Wednesday, May 24, 2017


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


"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

Friday, April 14, 2017


At first glance the illustration is a bit ambiguous and certainly out of context but as you look at the photo, you can catch bits and pieces that may point you in one direction or another. What you are looking at is the bottom interior of a mizusashi and when you remove the ceramic lid you are first struck with the iridescent sheen that covers a great deal of the bottom of the pot which was finished with a crisp swirl to activate the interior though for most of the pots life, the interior is likely to remain a mystery to the viewer. In certain respects, lidded pots are like a well written mystery novel that as you move along from chapter to chapter the story unfolds and as a reader you are clued in as to what exactly is going on if you pay close enough attention. I think good pots are just the same, the allure and attraction of the form, surface and volume of the piece pulls you in and then you lift the lid to see the mysterious contents of the form, in this case  a rich wood fired surface of natural ash coating a Shino glaze to add warmth, depth and a sense of nobility to the pot. For some who have followed along, the pot is a sturdy, powerful Oni-Shino mizusashi which resembles a pair of stacked stones with a roughly thrown ceramic lid with this illustrated detail hidden within. I know it is easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the whole but for a number of the truly gifted potters, the great details construct the great pots and in my opinion, Tsukigata Nahiko had the ability to create details which few can forget even over a lifetime of looking.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


On any given day of throwing I am prone to making my teabowls a bit on the large side. This way of working pre-dates my first experiences with the work of Kumano Kuroemon and was just a natural occurrence in making functional pots. My early thought process was simple, if you made a slightly larger teabowl they could still function for use in the tea ceremony but as a bowl form they had a greater range of uses being a bit larger from soups & salads to sides, chili, ice cream and almost anything you can imagine. On Monday as I was sitting at the wheel I had to throw a group of lids off the hump to go with a series of covered serving bowls and once the group was thrown I found myself with clay left over that I thought was about two pounds and proceeded to throw what ended up being a rather large teabowl form. Once thrown I weighed it out and realized it came in at 2.5lbs and as you can see, now tooled and a bit lighter it is a bit larger than my normally large teabowls. I decided to go with a thick combed porcelain slip for the surface and will likely glaze it in one of my Oribe formulas when the time comes. I am not sure what the prescribed function of this finished piece will be but it certainly has sumo-size me written all over it.

Monday, April 10, 2017


Illustrated is a simple, elegant tsubo decorated in slip, sumi-nagashi (floating ink) style by Kondo Yutaka. In several previous posts I have wrote about Yutaka and his simple yet decisive and bold use of mishima inlay using black and white as his surface and this tsubo is no different though there are hints of grey tones as well. The single, segmented strand of "decoration" draws the eye to the piece and guides the viewer up and around the space with only a hint of disturbance from the pure white form. Though Kondo Yutaka did not work exclusively in black and white, the pieces in which he did show a strong mastery of technique and concept where the two colors play out a dialogue far more conversant than many pots with far more decoration and design. If I were to try to describe Kondo Yutaka to someone who had never seen his work it would be straightforward; he created strong simple forms and made use of very little to speak eloquently about his creative voice.

Friday, April 7, 2017


Illustrated is a truly wonderful and inspirational Okinawan style chawan by Hamada Shoji. White slip over stoneware with a clear glaze and iron lip accented by the two color enamel decoration of Hamada's sugarcane design makes this bowl come alive and jump out of the photo. A delicate balance of humility, folk craft and intellect this chawan is decorated in a vivid green and red enamel, the brushwork appears fluid, effortless and immediate. These are all of trademark characteristics of a master in full command of a technique that is as much muscle memory as it is unconscious action, capturing the spontaneity born from a life time dedicated and immersed in pottery and craft. There is very little that can be said about Hamada Shoji, his pottery and his unique decoration that has not been said before but I will only add this play on the mingei axiom, "beauty born of use" to say; this is beauty born of doing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


I am not too sure how convincing this surface is in the photo but in person it has a real earthy and honest feel to it. Using the iron stoneware I have been mixing up here at the studio and my clear glaze I was after a surface that had a bit more activity and grit to it while letting the clay itself show through unobstructed, basically, it was a destination unknown. I can't say I knew exactly what I wanted but I was looking for something that added a bit of depth to the surface and by using a tiny bit of ash, iron and manganese over the glaze, this is what I ended up with. The clay clearly shows through the glaze allowing for any marks to be front and center yet there is a certain depth that just isn't there when using the clear on its own. I am not sure where I am going with this surface and need to run more tests, always more tests but considering I had neither formula, map or destination in mind I think I arrived at a starting point and every journey starts there.

