and simple tapered body complimenting each other quite well and making for a very natural and cohesive shape. Covered in a lustrous Shino glaze with alluring areas of blushing seen around the base and is complimented with a faint yuzu style texture and interconnecting fissures created by the glaze tension. The pot is finished off with a slightly chamfered foot which helps raise the pot off the ground and making it much more pleasing to the eye. The more mallet form vases I see the greater number of details unfold making for a form that never gets old and is a balance of both simplicity and variety.
The previous Yamada Seiji mallet post can be found here;

Monday, November 9, 2015


A while back I fired a kiln load of pots that included some new slip variations that was intended as something of a proving ground. The previous pots had all been teabowl size and in this firing I included pots from about 10" to 14" tall to make sure the results came out about the same as the scale increased. Illustrated is an Oribe bottle, a bit over 12" tall with thicker raked slip under the glaze creating a rather organic surface on a very controlled bottle form. The slip and surface worked out well on all the pieces with no pinholes and a nice contrast between surface and form. Since I am not often inclined to make pots bigger than about 16" tall finished I put a check in the "worked" column for this particular technique as two water jars and two bottle vases came out pretty close to how I hoped they would and that is always a win in my book.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I debated whether or not to put up this blog post as I didn't want to seem preachy but after thinking about it for some time, here it is. This started recently when I put up a classic Seto-Guro chawan by Arakawa Toyozo on my Trocadero marketplace a while back with POR (Price On Request) in regards to the price, a piece vetted in Japan by several reputable sources I should add. A number of inquirers asked about the price and admitted it was out of their price range or simply said thank you but two in particular were surprisingly different. The first thought the chawan should be drastically less expensive and the other thought the price positively outlandishly overpriced. This particular inquirer let me know that he had an extensive collection of potters like Kato Tokuro, Hamada Shoji, Kawai Kanjiro, Rosanjin and of course Arakawa Toyozo. In fact he owned two Arakawa chawan and both were bought for less than $1500. Truth be told, I am not a fan of discussing values and prices but in this instance I thought it somewhat important and relevant. I asked him about his pieces and he sent me links to the sites from which they were purchased and I have to admit the pots did not look anything like any Arakawa I have ever seen; making me more than a bit suspicious regarding their apocryphal and questionable origins. In the past couple of years I have seen several Toyozo chawan for sale at just under 4,000,000 yen so how can one expect and honestly believe that they can buy a chawan by one of the most important Japanese potters of the 20th century or any of these top level potters for less than $1500? In the end, I guess it is true, you get what you pay for.
Illustrated is a page/price list from a dealers catalogue for a Shino chawan by Kato Tokuro. I simply picked this piece to showcase how costly pots by the really big potters can sell for. At 12,000,000 yen (roughly $99,000 at todays conversion rate) it is easy to see that great work brings great prices. I guess I won't be buying this chawan any time soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


I have been in the midst of glazing pots for a stoneware/ porcelain firing and took a picture of a chawan freshly glazed, leaving me to wonder if it is a gaggle of geese is it a cluster or conference of chawan? At any rate I started loading the kiln and remembered one of those lessons learned moments and went and mixed up some wadding to put on the feet of most of the pots, especially the teabowls. Years ago I used to have crazy problems losing pots with ash glazes and finally took what I had learned from salt and wood firing and started wadding the pots. The glaze combinations that I tend to use and like are rather runny and since I glaze right up to the point of no return on the feet, better to take every precaution possible and eliminate having to try to grind pots flat and somewhat usable (or creating a larger shard pile). Using Elmer's glue, I attach the wads to the pots and got the kiln loaded and ready to fire. At least in this way I have mitigated one of the myriad of things that can go wrong and bought myself a slight measure of relief.
"Prevention is better than cure."  Goethe

Monday, November 2, 2015


Illustrated is a simple wood fired crackle white glazed bowl with added feet by Randy Johnston made during the mid-1990s. Fully functional in design and execution, Johnston's wood fired pots explore what possibilities arise from falling ash accentuating mark, ridges, lips and shallows and to that end, the interior of this bowl and the lip clearly show the efforts of the firing and potter. Having studied with both Warren MacKenzie and Shimaoka Tatsuzo, this bowl shows the influence of the former while wood firing glazed ware reflects the later, either way it is a reflection of both masters while maintaining its individual voice of a conscious and thoughtful potter.
Cat Stevens; INTO WHITE

