Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Illustrated is a rather simple form with a lurid, almost lyrical incised decoration running around the piece creating a sense of perpetual motion. The pot was glazed in a rich Mashiko ash glaze (haiyu) and then was wood fired by the potter, Matsuzaki Ken with the results being framed in ash over ash making for a rather rustic chawan. The incised decoration has filled with the glaze and natural ash from the firing to fill the channels and present a rich and dark decoration which moves freely about the pot. This combination makes for a wonderful blend of the formal and the common while adding to the tactile experience the piece has to offer. It never ceases to amaze me that the confluence of a lump of clay, a simple wood tool and a few materials mixed with water can combine to create such a pleasant vessel with just the slight help of a good potter.

Monday, June 27, 2016


Years ago I saw this Paleo-Indian stone axe at the Natural History Museum and I was struck by the form and it almost sculptural elements. The form was conical and about 2/3 of the way down the form was this highly polished channel that ran around the axe where the handle was secured and though I didn't know it at the time, the form and particularly the indented area was to have a large influence on my making pots. Starting some time in the early 90's I began making this serving bowls and bowls of all type with a rounded profile interrupted by a concave channel running around the bowl and for the serving pieces I applied small handles that went over the indents to echoes the overall roundness of the forms. The teabowl pictured is one of those typical forms where the fullness of the form is broken with the recessed channel which serves to visually break up the surface as well as to play in to various glaze activities, with runny glazes benefiting the most. The ash glaze over the temmoku is made from ash that I got from my sister-in-law and once screened but not washed, this is the end result. As anyone who works with ash can tell you, each and every batch yields varying properties and results depending on the source and combination of woods not to mention contaminants that went into the general mixture. I tend to test each batch of ash that I receive for any unsatisfactory anomalies but quite frankly it is the constant diversity that I find quite pleasing and it allows a single glaze combination to morph from time to time and create a new look with each new batch.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Looking like a thin, fresh coating of snow allowing the earth to peek through, this Shino chawan  paints a elegant picture in tones of pure white, rich iron red and fiery orange on a buff  mogusa clay. Made by long time veteran and rennaissance potter, Kishimoto Kennin, this chawan has all the tell tale signs of his work from strong and purposeful form, well addressed lip and kodai to a glaze that is a blend of the Momoyama ideal with elements of his modernism. The milky quality of the Shino glaze with areas that allow the iron painted underglaze to show through remind me of simple Momoyama ink painting (suiboku-ga) and grab my attention while the tapered form with the inward curve at the lip asks to be picked up and handled a bit. Among all pottery it is this intimate connection that makes the chawan so appealing and though I certainly appreciate large pots and sculptural ceramics, is there anything more elemental than the feel of a good bowl in the hand?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Most times I have a good solid game plan for what I am doing in the studio; throwing, tooling, glazing, test making or packing up orders, it is all part of each cycle. Though it is good to have a plan I do leave room for just doing something that springs to mind but I rarely sit at the wheel without knowing what I am going to make or at least attempt. If you have read or watched DUNE there is the semi-cheesy line, "fear is the mind killer" to me sitting at the wheel has the same sensibility, an unscripted project usually leads to disaster. I am certainly not saying this is the case for everyone, what I am saying is that looking back over a long period of throwing nearly ever incidence of just sitting and throwing has lead to either undefined or ambiguous forms or pots that either don't make it to the bisque or meet the hammer down the road, in the end it is all about the preparation. I have seen potters just sit at the wheel and create magic as a spontaneous act but that just doesn't work for me. I come in to the studio with a little slip of "to do(s)" and I am off to the races.

"You hit home runs not by chance but by preparation." Roger Maris (1934-1985)

Monday, June 20, 2016


I put together a short video slideshow of a Ko-Iga style chawan by Kojima Kenji that a fellow collector sent my way and that is currently up on my Trocadero marketplace. It is a large and very pleasing piece that was thrown, tooled and fired with little manipulation or alterations to the bowl from wet to hardened clay. I like a bowl that maintains the freshness and directness from the wheel head and this particular pot has captured that essence. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

You can see more of this chawan over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Friday, June 17, 2016

C+S = H

I know there is a tendency to want decorated pots by Hamada Shoji, especially those with sugar cane motifs or wispy and casual overglaze enamels but over the years I have seen a number of unadorned pieces that have as much or more to say with so much less. I came across this pot recently and was struck by the utter elemental grace of the bowl. The slight undulation of the form is echoed in the lip and waisted line filled to the brim with deep brown ameyu amber spilling over the cut line to flow freely down the face of the chawan and mirrored again in the edge of the kodai. It will sound cliché but only a master could make a bowl in such an unconscious, nonchalant manner  with a less is more approach and end up with a chawan that can communicate across cultures and time. In a thousand years people will look back at pots just like this, free of clutter and the superfluous elements of virtuosity and reason that clarity plus simplicity equals Hamada Shoji.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


I made a short video slideshow of another Shino chawan by Sakai Kobu. Glazed in a nice array of colors, the bowl is bisected by a waspy, drifting area of pure white like a rolling cloud bank drifting in front of a dark mountain range. Sakai well known for his patented "Sakai Shino" has a wonderful gift for creating chawan (and other pots) that have the sense of having been painted as much as they have been glazed and this kumo, cloud chawan is a good example of just that.

