Friday, September 30, 2016


I know it will sound rather cliché but it is funny how things work out. In less than a month, we have collected two pieces that were recently posted on my blog, pieces that my wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed visually and now in person. In the first case the piece, a Hagi chaire was very similar to one posted, it is  nearly a perfect match in surface but of a different but stunning form. The other piece in question, a seiji chawan, we were actually offered the actual piece that I posted on my blog. The back story to the chawan is that a while back a friend in Japan sent me a group of photos of the pot in question which I decided would make for a good blog post and now only weeks later the piece came up for sale and we luckily added it to our collection. These were the first pots we had collected in some time and the chaire has arrived with the chawan arriving shortly; apparently what was gone yesterday is here today, sometimes.

I put together a short video slideshow of a very nice Hagi chaire by Hatano Zenzo. It is similar to the previous one I posted at least in surface and in the original pictures it appeared to have firing/ kiln debris attached to the glaze here and there.  Because of the incredible price and beauty of the piece we went ahead and purchased it and when it arrived the debris was simply static infused styrafoam particles and nothing more. This surface is classic Hatano Zenzo and just beautiful in person, I hope this video gives you a glimpse into what it looks like in person. Enjoy.

"Ownership is the most intimate relationship one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him, it is he who comes alive in them." Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


I'll start out by saying this is obviously not my photo, having found it somewhere on the web some time ago. I stumbled upon it this morning and was just awe-struck by the absolute serene beauty of this tiny pot. Created by celadon expert, Kawase Shinobu, this chaire is about as wonderful a seiji piece that I have ever seen, the glaze, fluting, detailing and lid all work in conjunction with one another to come up with a quiet and resonant perfection (完璧 ). It will sound repititious and cliche to remind one's self that celadon creation is a pursuit of the determined, persistant and patient with a large percentage of work finding its way to the shard piles but despite the odds, Kawase manages to continue to captivate and humble the viewer decade after decade. I have seen a lot of seiji, seihakuji and the various color and textural variations of celadon but very few have the ability to create works that are as celadon to the core as does Kawase Shinobu and this little gem is a perfect example.
"One that desires to excel should endeavor in those things that are in themselves most excellent."  Epictetus


Monday, September 26, 2016


Though I use several commercially available clays, my terra cotta is my own formula as are several other stoneware clays that I use. Recently I have been making up small batches of an iron bearing stoneware, formulated back at CSU and Kent State to use for some of my on going Oribe pieces. Made in batches of about 50 lbs at a time it isn't such a major chore and since I mix it up to a pudding consistency, I then firm it up on plaster and have clay ready to use in about a week so proper planning makes everything work quite a bit better. The real reason I like this clay is that it has a tough quality to it; I can throw it, dry it out, tool it, get it bone dry and in a bisque all in the same day which makes testing much easier and even quicker if I use my test kiln so it is ready to glaze the next day.

I built another short slideshow video of two more impressed texture Oribe bowls using the bisque tile that created the first of this group. The texture is a bit finer but the overall decoration really creates an interesting surface to my eye and helps activate the glaze and a variety of nuances that go along with the use of copper and iron. The two recent teabowls are both tall, full pieces to maximize the texture and glaze with just the right curve to the body and inviting roll to the lip. With each bowl, I get a little bit better leaving only 9998 more to go.

"No matter where you go, there you are."  Buckaroo Banzai

Friday, September 23, 2016



Though I regret not having had more time to study with and observe Kohyama Yasuhisa working, I am quite grateful to have had the opportunity to watch him prepare clay, wheel throw, coil build, slice earth, load his anagama and the firing process from beginning to end. Together with those experiences, I was also able to see him prepare and pack his pieces for his show at the Museum het Princessehof, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, create pots for his standard ware firing and partake of his excellent cooking! Truthfully this experience was amazing and was filled with a myriad of details that have colored how I work and who I am as a potter whether it appears so or not.

