Monday, September 18, 2017


I am not sure where I got infected but somehow I got this bug to throw a group of covered jars where the flange is in the bottom half of the pot. Pictured are the parts for two of the four tops/bottoms that I threw; pots that will be slipped, carved and one for the sunset and leaves design and the last one will be thick combed slip and all four will have various ring knobs or thick slab handles applied. This particular group is of smaller covered jars that will fit between larger bowls allowing them to fit in various spaces acting as filler and I suspect I will use the iron yellow, Ao+ and Oribe glazes to finish them. Step one was obviously throwing them and tomorrow I will tool, assemble and slip them and if they firm up enough, carve them in the evening. I'll post a few photos of the pieces in their green state and again once they are glaze fired which at this moment seems like a long, long way off.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Our first contact with the work of Ochiai Miyoko (b.1946), who lives and works outside of Kyoto in Shiga-ken was back in 1983 through the JAPANESE CERAMIC TODAY exhibition. In the exhibition was a small T'zu Chou style tsubo with a lively black fish, detailed with sgraffito on a nearly pure white background, the piece and effect was quite elegant with an aire of nobility thrown in for good measure. Over the years we saw her work here and there including several pieces on our trips to Japan in the 1990s but it wasn't until we first hopped on the internet super-highway that we found our first Ochiai that was for sale; in fact one of our very first purchases, a T'zu Chou floral vase over the pc was with Robert Yellin back in the late 90s.
Flash forward to the present day and we recently stumbled on to a rather attractive Ochiai bud vase with the very same decoration as was on the Kikuchi tsubo in the 1983 exhibition. Standing about six inches tall this ko-tsubo has a rather graphic sense to the decoration and the pot is both delicate and well thrown with a small, raised foot. I took a number of photos of the piece and built this short video slideshow to try to capture the volume and presence of the pot, hopefully the video will paint a fuller picture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


At first glance, I am reminded of the earlier works of the late Mashiko Ningen Kokuho, Tamura Koichi as well as another potter many thousands of miles away, John Glick but as you study this pot, the image there are tell tale signs that it was the ex-salary man turned potter Takauchi Shugo that made this inspired mizusashi. If you start by looking past the surface, the form is somewhat similar to those used by Takauchi early in his career along with those of angled planes creating unique and interesting pottery that was either simply glazed and reduction fired or at times salt and wood fired. Once you turn your attention to the surface the use of slips, oxides, carving and sgrafitto are all classic techniques that Shugo has employed through his entire career as an innovative potter; his use of space and movement through design is a particular hallmark. To finish off the pot, Takauchi Shugo has used a hexagonal, recessed lid that fits the piece quite well and the stylized animal knob is seen on a number of his earlier thrown and hand built pots that have lids. Though I can still see the influence of Tamura Koichi's camellia blossom tsubo which was made in the very late 1960's, how can a potter not be influenced by one of the giant's of Mashiko while remaining true to his personal vision and vocabulary.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Though my wife and I use pottery by a number of potters, there are left-over pieces from commissions that I have made that we use for most our meals, some dating back to when we lived in Cleveland. As I would make commissions, I would make extras to ensure that the order was filled with "perfect" pieces and the left overs ended up in our cabinets for use.  Due to a number of moves, mishaps, crazy cats (both Jun and now Khan), we have lost several pieces over the years where sets became pairs and sometimes lone survivors. Though I was done throwing for this current cycle; a slight mishap took the life of a well-used salad bowl and where there was once four, now there is only one remaining. One of the advantages and perks of being a potter is that when you need something, either new or a replacement, you can just go to the studio and get them made. Before working on a variety of other tasks today and now putting off my last bisque just a bit; I sat down and threw four terra cotta salad bowls that will either be black slipped and carved or slip trailed, not sure which way to go at the moment though I did make up some fresh black and white slips if that is the way I, I mean Mindy decides I should go. At any rate, we should soon have at least a new pair for us to use and I am always reminded of the Three Stooges in spirit if not in actuality; "you break'em, we'll make'em and bake'em".

