Monday, June 29, 2015


I've put together a rather short slideshow video of a kurinuki style Hagi chawan by Kaneta Masanao. Rather well known in the West, Masanao is a master of looking in to a block of clay and sculpting, carving and hacking out wonderful objects and vessels that add yet another dimension to the Hagi tradition. Each and every pot has a distinct character while being related in broad terms to other pots of the same technique, it is this uniqueness and quality that draws one into the world of Kaneta Masanao and hopefully this video will convey his expressive kurinuki technique.

Friday, June 26, 2015


As I look at this noble and elegant platter, I can not help but think of some of the later Rimpa masters of the Edo period. The imagery conjures up thoughts of Sakai Hoitsu and his pupil Suzuki Kiitsu as well as the late master of the style, Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942), all pursued the refinement of design with elements of stylization of which the sparse decoration on this plate so eloquently reflects. Wakao Toshisada is a master of this style, his Rimpa-esque pottery adds to the legacy of this tradition while as potter, painter and designer, his works show a truly inspired understanding of using two dimensional design to articulate a three dimensional form. The grand sweep of the iron running from upper to lower corner brings life to the piece while the use of two lone iris and leaves suggests a lush and contemplative Heian garden. Wakao understands the power of suggestion and it is seen in most of his works allowing the viewer to be moved, transported to differing times and places; this is the lure of his work which fits well in to the legacy that is Rimpa.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Every now and again and far beyond any reason, I seem to get this bug to do something way out in left field, usually something I have never done before and sometimes things I have no recollection of trying or am in possession of the necessary skill set. Though I dabble in hand building from time to time, this has been one of those weeks where I have certainly strayed from the beaten path that is throwing (with a possibility of altering). I have been building these larger, up to 18", totemic column vases with texture all over their surfaces and cutting small "citadel" style windows so that the top opening isn't the place where flowers would go and upset the center of gravity which is quite low. So far, it has been interesting making these pieces to see where they may go. Today however, I decided to make henko style bottles with a texture over their surfaces, honestly, I am not sure what I was thinking. Standing for hours, screwing up my back and a bit less than four pounds each, I don't think I was exactly sure what I was getting in to. Who knew that 48 ounces (or so) could require so much patience and be so demanding.

"Every why hath a wherefore." Shakespeare

Monday, June 22, 2015


Over three decade of looking and handling Japanese pots, I have seen thousands of pieces by Hamada Shoji and probably handled at least two or three hundred. In that time I would like to think I have become rather familiar with his style but what always amazes me is that just as I think that, some anomaly shows up, something quite out of the ordinary. Sometimes the form is unusual, a one off so to speak, other times it is a decoration that I have never seen and at other times a combination of both. Recently a friend sent me a group of photos of a vase that fit just that description, unique form and casual and spontaneous decoration that I have never encountered in book, catalogue, magazine or in hand. I wonder just how those pieces come about, what was the motivation, the inspiration for those pieces. Then it dawns on me, they happened because they could, they happened as a test, a trial and experiment, a step toward something in his mind's eye that needs to be worked out, after all, every solid and repeated pot, started somewhere and with the first step to solidifying the idea.
The same can be said about the work of Tsukigata Nahiko, I have a pretty indepth understanding of his pots predating his Oni-Shino right up until 2006. I have seen quite a few pieces, handled quite a few as well and have literally well several thousand illustrations from books, catalogues and exhibition catalogues and photos and like with Hamada, I thought I had a full appreciation of what I could expect. Enter the curve ball, a friend recently sent me some pictures of a wood fired Shino mizusashi by Tsukigata Nahiko, the difference is that it is the glaze is varying hues of gold. This mizusashi, a typical form for the potter is named, KINSEN (Golden Spring) possibly a play on the term onsen or hot spring, the remarkable thing about the golden, crystalline coated surface is that it lets you see the pure form not obstructed by thick layers of iron, Shino and ash giving the viewer an unexpected treat. After studying the mizusashi for some time I lingered on the questions of whether or not this surface was accidental, intentional or just experimental and based on what I think is the chemistry of the glaze, I suspect it was both intentional and experimental. Having seen and made silver, bronze and gold toned glazes, I suspect that Tsukigata added manganese and copper in to a thin Shino glaze wash which he applied to the pot and then placed it further back in the kiln and wood fired the piece in a more or less neutral atmosphere resulting in this rather unique pot, even for Tsukigata Nahiko. The real lesson learned is that when dealing with accomplished potters, one always needs to expect the unexpected.
"If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail."   Heraclitus

Friday, June 19, 2015


There is that old expression that some things just aren't black or white, well in this case, that is exactly what it is. I just received this black and white hana-hanaire by Kondo Yutaka from the same source that sent me the last one I had to offer and looking at this classic and traditional form, there is nothing more elemental than this simply executed black and white surface. This vase has less decoration than the last one but the flowing inlay is masterful articulating the form like it is in perpetual motion and the surface has a wonderful luster to the rich black as well. Though it doesn't show in this photo, the foot is great, cut crisp and perfectly, it finishes off the piece and reminds us, a poor foot ruins a good piece but a good foot and a good pot go hand in hand.
And just because it is Friday, Donald Fagan; TOMORROW'S GIRLS

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Illustrated is a rather Tokoname ko-tsubo with a rather streamlined form that is common among Ezaki issei, Osako Mikio and the maker of this pot, Takauchi Kimiaki. Though of a rather common form, the pot owes as much to traditional medieval pottery as it does of modern work and a thousand years in the making. The surface is typical of the reinvigorated Tokoname style with rich green ash covering the shoulder, running down the surface terminating in bidoro gems all around the pot. The base of the pot is peppered in a greyish hue with some dark areas caused by the particular way these Tokoname pots were fired first in a traditional wood kiln and later in an electric kiln. Though small in scale, this ko-tsubo makes it easy to understand how Takauchi Kimiaki was able to combine the simplest of elements to produce a compact universe in the process.
"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." Carl Sagan

