Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Looking as much like a chawan as possible this yuteki-temmoku guinomi is by master of iron glazes, Kimura Morikazu. The rich, densely spotted surface engulfs the form and as with many really good guinomi, without a scale reference, the form could easily pass for a chawan, the trick is all in the proportions at which Morikazu obviously excells.  What is particularly interesting or curious depending on your perspective is that the size of the spots seems to cluster in bands around the guinomi which you can easily see on the inside, from small to large to small to larger again. I thought this helped define the volume of the piece both inside and out and made for an added bonus to the overall yuteki appearance. I have seen a wide array of pottery from Kimura Morikazu and whether large or small, chawan or guinomi, I am rarely disappointed and love finding the little details, points of distinction within the pottery that separates his work from the rest of the field.

Monday, March 28, 2016


It is rare that I am not looking to make some odds and ends or what nots to help fill the nooks and crannies of the kiln and from time to time I make tea cups, small covered boxes, guinomi or whiskey cups. In a recent fire I made a small group of whiskey cup out of stoneware that were paddled and later glazed in my temmoku and ash glazes, the cup illustrated is the result. About half the size of a normal teabowl though generous enough, these are perfect for an ice cube and a healthy shot of perhaps Jim Beam Apple or a nice mix of Southern Comfort and ginger ale, what ever the use, perfect after a long day of potting or any other profession. I like the way the glaze pulls and highlights the relief and creates dramatic pools in the recesses, the combination of these two glazes proves to be somewhat unpredictable and it is for that reason that I like to use it and the fact that it nicely matches the color of a number of spirits doesn't hurt either.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Perhaps just on the large size this classic Shigaraki guinomi is by the veteran potter; Tani Seiuemon. simple in execution the tapering form fits the hand well and best yet, it has a gracious interior to fill. The face of the guinomi is blanketed in an even coat of glass which tapers off and gives way to rich hi-iro across the rear with a thin coat of ash around the mouth at the rear asking the user to take a closer look at the interior. Tani-san, best known for his simple wan-gata chawan and numerous uzuku-maru forms was a traditional potter and was even conservative in his approach to making and firing but his pots possess a comforting and welcoming atmosphere the calls out. Not every potter is driven to change or challenge a tradition but how many can make pots day in and day out over a lifetime that bring a bit of happiness and joy in the using?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Illustrated is a rich and fluid ink water color by Ningen Kokuho, Tomimoto Kenkichi. Most likely rendered during the 1940's, this design shows the vivid and casual designs he was well known for earlier on in his career as well as a bit of inspiration from William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement. The form is classic Tomimoto and was used through out his career but these well conceived but more naturalistic designs gave way to his more detail oriented and constructed design for which he is best known for today. I really admire his early works which included slip trailed, carved, raku and simple sometsuke pottery and shows his pathway to the complex iro-e style of enamel painting that he was made Ningen Kokuho for. What is clearly seen in the ink wash is Tomimoto's impressive use of space and color and whether it is paper or porcelain, his mastery of materials, technique and design stand out among the best of the artist-potters of the 20th century.

You can see a previous blog post which shows another ink wash by clicking on the link provided;

Monday, March 21, 2016


Every now and again I get an inquiry that at first makes me scratch my head as to how to proceed and when I was first asked to make Its Still Life cups and saucers I did just that. It was going to be a lot of effort painting smaller versions of my still life designs on a cup and saucer and to be honest it sounded like a losing proposition in terms of time and reward. I will say that I was willing to make the pots because the customer is always right and I thought it would be nice to have the cups and saucers to accompany the dinnerware that they already had. After looking at the varying designs and thinking about it for a short time the obvious finally became obvious, instead of painting still life decoration on each I would make the cups and saucers look like they do in the actual painted designs. The illustration is an example of the cup decoration that I decided to go with, they are literally the three dimensional representation of the cups/saucer designs that I paint on the pots. It may seem like I took the easy way out of the laborious process of painting full still life designs but in the end this novel approach to the cups and saucers go far better with the dinnerware than I could have ever expected.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Apocryphal (  ə-ˈpä-krə-fəl); in simple terms something that is well known but not true, a fuller definition would be, of doubtful authenticity, spurious, dubious, mythical.
I saw a chawan recently that was being represented as a Momoyama period treasure and it was unused, what are the odds? Now I am certainly not saying that just because the bowl appears unused and nearly pristine on the interior (even though there are other characteristics that don't seem right for the period) that it is questionable in its age "guesstimation" but seriously, what are the odds that a bowl made over 400 years ago was not ever used as to leave some traces of the use in the crackle of the feldspar glaze inside? Not to come across as a cynic, which I am by the way but I would think my chances of winning the next $1.5 Billion lottery are far better than this really being plausible. When dealing with the authentication process experts are in agreement, it is far easier to discount an object as fake than prove its (veracity or validity) to 100% certainty. Though I am no expert on Momoyama ceramics I have been very fortunate to handle some rather famous Momoyama pots (thanks to MC and MA and a private Japanese collector) and there is a rather similar quality to these pots beyond the robust and simple qualities of these pots, none possess that over worked, contrived and self-conscious appearance that the later copies all seem to exhibit even if ever so minutely. I guess it is just easy to say a pot is Momoyama or by Hamada Shoji, back it up with a ambiguous return policy and see what happens, after all you pay your money and you take your chances. Personally I'll side with the time proven adage; CAVEAT EMPTOR.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Illustrated is a picture that I found on the web of an Ko-Iga style vase by Kojima Kenji. It is obvious this piece dates early in Kojima's career but the strength of form and his mastery of firing is clearly seen in here. The bamboo form is casual in its making creating an imposing presence with a strong ridge defining the piece, the confident marks made along the pot articulate the surface and break the tension just a bit. The majority of the vase form is cloaked in a rich green ash that appears wet and in motion while there is a triangular patch where charcoal has painted a portion of the base creating a wonderful juxtaposition to the rest of the surface. Though this pot has strong ties to feudal archetypes than his more contemporary vessels it is clear that he was right on track to creating robust and honest pottery that reflects a dedication to Ko-Iga and the personal vision of a pioneer.
"To make beautiful Igayaki, one shouldn't fuss too much with the shapes but stay conscious of showing off the beautiful green color." From an interview between Hiroshi Den and Kojima Kenji, translated by Peter Ujlaki.

