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

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