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