It is the details of Kohyama-sensei's process that are easy to overlook and pass by as one takes in the whole, but it is the sharp and critical aspects that help define his works from the pots of other potters from Shigaraki and elsewhere in both the making and the firing. Illustrated is a close-up shot of a tsubo-guchi of one of Kohyama Yasuhisa's mentori vases. The way that Kohyama facets leads the clay to be cut crisply and definitively in a rather quick sucession of motions that few others can mimic and are clearly the result of having pioneered this particular approach to faceting and dedicated a lifetime to its perfection. It is these fast cuts that define the pot, from the long and broad facets around the body of a piece to the more intimate and intricate faceting that defines the neck and mouth that once fired allows a build up of a wet, green ash to paint the angular surfaces without obscuring the defined sharpness of the details. Though ever so slightly softened by firing process and ash, the form remains as created by a master who would appear to be gazing in to a crystal ball seeing well into the finished work even while he is still adding coils to a pot that has just started its journey to completion.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Back in the middle of August I decided to go ahead and build two larger slab vases based on some cartoon meets two dimensional design in my head and after completing them went right back at it and built two small but broader vases which are illustrated here. Roughly 13" by 12" or so, this pair were not carefully planned but rather I rolled out some slabs and put them together and surprisingly they came out pretty close to one another. I refer to these slab pieces as facciata or facade vases as it is more about the profile for the design than the volume necessary to keep them standing. The one on the left is decorated in abstrakt resist while the one on the right is tebori carved X&O design, both forms are complimented with a similar neck and mouth with a lozenge pattern caved through the flat to animate the surface. I have also added small lugs to the shoulders of each to help define the space a bit better. All in all considering I am not a real proponent or advocate for hand building, I am reasonably happy with the outcome and perhaps I'll make more slab pieces in another year of so.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Though  not without its organic qualities, this chawan by Banura Shiro is radically different than the chawan I posted by Kumano Kuroemon the other day. Banura Shiro had a wonderful knack for creating work that has an honest and spontaneous quality despite the fact that his work was well conceived and executed within a high degree of exacting control. I would suggest that the first step in his work was the design or concept of the piece followed by the creation of the canvas, in this case the making of the classic Banura chawan form. Once the pot was made, the general, overall texture was created and then the design/ decoration was applied and for this chawan that would then include a post-firing application of a gold rubbed finish that was finalized by a low temperature firing to lock in the surface. I have always found that despite the fact that Banura Shiro relied on variations of this chawan form and his leaves (foliage) design, each and every pot has a singular attitude and fresh appeal that allows a connected body of work to be populated by unique and individual pots.

Friday, September 16, 2016


Illustrated is a rather simply thrown and glazed chawan, at least by Kumano Kuroemon standards. Having a rather conservative form and posture the surface of this chawan was glazed in iron and Shino glazes and then the surface was accentuated by the ferocity and determination of an intense wood firing. The iron accent on the bowl appears out of the mist of the wispy ash tendrils covering the bowl and the firing has created a wet surface that highlights the strong and purposeful foot. Though not necessarily pertaining to this chawan, for much of his work it seems that his pottery has been assaulted and disciplined by potter and flame to create evocative works of clay that seem to have a contained brutality and dynamic intensity trapped within. As with many really good pots it is easy to get caught up in the use of the poetic and over used superlatives but when you are dealing with the Herculean appearing works of Kumano Kuroemon is that actually possible?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


Illustrated is an ink wash design by Mashiko potter and Hamada Shoji student, Kimura Ichiro. Simply inked and rendered this preparatory sketch of a covered jar shows an elemental decoration that is intended to repeat around the jar to create a banded and cohesive sensibility. I have always found the simple and "common" designs of Kimura say much more with in his work that one would presumably expect because of the balancing of form, volume and design which he exceeded at. The concept of the mingei aesthetic always firmly in the back of his mind he made the practical a bit fanciful especially when you look at his molded geometric pieces and his fun "football" style henko which he is well known for. Kimura's work based in the craft of the people's art spared no expense in creating functional, common and simple work that pleased the eye, lifted the spirit and had a glint of whimsy spread out about the surface and lines of each and every pot.

