Friday, July 21, 2017

SOMETSUKE FUDO

Illustrated is a rather large porcelain sometsuke hachi by one of my favorite modern Japanese painters; Sato Katsuhiko. The bowl is a bit wonky having been thrown a bit unevenly but the wonderful overall floral/ foliage decoration makes a great frame for the fierce (?) Fudo painted in a medallion at the center of the bowl. Having seen a lot of his two-dimensional work and how well constructed the images are, I am always impressed by his ability to orchestrate the surface of a three dimensional object which he does quite well. The use of the cobalt blue decoration of a variety of hues really animates the piece and gives the impression that it was painted with a variety of colors where only the one in varying thicknesses are in use. I never tire of encountering ceramic works by Sato, each one is a playful expression and excercise that is a beauty to use and to just plain admire.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

REFLECTION

Ever year on this day I take a pause, a moment of reflection to remember a remarkable potter. A pioneer in firing a traditional anagama, both Shigaraki and Iga pots are left as a testament to the talent, insight and dedication of Furutani Michio. I also take a few moments to reflect on those all too few moments of being at his studio, his warm smile, his nobility and all of those wonderful wood fired pots.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

FADE TO BLACK


I have seen and handled a great number of pots by Kimura Morikazu over the years but this particualr style always captures my attention. Kimura has creatively arranged his glazing in such a way to create bands of various colors at differing levels around the pieces, in this case the rich iron band around the top of the chawan is contrasted against the rest of the bowl which fades to black and the entire piece is covered with oilspots making for a rather attractive and compelling surface. This chawan was made back in the 1980's and was wood fired but like many of his pots, it defies being dated as it has a rather timeless quality that is connected all the way back to the birth of the technique in China to the creative applications of present day potters working with in this oeuvre. I hope the slideshows gives a fuller perspective of the chawan and hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed handling the bowl.

Monday, July 17, 2017

JUST A PROP

I have made a lot of pots over the years, with pots being shipped all over the US, some to Canada and quite a few other destinations as well, I think 21 countries in all. A number of these pots were sold through sales, galleries, craft shows, out of the various studios and now through internet sales, truthfully it is impossible to keep track of them and at times they are hard to recognize in description or even photos ( especially those from the CSU days). That being said, there are also times when it is easy to recognize a piece through shape, lip, foot, clay color, pierced holes in the foot for hanging and the overall posture, I believe the photo is just one such bowl. I'll add the caveat that I am 99% sure this is my pot, acting as a prop along side James Spader and Brian Dennehy in the TV show, BLACKLIST. I suspect the bowl was bought at a gallery in Maryland or Virginia where I showed, both now defunct. Exactly how the v-bowl got there is beyond me as it is the second pot that has shown up as a prop, the other a short lived Canadian TV show, so go figure. I am kind of honored that the show runners used the bowl exactly as I would hope as a focal point of a person's table, filled to the lip with 'stuff' just as the bowl was intended. This bowl may be just a prop but for a fleeting instant it was center stage and after all the television transmissions are on their way out in to the cosmos and who know who will see* the bowl next perhaps the inhabitants of Gliese 581c?
(* Before someone decides to say something, yes I am aware of the inverse square law and its relation to radio signal degradation.)

Friday, July 14, 2017

EXOTIC CAMOUFLAGE

Looking a bit more like the exotic camouflage of some far away mammal, fish or lizard; this style of yuteki glaze is not something that you see every day. The jewel inspired spots burst out of the yellowish ground creating isolated universes of iridescence and shimming crystals which under the right lighting brings the chawan to life, creating a mysterious and contemplative surface that very few can achieve. Created by oilspot specialists and student of Kimura Morikazu, Sasaki Yuzuru spent a number of years under his master's tutelage as well as studying at the Kyoto ceramic Research Institute before establishing his own studio/kiln in Fukui (1979) allowing him to focus on this pursuit and creating pots and surfaces that almost defy logic and showcasing a long term dedication to his craft and art. In certain respects as I study this pot it appears like I am staring at the handiwork of a pointillist master who has place every spot exactly where it should be with the rich dark lip and highlighted band of blue-grey iridescent spots running around the center circumference of the bowl. At the end of the day it is the experience and his years of making, testing and firing that has created this exotic chawan surely setting him apart from his contemporaries and making it easier still to say, "Sasaki Yuzuru made this".

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

LAYERS UPON LAYERS

Illustrated is a wonderful little saidei (layered clay) kogo by the late Miyashita Zenji (1939-2012) created by building up layers upon layers of colored clay on his ceramic canvas. Having grown up around clay, his father Miyashita Zenju (1901-1968) was a veteran porcelain potter and glaze magician, Zenji discovered his saidei technique and literally wrapped his evocative and creative forms in his multi-colored surfaces and though this kogo is simple in form it creates a lyrical surface that speaks to distant and exotic landscapes to destination far off both real and imagined. Miyashita's use of color and texture in balance on his forms illustrates a potter's intimate knowledge of his clay, form and material as well as an evolving aesthetic as his works and ideas matured. Though small in scale and at times easy to overlook, this saidei kogo is an excellent and mature example of Miyashita's oeuvre and speaks about a purity and honesty of a potter's vision.

Monday, July 10, 2017

SOFT SQUARE

If I am set in to auto-pilot, I can sit at the wheel, music blaring in the background and throw round thing one after another, obviously, the wheel spinning in a circle has something to do with that. Though I enjoy round pots, now and again I find the need to break the form given from the wheel head from throwing and altering the piece either with a few subtle gestures or at times by radically altering and even reassembling the clay. In this particular case, I took a couple of low serving bowls and just moved them a bit to form soft squares, most noticeable at the mouth and rims. This is another of those "no rocket science" moments where just upsetting the form a bit changes the piece quite a bit and also adds somewhat to the actual use of the piece. As you can see the exteriors have had thick white slip applied which has been combed and once bisque will likely be glazed in the Ao+ and Oribe. I know it really doesn't seem like a big difference but by squaring the forms just a bit it breaks that rhythm of not only the throwing but the aesthetic outcome as well.

Friday, July 7, 2017

NOT ONE THING

I will not get involved in the meaning or implications of this Zen Buddhist expression but it reads; HONRAI MUICHIMOTSU,  a single line calligraphy that the great Zen pioneer Hakuin Ekaku and many other liked to brush. This particular scroll is by the highly versatile painter, calligrapher, sculptor and potter, Tsukigata Nahiko. Brushed in a thick and bold black ink, the easily identifiable calligraphy stands out against the stark white paper which is punctuated in three spots with the read seals of the artist. The mounts are very well done but are simple in that they don't add any conflict with the ink though they frame the painting to the fullest. The scroll is hung in a spot which the owner has "designated" their Western tokonoma and on a lacquer stand there sits a simple, bluish white Yi Dynasty style 20th century Korean vase which happens to be in-between its floral garnish at the moment. In receiving this photo I am reminded how easy it is to create small accents of Japan within an otherwise thoroughly Western environment.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

TANG AGAIN

There is an old misconception that the drink, Tang was invented as a result of the NASA space program but the truth is it was around before manned space flight but its association with NASA certainly made it quite popular and a must have household item. As for this  exhibited Tang influenced Sancai chaire, though it is not necessary a household item it could be a focal point of any tea ceremony most pottery collections.
Made by Kato Kobei VII, son of Ningen Kokuho Kato Takuo, this full and rounded chaire was thrown out of a fine white clay and then glazed in an alkaline based clear glaze with accents of copper and cobalt added to the surface which became droozy and melted down the pot. The fine incised line which circles the pot acts as a strong focal point especially where the rich green and blues become a bit deeper in the recess capturing the eyes attention. Kato Kobei VII comes to this style, inherited from the vast experience, experimentation and interests of his father creating works in the Persian and Tang Sancai styles which bare a resemblance to his teacher but shows a careful and studied approach to the work which defines the pottery of a unique voice in not only form but application, design and decoration. There are few potters carrying on this pursuit and this chaire serves as another brick to shore up this distinct tradition.

Monday, July 3, 2017

PLAYFUL

I threw this vase using a rather iron rich clay which I make myself, it is a bit labor intensive but I enjoy the way the clay throws and also what it looks like once fired. In this case I made a tall vase with lugs and covered the body in a bright white slip which was combed and then glazed over in one of my Oribe glazes. This Oribe glaze has a bit less iron than normal to allow the contrast between the bright body and darker, unslipped clay to stand out against each other. The indents at the base of the pot are from where I pick the piece up directly off the wheel head once thrown an accent I like and can be seen on many of the pots that I enjoy from Bizen, Shigaraki and Iga. The neck and mouth of the pot were man handled a bit to get them to warp which adds to the less than perfect and casual approach I was after while making the pot and hopefully come off as a bit less contrived and more playful and natural in feel. I enjoy making pots like this that come off the wheel nearly complete and in the throwing I can just shut down, let the music play and let the clay go exactly where it needs to.
I would also like to take a moment to wish a Happy Fourth of July to all that wish to embrace the spirit!

Friday, June 30, 2017

PERSPECTIVE

perspective; pər-ˈspek-tiv, the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
Every now and again my wife will look at a pot up on my blog and tell me that I need to add something to help define the size and volume of a pot. On eBay I have seen pop cans, cigarette lighters and packs, dollar bills and a host of other daily objects but I just don't find my way to using these objects, I would rather let the photo imply the size and let the viewer work out the mental math and imagery. In my years of making pots, loading kilns and making commissions I think I have become rather adept at understanding volume in the abstract until every once and a while a pot will show up that just defies the actual dimensions and the scale and volume catch me off guard.
Illustrated is a pot, well actually two pots that arrived here within a few days of each other by sheer happenstance and an example of not being fully prepared for the size of a piece. What you are looking at is a good size Shino chawan over 13cm across by Matsuzaki Ken inside a rather large Shino O-tsubo by the same potter which I thought may illustrate the point of perspective. The chawan was carefully placed inside the o-tsubo which are both glazed in the same fashion, a thin coat of Shino with a much thick, viscous layer of Shino being applied with the potter's hand and raked and in the doing leaving swaths of almost pure white in his wake. The two pots from different sources were both wood fired and have areas of various other effects across the surface including rich, iridescent yohen and ash dusted about the surfaces and interior of the chawan. The other interesting thing about these pieces is that both of them were bought out of exhibitions in Japan and are both illustrated in the accompanying catalogues. Maybe my wife is right, sometimes using the right object to show scale and volume is exactly what is called for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

OCHRE & IRON

When I first tried my hand at majolica glazes back in the very early 90s  I spent some time at the library where I came across a book by Alan Caiger-Smith entitled, LUSTRE POTTERY (1985) and I decided to try my hand at reduction lustres. I had some reasonable success with the actual surfaces and lustres though the pots weren't very good and the decoration left something to be desired but I was achieving the effects that I was after. Simply put my biggest problem with working out this technique was that I couldn't get anyone else interested in reduction firing their terra cotta majolica pots so I had to fill a 40 cubic foot kiln all by myself just to run my tests, it was a rough, hot summer. I finally decided that what I needed to do was to take the same principles and apply it to cone 9/10 firings as the testing would go much quickly considering I was firing up to four glaze firings a week. Over time I was able to adapt the reduction lustres idea to high fire and used Shino glazes as the bases to work on.

I got to thinking about the lustres while having an email exchange recently and went looking for any slides/ photos of the Shino and lustre pots and after looking through quite a few slides realized I had neither photographic or actual examples of the work. After thinking about this for some time I remembered that I had put away a single teabowl I had made while working at Wesleyan Potters, one of maybe a dozen or so that I had glazed in my old Shino glaze and used an ochre and iron luster on. The bowl illustrated is the only lustre and Shino bowl that I have left and though at first glance the surface looks like it is just decorated in a caramel toned overglaze, as the bowl moves about the iridescent lustre pops and is high lighted by the differing light sources. You can see little glimpses of the lustre effect in the overall teabowl shot but it is more apparent in the close up detail photo and perhaps with time my photographic skills may get a bit better at capturing the surface to give a fuller account of just how playful the surface really is.

Monday, June 26, 2017

NOT THE DRINK II


I found this pot recently on the ubiquitous auction site and will say that it was worth the risk bidding as the price was certainly right. I mention the risk as over the years I have looked at a number of Japanese pots made in the Persian and Sancai styles that in person were just lifeless and lacked any real presence, I am happy to report that is not the case with this low, basin style mizusashi by Fukushima native, Kataoka Tetsu (B.1952). Using a slightly off-white clay body, the basin was glazed in a clear glaze that is thicker and a bit milky on the interior and then carefully added pigments based on historical archetypes that flowed down the form in various hues of golden yellow, amber and rich greens. I find the potter's choice to leave some simple evidence of his throwing a wonderful choice that adds character, movement and a bit more surface enhancement to the pot making for a rich and lively piece. On a personal note, we have had the mizusashi out on a shelf where it is lite by a variety of light sources both artificial and natural creating a piece that changes from hour to hour and was a risk well taken. As the old knight may have commented; "you chose wisely".


Friday, June 23, 2017

STELLAR IMPACT

I have always been fascinated by the night's sky from an early age and spending time at the local planetarium growing up and now I wait anxiously for the stellar images provided by NASA and elsewhere from the Hubble, Cassini and other sources. Given this interest, it is easy to see why I find small universes and celestial bodies in the forms of pots and their surfaces which is so often the case with the pieces that I am drawn to. A while back I was able to handle and photograph a large Shigaraki tsubo and put the jpegs in a folder and skimmed over them for further study at a later date as I was still in the process of digesting what I had just handled and their they sat. I was looking through an EHD that I have and went to the tsubo file and was struck by this detail shot which was not taken with any other motive than to capture the surface where the ferocity and velocity of the firing had impacted. The image immediately called to mind a planetary surface where a stellar impact  had sent the debris, in this case, liquid ash running from the collision zone, the face of the pot which was fired at a slight angle which has distributed the ash in every direction. It is exactly this type of photo, detail shot that reminds me exactly why I take so many photos of each pot that comes my way as serendipity and not photographic skill will from time to time capture an image that speaks volumes about a pot and conjures up all kinds of memories and associations that words alone rarely can.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ONI-KOGO

Illustrated is a rather robust, large and visually serious kogo by Mashiko ceramic artist and sculptor, Fujiwara Ikuzo. Ikuzo is well known for his sculptural installations in ceramic and glass throughout Japan as well as for his highly animated wood fired Fudo, Bodhisatva and Oni sculptures and is probably best known for. This two piece Oni kogo was created in a press mold and then wood fired and separates at the intersection of the teeth with piercings at the eyes to allow the fragrance of the incense to escape the deadly grasp of the oni's mouth. I love the combinations of the softly curved features and the angularity of the horns, top, sides and back making for a rather unique twist on a simple and common theme in kogo among other objects.

Monday, June 19, 2017

FIRST

This simple combed pot has had an interesting journey from when it was made until now and it sprung to mind after Friday's news. This pot was made as my first "mizusashi", based on a pot I had seen in a book on Tamba pottery and with some help from Bill, I threw it and then combed the surface with horizontal ridges and then it was stamped by Bill and I. I call this my first as it was made after just three months of making pottery, was my first wood fired pot and was the first pot loaded into the wood kiln that Bill and I fired in 1989. Of course the slight down side of being the first pot loaded  way in back of the kiln is that it didn't receive much ash with just a light wetness on the face and some speckled ash on the mouth. This was also my the first pot I sold and was used by a person who did chanoyu who had it fitted with a lacquer lid. Over the years this pot traveled all over the East Coast and then made its way to the West Coast and then when the owner was severally downsizing after 40+ years of collecting they sent it back to me while I was living in CT. From CT to PA, VA and then back to just within a stone's throw of where it was made (at PSUC) I pulled it out this weekend, photographed it and put it up on a shelf surrounded by teabowls made by Bill Klock over the years. I know it is not a great pot but it served its purpose over a number of years and now will serve its new purpose. Thanks Bill.

Friday, June 16, 2017

WM. HENRY KLOCK (1933-2017)

I received some rather sad news this morning, Anna Klock called from England to let me know that Bill passed away while in St. Ives, a place he loved and a second home dating back to his time working at the Leach Pottery. There is little I can say about Bill that will convey his presence; father, husband, grandfather, friend, teacher and mentor to those that passed through his classroom and studio. Bill was a "constant measure" for me in regards to my pottery work and my outlook on life, to say he will be greatly missed is an understatement, he was a kind and caring soul who was always so full of life and optimism. Godspeed you on your next journey Bill.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

CLAY, IRON, SPAR & ASH

A super thick crawled Shino glaze with hints of the iron underneath and areas of natural ash coating the surface are all the textbook characteristics of an Oni-Shino vase by Tsukigata Nahiko. Though perhaps a little different than we are used to, this vase has a number of the classic traits that make a Tsukigata pot right down to this oft used form. The way the ash has created a mottled appearance to the piece adds to the chance, serendipity that makes Oni-Shino wonderful, it is this unpredictability that builds universes in clay and glaze that draws me to his work time and time again. I know that there are many styles of glazing and wood fired pots that have wonderful surfaces of innumerable possibilities just like Tsukigata but it is the complexity and diversity of his pots that blend a simple clay and a few other simple elements in to inexhaustible landscapes that few others can do that makes a potent and surreal monuments to a potter, some materials and the energy of unbridled flame.

Monday, June 12, 2017

NOT ONE AND DONE

I was recently contacted and asked if I made a specific item to which I responded that I do and made several in the past few months and would find pictures and send them to them as a reference. I will admit my skills at storing files and photos is a bit archaic but after some searching I did find the photos as well as some others I had been meaning to use. Back in October I had posted a photo and post entitled, LUTING which was not necessarily meant to be a one and done post with some additional photos which I have just now found. In this photo there is the before and after photos of the luted trumpet vases and specifically the decorated B&W slip vase that was made. The decoration is simple dots and lines which I use to enhance the vertical nature of the vase as well as to divide it into segments which helps to create a unified piece. At the base where the slip has run off the pot I use a wood tool and with the wheel spinning I clean up the extra slip which in turn ties all the stipes together at the very bottom of the pot, a small feature that I happen to like. I try to be more attentive and follow up on blog postsand hope this concludes at least one of the topics which I have started.
The original blog post can be seen here;


Friday, June 9, 2017

WARI-KODAI

I have mentioned before how we are basically accidental collectors when it comes to gunomi but every now and then there is a piece that is just to compelling to pass on. This particular Hagi guinomi with wari-kodai has such a rich, deep and complex surface that it was just too perfect to forget so we added yet one more guinomi to the collection. Made by a rather skilled Hagi craftsman, Matsuno Ryuji (1954-2005) this guinomi has a surface that has a wide array of colors, tones and textures making it a delight, especially in the shaded sunlight of one of our display areas. Matsuno specialized in a number of styles of Hagi and also pursued the field of abstract, sculptural ceramics which he created as modern Hagi pieces at his studio and kiln, the Ryokuei-gama which he founded in 1974. This particular guinomi is a typical example of his work in which he showed great skill at navigating within the this tradition yet trying to infuse his work with his personal vision to carry out a meaningful dialogue between the past and present of Hagi-yaki.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

CLAY & INK

In looking at this E-Shino chawan and drawing rendered on the interior of the storage box lid I think it is easy to see the influence of Arakawa Toyozo in both clay and ink. This chawan was made by long time Arakawa apprentice and Mino specialist, Nakayama Naoki and his blend of his master, Momoyama archetypes and his inner voice are clearly on display with the ink rendering also paying homage to his versatile teacher. The form shows off generous and sturdy proportions which are perfect for the intended function of the bowl while the simple blushed white Shino and direct underglaze iron decoration create a mental picture that most viewers can embrace and understand. Though a simple bowl in design and execution, I have always maintained that there is a deep complexity to simplicity and the simpler the appearance the more difficult the creation where things easily go wrong and are glaringly obvious in their lack of continuity and balance, that is just not the case here. As I study this bowl it is "just so", you can second guess all of the potter's decisions but in the end, everything is just as it should be in both the clay and ink of this classic chawan.
"The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity." Douglas Horton

