Friday, April 29, 2016


When it comes to firing the results you achieve can sometimes be distilled down to where the pot was placed and in regards to a wood, salt or soda kiln that is certainly the case. This compact and well fired chawan is an excellent example of being in the perfect spot of a wood fired salt kiln, the results are literally painted across the face, back and interior of the bowl which processes a distinctly defiant tone having made it through the ferocity of the firing. If you look carefully you can see some of the impressed mishima texture peaking out from behind the ash and salt surface identifying Ningen Kokuho, Shimaoka Tatsuzo as the maker. The bowl is a compact form that easily rests comfortably in the hand and rests on a simple yet effective foot with an eroded indent in the ring caused by the wad sinking into the clay during the tremendous fury of the firing. Shimaoka fired a number of his tea pieces and other pieces of merit in highly desirable spots in the kiln to give them every advantage for a painted by fire surface and in this case it is just another example of being in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Illustrated is a simple guinomi that is about as pure and uncomplicated as they come but it is filled with cues and details that make it a marvelously compact pot. Made by Furutani Michio, this Shigaraki guinomi is perfectly suited for the task at hand and is animated by the rhythm in which it was thrown and the ash covered surface all the while being perched atop a carefully crafted foot with just the right amount of lift to beg the viewer to pick it up. In the throwing a slight amount of undulation was created in the lip and mouth further accentuating the movement of the piece, a skill that after years of practice and experience just comes naturally without any fuss. The simpler a pot the more demands are made on both the potter and viewer and that is exactly how it should be, a perpetual conversation between maker and user.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Back while working at Cleveland State I tried my hand at both reduction luster and oxide saturated glazes to get metallic surfaces and ran across my notes recently and decided to resurrect at least a couple of the formulas.  The reduction luster glaze was fired in a sealed sagger using some organic materials to try to create localized reduction and as per the original notes the test came out fine. The big problem with the tests however is that after a number of times trying to photograph the test pods, the results look anything but interesting. The surfaces are a smoky silver metallic with flashes of iridescence especially where the glaze is thicker with it turning a reddish copper on the high points where it breaks though and the only way to see this is in person, on hold for the time being. I decided to move on to the MnO2 saturate glaze which was originally based on a formula with 22% red iron oxide (!) though with a number of tests I was able to take an alkaline clear glaze and add a moderate level of manganese dioxide and a few other chemicals to the recipe to get a reasonably durable bronze to smoky grey surface while using far, far less of the MnO2. The tests have reached a point where I need to move beyond pods and glaze rings and I decided to throw a teabowl that has a overall matsukawa texture to be the next step in the process. For anyone keeping track, the glaze I am currently retesting uses less than the original amount of MnO2 and is much easier to work with though I would still recommend rubber gloves (and a mask) in use at all times. I will update when I can get a few tests in an upcoming glaze fire.

Friday, April 22, 2016


A friend sent me this all too short video of Nakazato Taroemon XIII working and a brief appearance of the famous Karatsu Ochawangama covered over in a soft blanket of grass which is now a shrine in the city of Karatsu. Known for his E-garatsu iron decorated wares and his vivid Persian blue style pottery, Taroemon XIII (1923-2009) is shown brushing an iron pigment over slip on a tsubo, the video also showns some still photos of his father, Ningen Kokuho (Juyo Mukei Bunkazai) Nakazato Muan, Taroemon XII ( 1895-1995) at his kiln and at work and is represented by a vivid Karatsu mizusashi.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Illustrated is a serene Shigaraki chawan by Shiga Prefectural Intangible Cultural Property, Ueda Naokata V (b.1927). Perched atop a strong, stable foot the bowl has a seductive curved form that is covered in ash on the face with vivid, wet fire color around the back of the form and into the interior creating a piece of profound grace and subtlety. The slight lean to the posture and undulation to the lip serves to welcome the viewer to explore the form and enjoy the presence and utility of the pot. Ueda Naokata V studied at the Kyoto Ceramic Research Institute and with his father, Naokata IV (1898-1975) and together they helped revive the traditional methods of anagama firing in the Shigaraki Valley for which both are held in very high regard. Known for his creation of insightful and classic teaware (chadogu) Naokata V has been collected by a number of museums throughout Japan and abroad and is also included in a number of pottery compendium of modern Japanese pottery. We were very fortunate to have been able to met with Ueda-san on each of our trips to Japan in the 1990s and have a wonderful presento from our last visit to always remind us of both the character and generosity of this legendary potter.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Illustrated is a bottle vase with a hakeme slip surface under the latest incarnation of my Ao+ glaze. I throw the body of the bottle and neck separately for ease sake and then put it together and slip them making the whole process a snap. I put the slip on about a quarter of an inch thick and then comb it creating deep valleys and high points that react differently to the glaze and the touch making for the most amount of variation as is possible. I am rather pleased with this gosu like glaze and find it is highly effective over different designs, decorations and slips and works well with a large number of forms as well. Though this bottle is not terribly large it has a good presence and is made just a little bit taller through the use of the vertical combing. I will not say anything conclusively but I may be at the end of testing for this particular glaze as it does just about everything I was hoping it would do, I guess I am on to the next glaze.

