Wednesday, August 31, 2016


A while back I put up a post with a carved slip square plate with a scimitar grass design. In the haste of getting things finished, the pot was fired and packed up without a picture taken. In the cycle I am working in now, I made a couple of the square plates with the scimitar grass decoration and took a moment to take a quick in situ photo as the pots aren't due until October giving me a few extra moments to pause and think things through. I know this plate is a bit different than the last and photographing the carved pieces is a nightmare as they don't show any of the charm and folky quality of the pieces and come off as a bit harsh. Until I become a professional photographer this will have to due and you will just have to take my word for it that they are far less shiny and harsh in person.

Monday, August 29, 2016


I put together a rather short video slideshow with a peppy, fun soundtrack of a haiyu and nuka glazed, faceted vase by American potter, now residing in Kyoto, Richard Milgrim. I first encounted Milgrim's work all the way back in the mid-80s in Boston and at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA show (1985) of artists influenced by Japanese craft and art. Studying first with Kyoto potter and salt firing proponent, Iwabuchi Shigeya, Milgrim went on to study with Fujiwara Yu, Tahara To-bei and Kato Ko-emon as well as studying the way of tea, chanoyu and founded his own studio in Kyoto, the Richado-gama. This is a rather noble hanaire with a rather vivid landscape that almost any potter, Eastern or Western would be pleased to take credit for. Enjoy the fast paced video.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I  Put together a very short slideshow video of a Shino chaire that came my way a week or so ago accompanied by one of my favorite TV theme songs of the late 1960s. The Chaire is by the late Shino and Oribe specialist, Kato Yasukage XIV and has a deep rich iron surface speckled with wood ash from the wood firing. You can see more photos of the chaire over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I am not sure if this is just me or it happens to every other craftsperson, but it seems like there is always an unending parade of obstacles to getting work done. The obvious ones are where you run other of clay, glazes, slips, colorants, materials or what have you and then there are the totally unexpected situations that really make me want to just scream but being as I work all alone, if I scream in my studio does anyone really hear it? I recently ran out of ball clay that I use to make up my white, bright, very white slip and immediately noticed that it had a yellowish tinge to it, first alarm. Mind you, I have a 50 lb. bag of what looks more like xx sagger clay than ball clay so having been burned in the past I make up 50 gram test and precede to slip a small terra cotta test tile. I dry it fast and then bisque and glaze fire it and it comes out looking a bit more like mustard than the white I am accustomed to.
My next step was to contact Laguna Clay where the ball clay originated and both the Los Angeles and Ohio people were very helpful and sent me a free sample to test against what I had, the little amount of original control group that I still was using and the "new stuff" that was sent. I have a bisque to run tomorrow and then will glaze fire sometime early next week to get my results realizing that I need my white slip to be as white as white can be. In the interim I made up a large group of slip tests using varying amounts of whiteners and have a back up to my original slip formula if need be but at four times the cost. I am hoping that after nearly 25 years of using the material and formula this is nothing but a momentary bump in the road, fingers crossed.

Monday, August 22, 2016


There are a lot of books in sets and series that were published in Japan on post-war (Showa era) pottery during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. I really like this era pottery and the pots that were made, there is a strength and honesty to these pieces but that is not to say that pottery of the Heisei era is any less honest or lacks strength, it is just that there seems to be a distinct difference in the pieces of these two eras. Many of the post-war era potters trained the potters of the late Showa and Heisei eras imparting a distinct skillset and sense of tradition which served as the genesis of the pottery of today. As you thumb through these older book sets and dictionaries I am immediately struck by how direct, often stream lined and simple the pots are coming out of the post-war up into the 1980s, I truly enjoy these pots as many seem to have a lot to say without trying hard to do so and are a tremendous blend of  the technical and tradition vision that drives pottery making even to the present day.

Illustrated is an early chaire, circa Showa go-ju yon (1979) by the now veteran Hagi potter, Hatano Zenzo (b.1942). Studying under Yoshiga Taibi (1915-1991), Hatano learned a strict sense of form, glaze and firing from his master and it shows in both his earlier works and his pottery of today. The wheel thrown and crisp form is accentuated by the wonderful blushing and zirconium (?) crystals speckling the surface with a stiff flattened shoulder capped off by the lid. Though over three decades old, the pot is a distinct reminder that the pottery of the Showa era is as fresh as ever.

Friday, August 19, 2016


Illustrated is a very fine Nezumi-Shino chawan by master Mino potter, Wakao Toshisada. Obviously influenced by the many Momoyama archetypes that are out there to study, this chawan has a strong presence which is softened just a bit by the cloak of feldspatic glaze which allows the simple, abstracted design to show through both slip and glaze. Simple enough in theory, a bowl is thrown and tooled and then dipped in a clay slip of a particular type of clay and the design is carved through back to the body or today, the decoration is created using wax resist. The bowl is then glazed and fired and the underlying slip darkens to an alluring grey color with accents of iron here and there, on occasion the slip blushes to a purple tone especially prized for its uniqueness as can be seen in the works of Kato Tokuro among others. The casual nature and posture of this chawan create a very inviting atmosphere that in certain ways contradicts but functions well within the strict formality of the modern Japanese tea ceremony. Few can achieve this balance bridging the formality of tea and the spontaneity of a well made pot though Wakao Toshisada repeats this every time he sits at the wheel.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Using some of the photos I took last week, I put together a short slideshow video of the Konno Haruo yakishime chawan. I think it touches on the details that make the bowl quite interesting and fired a bit differently the the norm. The detail shots capture the crisp angularity of the bowl together with added cuts that break up the various planes and the knife sculpted lip draw the viewer into the wet interior. Hopefully you get a better understanding of the surface, form and volume with the video, enjoy.