Friday, September 8, 2017


I have to admit almost nothing I see made by Suzuki Goro surprises me anymore. My first exposure to his work back in the mid-1980s were as disparate and far afield from each other showing various styles, techniques and surfaces which he is now rightfully well known for. I have seen Suzuki work, seen several videos of him working and handled quite a few of his pieces over the years and despite the diversity there is a quality, essentially how he handles clay, how it is pushed and manhandled that prevails in each and every pot. The illustrated pot is an excellent earlier example of his work, fired Shigaraki style though maybe it is best classified as haikaburi style; this deformed wood fired mizusashi has a wonderful posture and attitude that manifests itself in most of his work quite naturally. Without ever forsaking function and purpose, Suzuki creates these pots that stretch the rational of pottery making and in doing so his pieces have at times a fantastical and lyrical presence rooted in strength and conviction. It is always easy to praise a potter who is known internationally and is a favorite among critics, scholars and collectors but in respect to Suzuki Goro it is always easy to see and understand why his pottery has an allure unlike any other potter today.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Illustrated is another of the highly textured teabowls that came out of a firing back in early August. In this instance I allowed two various textures to decorate and animate the surface under an Oribe style glaze with the one being created using a kushime technique and the other occurring as the bowl was expanded in throwing. In the end, this has created three distinct textures, the third being where the slip was combed away from the iron rich clay showing as dark valleys between the highlighted Oribe over the white slip. I would like to say that everything I do is well thought out and pre-planned but anyone who is actually a potter knows quite the opposite is true especially as a style, technique, new glaze or new clay is being used for the first hand full of attempts. At first glace the overall shot of the teabowl looks about like a number of pieces that have come before but as you look at the detail shot it is immediately apparent that another dimension has been added to the piece and since I can rarely stand or sit still, that is just what the potter ordered.

Monday, September 4, 2017


Illustrated is another of those macro detail shots that highlights the complex, diverse and even magical surfaces that Tsukigata Nahiko was capable of through his mixture of clay, iron, ash, feldspar and fire reminding one of a rich orchestral symphony or the complexity, flagrance and palette of a fine wine. In this particular case the rich iron surface has combined or coalesced in to shimmery, copper and golden crystals that border the runny iron with small areas of ash coated feldspar popping through to the surface. While looking at the rich, deep red iron to purple tones of the surface these areas of intensely complexity punctuate the surface and create small and wondrous universes circling the cosmos of the entire chawan. Though this may be a rather bold statement, I can't think of many potters who have created and painted so many pots with so few materials as Tsukigata though I know there are others. But as I look closer and closer at his work it is the balancing act of artistic singularity, simplicity and complexity that keeps bringing me back time and time again; a conversation so informative it is at times a rather formal lecture of what are the possibilities.

Friday, September 1, 2017


Thrown out of an iron rich clay, this Okinawan style, enameled chawan was first coated in a thick base of white slip, later glazed in a  'coral and rice ash'* clear glaze with a running iron lip before the subdued yellow and rich red and green pigments were painted as overglaze. This simple bowl was made by Shoji Hamada and in many respects typifies his enamel ware pottery in that the colors are vivid, the brushwork is strong, decisive and fast and the designs/ decoration have a common sense of nobility and honesty to them. This wonderful brushwork is the result of years of "doing" and in regards to the enamel pottery he would decorate up a group of pots and fire them to just under 1500 degrees over a short period of time allowing for a quick turn around to confirm the quality of the brushwork, enamels and the decoration thus making adjustments easier for future firings. Everything about this chawan has the look of simplicity but rest assured, from choice of materials, the throwing/ tooling and the direct and spontaneous brushwork are all both complex and masterful.
(* see Susan Peterson; SHOJI HAMADA)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


I have been playing around with the macro settings on my camera in an effort to try to capture details and effects that can easily escape detection in an average photo. In doing so, I turned once again to a Kon Chiharu Shigaraki tsubo that is on displayed on a bookshelf as it doesn't have another home, in other words, the box is missing but in some future shots I will use a wonderful Tsukigata Nahiko chawan that I recently studied and photographed. In this photo I tried to capture a close up of two rich, emerald green bidoro drips both with long and pronounced trails all the way back to the face of the pot and I think I was able to show the intensity of both. Like small, magical jewels, effects like these make for a rich keshiki landscape on wood fired pots and treasured high lights of Shigaraki and Iga pottery. This is another one of those examples I can point to when asked what it is about wood fired pots that I love so much and diversity is all I need answer.

"The details are not details. They make the design." Charles Eames

Monday, August 28, 2017


Illustrated is yet another slip teabowl out of the last glaze firing. On this teabowl I used a thick porcelain slip over the stoneware and once bisque it was glazed in two different glazes. The way the slip was combed has engineered avenues for the glazes to run and pool in which has created a depth and variety to the surface that helps animate the bowl a bit. I attached a photo of an area which has an area of hanging slip which is now host to an intense and rich amber drip suspended for the lifespan of the pot, hopefully for quite some time to come. I enjoy the wide array of effects that come about through the use of teabowls as tests, each one has just a little something different to say.