Friday, April 15, 2016


Illustrated is a simple, straight forward Kawai school wan-gata chawan by Kawai Hisashi (b.1942). Influenced by Kawai Kanjiro, this bowl combines what he learned from his teacher(s) and creates a fusion of the personal and the learned from the rich tessha tetsu-yu glaze to the chrome green splashes originally favored by Kawai Kanjiro. Kawai Hisashi first learned the use of the pottery wheel in Yasugi (1960) and later studied with Kawai Kanjiro and Kawai Takeichi, a contemporary of Mukunoki Eizo starting in 1961. Born in Yasugi which was also the hometown of Kawai Kanjiro, Hisashi went on to establish his own kiln and currently works in Shiga Prefecture where he creates Kawai influenced Mingei pottery and is known for his wide variety of glazes from gosu and shinsha to tetsu-yu and shirahagi. The decoration on this chawan resembles a 1950's abstract expressionist painting where  the chrome green splash has sunk into the tessha glaze creating a wide array of effects that break up the nearly perfect and serene reflective tessha surface creating a sense of chaos within the clam field of the surface. I should also mention that it is this "splashed" chrome green that Warren MacKenzie has popularized here in the United States showing how influential was the work, technique, glazing and teaching of Kawai Kanjiro and how understandable it is that those who studied directly with the master have been inspired by him while creating pots that have as much to say about the maker as they do the great teacher.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Illustrated is a robust, classical Bizen tsubo on a broad pedestal style foot by Masamune Satoru (1954-2006). I have written a bit about Masamune in previous posts, his work has a tremendous sense of traditional Bizen styling and firing and I am especially interested in how he handles clay without pretense or any sense of fussiness. This medium sized tsubo has a wonderful and compelling sense of form and volume from the delicate and sexy mouth to the tautness about the belly and the surety of the wide and purposeful foot, there is nothing superfluous about this piece and it is a perfect amalgam of the old and the new. The pot was fired as to create a rich ash surface around the mouth, shoulder and belly with the foot being banded in ash as well and the underside of the piece has a nice purple toned surface that contrast in perfect harmony with the upper half of the tsubo. Having seen a number of pots by Masamune Satoru, his use of clay and fire creates a simple array of evocative surfaces and vessels that echo the past while having as much to say about a modern potters vision and voice of the 20th century.

Its Wednesday so here is a flashback to another time and place, Wall Of Voodoo, MEXICAN RADIO;

Monday, April 11, 2016


I am currently making up a large number of tests which includes an ash line blend trying to combine my old ash glaze with several glazes I am currently using as well as several  glazes empirically formulated to be equivalent to Albany slip formulas. As for the ash glaze, I am using one of the first recipes I ever used, a dependable formula that works in solo or combo glaze applications; the purpose of these tests is to try to introduce it in varying percentages in to formulas that use other existing glazes I currently have in rotation. Over the years I have had some great results by combing two glazes into one formula and am hoping to get a few results that at the very least show some promise or potential. In regards to the Albany tests, though I have been able to squirrel away a nice supply of the material, I am constantly working on glazes that exhibit the same results and surfaces without using the nearly irreplaceable chemical. Over the years I have had varied results and the glazes made out of my terra cotta body with various additions has come the closest to the result I am after with each series of tests and alterations I get closer to the "end result". Always testing, I doubt I can leave things well enough alone and hopefully this series of ash and Albany-esque tests will be reason enough for all the effort.

Illustrated is an Albany celadon teabowl with a brushed slip surface and stamps placed at four points of the bowl. The rich glaze pools and presents as a dark glass on the lip and the base just prior to the bowl form tapering down to the foot. The richness and visual depth of these glazes made Albany slip one of the greatest materials I have ever worked with along with spodumene and lepidolite. With any luck and lots of testing I will be able to recreate this glaze without using the material itself and if all else fails, I have the actual chemical to fall back on.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Provenance; the origin or source of something, the history or ownership of an object or work of art.