Friday, October 30, 2015


Illustrated is a detail shot of a stoneware glazed hachi with overglaze painting in red and green enamels. This tray form showcases another side of Kato Kenji who was best known for his Persian blue pottery and as this piece shows he was quite adept at making stoneware pottery and wonderful enamel painting. In fact, Kato Kenji was so well known for these enamel painted hachi that Arakawa Toyozo mentions them in; THE TRADITION AND TECHNIQUE OF MINO POTTERY and one was choosen as part of a traveling exhibition of modern Japanese pottery that toured the United States a number of years ago which included the likes of Arakawa, Tomimoto, Rosanjin, Kawai and Hamada. Though much of his overglaze enamel work is also influenced by the pottery of ancient Persia and the Middle-East, this decoration is purely Japanese in inspiration and execution and I can not help but be impressed by the wispy and quick pace that the design vokes. It is important to see the varying styles of a potter and this hachi shows just one facet in the arsenal of Kato Kenji's pottery from traditional Mino-yaki, Temmoku and Persian influenced pottery and a few surprises in between.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Illustrated is a group of carved porcelain bowl that will end up getting a nice clear glaze dip once bisque. Thrown, tooled and then brushed with a very thin black slip, I usually like to wait until the next day after the slip is applied to carve the bowls and I leave the trimmings inside the bowl until they are really dry so that the surface doesn't get scratched up since the slip I use is very thin. Listening to more subdued music, especially classical, I enjoy carving time, it is relaxing and it lets the mind wander; perhaps this is how I end up carving subject matter like flowing grass, the tree of life and lotus patterns. I am reminded as I carve of a saying I saw on a t-shirt years ago; "The best time to relax is when you don't have the time for it." and getting work done and relaxing at the same time is certainly my idea of multi-tasking.

Monday, October 26, 2015


It is rather easy to use the phrase "a classic" when dealing with certain potters but in this case this truly is a classic chawan by Furutani Michio. If you consider the definition of the term classic, serving as a model the best of its kind, this chawan is just that. Look at Furutani's body of work this form is omnipresent and one of only a small handful of forms he used for chawan and among this particular shape and style, this pot stands out. Characterized by the fact that it is not easily definable in terms of time, this chawan is a blend of nobility, serenity and truth; the superfluous as always is stripped away and what is left is the elemental nature of the work of Furutani Michio. This chawan is a true classic and not only in regards to the individual potter but among the expansive history of chawan making and of the long standing Shigaraki tradition.
"But wonder on, till truth makes all things plain." Wm. Shakespeare

Friday, October 23, 2015


I'll be the first person to admit that at times it is very easy to take things and people for granted and this is especially true of the amount of effort, skill and labor that goes in to the seemingly simplest of tasks or objects. Over the years I have used a chasen tea whisk to make tea and more often as a prop in a photograph but recently, thanks to a friend I was made aware of the huge diversity, artistry and effort that is necessary to create a whisk of quality. Watching a master at work it is immediately clear that the creation of such a piece is the culmination of those 10,000+ hours needed to allow the hand and eye to work in perfect unity doing what must seem like at times monotonous minutia but in the end this exacting attention to details creates not only an object of function but of art as well. Once you see one being made I doubt you will ever take such a humble object for granted ever again.

The attached Youtube video from THE MAKING series shows the making of powdered green tea and of an artisan creating a complicated and beautiful chasen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Every now and again it occurs to me that in a simplistic way, every thing I do in pottery is a test, a step toward what I am trying to achieve and there sure are a lot of test pods, teacups and teabowls that have been broken up to prove it. I think it is not necessarily fair to say that making more pots to get better is a test but rather making more pots to make glazes like what I actually want and see in my mind's eye qualifies quite a few pieces as tests. I was thinking about just this point this morning as I took a wonky, altered teabowl and covered it in a thicker coating of porcelain slip while not being 100% sure the slip will adhere well to the clay body. If I were using my own stoneware and porcelain clay bodies instead of commercially available versions I could be 99% sure of the end results as I had worked that issue out back in the early 1990s but today, it is just a test. Overall the porcelain slip is not terribly thick but in spots it is well over a quarter of an inch and more so I will have to wait and see what the results are out of the bisque and then glaze firings. The truth is that it keeps a potter honest and constantly on his toes not knowing exactly what is going to happen, though repetition is important for production, giving in to ceramic fate, testing will get you where you want to go and if not it can simply be the pathway to another journey.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Considering I potter and sell the ocassional pot for a friend or collector it is hard to predict what may come my way. Some pots are simple, functional pieces and every once in a while a real rara avis shows up. A short while back I had to pots by Ningen Kokuho Shimizu Uichi and now a very noble Momoyama influenced Seto-Guro chawan by legendary potter, Arakawa Toyozo. A lot can be said about Arakawa considering he was one of the true giants, pioneers of the 20th century but I'll try to let this short video of the piece tell the story.
If inclined, you can see additional photos of the Arakawa Toyozo chawan over on my Trocadero marketplace;