"a good omen
in the west, deep red
billowing clouds"  Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)

Monday, June 13, 2016


It may come as no surprise that I am a bit restless when it comes to making pottery. Though I work in disciplined cycles and often use pre-existing designs, forms and glazes, I find that I like to try to make something new happen with each firing. This is the ongoing challenge that pushes me, hence the on going testing and working out of new forms, surfaces and decoration that ultimately keeps me from getting bored. I have been making plates and tray forms off of hump molds since all the way back to Cleveland State, the original genesis had a lot to do with the molded wares of Hamada Shoji but truth be told, I owe quite a bit to the Schneiders at CSU, the Mashiko/Ohio connection. Though the perspective is a bit skewed, this plate form is mostly square with a new-ish plant design in the center and in each of the four borders which I am referring to as the scimitar grass. I first used this design last fall carving through black slip on white porcelain to good effect and have now added the design to terra cotta as well as on stoneware and porcelain using wax resist, etched and inlaid designs. As you can see, I rough sketch the design out using ink prior to carving and then wait until the pot is just right to carve and this is the result, now waiting to dry, bique and glaze fire.

Friday, June 10, 2016


If you are in contact with fellow collectors there is the inevitability that a conversation will arise in which an owned pot is discussed in relation to another pot either available or just out in the ether. Owners tend to err on the side of ego and usually profess their piece to be better than the other and the debates that can arise if there is any hesitancy or disagreement can be quite heated. At times, the owned pot is the better piece, at other times it is the similar piece that is the superior piece. In some cases the decision is an easy one to make at other points the qualities are just more subjective in their judgment than objective but the real truth is as I am looking at two similar pots, whether I own it or a fellow collector does, my real thought process is thinking if I could only take the neck off this one and switch out the ash on the other I could have the best of both. As a potter and collector, I would like to think I am a realist, though I have a few nice pots and ones I am very happy with but if you compare them against the best pots of the various potters, many come up a bit short. I think it just boils down to human nature, especially for collectors who by their very nature are operating with some psychological deficit (!), allowing the subjective to rule the analytical process with the ability to be objective and clinical a distant concept that is easier understood in theory than in practice.

Illustrated is an excellent example of an Oni-Shino kinuta-hanaire by pioneer, Tsukigata Nahiko. This particular pot, owned by a fellow collector is illustrated in a book on the paintings and pottery of Tsukigata so I think it is safe to say that there is a certain amount of agreement that this is a superior piece. I am not going to say it is the best or that there could be better but let it suffice to say that I think you would have to stumble upon quite a number of similar examples to find a better one. In this instance when you compare and contrast this mallet to others the answer is obvious.

"Each one sees what he carries in his heart." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


I have been playing around with inlay quite a bit lately and decided to slip in a bowl test in a recent terra cotta firing. I threw a rather simple teabowl form and then once tooled I covered it in a thin coat of my black slip and after waiting a while then covered it in wax and incised a quick "Verses" design and then brushed on the white slip. Once bisque a dip in the clear glaze and into the firing. The bowl was fired at the top of the kiln where it gets rather hot and the black turned a deep, rich black which shows off the white slip all the more. Though I really enjoy making trailed slipware, the design with the inlay is far more precise and creates a line far more like drawing which is what is called for from time to time.

Monday, June 6, 2016


At first glance it is easy to see what appears to be a classic modern Shino bowl form in this illustration but the surface is neither typical of the pot or potter being fired Shigaraki style. Thrown and fired by Mino traditional veteran, Wakao Toshisada, this particular bowl form is highly typical of the potter who on occasion creates a number of pots that are distinctly outside his normal range including Karatsu, hakeme, kohiki, Shigaraki and over-glaze enamel pieces this chawan was thrown out of a durable Shigaraki clay and has a nice, rich coat of ash with areas punctuated by melting feldspar and fiery hi-iro patches making for a lovely wood fired pot that pays homage to traditions of the past, both Shigaraki and Mino. I have seen a wide array of pots by Wakao Toshisada and am always left satisfied by his ability to create thoughtful and classic works infused with his distinctive touch whether they be his trademark Rimpa style pieces or his more classic works in Shino, Seto-Guro and Oribe. Though not within the traditional boundaries of Mino, you can get hints of that classicism in this chawan through the posture, character and form that only a well seasoned and practiced potter could get away with.
"It is an unscrupulous intellect that does not pay to antiquity its due reverence."  Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

Friday, June 3, 2016


Illustrated is a Four-Vu jpeg of a phenomenally well fired Mino-Iga vase by Mizuno Takuzo. The sheer variation in surface textures and coloration makes this a really neat piece whether in use or just an object to contemplate and study. Mizuno Takuzo is well known for his skill at various Shino glazes as well as Ki-Seto, Seto-Guro and Haiyu but he has also crafted a large body of work dedicated to the tradition of Mino-Iga. Though historically Mino-Iga seems to be mostly relegated to hanaire and mizusashi, Mizuno creates a wide array of forms from guinomi/tokkuri to chawan and other chadogu. In terms of modern Japanese pottery, Mizuno is a classic renaissance potter dedicated to producing quality pots indigenous to Gifu Prefecture and despite being a Toki Intangible Living Treasure for his skillfully created Seto-Guro pots it is with his haiyu and Mino-Iga pieces that he adds a new and distinctive page to the book on Mino-yaki.

You can read a few other blog post about Mizuno Takuzo by clicking on the attached links;

You can also see more of this vase over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


At first glance I am sure most will think this is a simple design created by wax resist which in an odd way is partially the truth, the design is actually inlaid into the temmoku using an Oribe style glaze. The bowl was first glazed over in my temmoku and then the entire surface was covered over in a very thin coat of wax. Once the wax was dry, the design was carved out and then the Oribe glaze was brushed over filling in the excised channels of the design and the rest was resisted by the wax. This of course is a rather old technique but the line it creates is very different than simply using wax resist and easier to control and create rather intricate patterns, textures and designs. If memory serves me, I first used this approach way back at Plattsburgh State (1989) and I have been using it ever since, it is always a bonus to have the ability to create a singular design in a wide array of technique, it just makes life that much easier.