Monday, September 12, 2016


One can debate the merits of the teabowl in the West where they have many uses from function to simply decorative but rarely is it used in traditional Japanese tea ceremony. I have been fortunate and have had a number of my teabowls go to tea practitioners across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and even Japan but the bulk of teabowls I actually make are bowls that have a murky basis on the chawan and are simply bowls of a certain scale that are intended to be used how ever the owner sees fit. Toward the end of the summer and early fall, it is usually time to make the teabowls for upcoming holiday shows, gallery orders and for consignments to other venues. Illustrated is the first batch of terra cotta teabowls out of the first two glaze firings, the size and shape of the bowls makes for excellent space fillers around plates, bowls and covered pieces making for a well packed kiln. Over the years I have settled on a number of user friendly forms being careful to stay within the realm of reason in regards to size as I am a bit too fond of teabowls that end up super sized. This particular group is made up of my abstrakt resist, "falling leaves" and midnight plum blossoms while the next group to be fired is mostly composed of tebori carved pieces.

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill, keep sharpening your knife and it will be blunt." Lao Tzu

Friday, September 9, 2016


There is absolutely nothing like the strong posture of a chawan by Kawai Kanjiro. The wide, bold foot acts as a defining pedestal to what at first glance looks like a common bowl form but with closer inspection it shows its user friendly attributes where it sits well in the hand, has an appropriate weight and the lip is out turned just enough to let slip the right amount of liquid. All of these considerations were honed by Kawai over a lifetime of work and experience, through trial and error and an eye for the simplest yet often overlooked details, the master creates a work that has been stripped to the least amount of detail yet creates a pot of supreme beauty and utility. This wan-gata style chawan has a rich iron temmoku glaze over areas of thick slip "patted" on to the surface dividing the bowl in to sections and creating visual depth and movement but born of equal parts clay, glaze and a little bit of magic. There is mastery and mystery married in the works of Kawai Kanjiro that has as much meaning and relevance today as they did over well over five decades ago which can be summed up in one word; timeless.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Now and again I find my past finding its way into the present day in relation to my work. As a kid I remember getting books in the mail now and again that were illustrated by my cousin, David Czarin (Czarinski), my cousin and godfather who was not only an illustrator but a well accomplished painter,sculptor and  print artist who was fond of making mono-prints which thoroughly inrigued me. My wife and I watched him work on numerous occassions and he would create his mono-prints either as a spontaneous work or a well thought out and well considered print design. I think this process rubbed off on me a little and recently I have come back to the technique taking drying slabs of clay and incising fine lined decoration across the surface, drying it a bit more with the heat gun and then impressing the slabs into thrown bowls and jars for a rather quick and direct affect based on a blend of primitive designs, old Oribe patterns and incised langauge used through out the ancient world. Though originally created as a "mono-print" to impress in the bowl, I have since bisque the incised slab to use over again, I wonder if this is cheating?

I recently put this teabowl up on my trocadero marketplace, please feel free to check it out;

Friday, September 2, 2016


When ever I see a pot by or think about the potter Kishimoto Kennin, I can't help but be impressed by the range and dedication to varying traditions that he has pursued in his nearly seven decades long career. The sheer diversity and mastery of a wide array of traditional Mino pottery styles couple with his exquisite kannyu-seiji celadon pottery would be more than enough if the styles were divided among a half a dozen potters let alone one, but over his long pottery tenure, Kishimoto has desplayed a single minded approach to each pursuit until he mastered the technical and aesthetic boundries of Shino, Ki-Seto, Iga, Seiji and others to single him out as a true rennaissance potter. Though perhaps best known and appreciated for his exceptional Iga works, his esquisite celadons blend a true understanding of form, design, decoration and firing to create stunning and contemplative pots, some like the one illustrated decorated with a simple branch and blossom design using underglaze iron (tetsu-e) and copper red (yuriko).  As I look into the celadons of Kishimoto Kennin it becomes clear rather quickly that it is easy to lose any sense of time or place lost in the depth of the refractive surfaces.