Friday, October 16, 2015


Illustrated is a pot that I posted up on my blog back on 9/25, at first glance it is a bit difficult to figure out the actual size of this rather exceptional Oni-Shino tsubo by Tsukigata Nahiko and from my perspective that is a quality of a good form; large or small, the form just works. In reality the tsubo or more correctly O-tsubo measures over 17" tall and is a classic exhibition piece by a true master of this idiom. The face of the pot has a great cascading section of ash like tamadare that is framed by areas of milky and icy white Shino coated in a layer of bidoro green ash adding to the beauty of the pot. Though a rather simple form, the tsubo is none the less both dramatic and complex with a surface worthy of the term, Oni-Shino.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


I came across this photo on the internet while doing a search for pottery tools of all things. Though I have quite a few tools, I seem to go through cut off wires like crazy and was curious if there are better version than the ones I am currently using and didn't find one, I am likely to go back to making my own. At any rate, I found this very perfect display of a rich Iga vase housing a perfect blossom by Kojima Kenji. The perfect part of this display is that the vase is resting on a older, used and cracked kiln shelf which in turn rests on a traditional tatami mat; the contrast of materials and texture is rather intriguing and certainly an eyeful. In fact, there more that I think about the display the only way I can think for it to be any better is if it were located in our home! All I need to do now is wait  for the FTD people to show up
"Wishful thinking is one thing and reality another." Jalal Talabani

Monday, October 12, 2015


Illustrated is a detail shot of one of my recent Oribe bottles with thick combed slip and a saucer style neck. This type of flat, disc like neck is really good for the Oribe because it settles and creates a rich dark pool giving way to the mouth and access to the pot. I should also point out that the depressed ring around the saucer has a deep blue-green appearance with small floating tendrils of blue all pointing to coincide with the direction the neck was thrown in. The shoulder shows a myriad of effects due to the concentration of iron and Oribe glazes mingling and boiling at the height of the firing. I apologize for the poor photo but it went out the door as I managed to sell this and several other pots to a collector who came by and picked them up while still warm.

Friday, October 9, 2015


Yesterday a box arrived via UPS and in it was three pots from a friends collection, formerly from the mid-west, now parts unknown. Two of the pots are by Ningen Kokuho, Shimizu Uichi in a rather evocative and noble Horai celadon with rich slip trailed iron decoration under the glaze. Though these are two of a kind, they have striking differences from presence and posture to glaze quality and statement but both are conversant within the style and have quite a bit to say. I made a short video of the Horai chawan and hope that it gives a slight glimpse in to what the bowl is like. I would like to think that it captures the posture, volume and sensibility of the bowl.
This chawan can also be seen over on my Trocadero page by following the link;  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015


There is certainly no denying the fact that I am enthralled with the work of Kawai Kanjiro and one of my goals over the past couple of years is to get close to a real gosu style glaze that is compatible with the way I work and the forms that I work with. I have always been drawn to the gosu of Kawai, all the way back to my first encounter in the early eighties; the depth, the possibilities and the mysterious qualities that hang like diaphanous silk on a form is unlike any other surface I can think of. Truthfully though, I am not looking to just copy Kawai's gosu, rather take the aspects that I love and create my own glaze, a glaze that is simpatico with my way of working and the pots I make. Fast forward to the past couple of months and I have gotten as close to the gosu that I really want as I could imagine. My Ao+ is fairly rich and has a wide array of nuances that are hard to photograph, breaking on ridges and high points, it is always just one tweak away from exactly what I see in my mind's eye. Perhaps in the next incarnation, it will be absolutely perfect, though fully aware of my nature, maybe it will be the version after that.
"Perfection is acquired by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time." Francios-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)

