Friday, December 30, 2016


I wanted to take this time to wish everyone a very Happy New Year, the year of the rooster. Illustrated is an older tokkuri and newer guinomi by Shigaraki potter, Kohyama Yasuhisa, just about the best way I can think of to toast in the new year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Illustrated is an Oribe style teabowl with a slip made up using leftovers; materials that have accumulated over the years, from defunct studios, friends and what have you. My normal black slip is made using cobalt, iron oxide and manganese but for this small batch of slip I used iron chromate and black copper oxide, both of which I have five pounds of that truthfully I have no recollection of inheriting and certainly did not purchase though both have been used over the years. I only made up 500gr of the slip which fits nicely in a small deli container and used it in place of my regular formula. As you can see from the picture, the slip bled quite a bit creating a droozy surface with tendrils reaching to the surface of the glaze creating floating metallic areas a bit reminiscent of oilspot pots though neither controllable or as reflective. I am not sure what I think about this effect and will probably make a few more pieces for a future firing but what I can say is that it surely is different than my stand slip and adds a varied quality to the main Oribe glaze I am using. I guess time and testing will tell.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Accommodate: the transitive verb; to make fit, suitable or congruous; to bring in to agreement or concord; to give consideration to
As I push through more slides, negatives and photos and convert them in to digital images, I come across pictures that I just completely forgot about. This blue pot is one such image dating back to about 1995 (?) or so from a show of Colin Pearson pots that we saw in Chicago. Like a Pearson piece from a previous post, this pot is in fact a fully functional teapot though a careful and studied use is suggested as its use is not necessarily 100% straight forward. I love the way that Pearson added appendages and handles to his pitchers, jugs and teapots suggesting their function while challenging the viewer and user to accommodate themselves to a slightly provocative manner of engagement. This technique proved to be both visual and intellectually stimulating and it is what makes many of Colin Pearson's later works among the highest level of the potter's art of the Twentieth Century.

Friday, December 23, 2016



I can only guess that if you move from America's heartland to the West Coast, Cali to be specific, you need whatever prompts possible to get in to the mood for the holidays now upon us. That being said, there are times when you can push the boundaries of preparation by stringing up hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights or say, adding that festive touch to your large and impressive tsubo by Tsukigata Nahiko. All I can say is this may not necessarily be how I would decorate my Tsukigata tsubo if I had one but to each and every collector there are more than likely a plethora of ways to harken in the upcoming festivities and certainly this is one that will not be easy to forget. Since what has been seen can not be unseen I have posted a before and after photo of the tsubo at rest and at play.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, a wonderful Festivus for the Rest-of-Us and a very Happy New Year to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I have a friend that has been on several cruise (and was on one just recently!) and prefers them as package deals; the all inclusive, one price, end of story. I guess this way you know exactly what you are in for and exactly what you are getting and there is a level of comfort in that scenario. With some Japanese pots you get exactly the same thing, you know what the core of the package is in terms of the pot but then there are the bonus add ons like custom made silk bags, named pots, signed boxes and a storage box for the storage box, essentially a similar thing in that it is a package deal all for one price. I recently was able to handle and photograph a pot that was named, exhibited and double boxed that a collector I know was able to purchase. This piece is surely the epitome of package deals and the pot itself (look forward to a slideshow video in the future) was among the best of this type I have ever seen. Perhaps my cruise friend is right, a package deal with all the bells and whistles included is the way to go when ever possible especially with pots but given our current weather, maybe a cruise would hit the spot!

Monday, December 19, 2016


Illustrated is a large thrown black and white slipware plate with a trio of slipware pots decorating the surface. All three of the slip pots are pieces that I actually make though it was far easier to slip them on to the surface of the plate than to make them in three dimensions. The plate was about 24" across and thrown out of my terra cotta on to which the black and white slips were applied and then a clear glaze once bisque. I like making slipware as I have mentioned before, there is no real room for hesitation, it is direct and creates a vivid and dimensional decoration. The real bonus of the slipware pots is that once decorated, they just need to dry, bisque and get glazed, a bit easier than some of the processes needed to get other pots completed and in this particular case I get three pots and a plate finished all at the same time.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Though not exactly the correct quote from OLIVER TWIST, I suspect you get the idea and it is a fitting sentiment when it comes to ink paintings, washes and calligraphy by potters, a medium I am particularly fond of as I suspect it give you a glimpse of how they see their work. In this case I found another landscape chawan ink wash by Juyo Mukei Bunkazai, Arakawa Toyozo depicting one of his famous E-Shino style teabowls with a Momoyama-esque underglaze ink painting rendered in what would appear to be iron pigment. Like the others of this style that I have seen, the painting is fast, direct without any waste of superfluous details to capture the true spirit in ink what his clay does for his pottery. I have seen several chawan with accompanying kakejiku scrolls over the years and though this seems to be more of a generalized chawan as a two dimensional rendering, I am still holding out hope that just one of these days, Santa or some other questionable figure will put me and a similar three dimensional chawan at the same place at the same time (as in ownership!); well one can hope anyway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


A while back I wrote a blog post entitled; GONE YESTERDAY, HERE TODAY, which chronicled (!) the sheer coincidence in making two posts about two very different pots and in a rather short period of time we were able to collect one exceptionally similar pot and in the other case, the exact pot we wrote about. I put together this short video slideshow to try to give a fuller depth and dimension to the piece because in hand it is just wonderful. The glaze surface is cool and smooth while the heavily crazed surface adds a sense of intensity, warmth and conflict to the bowl while the iron and underglaze red flower adds the tranquil element which both ties in the opposing elements and draws the eye in to the rather harmonious whole. Enjoy the slideshow and thoughts and comments are always welcome.

Monday, December 12, 2016


I started using nudes as part of my decoration on pots during my last year at Cleveland State. I am not 100% sure how or why but I used old myths and fables as the basis for the designs and even turned traditional male antagonists and protagonists into female figures, it somehow just worked on the pottery and I think they portray a rather fun and positive imagery. Along the way I came up with a single and mirrored image of Rapunzel that with her flowing red-blonde hair articulated the surface of plates and open bowls rather well and over time the design has found its way on to pieces ranging from six inches to almost three feet across and on pitchers that have been as tall as two feet plus. The illustrated plate is roughly 14" across and shows the stylized mirrored Rapunzel design with a turbulent and stormy sky as the backdrop. I can say from a long time of experience, there are always designs and decorations that can get tiresome and even stale, for me, this is not one of them.
"Rapunzel. Rapunzel, lass deine Haare fallen  damit ich goldene Treppe steige."*
(* I apologize to any German readers if this is not the correct translation, I do my best!)

Friday, December 9, 2016


I was searching around on the web and came across this picture of a nice Shino mallet vase by Mizuno Takuzo, my original search didn't pan out despite searching for some time so in some ways this vase is a consolation prize of sorts. The form is certainly deliberate in nature with the type of inward taper moving toward the shoulder with the neck flaring out as it goes up giving the mallet just the right sense of proportions and geometry that appeals to me. Though there doesn't appear to be any iron slip applied, the Shino surface has blushed to pinks and orange flashes from top to bottom and coupled with the excellent texture makes for a rather visually engaging pot. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the shallow depression that moves from the shoulder to the neck which is highlighted by a spiraling texture that goes around the pot and is dusted with just a hint of wood ash especially in the depressions. I think if I was pressed I could come up with a reasonable explanation of what it is about the mallet form that interests me, but the short cut to the answer is simple, it appeals to me at a visceral level, I respond to the borrowed purpose and weathered aesthetic that is imparted on pots just exactly like this piece by Mizuno Takuzo. There is little more that I can ask or expect from a pot.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


I put together a short video slideshow of a chaire by Yamada Masakazu who specializes in wood fired Shino, Oribe and Haiyu glazes. The small lidded chaire is glazed just over the shoulder and the rest of the effects are all natural from the wood firing making for a half and half blend of all natural and applied surface. Appearing feudal in its origins, this pot is a purposefully made chaire ready for use in the tea ceremony or equally at home on a shelf on display; enjoy the video.

You can see more of this chaire over at my Trocadero market place; 

Monday, December 5, 2016


Illustrated is a green ware terra cotta tray form with opposing carved fish decorating the interior. Loosely based on the Pisces zodiac design, I wanted the fish to appear to be in motion to help animate the long form and added spiral bubbles to help fill in the left over negative space. I have spent a lot of time looking at and studying Japanese painting from the Momoyama to Edo periods and the undecorated space has as much to say as does that with the actual painted design. It may not appear to be influenced by Japanese woodblocks and ink paintings but if you think of the interior of the form as a long panel, just like that of a hanging scroll, the border or boundary is the frame that focuses the attention of the narrative while striving to have a playfulness that interests the user whether as a decorative accent or a functional object.

Friday, December 2, 2016


Illustrated is a broad and generous Karatsu-kawakujira (whale's mouth) decorated guinomi by Ikai Yuichi (b.1963). Ikai, a native of Kyoto and the Gojo-zaka area first studied with Shimizu Yasutaka and then Ningen Kokuho, Shinizu Uiichi before moving north of Kyoto to set up his Kihei-gama noborigama kiln where he has honed his skills in both celadon and ash glazes. At just about four inches across this guinomi is a handful and the pebbled, kairagi crawled surface just adds to the pot making for a blend of sight, touch and taste while in use. With many pots the sense of touch is overlooked but with a guinomi like this, Ikai hasn't failed to include any of the senses from the view of the pot, the smell and taste of the sake, the feel of the surface and the sound of the ubiquitous toast; kanpai!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I put together a rather short video slideshow of a small covered pot finished off with combed slip and my current go to Oribe glaze. This is another of the smaller pots that I have been making, Western style tea caddy to fill in spots around the kiln for the glaze firing that I fired several weeks back. This caddy measures about four and a half inches tall and though good for tea, it can be used for just about anything one's mind can conjure up. Since I am trying to do something, Khan (the feline studio assistant) is sitting in my lap as I type and thinks it is perfect for cat nip, we will see.