Monday, June 5, 2017

XO-CSB

When I am involved in a cycle that involves carving terra cotta pieces, I like to throw the pieces, tool them the next day and then loosely cover them in plastic and wait a couple of days to carve them. By working in this way, the surface is perfect to carve and the pots stiff enough to handle without them warping from the process and I have found that throwing lidded pieces, in particular on a Thursday, tooling them on a Friday and coming back to them on Monday is the best way to go. The weekend acts as a natural distraction from the pots and under normal circumstances I lack the patience to wait two days before I carve them, this way it is much easier to set them aside both literally and figuratively. The illustrated covered serving bowl was tooled and slipped on Friday and carved this afternoon and you can see in the photo there is just enough wetness to the surface to making the decoration easy to carve but stiff enough that the carving tools can make reasonable cuts in the clay. The exterior of the bowl and the top of the lid are both carved overall with the XOXO pattern while the interiors are left with the unslipped, rich terra cotta surface that looks quite nice once glazed and fired which is also highlighted on the interior of the knob where I have stamped my makers mark on an added wad of clay. I like carving pots, I decide how each one will be carved, set up my work space directly on the wheel, put on some relaxing but not sleeping (!) music and set about carving, making for a good start to the week on another rainy day in Central New York.

Friday, June 2, 2017

HIDASUKI

Illustrated is a large tsubo by Tamba veteran, Ichino Etsuo. Made sometime around 1992 the face of the piece was actually the bottom of the pot while it was being fired, resting on its belly with straw underneath to create the hidasuki style cord markings that look like they have been framed by hiiro and other ash effects. Though this tsubo has a lot in common with the other Ichino Etsuo pot I post a while back, the surface of this is less controlled and shows the nature and ferocity of the fire contained within a wood kiln with a strong, rich coating of ash running across the back of this pot. Over the years I have not seen a lot of Etsuo's work, perhaps two dozen pieces from chawan, mizusashi and tsubo but each one has a strong and simple form accentuated by experience and intuition when using nothing more than clay and flame to create and paint his works.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

MG&T

Illustrated is a detail shot of the inside of a medieval green and temmoku pasta bowl about 14" of so in diameter. Sometimes as I am going through a cycle, I rush by the past in a hurry and forget about surfaces that are tried and true and compliment what I am doing at the moment and this glaze combination never, or rarely fails me. I thought this detail shot really shows what the glaze looks like and allows the faux oil spotting to stand out rather clearly against the mottled, tortoise style texture of the medieval green glaze with its floating spots of iron balanced against the design. Considering both of these glazes started from nothing except what little I have learned about making glazes over the years, I am pleased with the depth and texture they both present and am happy with the variety that is compounded under varying light sources. Though this is not an Oribe glaze, I am reminded about a quote that I read in which the author/potter mentioned; "why would I need anything but green, the possibilities are endless".

Monday, May 29, 2017

MEMORIAL DAY 2017

"In the world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich." Henry Ward Beecher


Friday, May 26, 2017

UNCONVENTIONAL

I have written about Konishi Heinai II previously who is known for his rather idiosyncratic Shigaraki and Raku wares of which this chawan is a classic and dynamic example. Though Konishi was not part of the Raku family tradition and rarely identified his pieces as such, this evocative chawan was produced using the nearly four century old Raku process where a pot is glazed and then plucked out of the kiln at a fairly low temperature. The rather interesting thing about Heinai's works is that since he is not bound by any strict convention and spent time with another "unconventional" potter, Kawakita Handeishi, his pots have a uniqueness and individuality about them that certainly makes his pots stand out among other chadogu makers. Though well known for what one would or could classify as aka-raku and kuro-raku, it is his less conventional Raku pieces that have quite a bit to say and even more to contemplate as these pieces display a vision intent on its own voice. This particular surface paints an alluring landscape that reminds me of a combination of the Taisho-Showa Nihonga painters infused with a strong dose of the 20th century abstract expressionists, a blend that works well to compliment the rather sturdy and purposeful form. Over the years I have handled and seen a number of Raku (and Shigaraki) pieces by Konishi Heinai II and I am never disappointed with the imaginative, lustrous and thought provoking surfaces that he has plied to his three dimensional canvases.
"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."  Matsuo Basho  (1644-1694)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SLOOP

Sloop; Dutch- sloep, a sailing boat with a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig

Growing up I was always fascinated by the age of the sail and great wooden sailing ships, large and small and took every opportunity to watch all of the classic swashbuckler movies with Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and many others. Luckily I grew up on Lake Champlain the site of the great Revolutionary War Battle Of Valcour Island and a lake filled with every type of boat you could imagine including fast and sleek sloops populated the water. Later on I spent a decade in Cleveland and Lake Erie and then again in Guilford, CT on the Long Island Sound a gateway to the Atlantic and lots of boats, many powered solely by sail. The point I am trying to get to is that having indirectly been around boats for a good portion of my life and fascinated by great sea battles building pots based on the posture of these vessels only seemed natural.


Over time I have made a number of teapots that were very influenced on sailing vessels from the battleships of WW1 (the Jutland T-pots) to thrown and altered pieces like this piece that borrowed heavily from sloops I saw as a kid and teen and this piece is fully functional and holds enough for two generous cups of tea or what have you. Thrown as a cylinder without top or bottom, the piece was pushed oval and then cut, darted and reassembled into the current form you see here being careful not to disturb the galley where the lid would fit. Once firm enough, I humped the lid upside down on the galley, dried it a bit and cut it to fit adding a pulled handle to appear like a banner flowing in the wind. I decided to put together this short video slideshow to help give a fuller account of the proportions and lines of this teapot and hope it helps.