Friday, August 25, 2017


Of very simple design, execution and glazing, adroitly thrown and a constant reminder of what it is that makes Kawai school mingei work both popular and significant, this chawan was made by Kawai Takeichi (Bu'ichi). Using a slightly coarse clay as seen in the rough quality around the foot there is a texture created by a piece of chamois dragged on the surface while still throwing the wet clay, the impressed design was added a bit later using a turning roulette creating this effective and tactile decoration. For Kawai Kanjiro and his students and followers, the pots were kept simple, the superfluous is both unnecessary and unwanted, the "beauty born of use" a motto that helped create these pots where it is more about form and function than the concept of beauty for beauty's sake and Kawai Takeichi has left quite a body of work that typifies these qualities. Once decorated this chawan was glazed over in a single ame-yu, amber glaze which highlights the piece and allows the various throwing effects and tooling to show through giving the user an understanding of how the pot was made. I am a huge fan of pots like these; stripped of ego, purposeful, functional and certainly without pretense, this chawan could have been made in 1780 or 1980 with only the box and bio to tell us otherwise.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I took a moment and put together a rather short slideshow video of the haku-enyu chawan by Iwabuchi Shigeya that I had here for a short while and is now at home across the pond. Though it is not what you immediately think of as an "exciting" chawan it was a real pleasure to handle and study as it possessed a rather comforting and honest sensibility that made for a rather pleasurable conversation, even if it was short. I truly enjoy the way Iwabuchi handled clay and I hope that this video may give a glimpse in to the heart of the bowl.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Another Monday and the beginning of another cycle and as I start setting up, the empty shelves seem to call me, time to get cracking. The shelves are a pair of old doubled IKEA utility shelves that I picked up years back and can usually hold more than enough for several kiln firings which is the current plan. The course of action at the moment is to make a group of v-bowls, covered serving bowls, high sided serving bowls, wall bowls, pasta bowls, plates and a few teabowls, about 60+ pieces or so this week. This group of eight 2.5lb v-bowls is the start and will take the shelves from being empty to at least looking like something is going on in the studio making it more inviting tomorrow. Without sounding overly dramatic, sometimes the beginning of a cycle is a bit difficult, you enter the studio to a sense of stillness and silence and need to get things going, like stoking an old steam engine. I turn on the music, something peppy and most likely 80s, set up the wheel for throwing with fresh water and bats at hand if called for, get the right set of tools, in this case for terra cotta, start wedging and with a little luck within 15 minutes of so I am throwing. The studio goes from static to active in just a few moments and things all settle back in to that normal rhythm that I love. Once the throwing is done for the day, off to make several slips, it may be Monday and the beginning of another cycle, but I am always happy to get back to work even if only a weekend has held me up.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Illustrated is a large, porcelain charger decorated using a clear glaze, black and red overglaze enamel and a small amount of sgraffito to help detail the highly animated fish. Though best known for his aspara like sprites in various stages of undress, Hasegawa Sojin (b.1935) is well known for a large vocabulary of designs that he used through out his career with a number of detailed study drawings, paintings and scroll show up now and again. This particular design is often seen  and the layout is carefully constructed for use on plates and bowls of various sizes in such a way as to create a well articulated and animated space that is both inviting and refreshing to the viewer. As an heir to the Ko-Kutani and Kutani based traditions, Hasegawa has spent his career dedicated to making iro-e style porcelains that come from a new style that was put forth by several post-war potters like Tokuda Yasokichi I and Kitade Tojiro who I suspect has strongly influenced his works. Though this platter has very traditional elements in the decoration and form it is easy to see that it stands as a more modern creation in the bold portrayal of the subject matter and crisp, fresh and energetic nature establishing that distinctive edge that Hasegawa Sojin is so well known and admired for.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