Monday, October 5, 2015


There are very few potters who create a broad and diverse body of work that are as instantly recognizable as the pottery of Koie Ryoji and this hikidashi-guro chawan is no exception. The chawan is a classic Koie pot and bares many of the characteristics that point directly at him from casual, wonky form, incised marks on the exterior and an often used kodai. There is little else I can say other than as Koie touches the clay, it is given its distinct voice. Enjoy the short video.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I would like to have started out by saying, took a number of photographs of this Iga mizusashi that came my way but that just wouldn't be the truth. A collector I know found this photo on the internet and sent it my way and I was struck by the fact that I certainly would like to handle this pot and see the richness of the surface and wide array of effects from running glass to areas of  charcoal scorching and a little bit of everything in between. Like many of Furutani Michio's pots, this piece shows evidence of the tumultuous firing process with debris attached and an area that runs green where ash built up and ran down to pool on the slight recesses of the shoulder creating nothing if not a reminder of medieval pottery brought to life in the 20th century. With every pot I see, I am constantly amazed at the truth, the beauty and power of modern wood fired pottery especially Shigaraki and Iga; it is the uncompromising dedication  and vision that makes potters like Furutani Michio the benchmarks and beacon of their respective traditions.
"Truth is truth to the end of reckoning." William Shakespeare

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Looking a bit like an old Korean rice bowl in form, this robust Ko-Iga style chawan was made by veteran, renaissance potter, Kishimoto Kennin. Thoroughly entrenched in the mountainous heart of Mino potter where Shino and Oribe are king, Kishimoto has pioneered a rediscovery of Ko-Iga creating a wide array of pottery including chadogu but not limited to those pieces alone. Besides the traditional Iga pottery, he is also known for Iga-Oribe as well though it is his Iga pots like this chawan that create a thread from past to present and stand out among others working in the same tradition. The casual bowl shape of this chawan and spontaneously cut kodai are a perfect canvas for woodfiring and the natural ash that has settled and overtaken this pot are truly the marriage of potter, clay and fire, of which there can be no doubts, Kishimoto Kennin is a master.
For a Wednesday, sometimes one thing has little or nothing to do with the other; an acoustic cover of Coldplay's CLOCKS by Jeff Gunn;

Monday, September 28, 2015


I am firing off the last of three bisques in this current cycle in which I have made groups of terra cotta, stoneware and porcelain and am rather glad to get these pieces bisqued. Tomorrow I will finish clear glazing the last of the terra cotta pieces of which this set of four shallow bowls is included. Thrown in terra cotta, black slipped and then carved, the finishing touch is adding white slip trailed dots in the intersections of the design. I like adding the slip dots to the tebori carved pieces, it brightens things up just a bit and creates an interesting focal point for the design. The only drawback is that I prefer to carve when the pieces are a bit drier but need to get the pieces finished while the slip will adhere and stay put on the clay, so accommodations need to be made in the process. Besides finish glazing the terra cotta pieces, I am hoping, planning to get the first of two glazes on the stoneware pots currently in the bisque and at any rate plan on loading the first terra cotta glaze kiln tomorrow afternoon and fire it off on Wednesday. We'll see how that all goes.
"Our plans never turn out as tasty as reality." Ram Dass

Friday, September 25, 2015


A friend of mine recently acquired a rather large, exhibition quality O-tsubo by Tsukigata Nahiko and it is quite a spectacular pot. At over 17" tall it is of a classic tsubo form but the surface is anything but typical being a showcase for a wide array of effects one will only see on a Tsukigata pot. Displaying a rich ash tamadare style face with icy looking Shino around, covered in varying thicknesses of natural kiln ash, the surface is alive and very three dimensional. This detail of the mouth and shoulder shows some of the richness and activity that cloaks the piece in a perpetually changing landscape depending on lighting and vantage point. All in all, this is a stellar pot by one of the great innovators of modern Japanese pottery and considering the new owner was never going to buy another piece, this purchase came as something as a surprise harkening back to the old literary adage; once more unto the breach.
(Photo  and permission provided by an anonymous collector)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


