Friday, January 29, 2016


A while back I posted a picture of a sunbeam lit chaire by Furutani Michio and finally got around to finishing the video slideshow and here it is. Though this chaire dates rather early in Furutani's career, you can see a continuity of form and firing from this piece to his last works; as his work progressed, his pots became more and more a blend of tradition and the individual. This particular pot has a very medieval feel to it but if you study the form and the surface it is a classic piece by one of the pioneering giants of wood firing in traditions of Iga and Shigaraki. Enjoy the video slideshow.
"Recollections is the only paradise from which we can not be turned out." Jean Paul Richter

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


As a potter, I am constantly reminded that ceramic history in the US is rather short compared to a country like Greece, the Mid-East, China or Japan. Though I have not had to go it alone in my studies, I am the first and most likely last of my family to make pots so much of what I have learned and experienced will end with me except what I share along the way. In Japan, things are much different having multiple generations to rely on, a vast tradition and pool of knowledge, a pottery database and experience to draw from, such was the case for the late Kato Yasukage XIV. As a potter, Yasukage was able to draw on a knowledge base that dates back to 1596 which certainly helps with the pitfalls of a steep learning curve where some but certainly not all the possible mistakes can be avoided. As I look at this rich Aka-Shino chawan by Kato Yasukage I can see the subtle influences of Kato Kageaki and Kagekiyo from his family lineage along with other Momoyama and modern attributes with possibly just a slight hint of Kitaoji Rosanjin thrown in for good measure. The rich red surface is decorated with a medieval fence design that stand out as bold white animating the piece and making a bold statement infusing the old with the new, a family tradition with the individuality of a modern potter. I cannot help but be impressed by a pot the straddles the past and present as skillfully as this classically conceived chawan without being entirely dependent on that tradition.
"Tradition is a guide and not a jailer." W. Somerset Maugham

Monday, January 25, 2016


I did a glaze fire last Thursday and unloaded on Saturday to the usual mixed bag of results. The top was a bit hot and everything matured well while the bottom was just a bit cooler where a group of flower pots for my wife were. They look fine but the glaze is just a tiny bit under fired and could have benefited from about 10 degrees more in temperature. The kiln had an array of squared serving bowls, a hand full of mugs, vases and covered jars with the obligatory group of teabowls to fill in here and there. Illustrated are the four thrown/altered/slipped teabowls that we in the firing all finished with hand cut feet to compliment the pieces. I had intended to glaze two in my Oribe and two in the gosu style Ao+ but accidently dipped the third bowl in the Oribe before I knew what I was doing. I normally have a pretty rigid plan in place for glazing where I have all the pieces laid out and separated in to groups for various glazes and glaze combinations but I had all six teabowls (the other two glazed in saffron) on a small board across my wheel head as I had run out of room on my large table and folding table that I bring out when I glaze. So the outcome is that rather than two teabowls only one of these things is not like the others; certainly not a catastrophe and since all four came out okay, I really have no complaints.
I was thinking about what would jump start my Monday after a recently completed cycle and could think of nothing better than BSO;

Friday, January 22, 2016


Illustrated is a rather simple Shigaraki mizusashi, the lines are neither fussy or terribly adventurous, but with the few throwing marks around the pot, overall the piece works. The face of the mizusashi is covered in a rather rich blue-green ash sheet with tones of grey mixed in and the rear shows a rich fire color with ash deposited over the top two-thirds of the piece, nestled nicely among the rhythm created by the potter on the wheel. All in all it is rather practical and fitting piece for the tea ceremony but what really peaks my interest is the potter. At first glance there is little to give away regarding the identity of the maker but I have seen this form before so I had an insight into its origins, think of the pot covered in layers of Shino, iron and ash and the link to Tsukigata Nahiko is completed. I have seen shizen-yu wood fired pieces by Tsukigata before though they don't seem to pop up all that often, the occasional guinomi, tokkuri a chawan and now this mizusashi. Though not best known for his unglazed pottery, Tsukigata Nahiko wasn't content with his creation and use of Oni-Shino and this mizusashi is another example of a potter who was interested in what forms looked like across a broad spectrum of both glazed and unglazed surfaces and I would assume he must have been fairly happy with one of his oft used forms in a new set of clothing.
(As inexplicable as this is, it has been three months since I made my last Tsukigata post! I was rather surprised when this was pointed out to me the other day when someone asked me if my interest in his pottery has waned. The answer is certainly not, the truth is time flies but I have rectified the situation.)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Illustrated is a large tsubo by Oribe specialist, Usui Kazunari. Best known for his Oribe works with incised and inlaid decoration this bold tsubo is covered in a rich surface which is incised in a complicated repeat decoration that surrounds the pot and creates waves of continuous motion. Though the form is simple, the execution and articulation of the surface presents a kaleidoscopic array of geometric pattern making for a fascinating and even playful vessel which is at the very heart of the origins of Oribe. For a good portion of his working career, Usui focused on pots covered in a rich green Oribe glaze but over time his work has shifted to pots with areas of exposed, incised and inlaid engobes with areas or bands of glaze with some of these pots having no glazed surface at all. Usui Kazunari, like Yanagihara Mutsuo, is pushing the boundaries and definitions of what exactly is Oribe making for a unique dialogue between the past, present and future of this versatile tradition.

Monday, January 18, 2016


It has been a rather prolonged cycle with Christmas and New Years slowing things down quite a bit, these have been the lazy days of the new year. I ran a bisque a week ago with the intention of glazing the pots up which didn't happen other than a few odds and end, I am running the second bisque right now and will start glazing tomorrow, finish on Wednesday and fire on Thursday without any unforeseen interruptions. In fact, I just finished making up glazes to top off the five I use this morning but I could have had at least a third of the pots glazed already instead of having to glaze everything in a two day marathon. I had thought I had learned a valuable lesson for the last cycle but apparently procrastination is a hard habit to break. I have the glazing all planned out so the temptation to go off script isn't there so despite a lot of dipping, dunking, brushing and decorating the next couple of days are all planned out and any procrastinating hopefully is temporarily behind me.

Friday, January 15, 2016


My first impressions of this pot draws to mind an ancient stoic seated stone Buddha semi-covered in moss or a clay Haniwa figure of a warrior blanketed in shades of red, buff and greys as if right out of the fire; it processes a sense of the monolith or totem, while fusing  together a feudal aesthetic and a bold presence of modernism. For me, a good pot has this ability, the pot looks to be defined by your experiences (and expectations) while creating new ones and glimpsing insight into  the process, clay and firing of  the potter. This noble vessel was made by the Iga veteran Kojima Kenji and is an amalgam of the ominous and the inviting, the energized and the calming and a great part of its function is to enrich and command its environment. Painted in hues of soft emerald green to dark and mysterious charcoal effects with a rich hi-iro on one side where one lug is attached and a deep fire born purple on the opposite, this piece is truly painted by the fire and ash. There are few pots by any single potter that encompass the vocabulary, the ABCs of a maker but this is everything one has come to expect from Kojima-san and an exciting addition to the tradition of a new century of Iga-yaki.
"It is necessary for a potter to plant both feet and listen to the song of the clay." Kojima Kenji
(Photo provided by and courtesy of the Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


A number of years ago while still living in Cleveland, friends of our invited us out to a rather nice Indian restaurant near Chagrin Falls. One of the dishes that was brought out was a bowl of brightly colored and textured saffron rice with four small flower petals as garnishes. I was taken by the presentation but it was the textured color that really drew me in. Making notes, I decided this would be a goal one of these days, a rich and flowing saffron glaze but it would be a decade before I circled back to that moment and thought. Illustrated is a very simple pouring bowl, only about 9" or so across with a central bowl and outer flange lip I use to create a bit of visual tension in the piece, it is noticeable that once dipped, I allowed the glaze to drain out toward the spout. The surface is my saffron glaze over a clear glaze made using yellow and red iron in the formula. This glaze works best on pieces that allows the movement and flow of the surface to create a range of effects and a variety of textures over the piece but care needs to be taken as gravity will run the glaze right off the pots and on to the shelves depending on the use and thickness. It took me a long time to get back to this idea and I wonder what is next after all, there is always something.
"I'm trying to think but nothing happens." Jerome Lester Horwitz (1903-1952)

Monday, January 11, 2016


Illustrated is a photo from an article in the December 15th edition of the Okinawan Times of Iga veteran potter Kojima Kenji and a wonderful Iga bottle with a rich emerald coating of natural (shizen) ash glaze running from mouth to shoulder with a variety of other effects finishing out the ensemble. Kojima-san's most recent exhibition was in the Okinawan capital of Naha where seventy pieces were on display through December 20th, 2015. This particular bottle is typical of the surfaces Kojima gets in his kiln using mostly pine for his firings with vivid glassy surfaces balanced with rich fire colors and charcoal effects. I am immediately reminded of an old onion bottle typically seen on pre-modern sailing ships and used to store wine or brandy and with the very glassy neck it puts me in mind all the more due to its bidoro appearance. It must have been quite an exhibition!

Friday, January 8, 2016


Illustrated is yet another uzukumaru style vase with a shoulder blanketed in ash and a cascade that encircles the pieces in 360 degrees. This uzukumaru has a decorated shoulder as well but in this case it is not the classic Shigaraki fence design but rather a series of arabesque slashes and cuts in the clay that makes for a rich border around this robust pot. Though seemingly a classic style Shigaraki piece this pot hails from Mashiko and was made by veteran potter Takeuchi Shugo (b.1937). Most likely best known for his Shino and Oribe pottery, Shugo has produced a number of classically inspired pots that have been wood fired without glaze (yakishime) and are haikaburi style. This sturdy and classic piece was made in the early 1990's and has a wonderful array of wood fired effects with a well addressed mouth and neck and rather fanciful decoration with a lyrical quality. Though made a distance from Shigaraki, this pot embodies the feudal spirit of the archetypical uzukumaru while blending traditionalism with spontaneous expressionism (of design) that Takeuchi Shugo is well known for.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Illustrated is another feudal style uzukumaru vase by the late Tani Seiuemon of Shigaraki. The shoulder of the pot is decorated with a classic Shigaraki fence design and is blanketed with a rich, wet ash at the shoulder, neck and down the face a bit while the rest of the pot is peppered in ash creating a snowy effect about the piece. This form is a classic shape of the Shigaraki region having made its way from the late Muramachi and early Momoyama days as an adopted piece for tea ceremony and most likely got its name from its resemblance to a person who is sitting or squatting. I would have to say that this form is ubiquitously synonymous with Shigaraki pottery and all most all of the regional potters make their own interpretation of the form of which this one by Tani-san is a particularly well fired and nice example.
Other post about Tani Seiuemon;

Monday, January 4, 2016


I was digging through some old files on the hard drive and found this video that I made quite a while back of me slip trailing a small bowl. The bowl is terra cotta to which I then brush a layer of black slip over before trailing white slip in a design I have been using since my Cleveland State days. Based on one of an array of fantasy characters that I came up with while doodling on my hour long train and bus trek from home to the pottery studio, this and several other devices find their way on my work in a myriad of approaches. The illustration, though not of this bowl gives you an idea of what the finished piece looks like under a clear glaze and how the design is situated on the pot to look like you are looking through a hole in the wall with the decoration disappearing off the edges. It is a short watch, enjoy.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy New Year for 2016, the year of the monkey. I have set a number of goals for my pottery this coming year and with a little luck I can make some in roads to achieving some long sought after glazes as well which means 2016 will be the year of perpetual testing!