Friday, July 31, 2015


The actual firing from Wednesday seemed to go off without a hitch but as any potter will tell you, there is no certainties until the kiln is open and unloaded. I cracked the kiln Thursday morning around 10am and had it unloaded by about 4pm, overall the results were pretty good with the very bottom being just a bit cooler than normal and a slight snafu with the ash glaze that lead to pieces having very little of the flow effects that I prefer. I spent the evening packing up 3 orders which by the time I post this, should have all gone out the door. I decided to post pictures of a few pieces that were done just to do them, the henko vase form and an iron and Oribe water jar and teabowl. The teabowl was given a fairly even but thin coat of an iron glaze over the whole bowl to darken and enrich the surface while the henko and water jar both had the glaze applied in varying thicknesses to promote a lot of movement and flow about the surfaces. Where the iron was especially thick on the henko around the neck and shoulder the glaze became particularly active creating a strong visual highlight. On the water jar the glaze was applied to create enough flow to accent the shoulder and top of the form without obscuring the texture. Another kiln firing completed, a few days of down time while I sort out a group of tests and some "experiments" with glaze and then on to the next cycle.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


I am firing the kiln today as well as dealing with a few other tasks like finishing up a series of 40 tests, some for terra cotta and the bulk for high fire. It is a busy day and I am a bit out of steam. I thought I would post a brief but interesting video I found on the Mino master and Prefectural Living Treasure, Ando Hidetake. Enjoy the video and I am back to work.

Monday, July 27, 2015


I was going through some file boxes last week and stumbled on a group of folders each with groups of Japanese postcard, gallery exhibition notices from varying years. I decided to build a short slideshow video out of one of the folders, in this case 1999 showcasing the diversity of shows and giving a small glimpse into a year in the life of pottery as shown by just a few galleries throughout Japan.

Friday, July 24, 2015


I unloaded a bisque yesterday morning and was grateful to see there were no surprises which is always a relief. I got the pots clean and separated for their various glaze combinations and collected up the teabowls and tokkuri/ bottles and gave them all their first glazes right away and finished them up this morning before having to run various errands this afternoon. I am primarily using my temmoku, saffron, iron red, clear and Oribe glazes with a few pieces in ame-yu and Ao; all the glazes were made last week so that is one less thing I need to think about as I get glazing. On Monday and Tuesday I will glaze the bulk of the pieces, the larger pieces like this paddled mizusashi form that owes a bit of its influence to a Tsujimura Shiro Iga mizusashi I recently handled though what ever plans I had in mind quickly go out the window once the paddle hits the clay and the forms are beaten up a bit. At the moment the plan is to glaze this piece in one of my Oribe(s) with some iron additions to the surface, the firing will likely happen next Wednesday so if things go well, I'll post a picture or two next Friday. As with all glaze firings, fingers and toes are crossed and small kiln gods are made, not much more I can do but load the kiln and get it fired.
".....chance favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur (or was it Travis Dane?)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Illustrated is a detail shot from the Furutani Michio hanging vase; though visible from the front of the pot, this highlighted detail is a bit difficult to see in the photo that was posted. The area surrounding the mouth is covered in a beautiful coating of  jade colored ash culminating in a rich emerald bidoro drip that is bigger than my thumbnail in size. It is easy to get lost in the singular particulars of almost any object but it is all of these wonderful pieces/parts that creates the entirety of a pot, like the myriad of pointillist dabs and where would the LA PONT NEUF by Petitjean be without every last detail?
"No art is good unless you can feel how it's put together. By and large it's the eye, the hand and if it's any good, you feel the body. Most of the best stuff seems to be complete gesture, the totality of the artist's body; you can really lean on it."  Frank Stella