Monday, April 3, 2017


Bearing a strong resemblance and named after the famous ,Nachi (no) Taki of Nachikatsuura, Wakayama-ken, this elegant and mystrious iron Shino chawan was made by Toki native, Sakai Kobu. I have written about Sakai previously and have even posted slideshow videos of his work as well but figured as long as his work passes on through they always make for wonderful slideshows. Like many of his chawan this surface is packed with a wide array of effects and textures not to mention the plunging white waterfall that runs from the lip down to a rich pool of white which encapsulates the kodai. It never ceases to amaze me how Sakai Kobu paints such evocative landscapes in his glazes from our humble planet to celestial star scapes and galaxies,  both real and imagined. Enjoy the slideshow.


Friday, March 31, 2017


I really like to see wood fired altered forms that have been thrown and then manipulated, you can most times see the process left in the clay itself. The subtle or sometimes rather obvious scratches, drags, cuts and lines left in the clay give away how the potter altered the form and in certain instances with what type of tool. The illustrated square form Bizen kinuta vase was made by Masamune Satoru, a potter I have written about previously and one who's works I happen to find a tremendous affinity for, in other words, his work and how he worked speaks to me. This vase has a surface with a wide variety of  effects that has that misty morning appearance where the clouds and haze are retreating showing the rich fire color at the neck and where the wads were placed. This is Bizen at its elemental, straight forward, uncontrived and stripped down of the superfluous in its making and its firing; all squared away, a basic yet convincing pot.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Though there are several major categories for defining Ki-Seto glazes, I like to think of them in to only two distinct, broad styles; dry and wet surfaces. The illustrated tsubo falls in to the drier surface category which cloaks the clay and gives way to a myriad of variations in the color and texture all of which paint the identity of the maker in to and on to the pot. This particular Ki-Seto tsubo was made by Ningen Kokuho potter, Kato Kozo and shows the influences of Mino's Momoyama heritage not to mention that of his master, Arakawa Toyozo. Thrown with a definite attention to the wheels rhythm, this pot was paddled a bit flat on opposing side which he used as his canvas, embellished with a quick and fluid grass decoration on either side and then glazed in his distinctive glaze. The rich color and texture highlight this tsubo from mouth all the way to the transitional area above the foot with ash "pebbles" bubbling up around the mouth where the glaze was a bit thicker and the surface percolated to create these fine gems. As gravity took over, some areas of the glaze ran, creating glassy ash runs making their way to the cut foot ring and adding a bit more drama to the canvas. I like this type of pot and Ki-Seto surface that sets the mind to thinking about the past, present and future of a tradition and makes it even more difficult to walk away from a conversation cut short with so much left to talk about.

Monday, March 27, 2017


I was recently asked to make a set of whisky cups using the thick combed slip and my Oribe glaze and after a few design possibilities, this is what was decided upon. A simple, straight sided design with a strong pedestal style foot and thick slip combed in an alternating pattern that will hold a single ice cube and a good shot of what ever is prefered and here is the prototype. I am sure the influences of this form and several others I make are rather obvious but I am not sure what potter's would do with out these pioneers; the masters like Kawai Kanjiro, Hamada Shoji, Bernard Leach and others, not to mention the thousands of years of pottery history that predates us. Though the expression goes; "imitation is the sincerest from of flattery", I would like to think that I have added my own particular vision to such pieces and that though I could never match the original genesis, the style and tradition continues in my pots and those of countless others. It is amazing how much you can fill a small cup with not only liquid but content as well.