Still surf rockin' after four decades;


Monday, May 22, 2017

MUKUNOKI BLUE

Composed of what appears to be three distinct components, this rich gosu hakeme henko was made by Mukunoki Eizo using a construction technique and surface decoration he learned from his master Kawai Kanjiro. The interesting thing about this particular henko form is that the middle and top components  are made in one mold and the bottom in another, this has afforded Mukunoki the ability to create a number of forms using several separate molds and assembling them in various ways. The last two pieces of this type that I saw, the first was glazed in a rich temmoku  with splashes of tessha and the henko was only the middle and top components and the other had a split, notched foot pedestal as the bottom of the piece which was glazed in a shinsha copper red over some slip trailing around the large central portion of the pot. This henko has been decorated in a thick coat of white slip, hakeme style around the entire surface that once glazed in his own version of the Kawai-den gosu creates a rather active and captivating landscape. It may sound a bit simplistic but how can you go wrong with white slip and a Kawai school gosu?
"The aspect of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity."   Ludwig Wittgenstein ( 1889-1951)

Friday, May 19, 2017

PROPER ORIENTATION


A short while back I had a collector send me a Shigaraki chaire by Kanzaki Shiho and by sheer coincidence a kogo  arrived the very next day also by him. The Shigaraki kogo is quite earthy and has a nice rustic appeal perfect for use in the tea ceremony or with ro or furo for other purposes. The top and some of the sides of the kogo has a nice blanket of ash while the rest has a rich fire color off set by marks made to animate the piece as well as to help establish the proper orientation of the lid to the base. The interior has a pink to reddish blush as does the base where it is prominently marked with the potters signature. Kanzaki Shiho is known for his dramatic, ten day long firings in his anagama wood kiln and this kogo shows some of the effects that his firings have to offer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

CONCOCTION

 
I threw a group of test bowls for my last firing, some were slipped and others were impressed with a texture pattern around the bowl. I have been working on figuring out how my current Oribe surface reacts with glazes and washes put over the surface of which this teabowl is one of the results. Using a heavily textured piece it was first glazed in the Oribe and then had a wash of iron painted on the surface, once dry it was then lightly sprayed with "drifting iron" concoction using a glaze atomizer. The results are a bit difficult to see in the photo though I tried to light up the surface as bright as possible but it is hard to see the metallic sheen and droozy quality that the overglaze had on the piece. The surface runs from the bright green of the Oribe to areas of rich dark black suffused with reddish iron areas and hints of metallic grey and deep burgundy brown areas under the right light which you can catch a glimpse of around the lip. In truth, I got much more than I bargained for or expected and think these tests are worth the time, clay and energy it takes to work them out. I am not sure what the next course of action will be but since there is so many more possibilities; another cycle, another group of tests.




Monday, May 15, 2017

NO FLOWERS

Though there are no flowers in this vase, its purpose is clear, this well fired pot was created to hang. Made by Hori Ichiro, this Ki-Seto kake-ire was boldly and  traditionally wood fired and has a wonderful landscape effected by the ash and flame of the kiln giving it a dramatic feudal presence. The rich variations in the surface together with the direct form, spatula work and wonky mouth all come together to create a great little piece that is both elemental and timeless. Through a masterful use of Ki-Seto, Seto-Guro and Shino a portrait of a potter in absolute harmony with his clay, glazes and kiln(s) is displayed together with a powerful command of Momoyama and modern elements fused together in the works of a Mino potter, Hori Ichiro.

Friday, May 12, 2017

竹林

When I have discussions with people in person or by email that know very little about Japan, there are several cultural attributes that most everyone is aware of; sushi, kimono, Mount Fuji, chrysanthemums, Samurai/Ninja and bamboo. In fact, bamboo is one of the stalwart designs and decorations of Japan going back to even Neolithic times and in later times was part of what the Chinese and Japanese literati referred to as the Four Gentleman or the Four Noble Ones; the plum blossom. the orchid, the chrysanthemum and bamboo. To see how intertwined and developed the bamboo motif is you have to look no further than the illustrated futamono, covered box form by Oda Aya (b.1947). Decorated in a Rimpa influenced style the box form acts as canvas to multiple layers of overglazes and firings to create a surfaces which married visual and tactile textures with a shimmery copper background highlighting the surface. Oda Aya lives and works in Shiga prefecture and his work is typically decorated with naturalistic motifs such as seashells, cats, flowers of various types, bamboo, etc. of which this box, Bamboo Grive is an excellent example.  His work has been juried into numerous Nihon Kogie Kai Exhibitions over the years and he won the International Color Painting Gold medal in 1997 and the prestigious Grand Prize Excellence Award in 2012 for his tea ceramics. Oda has been collected by numerous private and public collections including the Ueno Royal Museum, the Miho Museum and museums in France and the United States. This classic box by Oda is a wonderful example of his work which is not particularly well known outside of Japan but it is a wonderful blend of the art of Rimpa, modern Japanese pottery and a design element which is readily identified as one of the iconic symbols of Japan.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

