Friday, July 29, 2016


Illustrated is a rather unique tetsuyu (temmoku style) form that I would call anything but ordinary. Thrown out of a buff, sandy, plastic clay and then painstakingly manipulated to this involved form, the corners of the first tier shoulder had small appendages attached to add visual cues to the pot. The surface is glazed over in a rich and deep blackish iron glaze over which a rusty accent was applied for great contrast creating wonderful streaks running down the sides aided by the intense heat of the kiln and no doubt helped just a bit by gravity. Made by Mino veteran and tetsuyu specialist, Manten Totatsu (b.1940) he has dedicated a large portion of his life to working with iron glazes and manipulating them to his will and purpose which can also be seen in a long line of the awards he has received from varying organizations for his body of work. I have seen quite a few pieces by Manten Totatsu from guinomi/tokkuri, serving pieces, large hachi, vases and chawan but I have never seen a piece of this form before but based on the skill of execution and exceptional way the glaze works on the form, I suspect this wasn't the first pot of this type and certainly not the last.
"Tetsuyu develops variations depending on tiny changes in the kiln firing, temperature and in the shading of the glaze. Using an ordinary shape, by completely eliminating the surface works and by changing the glazes, I have worked to search for contrasting blacks and browns and to develop power and volume." A quote from Manten Totatsu on his study and research into iron rich glazes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


If you like Shigaraki pottery and if you like guinomi and if you like sake, how can you not be satiated by this little gem? Like Old English style Slipware is no longer just relegated to the confines of England, this Shigaraki guinomi was made in Niigata by Tsuji Seimei deshi, Kon Chiharu showing off some of the best his firings have to offer. Though thrown, this little pot has the appearance of being hacked out of a block of clay with angles and jagged lines high lighting the surface and breaking clear of the molten ash that covered this piece. I will admit I am not a huge sake drinker preferring western spirits, it would be hard to pass on especially served in a guinomi as appealing as this one.

"There can't be good living where there isn't good drinking."  Benjamin Franklin

Monday, July 25, 2016


Based on an ongoing flirtation with my "landscapeman" designs, I recently threw a series of medium size v-bowls and once tooled black slipped and carved them with a variety of designs, this one being my shaman motif. Intended to look like two shaman animating the surface, each engaged in delving deeply into the meaning of life, to divine the hidden truths of the universe or just possibly deciding what to have for dinner. What ever the case, the design articulates the space between black slip and exposed red terra cotta to make for a lively design. In case it isn't obvious this style is partially influenced by German block prints created prior to the 1930s though the decoration and designs do not necessarily bare any resemblance to that work. Hopefully, perfectly blended and assimilated, these designs and motifs come from years of watching old movies and reading lots of science fiction to create imagery from my own vocabulary which hopefully will remain a work in progress.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Last week I showed a square plate being made on a hump mold and thought to show one just recently slip trailed. This particular piece is larger than the one shown and I have attached lugs to the rear so that the tray can hang on the wall. After the form was pulled off the mold and fine tuned I first coat the surface with black slip and after about an hour I go back in and slip trail the design, in this case a pair of fish. As I have probably mentioned I came by the slip trailing kind of naturally working with Bill Klock way back when as he was influenced by Bernard Leach whom he studied with and by Michael Cardew who he took every opportunity to visit while at the Leach pottery. I have tried to impart a casual look to my slip trailing and this is aided by the simple fact that you only have one shot at the decorating part of the process, if you screw up, it shows, its just a done deal.
Moving in to the weekend, here is a novel cover of one of my favorite tunes of the 1990s;

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Every year on July 20th I take a moment to remember a remarkable potter who though he left behind a rich and diverse body of work, I wonder how much better his pots would be today. I was lucky to have known Furutani Michio and visited his home and studio on a number of occassions always leaving with a great feeling and a nice pot or two. I put together this short slideshow video out of a group of old photos and hope it still gives a sense of the strength and feudal spirit of this simple pot that stands empty with a window in to all things that is the Shigaraki of Furutani-san.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I am not sure if you are familiar with the Japanese publication, magazine called "THE MINGEI" but it is an informative and educational view into the folk art of Japan all packed in to around 80 or so pages. I have a number of issues of the publication and from time to time I am able to get a few more and recently this copy showed up. I was immediately struck by this wonderful Kawai Kanjiro press molded covered box. Glazed in stark white and iron brown the rich design flows about the surface demanding your full attention while sparking the sub-conscious into a series of association, some you are probably unaware that you possess. The beauty of this design is how it is many things to many people but likely to Kawai, it was a simple design to fill space and articulate the form, to my eye it is just like Rorschach evolved into three dimension. This pot is a fitting cover shot for a magazine the remains true to the ideals of the people's art.

Friday, July 15, 2016


I recently received a pot from Japan that I was a bit apprehensive to receive both as the pictures didn't necessarily tell the whole story and I was considering how it would arrive packed. From the moment the package arrived I could tell there was something different about the packing, the box was reinforced with bent pieces of cardboard effectively creating another box just inside the box and the wood box was packed with bubble wrap and crushed newspaper securing it within. Once the interior package was taken out and the bubble wrap removed I opened the wood box to the sight illustrated. As snug as a bug in a rug, a well packed piece is a thing of beauty and this pot was thoroughly secure inside without any movement and truthfully, the pot was as thoughtfully protected as I have ever seen. Now I realize this is not a picture of some wonderful or engaging piece but great packing is almost as much a thing of beauty and an art as is a truly great pot bringing to mind, "anything worth doing is worth doing well".

"Anything worth doing, is worth doing right." Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, July 13, 2016



I just started a new cycle on Monday dedicated to terra cotta after having cleaned up the studio and prepared a group of slips over the weekend. I will be making carved tebori, falling leaves, abstrakt resist and black and white slip pieces for several galleries and two (?) shows which will be made up of primarily thrown pieces with a handfull of molded forms to fill out the groupings. I don't tend to make too many pieces using molds but honestly slump and hump molds do come in handy for some forms that are just to labor intensive to throw and alter and I have added oval, square and rectangular tray/plate pieces to my repertoire which fits quite nicely with the thrown pots. Illustrated is a square plate on and off a hump mold, after the form has been fine tuned, I covered the piece in black slip and will wait again until it is firm enough to carve. If I start early enough in the day and have the right music on the cd-player I can usually get four square plates made during the course of the day with the intervals of dealing with them filled with throwing, tooling and decorating (carving or slip work) making the whole process flow rather smoothly even if it is another hump day.

Postscript; Terra Cotta and humidity just don't mix and at the very least are certainly odd bedfellows.

Monday, July 11, 2016


There is something unmistakable about the conspicuous color of runny ash used by the Tokoname trio of Ezaki Issei, Osako Mikio and the maker of this pot, Takeuchi Kimiaki. The tones of greys, sandy tans and browns that wood fired Tokoname clay turns is partially covered in the green ash glaze of the Ezaki-mon added prior to firing. The glaze runs down the pot to liven up the surface and form adding its unique signature appearance to the mizusashi and with Takeuchi, he was quite adept at marrying these textures for maximum effect. In most of his works, there is a classical and graceful presence to the pots drawing heavily on documented archetypes, his master's pottery and his own sense of visual vocabulary adding his own voice to the Tokoname tradition. It is easy to look at this profound mizusashi and imagine it in use during tea ceremony with the glassy drips and runs painting a vivid scene of the ancient and the modern.

"Grace is savage and must be savage in order to be perfect." Charles A. Stoddard

Friday, July 8, 2016


I was searching through a photo file yesterday and stumbled on a group of shots of this Kon Chiharu Shigaraki tsubo and figured little harm could be done by another short visit in the form of a slideshow video. It isn't too small or too large and has a definitely intriguing surface, instant visual appeal and the motion of the ash highlighted by a  multitude of bidoro droplets act just like a series of jewels in a crown. Enjoy.

Here are two additional links to blog post featuring this tsubo if you are interested;

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


I put up a post recently showing a teabowl form that was influenced by a Paleo-Indian axe head and mentioned that I also make serving bowls with lug handles spanning the indentation. Illustrated is an iron glazed bowl with a rain pattern added above and below the indent with small, serviceable lug handles added to give the pot a bit more dimension. At about 11" across this was made as a do all sort of serving bowl and the lugs add a bit of grip if oven mitts are used so the bowl makes it safely to the table. I am sure I have mentioned this a time or two previously but I am always interested in seeing the array of forms and pieces that can come of a simple idea. To date this ancient device has made its way across a large number of my bowls, covered serving pieces, mugs, cups, covered jars and vases so it may be safe to say it has proven to be adaptable across various clays, glazes and temperatures. I can only muse that it would have been wonderful to come up with this particular design in the first place but as I good friend was quick to remind me, had I come up with this idea originally, I would have been dead for a very long time.

Monday, July 4, 2016


Hope everyone is enjoying another wonderful Forth Of July including our friends the Brits, after all breaking up is always hard to do. In the spirit of the Forth with fireworks, family, picinics and BBQs what could be more essential then hotdogs and mustard?

Friday, July 1, 2016


With the perfect pigment and brush and a well practiced hand, the decoration on this Egaratsu chawan seems tailor made for this pot, creating motion and both accentuating the horizontal natural of the form and adding wispy hints to allude to the vertical. Made by Maruta Munehiko (b.1961) this chawan sums up what Egaratsu is about with this pot easily identifiable as that style. Maruta grew up around clay as his father, Maruta Masami was a famous folk potter before going on to study with Hamada Atsuya, third son of Hamada Shoji before returning home to Karatsu to set up his own studio. Using a number of local clays and in various Karatsu styles, Maruta create a rich and diverse array of pottery of which the Egaratsu is among my favorite. Even in a field, crowded by a number of potters and pots it would be hard to just walk by this bowl without having the feeling that it needs to be picked up and brought home with all due haste.

"In the brush doing what its doing, it will stumbles on what one couldn't do by oneself."  Robert Motherwell