Friday, March 24, 2017


Illustrated is a diminutive Shigaraki sueki inspired tokkuri by Kohyama Yasuhisa. At first glance it seems a rather simple, useful bottle at the ready and set to pour with it leaning posture attesting to its eagerness to pour. The surface has a complex range of shades and textures all created through the process of making the pot, loading it in a kiln and throwing wood in to the kiln to reach a desired temperature but as you can guess there is so much more to it than that. These surfaces have been a lifetime in the making, trial and error and year after year of making pots and firing them and making records of results, nuances and changes in the pots themselves after all this is what wood firing is. The slight lean to the tokkuri as if made to first face into the ferocity and velocity of the firing and once fired its posture inviting the user to make use are communicated through this form. There are a great number of pots that hide their true nature in a cloak of simplicity and this Kohyama tokkuri is certainly one but as you take the time to really look at the piece its truest nature is revealed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


When I think about vivid contrasts in ceramics, the obvious black & white and blue & white easily spring to mind but less often seen but easily as potent is the combination of red and white as clearly illustrated in this sultry porcelain vase with yuriko underglaze red decoration. Surrounded by beautiful red spiraled vines ending in rich blossoms this simple, elegant vase is by yuriko and sometsuke specialist Yoshida Takashi who learned his craft (and art) under three Ningen Kokuho; Tomimoto,Kondo and Fujimoto. Yoshida is well known and recognized for his use of fluid brushwork in yuriko underglaze red on pure white porcelain as well as his sometsuke wares and his use of space and form shows a tremendous flair for the dramatic which very few potters have achieved, especially in the infrequently seen flowing underglaze red pigment.

Monday, March 20, 2017


Illustrated is a long terra cotta tray with a hatched border and a pair of carved fish decorating the interior which I had used previously in its green ware state. As I mentioned this was influenced by the Pisces motif where the two fish appear opposite of each other and are oriented to fit the rectangular space while leaving enough carved negative space to articulate the design. The opposed fish design has been a staple for my pots from the very beginning not to mention it fits the area of a tray or plate rather well. This is not exactly rocket science but it can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to get a design that works well on a longer form to work out well while keeping the balance between positive and negative space in check. In the past I have rigged this trays so that they can hang with the aid of my trusty, rusty wire bending jig and they have been used by a number of caterers as well; the scallop cut edge makes them easier to grip with or without oven mitts and due to their size, they can accommodate a generous portion of what ever you have in mind.

I posted this tray as green ware back in December, you can find the post here;

Friday, March 17, 2017


Not being of Irish descent or at least not that I know of, I am not 100% sure how close this chawan comes to the emerald green of Ireland, but it will have to do for today. This rich Oribe chawan is by Yamada Kazu and has a variety of colors and tones throughout the glaze including a rather copper rich, hazy moon-pool to finish off the inside of the mikomi and areas of such intense green they only come to life under direct light appearing like mysterious emeralds punctuated about the surface. I handled and photographed this chawan some time ago but I remember that it felt cool and comfortable in the hand and changed appearances as the light played across the pot. The overall feel to the piece was somewhat contemporary but it is from a time long since past that Yamada sought his influences and infused his modern bowl with a sense of now and then. I am a huge fan of Oribe when the clay can be seen through the transparent or translucent surface and where each and every mark add to the narrative that is the Oribe tradition.
And for St. Patrick's day, one of The Pogues finest;

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I am sure that in the past I have mentioned that I have a love/hate relationship with terra cotta and when I am in that cycle and determined to throw larger pieces, throwing pieces/parts tends to be the rule of the day. Illustrated is the tops and bottoms for two pitchers, each piece measures approximately 11" tall and when fired they will come in at just about 18" to 19" and were originally designed after seeing a cartoon with animated chess pieces. I should also mention the top and bottoms fit together with contrasting angles thrown in to the bottom piece and cut in to the top pieces when removed from the wheel head to create a simple to fit, attach and throw seam that is easily blended and to date has never cracked or failed in the firing. They look a bit sterile at this point but once assembled, I will throw them just a bit to create a more graceful form and complete them with a thick ovoid handle. I am not sure how they will be decorated at this point but I suspect I will go the route of the abstrakt resist decoration to complete the forms.
You can see two finished jugs of this type in a post from a long while back;