Monday, March 14, 2016


While I was rustling around through a bin filled with teabowls I came across this little cap jar where the basis for the piece was the story of Scherherazade reclining in front of several large Persian pots. I made this little covered pot for a 2" x 2" show back in the early 1990's where the only restrictions were that the piece be made entirely of ceramics and not exceed two inches in any dimension. Using underglazes and sgraffito I covered the pot in the design and incised a small narrative around the base, this was my first attempt at working so small and quite honestly among my last. I didn't think it came out that bad given the scale of the pot and its demands for decorating so small a surface. Looking back on it nearly 20+ (?) years later I wish every first time effort came out this well though I doubt I will ever be that lucky again.
"Wishers were ever fools." William Shakespeare

Friday, March 11, 2016


Since I posted the Mukunoki Eizo (Shunsui) henko up last week I though about putting up a piece that shows the great diversity of the potter while high lighting his adherence to the Kawai-mon and thought this temmoku and tessha tsubo would do the trick. Cutting a rather robust and study form this tsubo has that classic Kawai school presence, ruggedly thrown and with four purposeful attached lugs the rich temmoku glaze is decorated and punctuated with splashes of an iron rich tessha glaze harkening back to the works of Kawai Kanjiro. I really enjoy the folky and utilitarian qualities of this pot which demands to be used and admired, truly a blend of the Kawai and mingei aesthetics from foot to lip.
"The difference between utility and utility plus beauty is the difference between telephone wires and the spider web." Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Though these were not intended to go together and were not fired in the same firing, I am rather pleased at how well they go together in terms of surface and decoration. In a short time I have already come to a particular way of working for this style and the fact that pots made two months apart can work well together gives me the sign that the technique and glazing has hit its stride and I am at least pointed in the right direction. There have been techniques and glazes over the years that took a rather long time to work things out and be able to create a cohesive body of work, certainly my old copper red glaze springs to mind. Hitting on forms and surface treatments for the copper red was a slow process partially due to the fact that I had to fill an 60cft kiln with just one glaze and fire it in a rather specific manner. This particular Oribe has been easier to fine tune though I doubt I can leave well enough alone; it is always something with glazes, a new summit appears with each and every glaze firing.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Illustrated is a modern classic beishokuji kannyu vase by celadon master; Minegishi Seiko (b.1952). The details around the mouth and waist of the form accentuate the double refractive quality of the glaze with the yellow-brown tone being enhanced by the iron rich clay the pot was thrown from. Minegishi Seiko  considers himself largely self-taught and his early work is a wonderfully elegant kohiki style heavily influenced by Korean pottery and though he continues to use some of his earlier forms, his more modern celadon work is literally night and day from his first footsteps in to pottery. This celadon vase was made in Nasu where he has his studio and kiln, located in Tochigi Prefecture and the center of his creation and constant experimentation in glaze making, forms and surface decoration. Though Minegishi is very well known for his unique shinogi (ridgeline) technique that is just masterful with the kannyu style glazes, it is the depth and beauty of his calmer forms that transcend his pots into a world of contemplation and reflection, painting a fractal universe in three dimensions.

Friday, March 4, 2016


Illustrated is a rich ame-yu glazed henko by the last pupil of Kawai Kanjiro, Mukunoki Eizo. The molded stoneware bottle has a casual, decorative slip trailed design that though influenced by his master is readily identifiable as the work of Eizo and is clearly marked on the base to avoid even a passing confusion. Mukunoki, who has changed his name to Shunsui, was born in 1943 and spent  time as Kawai Kanjiro's last full time student from 1958-1966 and along with his master's guidance he was also taught by Kawai Takeichi adding to his education. This molded bottle form is a classic staple of the Kawai-mon style and has a solid and purposeful form with bordered panels creating four interconnected but different planes; the glaze has a certain depth and in person it absorbs color and light from where ever it is displayed making for a ever changing presence.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


Illustrated is a large Tokoname shudei hibachi ("fire-bowl") by Yamada Tozan I (1878-1940). The pot has a burnished surface and a lengthy inscription carved into it with a long date and signature to conclude the text, after the signature is an annotation, SAKU-TO, self carved. Tozan I was succeeded by his son Yamada Tozan II (1907-1998) and in turn he by his son Tozan III (current). Shudei ware was developed early in the Edo period in Tokoname (Aichi prefecture) and is known for its fine grained, iron rich clay that fires to a variety of red tones including bright red vermillion. The clay is burnished to achieve these fine red surfaces and then once burnished the decoration is carved through the tightly packed surface creating a two-tone effect. The Tokoname potters specialized in carved kyusu teapots/cups, teaware (sencha and matcha) and censors(koro) and braziers among other items with hand carved (tosaku) floral and dragon decorations as well as extensive and idiosyncratic texts, prayers (sutra), travelogues, narratives, etc. This particular hibachi dates from the late 1920s and is a typical piece for Tozan I as well as the Tokoname style in general and since this pot has been in the US since just after WWII, I am curious what it has been used for during its stay State side?
Here is a short video of Tokoname potter, Yamada Tozan III that I found on YouTube: