Monday, February 29, 2016


Ewer; a form of pitcher or jug that is shaped like a vase and is or was used for holding a liquid.
I am rather guilty of moving forward with "glazes in phases" and sometimes forgetting to use older glazes and glaze combos that are tried and true. I guess I get caught up in the zeitgeist of testing and proving phases and like to work out ideas, styles and decorations without being more inclusive of what I did just a short while ago. In one of my last firings I went back to my time tested basic green which I refer to as medieval green; though developed in my ongoing quest for Oribe style glazes, it has more of a medieval feel to it, like early lead glazes of England. In this case I made a ewer form and decorating with black and white slips using a wax resist design which compliments the base of the form and immediate interior of the mouth. I pulled the handle ovoid in cross section and went for a graceful and almost fragile appearance that echoes the curve of the neck. I have used hundreds (thousands?) of glazes over my years making pottery and need to be mindful that the next thing is not always the only thing when working out any variety of ideas.
A very dear, departed friend of mine who was interested in both Japanese art and culture used to quip; " a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step but it best to remember each and every one of those steps if you ever want to go back".

Friday, February 26, 2016


Illustrated is a small little jar made in Fujina, it is combed slipware with a soft greenish toned ame-yu glaze made by mingei purist; Funaki Michitada (1900-1963). Measuring in at less than four inches tall, this pot is a little gem with a swollen, full presence with a perfect little knob made just right to get the job done. Influenced by Old English slipware and Bernard Leach, Michitada and his son, Kenji (b. 1927) have carried out a crusade for creating beautiful and functional pots in a blended style of medieval England and Japan. This lidded ko-tsubo is made out of an iron rich reddish clay that just peeks out through the combed texture revealing a dark surface just beneath. Having a wonderful, natural feel in hand with a lid fits just right and the knob just asking to be grabbed this is a mingei pot through and through.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I have a group of large blue storage containers that we bought at a close-out place before we moved from Cleveland to New Hampshire. They have proven to be incredibly durable and even almost twenty years later they are still in great condition and filled to capacity with stuff, some long forgotten from various moves since that time period. I know there are a number of early pots in the containers as well as clay supplies I have also hoarded along the way from sponges to clock movements and just about everything in between.  While searching for a group of coveted dagger brushes, I came across a bin filled with 22 teabowls from my time at Cleveland State, Kent State, Cleveland Art Institute and Wesleyan Potters spanning from about 1992 to 2002 and decided to make a short slideshow video of the contents inspired by a song by THE NAILS, "88 Lines About 44 Women" but in this case it is 44 pictures about 22 teabowls. The pieces are not in chronological order and don't necessarily present the best of the styles they represent, that just happen to be what I found in the bin.

For those of you not familiar with THE NAILS 1982 classic (though this is the 1985 version), "88 Lines About 44 Women", here it is thanks to YouTube (this is an adult theme and language tune, listen appropriately);

Monday, February 22, 2016


Illustrated is a large samurai on horseback bronze by the multi-talented Tsukigata Nahiko. Obviously sculpted in clay and then cast in bronze, the figure is of famous Sengoku-jidai feudal warrior, Ouchi Yoshioki (1477-1528). The bronze was cast in several pieces, then assembled and patinated to give it an antique feel while high lighting the figure in full Samurai armor, even the sword handle, armor plates, flowing tie from the eboshi and the heraldic mon on the haori are captured in detail. Tsukigata was well known for his limited bronzes as well as his public commissions, some quite large, among his subject matter there are a number of heroic Samurai figures, religious figures including Fudo-myoo and his creative depictions of shishi. Irrespective of the material, clay, bronze, sumi or wood, Tsukigata has an innate appreciation and understanding of the materials and wrestles to get the most out of each.
A short account of Ouchi Toshioki can be read on Wikipedia but there is far more depth to his history than is available at this single source;

