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