Monday, August 15, 2016


As part of this extended cycle working in terra cotta I set about a number of goals that included the usual plates, bowls, covered pieces and molded plate (tray) forms and added slab bottles and oval pots to the mix. Illustrated is the first oval baker group that I made spread out over my work table and ready to be shelved to dry. Throwing large cylinders that are then made oval, the bottoms and lugs are attached once the pots firm up sufficiently and then the slip work applied to help complete the pieces. These particular bakers are a bit bigger than normal measuring in at just about 17" across when wet, they will shrink close to 15% before all is said and done but will still be on the generous side. After throwing for so many years it is always a welcome break to plan in projects that don't entirely rely on the wheel or in the case of the slab bottles have virtually nothing to do with throwing at all. It may be true that variety is the spice of life and that one should "treat a thousand dispositions in a thousand ways"*.

(* "Mille animos excipe mille modis." Publius Ovidus Naso)

Friday, August 12, 2016


As I look back on the last two days of rolling out slabs, hand building two tall slender vase forms with too many moving parts for my comfort level and slipping/carving one of them, I have had a moment to stop and think about it and ask myself, what just happened, what was I thinking? It may seem that despite all of my protests of working in terra cotta and hand building in general I do more with both than one would think given my protests and reluctance to work with either. These vases in particular came about after running an old cartoon through my head, then seeing it on Youtube and I decided to see just how close to a profile I could make these without them failing either structurally or in general sense of form.  At less than four inches wide and the largest just shy of two feet tall, they are as slender as I considered feasible to remain upright through the drying, slow drying, bisque and glaze fire. I'll just have to wait and see this it plays out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Basically, yakishime refers to a stoneware pottery that is wood fired without any glaze applied, think, Bizen, Iga, Shigaraki, Tokoname, Echizen and Tamba with a number of independent potters thrown into the mix. This wood fired chawan is just such a piece, made by yakishime specialist Konno haruo and though it has a certain Bizen flare to it, it is classified as yakishime by the potter himself. The surface of this richly faceted and formed chawan is entirely natural running the gamut from fire induced reds and purples on the rear to a semi-dy ash and a lot of wet ash about the rest of the surface. At first glance it appears if you turn the bowl upside down the liquid within will just run out but it has turned to glass through the ferocity and intensity of the firing all of which conspired with the clay and potter to create this unique look.

You can see more of this chawan over at my Trocadero marketplace by clicking on the link;

Monday, August 8, 2016


I was recently asked why I make these video slideshows of pots and the answer was quite simple, I wish there had been such a thing around when I first started out. From my perspective, the slideshows try to capture the presence, volume and attiude of a pot while allowing details and angled shots to tell a more complete portrait in the getting to know you narrative. Before the internet, I had to go and look at every pot that I could, every museum and exhibition, ordering books from Japan and learning to read kanji to help decypher the books as best I could. In reality, I take the photos for myself and the act of putting together a slideshow video only takes a few minutes so the question is, why wouldn't I?

I put together this short video slideshow of a piece that recently came my way, a Shigaraki mizusashi by way of Mashiko by Takahashi Makoto, Hamada Shoji deshi. I hope this gives a fuller account of the piece and fills in any blanks from the previous photos, enjoy!

(BTW if you are now thinking about the GETTING TO KNOW YOU song, better to go with James Taylor than Rogers and Hammerstein version, just my thought.)

Friday, August 5, 2016


Now I know a bad pun can be considered a sign of a short attention span (or worse) though Alfred Hitchcock considered them "the highest form of literature" but since we were talking about radishes, I just couldn't help myself and let the jeering commence. I found this illustration on the internet quite some time ago and though I am not a huge fan of radishes as food, I found that this ink painting by Kitaoji Rosanjin captured the essence and even spirit of the ubiquitous root vegetable. If you look at it from Rosanjin's point of view as artist, arbiter and gourmand, the scroll painting makes perfect sense as natural as sparse lines and color can be. If you had asked me a hand full of years ago what I thought about the humble radish I doubt I would have much to say but after encountering Momoyama pottery, Kato Tokuro and Rosanjin all linked by this little veggie, I dare say there is certainly more here than meets the eye.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


Based on where you study and with whom, it is still not easy to predict how a potter will work or where his evolution take him, even when your master was Mashiko legend, Hamada Shoji. Such is evidently the case when looking at the Shigaraki influenced, wood fired pottery of Takahashi Makoto where a good portion of his work is more like Sueki ware than modern Mashiko-yaki. Taking its cue from perhaps some tea house surroundings or a Japanese garden, this stacked stone mizusashi has an ancient and weathered appearance with hints of the mysterious regarding its true nature. Fired in a wood fired kiln the surface of the pot has areas of ash deposits with a tell tale signs of charcoal induced reduction greys across much of the pot where the two lids, one ceramic and one roiro black urushi create very different looks for the tea piece. I must confess this is one of the more intriguing and enigmatic pieces that I have handled in quite some time and a testament to just how far one can follow their own voice even if their teacher was Hamada Shoji.

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

Monday, August 1, 2016


Over the years I have seen a number of wonderful Ki-Seto pots with various decoration of which the simple incised and accented radish design has always sparked my imagination. Considering I don't have a decent dry style Ki-Seto glaze I decided to make due and blend the design with the Oribe tradition to create moderate using pieces including this large sake cup. While still wet the mouth of the cup was lobed to compliment the natural theme of the piece and then the Momoyama influenced design was incised into the bottom of the cup. I used my rich lepidolite based Oribe glaze for the piece and I think that for the first and only of the production run, the results are not to bad. At nearly five inches across it will certainly make most aficionados pleased with the volume within and the design cloaked in the clarity of their favorite sake.