Monday, June 15, 2015


Illustrated is the bottom of the two "beat up" teabowl that I put up on the blog last week. I cut the feet and they are currently drying in preparation for an upcoming bisque and  glaze firing. The feet were cut to best compliment the bowl forms and to fit well in the hand in which I think I succeeded. The bowl on the left has a simple spiral cut out of the center of the foot while the other bowl has what I refer to as an orbital cut, the very center is raised with two circles cut out to form a pattern that looks like orbits within the foot. Nothing fancy, just a simple and straight forward approach to cutting feet off of the wheel and hopefully creating a more balanced look between foot and form. I suspect if I keep this up and cut another 10,000 feet, I may actually get proficient at this.
"Natural abilities are like natural plants; they need pruning by study."  Francis Bacon

Friday, June 12, 2015


Illustrated is a fine set of kannyu seiji yunomi by veteran potter Furukawa Toshio (b.1949) presented as a sencha tea set with accompanying floral etched metal saucers. Though not entirely what the pottery may have expected, together the set creates a sense of luxury and conjures up images of artisans and literati seated around a table discussing art and aesthetics both past and present. Though paired as a sencha set by a previous owner these simple celadon cups are up for the challenge of a variety of uses related to the drinking of tea though I could imagine them with any beverage, spirit or condiment and that is the beauty of pottery, there are no absolutes nor strict guidelines. As a potter and collector it is the adaptability of purpose that is fascinating creating a broader conversation and a deeper partnership between the user and the used.
"My thoughts are whirled like a potter's wheel." Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I was asked recently if I could show a more "clinical" photo of the Iwabuchi Shigeya tsubo that I posted a week or so ago. I made a composite picture of the front and back of this shinogi style haku-enyu tsubo and hope this fits the bill. It is a very elegant piece, fitting having been created in Kyoto and the surface has a myriad of textures and colors that are best explored up close and in person but I tried to get as much as I could in the two photos. The is a nearly identical pot, form wise in the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo made in 1991 and the surface is a very somber white with little variation; in all honesty, I would have to say I far prefer this particular pot with the abundance of variation in the visual landscape which highlights the form and pronounced ridges quite well.
"A man is too apt to forget that in this world he cannot have everything. A choice is all that is left him."    H. Mathews (1927-2014)

Monday, June 8, 2015


I was throwing bowls, mostly soup bowls off the hump this morning and got near the end of the clay and decided to throw a couple of teabowls. I started out thinking they would be wan-gata shapes but had my fill of making simple bowls and set about to thrown and beat up some clay to alter them and give in to what forms may appear out of the beating. Illustrated are the two bowls I could coax out of the last bit of clay, both were smacked about a bit with opposite sides of the same paddle and though refined a bit, both are just about as the beating left them. After a long period of making very traditional and conservative pieces, letting the paddle decide the form and giving in to the process is very welcome. The tooling of the pieces will follow the same schedule, first will be the pieces tooled on the wheel and them I will cut feet on the teabowls using just a sharp piece of bamboo an a bent and sharpened piece of wire for the inside of the foot. In truth, it is good to break up the routine and should do it more often.
2Cellos version of the MOMBASA SUITE from the movie INCEPTION;

Friday, June 5, 2015


Here is another in the plus column for Suzuki Goro and then some. I was immediately taken by the rolling posture of this E-Shino chawan where the sparse but dramatic use of underglaze iron literally sets the bowl on fire. The undulating lip and provocative posture of this piece create a great canvas for the balanced decoration, the impactful use of finger marks where the bowl was held during glazing and the textured surface related to Suzuki's work in general. As I look at this chawan, I imagine him having just finished throwing the piece, lifting it off the wheel and giving it an experienced and purposeful twist to get the "wonky" feel to the bowl. There are few potters as capable of creating semi-premeditated happenstance than the master of casual, Suzuki Goro.
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I received a group of catalogues the other day and have been going through them as time allows. Last night I was flipping through one and came across this mizusashi, I really was drawn to the surface and the form and posture along with the well made and placed marks around the body. I glanced down at the caption and was rather surprised at the maker, though I will say that it clearly reads, KARATSU MIZUSASHI and though I am aware of the potters diversity, I must admit this one caught me a bit off guard. After studying the piece for a bit and really taking stock of the form and the knob, it became rather clear what I was looking at though admittedly at first glance I was leaning more toward Nakazato Muan or some other Karatsu master. This one clearly goes in the "you never know exactly what to expect" column as implausible as it may seem, Arakawa Toyozo would not have been my first guess and likely not my second one either.
(BTW, don't blame the bad and curved photo if you didn't recognize this pot right away!)

Monday, June 1, 2015


It's yet another dreary Monday here and what is called for is whimsy to liven things up just a bit. Illustrated is an Oh-Ribe kamo-tokkuri with incised decoration that has its most immediate influences in my stay with Kohyama Yasuhisa but the style goes back to the beginning of the 19th century if not earlier. These make for a good deal of fun, as there is a nearly infinite variety of ways to build them, thrown them or what have you to get interesting forms but one characteristic that most possess is the unmistakable "glug-glug" sound as they pour. The sound is made as the liquid is replaced by air as it bounces off the top of the main reservoir. All in all, fun to make and even more fun to use.

What is better for a Monday than a sure fire test of one's inductive reasoning. Always remember;  "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is likely a duck."