A while back I was watching a Japanese jidaigeki film from the 1950s and in one of the scenes was this distinctive painted backdrop of a cloud streaked sunset sky. I found this visual very intriguing and decided at that moment to set about trying to capture its essence as a backdrop on pottery and this is where the pursuit has taken me. Marrying together some elements of t'su d'zu, slipware and galena glazed potteries, this teabowl has the background of layered slips that come through with thick black additions painted over and carved through to the clay. The thick black slip has bled a little together with the banded surface background helping to add some motion to the bowl. As may be apparent, the whole surface created on greenware was done rather quickly without any chance to go back and fuss with it as was the carving of the flower heads and leaves. I find that the more time I take the more stiff and contrived the piece will look and though this is not exactly the epitome of Zen spontaneity, it is about as close as I can get while still working with a preconceived notion in my head.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Mindy and I made our way from central NY through Vermont to Burlington yesterday to attend the Unitarian memorial service of Bill Klock. It was a fairly large gathering of family and friends with his wife Anna and three sons, Ian, Eric and Bill Jr. together with their families. It was great to hear various remembrances of Bill from family and friends that helped paint a fuller picture of my remembrance of him as teacher, mentor, optimist and friend. It was easy to see why so many were in attendance to celebrate Bill as he made friends easily enough though discerningly and kept those around him for a lifetime. Mindy and I knew Bill for nearly thirty years but we learned even more about him and his willingness to share, engage, support and defend the land and property he held dearly at Klock Hollow. Though I will miss Bill and his "Hello, Craig Bird" every time we met or spoke there was a great comfort in knowing how many people he touched and now carry him with them moving forward with their lives. Thanks again Bill.

Illustrated is a Shino mishima teapot made by Bill Klock soon after arriving home from sabbatical in South Korea studying the mishima and Onggi traditions. I have always thought the Korean influenced mishima on an English teapot under an American Shino glaze summed up Bill and how he thought about pottery and its making.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Known for his Iga and Kuro and Aka-Raku pottery, this particular chawan is right on target for the veteran potter, Konishi Heinai II. Though taking many of his cues from his two masters, Konishi Heinai I and Kawakita Handeishi, this classic Raku inspired chawan is all about a potter who has divided his attention between two of the most classical and feudal traditions out there, both Iga-yaki and Raku yet neither has suffered from any lack of thorough mastery. The shape has an nobility and elegance to it as it seems to thrust off the foot and taper seductively inviting one to hold and admire the form in hand. The rich iron to black-brown surface has a serene texture to it that is punctuated by a well placed tong mark where the bowl was plucked out of the fire to cool quickly to lock in the color and atmosphere of the glaze and to this end, Konishi has quite earnestly succeeded.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Broad yet inviting, this snowy white haku-enyu chawan was made by Iwabuchi Shigeya at the height of his pottery making career. Thrown and covered in a thich, crackle slip, sometimes combed, wax resisted or otherwise decorated, this surface was left undisturbed making it a perfect candidate for the wood fueled salt firing that the pot was subjected to. The landscape of the pot is certainly activated by all of the cracking and crackling and held taut by the richly blushed lip that encircles the chawan. The occasional gohonde spot and the dark, iron rich spots punctuate the form where the bowl was held while dipping the piece in slip adding to the simple appearance of this classic Twentieth Century Kyoto chawan.
And just because it is Wednesday;

Monday, August 7, 2017


It is certainly a simple enough idea but since I first started making pots with two lids, mostly with varying knobs, I have been surprised at how often an order comes in and the two-lid option is asked for. In theory and practice there is usually very little difference in the two lids but I have also been aware what a different look can be achieved by just the difference in the knob and in the case of this pot the thrown in knob  and the to be attached ring knob will finish each respective lid. In other examples the lids can vary quite a bit more with the creation of a concave lid and a convex lid for the same pot or for cap lids a pair with and without a knob. As I said it is a simple enough concept but there is something pleasing about altering the conversation you are having with a pot and this may be the easiest way to do so.

Friday, August 4, 2017


Barely two weeks after I posted up a chawan by Sasaki Yuzuru this mizusashi showed up and though difficult as heck to photograph it is the same technique as the former. I am not sure how to classify such occurences; coincidence, happenstance or serendipity but this does seem to happen with some regularity and the logicical side says, someone saw the original post and decided it was a good time to conitue on the path of downsizing. This particular lobed yuteki mizusashi appears to be mostly dark with hints of yellow peeking out but with every turn the yellow shows up through its dusted and spotted surface of dark iridescent spots giving it a real three dimensional appearance and looking just as much like exotic camouflage as the chawan. I will admit this is not exactly a great photograph but it is as good as I could get and hopefully lets the viewer glimpse in to how the pot appears in person as it is nothing short of amazing. Like the previous piece there is truly no doubt who made this mizusashi and the skill and sensitivty it takes to pull off such a noble pot.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