CONTRARY

I enjoy a pot that comes out and declares that its intention is to be contrary and in this case, the surface and gravity defying ash run is just that. This very well fired vase is by Kaneshige Yuho (b.1950) and the running brown glassy ash cuts across the surface horizontally while helping to define the vertical form finished off with two lugs at what would be the shoulder of the pot. Fired in a Bizen noborigama, the pot has a variety of effects from tamadare, goma and hiiro showing off much of what one expects from Bizen-yaki with a form that is common to Kaneshige Yuho. Born the third son of one of the pre-eminent chadogu makers of the 20th century, Kaneshige Sozan, Yuho first studied sculpture at Musashino Art University (Tokyo) before studying under his father and becoming and independant potter in 1980. Kaneshige Yuho is published and widely exhibited through out Japan and abroad having had a major three person show along with Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Kawase Shinobu in 2001. Though this vase shows the hand of the potter it is clearly guided by the surrounding influences of the Kaneshige family and over 400 years of Bizen tradition.

Monday, May 8, 2017

RIPPLE EFFECT

Illustrated is a tall yet very thin stoneware teapot that I made and despite its lack of width, it is still very functional. Decorated using my ishime-ji, stone texture technique, I created a space that created a framework around an inlaid decoration that I hope helps define the form and purpose of the pot. The ripple effect design was cut in to the surface using a piece of sharpened bamboo and later was inlaid in a white slip which vitrifies to create the contrast to the background. Despite my constant grumbling in reference to hand building, I like making these tall and narrow façade forms, they present a number of construction problems as well as a great surface to explore. I have made these forms in nearly every clay I have worked with except Egyptian paste and the Ocmulgee River fire clay I used to wood fire with Kirk Mangus though I have yet to wood fire one of these forms. I suspect that if I ever get a chance to put one of these pieces in a wood kiln, I will have to rethink how they are built as currently they are being fired in gas or electric and I tend to make them as light as possible so I would have to go with a thicker slab than I am used to. What ever the case, despite my real love in throwing it is abundantly clear, sometimes the only way to get where you want to go is to embrace the process that best suits the mind's eye.

Friday, May 5, 2017

STAPLE

When you think of the larger pottery studios across Japan the constant hum and bustle of the master, apprentices and other various works brings to life the pottery of every day use throughout the country. These big potteries produce functional and utilitarian ware in every conceivable shape, size and surface from Bizen, Oribe, Shino, Shigaraki and of course Mashiko to name but a few. Illustrated is what is arguably the definitive kyusu style teapot direct for Mashiko and the studio of the late master, Shimaoka Tatsuzo. Created with pure function and elemental aesthetics in mind, this style of teapot is a pleasure to use and contemplate while enjoying one's tea. The angles of the comfortable handle and well constructed spout are perfect for the task and the lid sits just deeply enough in the galley to stay put while the classic Shimaoka surface adds more to the experience than just the simple act of pouring tea. Though based on a number of archetypes that proceeded it, this teapot is a quintessential staple of the Shimaoka pottery and all those apprentices who came and went over the decades of such considered and thoughtful design and production.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

CRACKED

There is a quiet and grace to celadon which is not lost on potters who makes pieces that are best suited with seiji glazes; simple and streamlined forms with accents only where called for. Starting life as a thrown round bowl form and then ovaled, this seiji mizusashi has a beautiful, cracked, double refractive surface which clings to the thoughtfully thrown vessel where the slight undulations to the pot are accentuated by the surface. The mizusashi is then completed with a custom made black lacquer lid which compliments the form to the fullest creating an eye catching work that takes decades of experience to carry off.
This functional and simple tea piece was made by Kyoto native Kimura Nobuyuki (b.1965) who studied with his father, Kimura Morinobu one of the Kimura San- Mori; Kimura Morikazu, Moriyasu and Morinobu. Nobuyuki set up his own pottery studio/kiln in Shiga prefecture in 1992 and has had a rather busy career winning numerous awards with frequent exhibitions through out Japan. His work is predominantly seiji pottery with a variety of glazes that run from light elegant blues, rich greens, yellows and even pinkish lavender pieces all the while keeping in mind what forms are best for this deceptively simple glaze with a dash of complexity thrown in to keep the potter on their toes.

Monday, May 1, 2017

WAVELENGTH

I made this large or more correctly defined, long oval baker some time ago and recently came across the image. At the time that I made this I was doing some tape and newspaper resist to create designs and decoration and this particular pattern came to be called "wavelength". I am not sure where the name exactly came from but it does seem to suit the undulating design which I think works fairly well on this baker which was at least 20" long though I seem to remember longer. I made several of these at once, working in series using a variety of designs/decorations that would work well on the elongated forms and accentuate that length. I know it will sound odd but this original abstrakt background came from an old western in which a scene at dusk showed this wonderful muted Technicolor skyline, it may have been John Ford's; SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON. It never ceases to surprise me how thinks make there way into my clay from years of being saturated by television and movies, countless books read, museums visited, pots seen and handled and I would like to think that how I assemble all of these small building blocks, the work is distinctly my own.