Monday, July 20, 2015


I took this photo a week or so ago and was struck by not only the overall image but the completeness of the pot in use. The vase is by the late anagama master Furutani Michio and is the largest of this type of kakugata kake-ire that I have seen, measuring in at over 17" long and comes from one of the larger collections of Furutani pieces that I know of at over two dozen pieces. As can be seen in the photo, the vase was carefully fired on it side creating a face that clearly shows the scars and position of the piece in the kiln while the other angle of the face shows a coating of ash running toward the ridge that divides the front of the pot. The back of the piece is covered with rich glass creating a wonderful landscape that moves around the pot like a feudal emakimono. The use of vibrant red chrysanthemum bring the vase to completion and create a stunning counterpoint to the rustic and worn appearance of the pot. I am in constant awe of the beauty, serenity and nobility of the pots of Furutani Michio who as a modern potter was able to infuse his pottery with the essence of what it is to be Shigaraki or Iga while pursuing a singular personal voice that can be heard in his clay sometimes loud and clear and at other times a simple, subtle whisper.

"Truth exists for the wise, beauty for the feeling heart." Johann von Schiller (1759-1805)

(Used with the kind permission of a private collector.)

Friday, July 17, 2015


When I think of Yoshitoshi Mori (1898-1992) my mind immediately goes to the striking kappaban stencil prints of great samurai warriors and battles as well as the evocative bijin prints he is so well known for. Mori covered a lot of ground in his mingei influenced prints and among some of his best works are the prints of the everyday; people at work and engaged in the business of living. This particular kappaban charged with energy, portraying a potter at work making a sizeable vase in his studio, oblivious to all but his pursuit, chasing after the nobility of the common. The print appears to present a pot being created by the coil and throw method which is a common practice in Japan and shows that despite the simplicity of the design, the attention to certain details was paramount to Mori to capture the essence of the image. Using only the color of the paper, black and brown, Yoshitoshi Mori shows us the noble pursuit of a potter and his creation at an elemental and pure level that is rarely seen.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


If you take a strong and sturdy form and the use of two straightforward glazes, in this case black and iron red, a bit of wax and an unfettered design you can be mislead into thinking that there is little exceptional going on. However as you look at the work of Morino Taimei nothing could be further from the truth as his elemental forms and simple design and execution create objects of sophistication and contemplative beauty who along with the late Miyashita Zenji create wondrous sculptural ceramics that use organic and even asymmetrical decoration on geometric and rigid forms. Morino creates these geometric forms entirely by hand, choosing to hand build from the ground up; the piece rises with precise lines and curves later to be glazed and decorated in a manner which both compliments and disturbs the continuity  of the piece. When added together, form, decoration and texture create a visual and lyrical poem that yields new nuances at each and every viewing.
"At ubi materia, ibi Geometria."  ("Where there is matter, there is geometry."),
Johannes Kepler

Monday, July 13, 2015


I finally finished throwing what I need for the current cycle, mostly the pieces are geared toward Oribe and saffron glazes, with a few temmoku and iron or ash and a few pieces made to test the new richer Ao which I am pushing closer to gosu. Many of the pots are heavily textured as the transparent glazes allow the impressed and paddled textures to show through the surfaces. I went into this cycle with a clearer picture than normal as to how I wanted to proceed and used textures that I was well acquainted with and ones that would make the most of the various forms; the Iga paddle and the rippled water stamp took the forefront with a few others being sprinkled in here and there. Illustrated are two of the tall totem like column vases that I made by first paddling and stretching clay around a square piece of wood and then once fairly well defined, a base was added and the pieces were stamped. The taller of the two measured about 16" tall when first made and my intention is to glaze these in Oribe so that the texture is not only visible but accentuated by the surface. I have not made pieces like this before so this is as much a learning experience as anything else and will hold my final judgment until they and the three other pieces from the same series come out of the glaze firing. Hopefully this will have been a good lesson learned whatever the outcome.

