Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Like a lot of the rest of the country, the weather has not been exactly ideal here and there are those times when I am certain I may never see sunshine again and the past two days have been just that. Yesterday we had ice and snow with more ice on top building creating a blanket of crusty ice across the region, but no sun to speak of and today between intermittent icy rain and thick fog the day has been bleak at best until for a brief few moment that sun poked through the clouds and the resulting picture is the momentary result. I grabbed the camera and took the shot just in time for the sun to disappear and then checked to see if the camera captured what my eye had seen and luckily enough it did. Half cloaked in darkness a chaire emerged from the shadows to reveal a wonderful surface of ash with a rich bidoro drip reminding me of an ice coated rock face in the midst of a spring thaw. This particular Shigaraki chaire is by the late kiln and pottery master, Furutani Michio and was made sometime in the first decade of his career. I have made a slideshow of the pot and will put it up at another time but I thought for today, this image would suffice and would make a dreary Wednesday just a bit brighter.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Last week I posted up a detail shot of a lid that I repaired with pewter lacquer and thought to post up a picture of the overall view of the pot. Though not particularly large, I thought the pot had come out rather nice with a thick slip combed texture under one of my Oribe style glazes in which the exposed clay through the slip and depth of the recesses makes for a wide array of glaze effects and color variations. Though I have broken my fair share of pots over the years and have grown somewhat callous to the process, I just didn't want to break this piece and decided that the slight repair was more than enough to save the pot from the shard pile. I should also say that had the lid or body of the pot cracked due to my throwing or drying I would have broke it without a second thought but having foreign matter in the clay is just a variable I have zero control over and in my mind the mitigating circumstance.

Friday, December 25, 2015


I wanted to take a moment and wish everyone the Happiest of Holidays, a Merry Christmas or Festivus to all from Khan and the folks here at I, POTTER!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I have had this photo on the hard-drive for some time and decided it was time to put it up on my blog. I came across this doing some web surfing, I think I was specifically searching for Hamada Shoji and this pot showed up and it was an immdiate case of instant association. The reason I kept it, besides being a classic and nice example of Okinawan pottery was that I could not help but be reminded of Christmas by the overall appearance of the piece. To the best of my knowledge this mizusashi is not marked/ signed but has many of the classic signs of traditional modern Okinawan (Ryukyu) pottery with a heavily slipped body, carved decoration, addition of rich colored accents, iron and or gosu highlights, a good quality clear glaze and lastly overglaze enamel decoration. In this case the bright red and green overglazes coupled with the copper and cobalt washes and a tropical theme makes me think of a San Diego Xmas and despite knowing better, I can't help but think of this pot as the first Xmas Okinawan mizusashi that I have ever seen. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2015


I recently fired  a glaze kiln and everything seemed to have gone well until the final inspection. One larger Oribe combed slip jar had an issue, near the knob on the lid what appeared to be a small amount of metal boiled out of the clay leaving something of an odd crater. I spent a lot of time looking at the lid under a magnifier and suspect it was a small piece of metal banding strap that melted out of the piece and for anyone keeping track, this is the second such incidence. After thinking about what to do next, I was rather reluctant to just break the piece and instead I used a dremel and ground out the area and then filled it will a pewter infused lacquer to fill the void. While I admit I would have preferred this not to happen, I think the repair adds a little something to the pot and quick frankly I thought the pot came out rather nice and just didn't have the heart to just take a hammer to the pot. I am not one to let damaged or cracked pots out there but I think in this instance, I would give it a pass.

Friday, December 18, 2015


There are a large number of pots, both Eastern and Western that make me think of the Rosanjin concept that a pot is complete when it is being used. There is beauty in use as can be seen in this photo from a catalogue on the late Bizen Ningen Kokuho, Fujiwara Yu (1932-2001) as the magnificent color of the rectangular tray is made all the richer with the red crab and green garnish. The light coating of ash highlights the edges and corner while the potent fire color has painted the tray for with captivating tones of  reddish-orange and purples spotted with drops of charcoal grey and even blues. I can imagine this is a striking piece without the window dressing but it is in its use that this tray really comes to life and fufills the purpose and aesthetic that it was created for. As Yanagi put it, beauty born of use but in this case it is the beauty in use that tells the fullest story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Now and again I decide to try to make something out of round and set a limit to see what can be done in that block of time. I decided to make a square vase form that would then be heavily slipped and these flower blocks are what I came up with. Thrown round without a bottom and then quickly squared on the wheel I used my heat gun to firm them up and then rolled out a quick slab for the bottom of the pot. Once the base was attached and a quick coil attached around the base interior I slipped and combed the first vase and then set about making a second which was a bit bigger and managed to take less time than the first. They both came out just about as I saw them before they were made and I will likely glaze them in the Oribe or Ao+ once they are bisque and ready to glaze. Admittedly there is nothing ground breaking in any way about these two flower blocks but when 90% of what you make is round, getting out of the round and altering the routine is reward enough in itself.
"Routine is not organization any more than paralysis is order." Sir Arthur Helps (1813-1875)