At this point it may come as no surprise that I like texture and using it to help articulate and animate a pot. This particular revisited texture seen as  both greenware and "green ware", is something that I first tried my hand at way back at Cleveland State. I really like the sense of geological layering that it resembles and it truly has its own unique feel in the hand, every layer, crack and separations speaks to the hand as well as the eye. In this particular case I used the iron based stoneware that I have been making up in small batches and glazed it in one of my Oribe variants to allow the clay to speak through the glaze without any interruptions. As you can see the interior is as smooth as ever and unimpeded from the intent of the bowl but the exterior is as great a contrast as I can remember in recent memory.

Monday, July 31, 2017


I received this large and  imposing Oribe mizusashi by long time Mino potter, Hayashi Shotaro on Saturday, a collector friend has been downsizing for a number of years and thought this was next in line. Thrown out of a fine Mino clay, much of the surface was aggressively and confidentally cut, even ripped away to create a surface of wonderful flat planes and rough areas of faceted clay which was then glaze in Hayashi's rich Oribe glaze. The surface shows a profound array of tonal variations with areas of deep greens and thinner areas showing almost to the buff of the clay. The lid is thrown and also cut away to create a well matched surface and angular and purposeful knob and sits wonderfully in the deep set recess which also plays host to several deep green drips that are suspended defying both gravity and time. I took a group of photos and built a slideshow video of this piece and hopefully captured the strength and power of the mizusashi which still bares its exhibition sticker on the bottom of the pot.

You can see more of this oribe mizusashi over on my Trocadero marketplace page;

Friday, July 28, 2017


This is an old picture, perhaps from 10 years ago, it recently surfaced as I was looking for another pot on a disc with pottery files. It is funny how there are certain things I remember about pots I have handled and in this case the satiny, smooth texture of the glaze juxtaposed against the slightly coarse clay still stands out in my mind. Though Ningen Kokuho for Seto-Guro, Kato Kozo is also well known for his various Shino and Ki-seto glazes as well as for his rather distinctive tetsu-yu that feels wonderful to the touch and has a very subtle array of effects and sub-textures about the surface. The rich, full form and evocative landscape gives one the impression of cradling a large succulent or at the very least a big ripe persimmon making the chawan that much easier to interact with. Over time I have seen a number of Kato Kozo's tetsu-yu pots from chawan to tsubo and yet this particular piece always springs to mind and makes me think of Japan in the late fall when the persimmons are ripe and ready to pick.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I am not sure exactly when I started making these dervish jars, at least back to CT, they are based on moving images of "whirling dervish" that I saw in movies as a teen, probably about the French Foreign Legion or Chinese Gordon from the movie KHARTOUM. Making the form and keeping the top from collapsing or warping was a challenge at first but I have long since worked out the problems of making them and have fashioned them in stoneware, terra cotta and even the odd one in porcelain now and again. This particular jar was thrown out of terra cotta, black slipped, carved in the "grasses" pattern and then later fired with a clear glaze and the knob of the lid is thrown/tooled to resemble a spindle on a spinning top to try to tie the pieces together. I am not sure what the largest of these jar measured, perhaps 18" across but this one was about 14" or so when fired and the foot a bit broarder than most. Though they are less stable with a smaller foot, the contrast and taper makes for a rather dramatic appearance and makes the piece seem like it is in dramatic motion, whirl on.

Monday, July 24, 2017


Illustrated is a rather simple, functional  and direct Shino chawan that is as much about the beginning as it is anything else. This robust Shino chawan was made by Tsukigata Nahiko sometime during the early 1960s and is the earliest teabowl by him that I have ever seen and the bottom of the box has a large archaic looking red seal stamped on it that looks like something out of the middle ages. Thrown out of a familiar looking clay, the body was first dipped in an iron slip and then a Shino glaze and where his fingers held the bowl, rich red patches punctuate the surface along with areas where the slip has worked its way through the glaze to create a sense of chaos and reaction. The shape of the bowl is a bit conservative but if you look carefully you can see what will become the more classic Tsukigata foot and the space he uses at the base, lift of the pot and the shadow line all give hints as to where they will evolve. Though this was just the beginning for Tsukigata Nahiko, he could have easily been content with marrying the styles of Momoyama and his master but he set about an arduous and determined route and found his way to the path of where demon Shino and the ferocity of the flame meet head on.

Friday, July 21, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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; 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.