Friday, February 19, 2016


I was recently discussing a couple of pots that a fellow collector was offered over the internet. The first was a vase represented by 2 of the worst pictures I have seen, slightly out of focus and each one clipped a small amount of the vase from the frame. The other was a series of 16 perfect pictures that showed ever angle and nuance of a wood fired tsubo. In the end he decided to choose the vase with the two lousy pictures and skip the tsubo. His reasoning and justification was simple, in all of the really good tsubo pictures he managed to see what he believed was a firing crack that came out of the mouth and down the side about 2" or so . As for the vase which he bought, the pot showed real potential and knowing the potter and the fact that it was boxed made him the most confident that the pot would be a winner when it arrived. In our last email exchange I asked him what happens if the pot was damaged after the potter boxed and sold it, for some inexplicable reason, that had never occurred to him. I am certainly not knocking his decision making process as all collectors have some peculiar guidelines for what and how we collect but being a bit of a cynic I wish that I had a bit of that optimism and could get away with the ignorance is bliss mantra. I guess at the end of the day everyone takes a leap of faith when buying anything off the internet just waiting to see what will arrive and what condition it will arrive in and the biggest issue; do you respond to the piece in hand?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I put together this video slideshow of a Hagi chawan that came my way a long while back by Koto Kenshin. I really liked the posture of the piece, it has a calming and peaceful nobility to the form and the color variations trapped within the glaze surface draw the viewer into the pot to admire the traditional Hagi sensibility right down to the dark side that paints the face from lip to foot. The maker of this chawan is a traditional Hagi potter, born in 1947, Koto Kenshin established his own studio and kiln in 1970, the KoHagi-gama where his son, Koto Komei works today. When you look at all of the potters working in various traditions it is sometimes easy to get lost in a sense of sameness but with the right attention and vision, character makes pots stand out from the crowd and this chawan has character to spare.

Monday, February 15, 2016


I have been playing a bit applying two coats of slip, one white and one black at the same time using two brushes at the same time, a technique I first saw in Japan in the early 90's. Back at CSU I set about replicating the layered slip look and despite not having done this in a long while it seems to have worked out okay right out of the gate. The saffron glazed bowl had the exterior slip applied while holding two brushes in one hand resulting in this swirled look where the black goes on first and the white just over it. It is a rather simple idea leading to simple results but on this rather formal bowl form and with the design carved through to the clay it all fits neatly together and the pronounced black lip sets off the pot rather well. The rich clay body is the clay that I have been making up in small batches and it has just enough iron in it to show through the thin slip on the interior and mesh well with the saffron glaze. I would like to think the bowl has an overall folky look to it with a bit of inspiration from old English and  modern Fujina style slipware pottery.
"Inspiration arrives as a packet of material to be delivered." John Updike

Friday, February 12, 2016


Illustrated is a rather playful yet bold Oribe platter with a pronounced array of texture and glaze variations. The vivid green Oribe is characterized by having bright accents where there are high points and a dense pool in the center of the piece with rich blue-green tones floating on the surface where the saturation of copper has become the greatest. Made by Yamaguchi Yoshinari, he was born in  Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture and after attending Kanazawa Seiryo University established his own studio and anagama in 1999. Immersing himself in the creation of chadogu, tea ware, Yamaguchi has won a number of awards for his dedicated pursuit and he divides time between making Oribe and Shigaraki pottery. Though a great deal of his output is based on traditional forms and archetypes for tea ceremony, this Oribe swirl platter has a practiced blend of whimsy and modernism that much of even the historical Oribe pottery is admired for. I am constantly amazed that green (Oribe) has such a wide array of uses and rarely disappointed when it is handled with purpose.
You can see more photos of this pot over at my Trocadero marketplace if you are inclined;