Monday, November 28, 2016


Illustrated is a quick photo I took a short while back after our trip to southern CT to deliver pots to several galleries and though not what traditionally springs to mind, this meeting of East and West worked perfectly. As with our trips in the past we make our way in to Guilford to a nice wine shop we like and who's owner is rather knowledgeable, to Nick's Place for cheeseburgers and onion rings and right next door to Meriano's Bakery for cannoli. There were originally five cannoli but we split one on the way home from CT so the photo shows the remaining four with an unknown Oribe hachi as a backdrop. I suspect I could have fit quite a few more cannoli on the hachi but we couldn't have eaten them fast enough and quite certainly five was more than enough of an indulgence as it was!
"Can one desire too much of a good thing?"  William Shakespeare (As You Like It)

Friday, November 25, 2016


I was recently exchanging photos and emails with a fellow collector when they asked, where are the big pieces? I had to remark that we actually have very few large pots and have instead concentrated on pieces that circle around the sphere of the tea ceremony. These pots are mostly comprised of chawan, mizusashi, chaire and flower vases with some kogo, tokkuri, guinomi and yunomi thrown in for good measure and a certain degree of happenstance. In reality, our collecting has been mostly about the intimacy of objects that can be easily handled, fondled even and studied at arms length to get the fullest sense of the aesthetic and purpose. I am not excluding larger pieces intentionally, it is just that more often than not large pieces just lack the intimate nature of a chawan and surely the scale becomes imposing to handle, display or store and after years of being around potters and other artist who I have collected from and traded with, storage and display space is at a Ginza like premium in our small home.
Creating an intimate connection, this low, rounded Iga chawan feels right at home in the cupped hand, as if it were made to to fit me alone, though it fits equally as well in the hand of my wife and a few others who have handled it. The ability to finish a chawan so that the bottom and kodai work well together and are pleasing not only to the touch but to the eye is a well practiced skill won through years of trial, error, experience and dedicated patient observation and in this case it was created at the hands of the Iga specialist, Kojima Kenji. For this low and open chawan, Kojima first place a healthy swath of slip glaze around the mouth of the bowl which opens to a fire flashed rear where the face and back of the interior is covered in a coat of all natural ash glaze accumulated through an intense, near week long firing of his anagama kiln. Though simple in form and foot this bowl gives off a rather comforting intimacy that creates that sense of having know the piece for a very long time and what could be better than that?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


If you have ever had the opportunity to visit the Kawai Kanjiro house in Kyoto or see any of his non-functional, sculptural works you can't help but be enthralled with his array of decorated wall plaque. He created these plaques in a variety of forms, sizes and styles using varying glaze combinations, neriage or slip trailed decoration, all techniques and ideas he passed on to his many students. The illustrated gosu wall plaque is by one of his very last students, Mukunoki Eizo and certainly shows the influence and instructed canons of his master. First made in a press mold, the clay is removed, firmed up and then slip trailed and following a bisque fire it is glazed over in the easily recognizable Kawai gosu creating a stark visual that makes for a rather direct non-functional work in clay. I will interject my personal belief that even non-functional objects have a rather distinct function; to enrich and help construct an environment, in other words, to please the eye and I think that Mukunoki manages that task with a few quick passes of a slip trailer and a little bit of flair.

Monday, November 21, 2016


It probably comes as no surprise that I try to get as much mileage out of various designs/ decoration as is possible. It has absolutely nothing to do with being lazy, rather the truth is that coming up with good designs that work well on my forms is not a walk in the park so to speak; for every design that works there certainly are quite a number of missteps. When it comes to the carved decoration that I do, it is a simple transition to go from terra cotta and black slip to porcelain and black slip as the technique works across the board in relation to various clays and slips. It only makes sense that a design like the scimitar grasses would work in black and white and create a much different visual than that of the rich terra cotta and black. Though the porcelain and terra cotta fire to much different temperatures I usually make a group of  eight to ten of each so that once I get carving I stay in the groove and kill two birds with one stone.
"Pleasure and action make the hours seem short." William Shakespeare (Othello)

Friday, November 18, 2016


For a while I have been exchanging emails and photos with a collector in Japan who has a strong interest in the works of Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Kumano Kuroemon. He is primarily interested in pots he will use and has shared photos of his Kumano guinomi and tokkuri which look like that would be exceptionally enjoyable in the using. Large, generous and honest pots made to be used and stand the rigors of an intense firing, Kumano's pots have an unbridled masculinity and strength that few other modern potters infuse in to their pottery. When I think about Kumano, I am immediately reminded of Tsukigata Nahiko, not necessarily in the particular aesthetic but in the clay bravado and spirit which harkens back to the Samurai culture in certain respects. Illustrated is a photo the fellow collector sent recently after a visit to Kumano Kuroemon's studio in which "the Bear" is looking over a group of recently fired guinomi, most with their firing wads still attached. This is pottery in the raw, unfiltered and surely as honest as it get; a glimpse in to the heart of the process.
(Photo courtesy of a fellow collector)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


I put together a rather short video slideshow of a nice toruko-ao guinomi by the late master of this style, Kato Kenji. It has the appearance of being larger than it is, like a chawan or simple bowl for food but its actual scale gives away its purpose. Though I suppose it could be used for water, whisky or even milk, I think that for most viewers its ideal purpose is immediate and undeniable, sake and keep it coming.