Monday, March 13, 2017


On Friday I had a small package arrive from a fellow collector, in it was a nice Shigaraki chaire by Kanzaki Shiho. I assume Kanzaki needs little introduction as he is well known in the West and is a ubiquitous figure on the internet. I took a group of photos and built this short slideshow video to give a sense of what this all natural wood fired chaire looks like in person and hope it helps show the pot with a bit of depth. You can also see a feel images of the chaire over at my Trocadero marketplace;

Friday, March 10, 2017


I have seen a lot of Meiji era pottery over the years from the studio wares, Kyo-yaki to the early pioneers who ushered in the studio pottery movement possibly best characterized a bit later by Hamada Shoji, Kawai Kanjiro, Kitaoji Rosanjin and Tomimoto Kenkichi.  The reason I bring up the early studio movement and modern studio potters is that I recently handled an Oribe koro that seemed to be much more Meiji than modern in clay, glaze and ukibori style decoration. Ukibori is best defined as carving that creates raised areas (relief) out of a surface common to metal, wood and clay and is a skill of patiences and attention to detail which this koro shows.

Made by classic Showa era Mino potter, Tobii Takashi (1941-2009), this koro was likely thrown and then had the ukibori decoration formed in a mold and then carefully applied, applique style to the koro surface, avoiding trapping any air behind the applique and then skillfully sealed to adhere the decoration to the piece. Once this was completed, the relief decoration was further fine tuned by adding details by hand for a wonderful array of foliage with thoughtful areas of negative space to be filled and articulated in the glazing. Once bisque the koro was selectively glazed in varying thicknesses of an Oribe glaze from deep, rich green to areas where only a sheen highlights the creamy surfaces and varying leaves pop out or fade into the distance. A few cherry blossoms, kiku can be seen on the body of the piece as well as on the lid where they are pierced to allow the koro to function. As I mentioned when I first saw this piece I thought I was looking at a Meiji era Kyo-yaki piece but as it turns out, appearances are deceiving for this great little Oribe Mino koro.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Though entitled, HAKU-RYU (White Dragon) the description of this ceramic okimono is not exactly correct from my point of view. Showing a variety of shades and colors from lavender to grey blue and hints of white, this dragon has a speckled, pore like texture of white dots throughout the glaze on this form. Molded out of what appears to be an iron rich stoneware, this form has a palpable tension to the form, like a coiled spring  created through simple lines and strong and decisive curves creating the body, neck, head and limbs. Created by the master potter and Kyoto native, Kusube Yaichi, he is well known for his sculptural pieces such as this dragon and other figures molded out of fine porcelain and stoneware and showcasing his virtuosity of glaze making and use. Though a simple, singular glaze, like most of Kusube's pieces, there is nothing simple at work here, there is depth and movement to the form and surface which is defined by the breaking qualities of the exterior. The most amazing quality of Kusube's zodiac and other figures is that though using few lines and little detail, he has infused the piece with the essence of the dragon, its mythical power and symbolism created from the natural elements of earth, air, fire and water.

Monday, March 6, 2017


A short while back I wrote a blog post about "recycling" test glazes and making every attempt to see if I can get them to work as a stand alone glaze but also in combination with other glazes as a base glaze, over a glaze or in some other combination with existing or other test glazes. The Oribe test I showed used a manganese dioxide/ cobalt carbonate glaze (MDCC) over it and I also tried the same test glaze over my temmoku that I use. Illustrated is the results of the first test using this new combo where what resulted is a soft metallic surface that shows a wide array of visual textures which seem to almost mimic oilspot textures around the form. I suspect all the oxides interacted to create this surface and I would say trying these tests glazes over and over again in various ways and incarnations can occasionally pay off.  I am not 100% sure what to do with this surface at the moment but I will move on to the teabowl size phase next and see what results that will yield. proceeding at this pod, to teacup to teabowl pace may seem a bit cautious but in fact it saves money on making up test glazes that then need to be thrown out and at the very least there is a good maxim to embrace; "slow and steady wins the race".

