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

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