Monday, November 14, 2016


I made this porcelain chawan specifically to see what the combination of my temmoku with one of my ash glaze variants would do over a heavy texture and here is the answer. The temmoku became a super rich amber style glaze with subtle flowing tendrils running down the surface culminating in big, gravity defying drips on the underside of the bowl. Though a rather heavily saturated iron glaze, my temmoku becomes a translucent deep amber color which the ash glaze seemed to just melt in to though it creates a rich surface environment that shows hints of iridescence here and there especially just under the bowl where the glazes ran and formed drips. The teabowl was glazed overall in the temmoku and then had the inside poured and then was dipped in the ash to just below the transition line in order to keep the entire surface from ending up on the kiln shelves though the bowl was fired on a thin slice of soft brick as a precaution. Though I was hoping for a slightly more ashy effect, I am pleased with the results and think the porcelain, heavy texture and the glaze combination worked quite well together.

Friday, November 11, 2016


For those of you familiar with the work of the Hornby Island potter, Wayne Ngan, there is a lot that could be said about this potter who made his way in clay, bronze and ink in a certain degree of solitude but he would prefer you to just see the work. This faceted covered box form is a simple pot with a glaze that fits the piece like a well tailored suit but it is humble, honest and contemplative the way some really good pots are, beyond being a potter's pot, it speaks of the potter and place where it was made. I am always fascinated by the pottery of Ngan, some pieces are simple, even shy while others are strong and evocative, flip sides of clay's potential which he crafts into dialogues that speak to each and every viewer.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


The other day my wife asked me to make a new sugar bowl for the counter as the one currently in use has been around since 1992/93 and was not made as a sugar bowl. After thinking about it for a while and having finished what I had intended to make for the day, I wedged up some clay and as you can see in the illustration, plans change. I didn't go out of my way to not make a sugar bowl and lid but rather as I was centering the clay I realized there was a bit too much for the task at hand and decided to make a taller covered piece than was planned. Neither planned or quite sure where they came from, out of the wedged clay sprang these forms and lids which I later tooled and adorned with these knobs meant to compliment the form and echo the series of four cut notches in each foot. Once firmed up, each was slipped and combed and for a novel approach, I think I will glaze them in my Oribe when they are bisque. Plans may change but that doesn't alter the fact that I still need to make a lidded sugar bowl which is actually designed for the task at hand.

"Good luck is often with the man who doesn't include it in his plans." Wm. Shakespeare

Monday, November 7, 2016


I had the opportunity to handle a very fine seiji celadon chawan a short while back and took a number of photos of the piece which I will in turn make a short slideshow video. In the mean time, I thought to post this detail shot to show the exquisite nature of the double refractive celadon which is further accentuated with iron highlights mingled in to the magical fractures of the glaze. For such a simple surface born from a somewhat complex process, seiji glazes create an incredible universe made infinitely better when used on exactly the right form. There is little else one can to say except more to follow at a later date.
"Small is my theme.... yet has the sweep of the universe." Walt Whitman

Friday, November 4, 2016


Puffed up to the point of imminent danger, this tsubo is a simple statement regarding volume and how it can be explained and perceived. Created by traditional Mino specialist, Ando Hidetake this wood fired Ko-Mino style tsubo has the appearance of being inflated to the point to which the structure almost seems impaired. The edge of the shoulder and neck have  dipped into the form where the recess has gathered a pool of the glaze creating a darkened ring which further accentuates the tension between the pot and the volume it expresses. I have seen a number of brilliant tsubo over time and though there are certainly pots that are larger, rounder and fuller few capture this sense of spatial tautness and drama in which the piece becomes synonymous with a visual mass that appears on the brink of structural annihilation. I have seen quite a number of pots by Ando Hidetake that are infused with an impending narrative and drama of which this pot has in volumes as well.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


I got a phone call from Bill Klock the other day which is always a welcome "interruption" to a day in the studio. He is constantly on the move, making plans and setting up travel itineraries and his calls make me want to travel to England as he talks about his last trek there with such enthusiasm. Back in the 90s Bill (and Anna) made their way to South Korea where Bill worked with several potters for nearly a year and was very influenced by both the mishima and Onggi potters which made its way in to his work when he came home. Illustrated is a richly glazed fiery red Shino jug with impressed chrysanthemum designs sprinkled about the surface, the type he saw on a myriad of mishima pots while abroad. This jug was first dipped in a thin layer of the glaze and then was dipped again at the top of the shoulder to create a nice variation on the pot surface. I will certainly not say with absolute definity but I think Bill used Shino, temmoku and ash glazes more than just about anything else and given the results, I can understand why.
"The man that can make hard things easy is the educator." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 31, 2016


Illustrated is an angled side shot of the dotaku bell form that I posted up last week in greenware form. I rubbed the edges just a bit to try to accentuate the sharp lines around the pot and used the alternating rain pattern in copper to try to animate it a bit and promote the vertical nature of the piece. The lugs that are attached are pierced through and I first worked on this type of attachment on pilgrim flasks for the use of a suspension cord. I like working on pieces/parts pots, there are lots of possibilities and problem solving that go into the building and stuff that goes right (and wrong) with unexpected discoveries along the way which are all just part of the process.