On the occasion that I am selling a Japanese pot I am often asked the questions, what is the provenance of the piece, where did it come from, has it been exhibited, to collectors this can be an important aspect of the decision making to purchase the pot plus it also helps vet the authenticity as well. I think this is all well and good when you are dealing with Hamada, Rosanjin, Kawai and other truly monumental potters but for the majority of potters where forgeries are just nearly unheard of I am not sure that it matters excepting when a piece is illustrated in a catalogue, book or exhibition catalogue those just add to the allure of the piece. Beyond the provenance what really interests me is the travels that a pot can take and certainly through history there are many a famous pot that has its own travelogue quite distinctly narrated, from place to place and owner to owner, from castle to temple and in to the hands of famous warlords, tea master and wealthy patrons and merchants.

In a past post I was able to find the starting and ending point of a large Kohyama Yasuhisa piece but yet the circuitous route it took from point A to point B remains a mystery other than it was bought from a dealer who bought it from a dealer at a temple flea market. That explanation, though better than with most pots just doesn't cut it in terms of providing a narrative of the travels and how a piece that started out as an expensive pot can later be found for a fraction of the original value. What makes me think about the concept of travel is that I recently came in contact with a pot that was the highlight of a 2015 exhibition by a major potter only to show up on a ubiquitous auction site and sell for next to nothing. How does this happen, what is the travels or travails of the pot and owner that bring a piece to this fateful conclusion? I doubt I will ever know or track down the route by which it has traveled but it is a curious aspect of many object bought on a daily basis and for most it isn't the travel that matters but rather the destination.

As for provenance, I bought this "bowl" off an auction site several years back and inquired as to its origin or provenance and was told it was guaranteed late 18th to early 19th century Ohio River Valley red ware (slipware) acquired from an expert on such things. What I was hoping to get was how this chawan ended up in the US considering it originated in Fujina, Shimane prefecture made by the current head of the Funaki-gama, Funaki Kenji. There are a number of pots and chawan decorated like this piece in a variety of publications so this just goes to show the concrete validity of "origin stories" and why I am more interested in the journey rather than the prior ownership.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Reminding me a bit of a Mobius loop, this undulating form was captured in clay by Bizen master, Kakurezaki Ryuichi. Creating forms that are on the edge of what clay can do and their physical limitations due to gravity and other pertinent laws of physics, Kakurezaki captures strength, power, mobility and often times grace in his pots that few can duplicate. This elegant and looping chawan appears to be in perpetual motion and is blanketed in a soft, velvety surface of ash that helps accentuate the bowl. Using decades of experience and his mastery of clay, Kakurezaki creates pots that combine elements of contemplation, poetry and nobility and fires them with the attention a painter brings to his canvas, I think this simple and lyrical chawan proves my point.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Illustrated is a stoneware tsubo glazed in my temmoku and ash (t&a not to be confused with t&a, thrown & altered) over a heavily paddled surface. Now I would be remiss if I didn't state the obvious, these tsubo are influenced by the "big three", Hamada Shoji, Bernard Leach and Warren MacKenzie but there is another influence equal to the others and that is from Bill Klock. When I first stepped in to Bill's studio/ classroom there was always a constant discussion about ash and "dobi" glazes as well as pots in every free space with stamped or paddled decoration. Though Bill was influenced by Leach, Hamada and Cardew who he would visit on down time at the Leach Pottery, I was most influenced by how he handled the clay, forcefully paddled or stamped the pots and just how he went about glazing each piece. To this day at each and every step along the process I am thinking of what I can only think to call the "big four" as each of these potters has made it into my thought process of making and glazing while hopefully making pots that come across as distinctly my own.

"What the world calls originality is only an unaccustomed method of tickling it." George Bernard Shaw

Friday, April 1, 2016


I made this video in haste and it is a bit shaky but I think it conveys the volume and presence of the bowl. Made by Mino potter, Kato Toyohisa (b. 1962) the surface is a complex mixture of texture and color from chocolaty browns, iron reds, steely grey-blues, Murasaki purple, tans and orange and deep, snowdrift white much of it speckled with fine white particles like fine snow or pure white sand. The form is robust and large in the hand and is classic for the potter  a blend of the Momoyama archetype and modern reinterpratation of the Mino chawan at which Kato is rather adept. Though based in the past, this is a thoroughly modern bowl that uses 20th century liberties to create a novel approach to the glazing of a Shino chawan by combining thickness, color and textures that if only described would seem to contradict and clash with each other but in actuality the blend works quite well. The richness of the various uses of Shino make this a rather stunning bowl visually and tactilely and lets face it, few potters take such risks in glazing and end up with a chawan that suceeds on a number of different levels, I hope the video shows that to full effect.