"I am always ready to learn, but I do not always like being taught." Winston Churchill

Friday, July 10, 2015


There is a tremendous sense of economy and calculated simplicity when it comes to the chawan of Hamada Shoji. I am always impressed by the totality of his experience and years of repetition that have distilled form and function to a point where simplicity and economy reign supreme. This chawan is noble in its austerity, a form where the superfluous has been abandoned, the decoration is as elemental as possible and the use of a single glaze that has a great variety in its surface are all of the trademarks that create a bowl where neither editing or adjustments are either needed or possible. Few potters can make such a chawan and Hamada excelled at the art of the rustic which is so clearly on display in this ame-yu chawan. As I ponder the phenomenal array of modern pottery, there are few who can take such a simple bowl and create so much out of so little, culminating in a conversation that cuts across time and culture so effortlessly as the chawan of Hamada Shoji.
"These are the best pots, if they can be done at the best times." Shoji Hamada (from the book SHOJI HAMADA by Susan Peterson),

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


I find that as I throw  teabowls, the majority of them are what I refer to as high sided bowls, that is to say, most are taller than they are wide. Over the years I have had this pointed out to me and so I decided that for the upcoming firing, I would make as many lower/wider bowls as of the taller variety. As I have been working on throwing teabowls in a looser and more altered state, most of this investment in time has been made on taller bowls with virtually none having gone in to lower/wider bowls so I find myself improvising as I go along and honestly, this is where interesting stuff can happen. Illustrated is one of the recent bowls that was thrown almost exactly as you see it, pulling the wall creates the uneven lip and undulating line and then once thrown, I push out here and pull out elsewhere to arrive at the shape that is then finished off with a hand cut foot. To finish the bowl, I apply thick slurry slip over the exterior and then comb it to create the texture; once bisque my plan is to glaze it in one of my new Oribe glazes and we will se how it turns our. I'll keep you posted.

"My whole life has been one big improvisation."  Clint Eastwood

Monday, July 6, 2015


I must admit, things have a funny way of working out. Last week a collector I have known for a long time asked me if I could sell a few pieces for him to which I agreed and he sent them along. The package arrived today and one bowl in particular was rather unexpected, a really fine Shino chawan by Tamaoki Yasuo. I was not told what was coming other than two Shino chawan and a large pot by a British potter so the contents were a bit of a mystery but as I know this collector pretty well, I trusted the pots would not disappoint. The reason I find this a bit unexpected is that last week I had a friend send me a Tamaoki mizusashi photo which I put up on my blog last Friday, rather coincidental timing. I have put together a 4Vu montage of the Shino chawan which gives a nice panoramic view around the bowl and highlights why Tamaoki is so highly regarded. The truth is that not only is this a great looking Momoyama influenced bowl, it feels so wonderful in the hand.
To see more of this chawan, please have a look at it over on my Trocadero marketplace;

Friday, July 3, 2015


Looking like a six petaled blossom, this wonderfully thrown and altered pot bridges the past with the present as only a master is capable. Glazed in a rich Shino, the viscous glaze cracks along the indents that creates the lobes of the pot while adept handling allows fiery glimpses of the red iron to come to the surface adding not only depth but movement and even passion to the piece. Having learned the fundamentals of his craft by Kato Kobei V, Tamaoki Yasuo labored to marry past and present with his own unique voice that can be seen in this mizusashi. Though the pot appears to have a casual quality to it, that masks the studied and careful execution of a Shino master at work where various qualities are created through years of practice, repetition and dedication to a traditional pursuit. Kuroda Ryoji labeled Tamaoki Yasuo as one of the five great hopes of Mino and when I see work of this caliber, it is obvious how right he was.,

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I mentioned the other day that I ended up hand building several henko style bottles and illustrated is another from that series. This bottle ended up about 2" taller and perhaps just a bit wider in depth and taper, as I mentioned previously, it seemed like a really good idea at the time though the glaze firing will be the final judge in this matter. I should probably mention that these pieces are not made in a conventional manner, using three slabs, two for the body and one for the bottom, the top section is folded and then paddled around a small piece of 2" x 4" as I go along to define the form, slow and steady wins the race. This way there are no real seams along any edges or the top, hopefully minimizing any cracking. I have not seen this technique done before, though I am sure it is out there, think John Gill meets full contact origami; it just seemed a natural fit for me and it has worked in previous attempts. As I have probably related previously, I have a real love/hate relationship with handbuilding; I the process but love it when they come out well.
"Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to the human existence."  William Blake,