Friday, October 28, 2016


My first look at this wonderful little chaire was without the ivory lid which is synonomous with this form and I was immediately struck that it looked just like its much larger counterpart, the ubiquitous tsubo. I have seen quite a few tsubo of all sizes by Osako Mikio and though diminutive in scale this form fits well in to his body of jar forms despite this one being a chaire, but afterall, isn't a chaire just a jar (ko-tsubo) for powdered matcha? Forms that transcend size fascinate me and this little gem is only one of a handful of chaire I have seen by this potter and it has every characteristic of Osako's work that one would expect from wood fired effects of ash and color variations to the rolled lip terminating the form and a bright ash green accent about the mouth and shoulder running down the pot. The way in which the piece was thrown would seem contrary to this particular form but Osako Mikio manges the clay in a rather casual and natural manner as he is well known to do and his experience brings this Tokoname chaire to life. Though small in scale there is a lot to consider and enjoy from this miniature tsubo all decked out and ready for the tea ceremony.

Monday, October 24, 2016


I clearly remember the first time I saw someone seriously alter a thrown pot, it was during a Ron Meyers demo in which he threw a soft and casual cylinder and just picked it right off the wheel head and pushed it oval to form the basis of an oval baker form. I had only been making pots for less than a year when I saw this and what it immediately instilled in me was that almost (!) anything is possible with clay. I have seen the spectrum from magnificent trompe l'oeil to the abstract sculpture of Volkos and just a bit of everything in between and I am always impressed at what clay is capable of; infinite artists, infinite possibilities. After seeing Meyers work, I set about trying to figure out how this approach applied to me and what I see in my head and started making simple oval bakers, squared forms and other thrown and altered pieces and after a trip to Nara I became exceptionally interested in Japanese bells, dotaku.
Over the years I have made a wide array of t&a forms based on dotaku with the most interesting and creative to make are the one that are thrown, altered, cut and reassembled to create crisp lines, ribs and other accentuated high points such as the one in the illustration. This bell form was glazed in my ame-yu with copper accents creating an alternating rain pattern on each concave level and is finished off with impressed lugs and a neck and mouth which mimics the form. When I look at these forms it is almost inconceivable that the genesis was a Ron Meyers demo but the seed was planted, took hold and came out as something that is easily associated with who I am and how I work, I don't think I could really ask for more.

Friday, October 21, 2016


I received an email the other day in which I was jokingly refered to as a "repeat offender" in that I tend to post/write about wood fired pots and Tsukigata way too often to which I retorted, it's my blog and I'll post what I want to. I have received emails like this before and it is absolutely true, wood fired pots get a lot of attention, I am mostly putting up pieces that speak to me and that I am affected by pots by Furutani Michio, Kojima Kenji, Tsukigata Nahiko, Kumano Kuroemon and others who always manage to get my mind reeling. To switch things up, ever so slightly I choose this wonderful Kawai Kanjiro henko that I have had in my pictures file for quite some time. I am particularly drawn to the stoic and purposeful form but it is the excellent articulation of the design and borders in underglaze iron, copper red and gosu blue on the gohonde style backdrop that makes this piece so eloquently conversant and immediately grabs my attention. I have seen a number of Kawai henko very similar but the background with a subtle mix of greys, lavenders and creamy tans make for a rather striking surface in which the canvas is almost as pleasing as the painted design. Even though there hasn't been a traditionally wood fired piece up in several weeks, I hope this takes a small step to a more thoughtful balance of styles and traditions.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I am always looking for creative ways to fill the kiln to absolute capacity and after throwing the bulk of bigger pieces I set about making things other than the usual yunomi and teabowls. For this firing I made a number of tall, slender chaire style covered pieces with spire knobs as well as some western style tea caddies and a few Japanese style candlesticks. The three Oribe hakeme chaire in this slideshow video measure just about five inches tall with their lids and were fired on pins, you can see the tell tale marks from the pin tripods on the bottom of each piece. All three were fired without their lids on giving the mouth a nice glazed finish and only the very bottom of the lid ring is free of glaze. It is nice to expand the possibilities for packing the kiln and these recent tea caddies are great for quirky and hard to fill spaces between a bunch of round, squared and oval stuff.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I put together a short video slideshow of a rather nice Shino kinuta-hanaire, mallet vase by Hayashi Kotaro. The body of the piece is well articulated with facets and spatula work while the neck rises like a study spire from the shoulder, flaring toward the top with areas of scorching seen here and there. The rich color of the clay dramatically affects how the pot is perceived depending on the light source with it appearing blushed orange to pink with direct artificial light and a more subdued white with areas of highlights under natural lighting. The bottom of the pot shows wonderful areas of shadows created by firing the pot on straw just like the effects of hidasuki in Bizen together with an exhibition sticker, lucky number 13 that has survived since the late 1970s or very early 80s. Though made at least 35 years ago, this piece has a classical freshness that straddles the feudal and the modern, the goal of most potters who look to the Momoyama era to create works in the present, bull's-eye!