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


If I were to characterize my feelings regarding the work and philosophy of Kawai Kanjiro, I think it could be summed up in one word; reverence. Though I am not 100% sure why, his pottery and way of working as well as his philosophy just resonate with me. Along with a few other modern potters, there is little more influential in regards to my work as a potter. As I strive to create my own work using what has come before as more a guideline than a blueprint, I think at its core pottery making is about expressing the connection my pots have to other pots and allowing them a good dose of personal latitude, making them my pots. The illustrated teabowl is a good example, it bears little resemblance to my influences but the genesis can be seen in the work of Kawai as well as a few others, including  numerous anonymous 16th and 17th Japanese potters. The form is based on an old kutsu-gata chawan while the thick slip surface goes back to old Korean hakeme all finished off with a gosu inspired Ao+ glaze that I have been working on for quite some time. It is easy for me to see where the influences come from but when mashed up and assembled in my own unique way, the bowl becomes my own for better or worse.
I made a quick video of the Ao+ slipped teabowl which hopefully will give a sense of the volume and movement of the form and the complexity of the surface right down to the steel blues, blue-greys, gosu and flashes of purple that are locked in the glaze.

Monday, February 8, 2016


Illustrated is solitary Shino vase by Higashida Shigemasa punctuated in use with a floral arrangement. It is simple in form but the piece has a wide array of features that are compelling enough; from rich textural surface, direct spatula marks on opposing sides and the soft, velvety texture with a satin appearance to the glaze. Higashida calls this unique glaze, Hakusetsu, white snow and it surely paints a picture of purity, of softly drifting snow engulfing the form. For nearly two decades the potter has been working on perfecting this glaze and its use finding both traditional and modern forms that compliment each other. I have had the opportunity to see and handle a wide number of different Shino works and I can say that this glaze is among the most idiosyncratic and personal surfaces I have encountered. I can't speak to whether Higashida has perfected this glaze yet to his taste but in hand and also in use, it seems about as perfect as it can get.
If you would like to see more photos of this vase, please feel free to click on the link which will bring you to my Trocadero marketplace;

Friday, February 5, 2016


Specialist (noun); a person who devotes him or her self to one subject or to one particular branch of study of a subject or pursuit.
Illustrated is an early yuteki-temmoku style vase by "oilspot" specialist, Kamoda Koji (b.1948). Classic in appearance and certainly heavily influenced by the Chinese archetypes, this vase shows a vivid partridge feather style glaze composed of a rich, dark temmoku with rusty feathers appearing through the surface. Kamoda was originally a product of Kyoto having first studied with Shimizu Tadashi (Gojozaka) in the late 60's before going on to apprentice with Ningen Kokuho, Shimizu Uichi in 1988. This particular vase was probably made during or after his study with Shimizu Uichi and clearly shows his budding command of the tricky glaze and firing wrought with failures and a low rate of success. Obviously, Kamoda persevered and is one of the pillars of the yuteki-temmoku tradition which flourishes in Japan today. Though an early piece by Kamoda, this vase stands out as a successful foundation of a body of work that has perfected and added to the tradition of temmoku wares through single minded discipline and dedication to a specialized art.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Illustrated is one of the two thrown and altered flower blocks that I made a while back in a sort of beat the clock moment. This vase was thickly slipped and combed and then glazed in my Oribe while the other piece was finished in the Ao+, both were both were slipped and glazed to accentuate the squared form by combing at an angle toward the line of the corners and to avoid them sticking to the kiln shelves they were fired on wads. The texture works well for these transparent and flowing glazes with the highpoints having a brightness to them and the lower areas creating various tones of color and deep rich pools of green. The forms, decoration and glazing were all pretty simple but the pieces have a certain degree of complexity to them and I am sure they look eminently more interesting with a nice floral arrangement in them.
"Like as waves make toward the pebbled shore, so do our minutes hasten to their end." Wm. Shakespeare

Monday, February 1, 2016


Illustrated is a rather straight forward molded henko with a highly active crackle slip under ash and Oribe style glazes. Made by Mino veteran potter, Ando Moriyuki, this pot showcases the characteristics of a style for which the potter is well known. Ando classifies these styles of work as either haiyu-kairagi or haiyu-onihada depending on the activity and boldness of the texture and this particular henko is best described as ash glazed, devil-skin and it is easy to tell why. Creating vessels of simple forms and lines has been the mantra of Ando which can be clearly seen in this vase form along with the bulk of his body of work. The truth is with only a few glazes, slip and forms, a myriad of possibilities arise making the pursuit of "simplicity, clarity and refinement" easily last a lifetime.