Monday, December 14, 2015


I put together a short slideshow video of a vase that arrived here recently. The piece is a Shino and haiyu glazed vase by Oribe and Shino specialist Higashida Shigemasa and is basically a mix of feldspar and ash on the surface. Using his signature Hakusetsu Shino, this vase shows a very strong deconstructivist style that is married with the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese ceramics. This blend makes for a rather unique and idiosyncratic visual that is easily recognizable as the work of Higashida Shigemasa for which he is so well know for in Japan and abroad. Each angle and manner of presentation presents an entirely new landscape to the pot, with each turn of the piece the pot communicates a more and more complex narrative which is another signature associated with Higashida's work.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I had another one of those conversations regarding kamakizu the other day and let's be clear for the record, the word is easily defined; kama = kiln and kizu = flaw. In this case they were extolling the virtues of kamakizu and the wabi/sabi aesthetic and how this enhances the keshiki landscape of a pot. Now I am all in on the fact that cracks in certain vessels add to the sense of austerity and rusticity of a pot but a vessel that is intended to hold liquid, especially hot liquids is made all the worse with a crack that leaks. All you need do is ask the little Dutch boy about cracks and get his two cents. In the numerous times that I have wood fired going all the way back to 1989, I have never once seen a potter in the US or Japan jump for joy when a pot came out with a crack that in essence negated its purpose. What was missing was any commentaries about aesthetics and wabi/sabi, not a whisper, a cracked pot is a cracked pot. I have written and firmly believe in the sense of scarred beauty as it relates to wood fired pots and even see the appreciation of a pot with a crack that stands as a visual testament to the fury and violence of the process. At the end of the day, a chawan, yunomi, mizusashi or what have you is intended to hold liquid first and foremost and when it fails at that task, how does a kamakizu enhance the piece in any real or tangible way?
(I know, not much in the way of a rant but I thought I would warn off anyone that wasn't particularly interested in my editorial position on this issue. Any rebuttals, responses, criticisms or objections can be addresses to my attorney at the law firm of Dewey, Cheatum and Howe.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I am not a huge fan of making clay these days, even in small batches. Back at Cleveland State, Kent State and a few other place I have worked, I made huge amounts of clay, from dry to wet, from start to finish and by lots I mean tons and tons of clay for myself and various classes as the studio tech. I paid my dues and now have clay made for me or I buy commercially available clay for most of what I use. Like everything else though on occasion I get this bug to make up a clay body that I used to mix with my stoneware clay that I also made myself and we are off to the races. I tend to work in small batches, about 25 pounds dry for each and mix them up to a slurry consistency and then dry each of them separately on plaster until they firm up and wedge them together until they are completely homogeneous. Now after way too much work, they are ready to use.
I'll start by saying this picture is not of clay ready for neriage, this is the first wedge and cut of the mixed stoneware and iron rich clay that I made to be mixed. I wedge the clay 50 times or so and then cut it in half, reverse the surfaces and then do the same at least two more and usually three more times to get an absolutely thorough mixing of the two clays. I realize this may seem to be more work than it is worth but it creates a very different surface with the various Oribe and iron yellow glazes and throws like a dream. One of these days I need to get someone else to make a ton or so of this clay for me then I can just open the box and bag and throw.

Monday, December 7, 2015


This is one of those photos I wish I could say that I took and if I could it would mean I was able to handle this very cool pot by Wakao Toshisada. At times I forget that Wakao has made Oribe pots to go along with his phenomenal Shino works of both traditional and Rimpa inspiration and this large o-sara plate is one of those pieces that is very hard to forget. Cloaked in a great Oribe glaze the top-side is impressed with an undualting texture that runs the entire length of the piece but it is the underside, perched on three attached feet that the real beauty of this glaze becomes highlighted. Along the trail where the glaze was in motion and even formed a suspended drip, the illusive luster that rises to the glaze surface is in full view; a halo of various colors that many good Oribe pots exhibit but are rarely captured in photographs. While good lighting may be the key the truth is that irrespective of the skills of the photographer the luster is ever present just waiting for the right light source to illuminate the surface and unlock the nuances of the royalty of copper glazes.

Friday, December 4, 2015


I am amazed at the nature of photography, it seems that for the average person with a camera what results is a pot that either looks better in the photo or much better in person than the photos displays. I understand there is an art, a discipline to photography but let's face it, most of us are just not great photographers. Case in point is that I recently saw a yuteki temmoku pot by Kimura Yoshihiro that was just not that interesting, than I got to see the pot in person, what an incredible difference. In the original photographs the surface looks flat, almost lifeless and with just the hint of any color variations, in hand the surface is alive, in movement like a cosmic dance. The "oilspots" are each composed of a number of colors from black rings, rusty partridge feathers, hints of blues and greens and even hues of silver graded neatly in size from large at the top and growing ever smaller down the pot. I tried my best to capture the actual surface in a photo and came about as close as I can with my camera and tungsten bulbs what a difference a photo can make, now I know why  there is the old adage about pictures but it really should say,  "a good picture is a worth a thousand words".
"Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communication, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution."   Ansel Adams (1902-1984)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


When I first saw this photo I immediately thought of some far off geometry lesson cloaked in a filter of green glass; it reminded me of the doodling I did in high school instead of concentrating on the subject at hand. There is a sense of geometry to much of the work of Usui Kazunari (b.1954) and this futamono covered box shows a pristine attention to detail that goes well beyond precision to create a piece that is immediately visually engaging and contemplative. Born and trained in Seto  and studying under Kato Shunto, Kazunari studied at the Nagoya University of Art before establishing his own studio in 1984 and has had a splendid career focused on a modern interpretation of Oribe with surface decoration that specializes in incised and inlay work. Using crisp incised lines and areas of inlaid color, the surface shares a wealth of color that communicates like a modern day artistic rendering of a mathematical fractal. If one were to simple describe his pots they could easily come across as technical exercises but when you see the finished piece nothing could be farther from the truth.