I unloaded the first of three bisque kilns that needed to be fired yesterday and as soon as it was empty, loaded it back up for the second firing. With some creative stacking, I am usually able to get about 45+ pieces in each kiln load and when done I will have fired over 160 pieces in terra cotta, stoneware and porcelain. After loading the kiln, I immediately set about glazing up the first group of carved porcelain bowls and a group of porcelain and stoneware teabowls. Rather than waiting to have to glaze all of any one clay at one time, I am going about this by glazing smaller batches to reduce the mental and physical stress normally associated with the process. Today I glazed up a large group of terra cotta carved, decorated and slipped pieces and tomorrow my plan is to deal with another group of stoneware bowls, serving pieces and bottle/vases.  I can already tell that this seems more efficient and far less taxing by breaking the glazing process into smaller and more manageable groups and will probably deal with glazing larger groups of pieces exactly this way in the future.
"The future ain't what it used to be." Lawrence Peter Berra (1925-2015)

Monday, September 21, 2015


Illustrated is a square  and squat formed Oribe kogo by Ishii Takahiro. Like the chaire I posted previously it is part of a tea set for chanoyu that includes the chawan, mizusashi, chaire, kogo and futaoki which all have a similar style of glazing to tie the pieces together. The kogo shows a rich clay flavor and texture that peaks out from behind areas of Ishii's Oribe glaze making for a very interesting landscape and the unglazed knob springs out from the nearly black, frosted top of the piece adding yet another dimension to the small and intimate pot. The eight sided form has just enough faceted texture to provoke the glaze to vary which makes this simple kogo interesting and different from a variety of vantage points. Bein' green isn't so bad after all.
"You see with your eyes. You know with your heart." Jim Henson (1936-1990)

Friday, September 18, 2015


I will admit, it can seem like I drone on about certain things, like details perhaps. There is no escaping the fact that when I survey a pot, I am particularly detail oriented though I would like to think that the sum of the whole is not being missed during the process. I recently was studying a very nice Tsujimura Shiro Iga mizusashi and was struck by the posture and attitude of the pot along with the way it was thrown and the very fine firing it received as a result of what one can only assume is exacting placement of the piece. As I studied the pot, I kept coming back to the vibrant depth of the glassy ash (yu-damari) ring which encircled the knob as it it was planned just that way. Where the knob and the lid proper merged, there is a slight depression which filled up around the protrusion to create a stunning visual which invites the viewer to pick up the lid. Planned or serendipity, these are the type of details that accumulate to create a wonderful pot and could we have expected anything less from Tsujimura Shiro?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Illustrated is a pair of tall stacked chimney pots from the last firing. The body and neck were thrown separately and later put together after the bases were paddled to create an overall textured effect and once assembled the round lugs were applied. The pieces were glazed in a rich green Oribe and then had varying amounts of iron added to the surface, heaviest at the top where it has changed the glaze and cascaded down the stacks and on to the bases of each vase. I really enjoy making pots like this, related to mallet forms as getting the pieces to work together is always a challenge and paddling the base separate from the stacks makes the process much easier and a bit more predictable as well. Each of the vases measures just shy of 16" tall and tough they could have been thrown in one piece, stacking the pieces is just quite a bit easier in the throwing and especially in the wedging!
And just because it is a Wednesday, here is one of my favorite songs by Mary Fahl, formerly of the band October Project entitled BEN AINDI HABIBI;

Monday, September 14, 2015


Illustrated is a simple en-yu salt fired chawan by Tokoname potter; Ito Yushi (b.1945). The form appears to be a blend of both the Korean archetype and a typical Japanese chawan with a wonderful surface created by using a kohiki style slip before the piece was salt fired. During the process several serene gohonde style spots were created and are surrounded by a patch of rich pink blushing which defines the face of the bowl. The crackled slip texture and distinct finger mark help distinguish the kodai from the bowl form and adds a bit more intrigue to the bowl. Ito Yushi is a rather adventurous Tokoname potter having studied with both Hineno Sakuzo and Tomimoto Goro, he has been very involved with the study of Korean pottery and has visited and exhibited in S. Korean a number of times. This chawan clearly shows a touch of that Korean sensibility while clearly stating its place of origin.

Friday, September 11, 2015


I received a rather nice Shino vase today and went ahead and made a short slideshow video of the piece, at nearly a foot tall and in perpetual motion, this modern spiral vase was made by the late Kato Yasukage XIV circa 2008. Tall and imposing the spiraled surface is glazed in a rich Shino glaze that shows off a wide array of textures and color variations from pure white, blushed pink hues and rich iron red circling the base of the pot. The textured flutes draw one in and around the pot and create a vivid canvas for this creative master gone way to early.

You can see more of the Kato vase over at my Trocadero marketplace as well;