Friday, October 14, 2016


Since I have started my blog and even prior to that point, I have been asked by a number of collectors, just what is my fascination with Tsukigata Nahiko? The answer is simple, it is not exactly fascination, it is a bit more of a great appreciation of the work, the forms, the firing and all of the wonderful, even wondrous surfaces. Case in point is this illustrated detail shot of a Tsukigata Oni-Shino chawan, when is the last time you saw such a naturally spectacular surface as on this bowl? Sandwiched between the iron lip and the rusty, red clay this surface is a complex arrangement, much like a well constructed symphony of sight, not sound; the icy crackle, naturally deposited ash punctuated by a cosmic assortment of iron bleeding out through the feldspar glaze creating purple tinged spots painted across the surface. Though I am sure this was not planned, it is the abundance of serendipitous accidents that can be seen in many of Tsukigata's pots that make each one a welcome and appreciated encounter. Seriously, what's not to like?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Illustrated is a wonderful, small beaked pouring vessel made by Jeff Oestreich that was wax resist decorated with the application of a glaze and then soda fired to create this rich and varied surface. The attention to detail in this piece is exacting from the way the handle is attached, knob created for ease of use and how well the lid fits and sets into the elongated beak are all characteristics of the approach he brings to making pots. Though well thought out and practiced through repetition, Oestreich's pots each possess unique qualities that distinguish one pot from another partly due to the finesse of problem solving on the construction of each pot but also because it is just how he works. Being around Jeff while he made altered teabowls, teapots, pouring vessels, pitchers and large vases gives a glimpse in to how his mind works while he constructs his pots from thrown parts that are squared, cut, folded and darted to create forms that are unique to him. Though this particular pouring vessel is somewhat simple in its construction, getting all of the pieces parts to work well together and present such a unified front is no small feat and one achieved through nearly four decades of working in clay and problem solving day in and day out.

Monday, October 10, 2016


One could think that the day after our latest Presidential debate that I could be referencing the general mood of the country but as I was carefully schooled by a professor back in college it is best not to discuss politics, sex or religion if you wish to keep friends and not collect enemies and this advice has served me well. The title of the post relates to my 100th lamp that I have made over the course of making pots; it is not a large total but it has its illuminating qualities knowing that in and around Cleveland, Seattle, NY and a few other areas there are people using a pot that I made day in and day out. As a benefit of making pots there is always those moments when my wife or another family member needs soup bowls, mugs or in this case a lamp and I can oblige as best that I can though I draw the line at salt/pepper shakers and ash trays. This lamp was made as a request for my wife using the ishime-ji surface for a "landscapeman" design around the piece and it is finished off with a simple, craft paper style lampshade. It is not a really large lamp and has a 60watt bulb giving off enough light to just lighten up the bedroom from its perch on a 60" tall chest of drawers. Though we eat off many of my mismatched and irregular pots, it is a bit satisfying to make pottery that is intended as a part of the environment and plays a part in our everyday living.

Friday, October 7, 2016


I was having an email exchange recently regarding modern Hagi pottery, more specifically regarding chawan and what comes to mind immediately for me is the bowl that is illustrated. This picture obviously comes from a book and is of a wonderfully modern, traditional and idiosyncratic chawan by Miwa Kyusetsu XI (Jyusetsu) that typifies modern Hagi to my eye. Though best known for his Oni-Hagi, Shiro-Hagi pottery,  Kyusetsu's more traditional pottery is seen in full expression in this chawan; form, posture, lip, foot and surface show off the array of the best Hagi-yaki characteristics from rich daido clay to blushed, creamy surface with a lip that beckons to the user, "drink, drink deeply for that is my purpose". I know everyone has that specific image that is conjured up when mentioning a particular region, style or tradition but for me, this chawan is quintessential Showa Hagi and what always springs to mind.
"The surface of Hagi Ware is essentially feminine. It has a soft, warm quality and kind of fascination, as though if touched it might attach itself or bewitch you. Even Oni-Hagi Ware with its rough interior has a great calm surface. " Someno Yoshinobu, an extract from the catalogue of the Someno Collection.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


I put together a rather short slideshow video of a wonderfully large exhibition charger by Kondo Yutaka. I was lucky enough to have this 18"+ platter here for almost a month and it is both impressive and powerful, it is now with the owner who has a couple of other wonderful Japanese pots that it can commune with. There is little else I can say except enjoy the video.

Monday, October 3, 2016


"Luting; the act of attaching and sealing pottery parts or forms together with a clay slurry"
I learned a long while back that when throwing my terra cotta, it is best to make certain vase or bottle forms in two pieces, throwing the body and necks separately. This ends up being infinitely easier that throwing them in one piece where the terra cotta is constantly trying to collapse at every turn of the wheel head. I start out by throwing the bodies first and then measure the apertures and guesstimate what thrown neck form will look best on each piece, the illustration shows a single ware board with three bodies and their corresponding necks which are put together the next day after the pot base is trimmed with an inset foot. Once the pot and neck are put together I generally add some form of lug which connects from the neck to the body and brings some attention to the join and shoulder area. In this particular case, one of the vases will be black and white slipped and the other two will have an abstrakt resist decoration. This particular form works from very small to quite large though these pots will likely end up just shy of 14" when assembled. I can tell you from past experience, there is no music that I have that can make throwing these in one piece an enjoyable experience, thanks goodness to the person who pioneered luting pieces together all those centuries ago.  