Friday, April 28, 2017

A LITTLE SALT, A LOT OF WOOD

For those who have not fired a wood kiln, rest assured there is a lot of preparation, planning, work and wood involved in getting the job done. In the case of this chawan it is all about a little salt and a lot of wood to create this beautiful surface on a rather loose and casual chawan by Enyu specialist, Ajiki Hiro. Though he is well known for his rather patterned, faceted chawan with additions of rich blues, reds and gold accents to name a few, it is the loose style of chawan defined by its sense of rhythm that attracts me to this bowl. A rich, playful style can be seen in the posture and attitude of the pot which is then completed by firing it in his wood kiln to which he adds salt at high temperature to add to the already ash coated surface. Entitled "Autumn Wind", the powerful fall winds are painted on this chawan by the intense velocity of the flame in the kiln which creates a lasting canvas of dynamic movement echoing the sometimes ferocious inclinations of mother nature. I hope this slideshow video conveys the truest sense of this chawan as it was a pleasure to handle and photograph. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

MAKING ARRANGEMENTS

I happened on this image and was struck by how such a simple and stark floral arrangement can add so much to a vase. The rich green of the pine needles serve as a vivid backdrop for the single white bloom all emerging from this large and powerful modern Iga vase by Kojima Kenji. The vase is its own landscape of rich fire color, melted running, wet green ash and a sweeping area of charcoal effects painting a backdrop to the arrangement which seems quite natural in the new surroundings. Kojima Kenji has made an in depth study in to the history and aesthetics of Ko-Iga and has combined that pursuit with that of studying flower arranging which only adds to complete his masterful vessels. I realize this was arranged specifically for this exhibition but I envy the owners who have this vase at their disposal to make such arrangements when ever the mood moves them.

Monday, April 24, 2017

SUMO-SIZE ME; THE VIDEO

I realize this sounds a bit corny but I just decided to embrace the "corn" and put together a short video slideshow of this recently fired teabowl. The bowl is quite large though ironically I have actually handled a chawan by Kumano Kuroemon that was a bit larger and since my thought is that despite the term teabowl, this pot can serve just about any use someone can think up. I have always been grounded in function but at a certain level I believe it is necessary for a user to grasp adaptibility and accommodate themselves to the use of a pot or any other hand crafted object, think about all the chairs you have seen in museums that scream just about anything but comfort! Have fun with the video.

"We must make the best of those ills that cannot be avoided."  Alexander Hamilton

Friday, April 21, 2017

PRESS MOLD

When I look at the press molded hachi plates designed and decorated by Hamada Shoji, I am always struck by the classic utility and economy of the forms. Designed for real use, a sense of beauty and the goal of making multiples, the forms are simple yet exceptionally functional for a wide array of chores, the least of which is to help define an environment. Each of these plates is carefully constructed, made almost as a canvas for the master; from rich and earthy glaze combinations, vivid swirled glaze pours or classic Hamada designs, each piece is both unique and linked to those that have come before and those that will be made after. There is a distinct lineage in much of Hamada's work and like the molded pieces of Kawai Kanjiro each piece starts as a similar and singular form but with the attention of Hamada each piece becomes an extension of his rich vocabulary that adds to the mingei tradition with which he navigates. Though as much art as they are craft, these pots are the epitome of what can be used and what can be appreciated.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DRIFTING IRON

Once again relying on an old tech stainless steel glaze atomizer, I have been running tests using my iron clay stoneware, stoneware slip, clear glaze and a good even coat of the sprayed oxide glaze. Though the iron/manganese/cobalt overglaze was sprayed on as a thin even coat, it seemed to run, drift and pool at various spots on the surface where gravity played as much a role in the final appearance as anything that I did. As you can see in the detail shot, the oxide rich glaze just seemed to drift down the natural channels created by the slip creating an interesting tiger stripe style pattern which of course echoes the contours of the surface. Overall the addition of the overglaze gives the piece a rather earthy, gritty appearance that accentuates the texture and form and plays well in a variety of light sources. Truth be told, the use of this technique is going to take some getting used to as there doesn't seem to be any way to control the surface or determine a predictable outcome and of the group fired where one piece had to much glaze sprayed over it came out very dark and quite honesty a bit dull. I have a few other oxide combinations that I have in mind and we will see what other surface are possible, I suspect that if you start adding up all of the possible combinations of two, three and four oxide/carbonate mixtures that I have a lot of work ahead of me. First step, I'll need to make a lot more test pods.
"If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor." Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, April 17, 2017

TO EACH THEIR OWN

"For me, creating is about cutting away the unnaturalness by engaging in the act of making." Kato Kiyoyuki
Though best known for his more sculptural ceramics, this Ki-Seto chawan was made by Seto ceramist, Kato Kiyoyuki and despite the vivid, abstract decoration, this is a wonderfully functional chawan. The slightly wet Ki-Seto glaze has created a rich, pebbly texture that is broken up by the incised decoration that was then accented with copper to add a certain zest to the bowl. The face of this chawan has become Kato's canvas of abstraction which allows the viewer to interpret the design according to each individuals set of unique experiences which makes this chawan unique to each and every person who encounters it. I am a huge fan of this type of decoration and chawan as the purposeful, abstracted ambiguity allows for a type of ceramic Rorschach in which it means different things to different people making for a far richer individual experience.

"Reality is only a Rorschach ink-blot, you know." Alan Watts