Friday, September 30, 2016


I know it will sound rather cliché but it is funny how things work out. In less than a month, we have collected two pieces that were recently posted on my blog, pieces that my wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed visually and now in person. In the first case the piece, a Hagi chaire was very similar to one posted, it is  nearly a perfect match in surface but of a different but stunning form. The other piece in question, a seiji chawan, we were actually offered the actual piece that I posted on my blog. The back story to the chawan is that a while back a friend in Japan sent me a group of photos of the pot in question which I decided would make for a good blog post and now only weeks later the piece came up for sale and we luckily added it to our collection. These were the first pots we had collected in some time and the chaire has arrived with the chawan arriving shortly; apparently what was gone yesterday is here today, sometimes.

I put together a short video slideshow of a very nice Hagi chaire by Hatano Zenzo. It is similar to the previous one I posted at least in surface and in the original pictures it appeared to have firing/ kiln debris attached to the glaze here and there.  Because of the incredible price and beauty of the piece we went ahead and purchased it and when it arrived the debris was simply static infused styrafoam particles and nothing more. This surface is classic Hatano Zenzo and just beautiful in person, I hope this video gives you a glimpse into what it looks like in person. Enjoy.

"Ownership is the most intimate relationship one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him, it is he who comes alive in them." Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I'll start out by saying this is obviously not my photo, having found it somewhere on the web some time ago. I stumbled upon it this morning and was just awe-struck by the absolute serene beauty of this tiny pot. Created by celadon expert, Kawase Shinobu, this chaire is about as wonderful a seiji piece that I have ever seen, the glaze, fluting, detailing and lid all work in conjunction with one another to come up with a quiet and resonant perfection (完璧 ). It will sound repititious and cliche to remind one's self that celadon creation is a pursuit of the determined, persistant and patient with a large percentage of work finding its way to the shard piles but despite the odds, Kawase manages to continue to captivate and humble the viewer decade after decade. I have seen a lot of seiji, seihakuji and the various color and textural variations of celadon but very few have the ability to create works that are as celadon to the core as does Kawase Shinobu and this little gem is a perfect example.
"One that desires to excel should endeavor in those things that are in themselves most excellent."  Epictetus


Monday, September 26, 2016


Though I use several commercially available clays, my terra cotta is my own formula as are several other stoneware clays that I use. Recently I have been making up small batches of an iron bearing stoneware, formulated back at CSU and Kent State to use for some of my on going Oribe pieces. Made in batches of about 50 lbs at a time it isn't such a major chore and since I mix it up to a pudding consistency, I then firm it up on plaster and have clay ready to use in about a week so proper planning makes everything work quite a bit better. The real reason I like this clay is that it has a tough quality to it; I can throw it, dry it out, tool it, get it bone dry and in a bisque all in the same day which makes testing much easier and even quicker if I use my test kiln so it is ready to glaze the next day.

I built another short slideshow video of two more impressed texture Oribe bowls using the bisque tile that created the first of this group. The texture is a bit finer but the overall decoration really creates an interesting surface to my eye and helps activate the glaze and a variety of nuances that go along with the use of copper and iron. The two recent teabowls are both tall, full pieces to maximize the texture and glaze with just the right curve to the body and inviting roll to the lip. With each bowl, I get a little bit better leaving only 9998 more to go.

"No matter where you go, there you are."  Buckaroo Banzai

Friday, September 23, 2016



Though I regret not having had more time to study with and observe Kohyama Yasuhisa working, I am quite grateful to have had the opportunity to watch him prepare clay, wheel throw, coil build, slice earth, load his anagama and the firing process from beginning to end. Together with those experiences, I was also able to see him prepare and pack his pieces for his show at the Museum het Princessehof, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, create pots for his standard ware firing and partake of his excellent cooking! Truthfully this experience was amazing and was filled with a myriad of details that have colored how I work and who I am as a potter whether it appears so or not.

It is the details of Kohyama-sensei's process that are easy to overlook and pass by as one takes in the whole, but it is the sharp and critical aspects that help define his works from the pots of other potters from Shigaraki and elsewhere in both the making and the firing. Illustrated is a close-up shot of a tsubo-guchi of one of Kohyama Yasuhisa's mentori vases. The way that Kohyama facets leads the clay to be cut crisply and definitively in a rather quick sucession of motions that few others can mimic and are clearly the result of having pioneered this particular approach to faceting and dedicated a lifetime to its perfection. It is these fast cuts that define the pot, from the long and broad facets around the body of a piece to the more intimate and intricate faceting that defines the neck and mouth that once fired allows a build up of a wet, green ash to paint the angular surfaces without obscuring the defined sharpness of the details. Though ever so slightly softened by firing process and ash, the form remains as created by a master who would appear to be gazing in to a crystal ball seeing well into the finished work even while he is still adding coils to a pot that has just started its journey to completion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Back in the middle of August I decided to go ahead and build two larger slab vases based on some cartoon meets two dimensional design in my head and after completing them went right back at it and built two small but broader vases which are illustrated here. Roughly 13" by 12" or so, this pair were not carefully planned but rather I rolled out some slabs and put them together and surprisingly they came out pretty close to one another. I refer to these slab pieces as facciata or facade vases as it is more about the profile for the design than the volume necessary to keep them standing. The one on the left is decorated in abstrakt resist while the one on the right is tebori carved X&O design, both forms are complimented with a similar neck and mouth with a lozenge pattern caved through the flat to animate the surface. I have also added small lugs to the shoulders of each to help define the space a bit better. All in all considering I am not a real proponent or advocate for hand building, I am reasonably happy with the outcome and perhaps I'll make more slab pieces in another year of so.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Though  not without its organic qualities, this chawan by Banura Shiro is radically different than the chawan I posted by Kumano Kuroemon the other day. Banura Shiro had a wonderful knack for creating work that has an honest and spontaneous quality despite the fact that his work was well conceived and executed within a high degree of exacting control. I would suggest that the first step in his work was the design or concept of the piece followed by the creation of the canvas, in this case the making of the classic Banura chawan form. Once the pot was made, the general, overall texture was created and then the design/ decoration was applied and for this chawan that would then include a post-firing application of a gold rubbed finish that was finalized by a low temperature firing to lock in the surface. I have always found that despite the fact that Banura Shiro relied on variations of this chawan form and his leaves (foliage) design, each and every pot has a singular attitude and fresh appeal that allows a connected body of work to be populated by unique and individual pots.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Illustrated is a rather simply thrown and glazed chawan, at least by Kumano Kuroemon standards. Having a rather conservative form and posture the surface of this chawan was glazed in iron and Shino glazes and then the surface was accentuated by the ferocity and determination of an intense wood firing. The iron accent on the bowl appears out of the mist of the wispy ash tendrils covering the bowl and the firing has created a wet surface that highlights the strong and purposeful foot. Though not necessarily pertaining to this chawan, for much of his work it seems that his pottery has been assaulted and disciplined by potter and flame to create evocative works of clay that seem to have a contained brutality and dynamic intensity trapped within. As with many really good pots it is easy to get caught up in the use of the poetic and over used superlatives but when you are dealing with the Herculean appearing works of Kumano Kuroemon is that actually possible?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Illustrated is an ink wash design by Mashiko potter and Hamada Shoji student, Kimura Ichiro. Simply inked and rendered this preparatory sketch of a covered jar shows an elemental decoration that is intended to repeat around the jar to create a banded and cohesive sensibility. I have always found the simple and "common" designs of Kimura say much more with in his work that one would presumably expect because of the balancing of form, volume and design which he exceeded at. The concept of the mingei aesthetic always firmly in the back of his mind he made the practical a bit fanciful especially when you look at his molded geometric pieces and his fun "football" style henko which he is well known for. Kimura's work based in the craft of the people's art spared no expense in creating functional, common and simple work that pleased the eye, lifted the spirit and had a glint of whimsy spread out about the surface and lines of each and every pot.

Monday, September 12, 2016


One can debate the merits of the teabowl in the West where they have many uses from function to simply decorative but rarely is it used in traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I have been fortunate and have had a number of my teabowls go to tea practitioners across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and even Japan but the bulk of teabowls I actually make are bowls that have a murky basis on the chawan and are simply bowls of a certain scale that are intended to be used how ever the owner sees fit. Toward the end of the summer and early fall, it is usually time to make the teabowls for upcoming holiday shows, gallery orders and for consignments to other venues. Illustrated is the first batch of terra cotta teabowls out of the first two glaze firings, the size and shape of the bowls makes for excellent space fillers around plates, bowls and covered pieces making for a well packed kiln. Over the years I have settled on a number of user friendly forms being careful to stay within the realm of reason in regards to size as I am a bit too fond of teabowls that end up super sized. This particular group is made up of my abstrakt resist, "falling leaves" and midnight plum blossoms while the next group to be fired is mostly composed of tebori carved pieces.

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill, keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt." Lao Tzu

Friday, September 9, 2016


There is absolutely nothing like the strong posture of a chawan by Kawai Kanjiro. The wide, bold foot acts as a defining pedestal to what at first glance looks like a common bowl form but with closer inspection it shows its user friendly attributes where it sits well in the hand, has an appropriate weight and the lip is out turned just enough to let slip the right amount of liquid. All of these considerations were honed by Kawai over a lifetime of work and experience, through trial and error and an eye for the simplest yet often overlooked details, the master creates a work that has been stripped to the least amount of detail yet creates a pot of supreme beauty and utility. This wan-gata style chawan has a rich iron temmoku glaze over areas of thick slip "patted" on to the surface dividing the bowl in to sections and creating visual depth and movement but born of equal parts clay, glaze and a little bit of magic. There is mastery and mystery married in the works of Kawai Kanjiro that has as much meaning and relevance today as they did over well over five decades ago which can be summed up in one word; timeless.