Friday, March 3, 2017


Illustrated is a classic Arakawa-mon (school) chawan by long time apprentice, Nakayama Naoki who served a long apprenticeship prior to setting up his own studio/kiln in Ogaya Village. Well known for his freehand and simple decoration of his chawan using the Chinese bellflower design, Nakayama's chawan bear a striking resemblance to that of his master, Arakawa Toyozo but upon close examination there are subtle differences, nuances that are apparent not because he wasn't capable of copying the master but rather out of respect he searched out his own vocabulary within the form. Many of the chawan that I have seen by Nakayama have a warm and rather inviting quality to them, a sense of purpose contained within the simple and well exectued form. His chawan usually show a rather regular lip with slight undulation and the hera cut area that form the transition from the body of the bowl to the kodai area, is cut quickly and with skilled repetition creating a subtlety rounded form with a soft area that sits well in the hand. Nakayama Naoki has skillfully created the balance of blending the old with the new and using his master's works as a foundation to create his own voice that speaks to modern Mino-yaki.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I stumbled across this photo of a rather simple Iga chawan by Banura Shiro the other day and it has played in my mind like a moebius loop. The form is streamlined and has a noble sense, almost elegant with a rich orangey brown surface that has a perpetual wetness to the chawan while the "crumbly" texture of the mouth and transitional area bordering the foot act to frame the streamlined decoration of marsh grass decorated in an almost flat, metallic black with gold highlights. The grasses immediately call to mind the pathos of Momoyama painting and poetry that acted as a foundation for the Rimpa painters and more than a few poets all who strove to create atmosphere and emotion within their brushstrokes be they on clay or paper. The appeal to many of Banura's work is the sense of poetry and lyricism that is captured in such a small amount of clay and just a few, well placed and defined brushstrokes.

"I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars." Walt Whitman

Monday, February 27, 2017


I think it is safe to say that when it comes to pottery, I have been around the block and then some. I have worked at a variety of places/facilities, with a number of well known potters and have fired from cone 06 all the way up to cone 12 and with all of that experience I must admit, I thought I had seen just about everything that can, would, should and shouldn't go wrong but recently I was reminded, there is always another surprise just around the corner.  Illustrated is my small kiln which I use to run tests in up to cone 9 and well the contents of the kiln "need some explaining". I will start by saying that the contents was at one time a teabowl fresh out of the bisque, freshly glazed and in the kiln to dry the glaze, the bowl was thrown out of a blend I make myself and have used off and on for over 20 years. I decided to make up my own porcelain grog and that was wedged in to the clay which came out of the bisque perfectly intact at which time, using glaze tongs, I glazed the bowl in my Oribe glaze.
So far the only variable is the grog and as you can see the bowl while in the kiln, which was off but warm just simply self-destructed. Please bear in mind, only moments before this mishap, I used the glaze tongs to dip the bowl which acted and felt just like normal bisque and then this moment when it seems like total molecular cohesion ceased to exist and the bowl just opened up like a flower opening its petals but with a bit less grace and beauty! Obviously I was shocked and am still trying to figure out what exactly happend as two other teabowls from the same firing were glazed and fired with no ill effect though neither had any grog in them which was simply made up of broken up and tumbled porcelain clay fired to bisque. I am open to any and all thoughts or theories but as there is only one variable, that seems to be my focus, that or the guy with the thing had other plans for the bowl. I am only thankful that I decided to warm the bowl to dry the glaze as had I not and this happened during a test firing, I would have lost my kiln, in this particular case, the remedy was just an old shop-vac.

Friday, February 24, 2017


There are a number of things that cat owners are painfully aware of from stuff suddenly gone missing to let's see if I can push this off the edge, the latter of which is particularly hazardous in a house full of pottery. I will start by saying that with Khan there has yet to be any incident and with Jun there was only one where I left a tall teapot in the middle of the floor and then was called away by the telephone, you can imagine the outcome, that being said, cats make far better pottery than photography assistants. I am fortunate to have pots come my way to study, photograph and occasionally sell for collectors but I also have a responsibility to safeguard the pot and send it where ever it is intended in the same condition I encountered it in, in others words, eternal vigilance is the rule of the day. I recently had a large hachi style mizusashi show up by Kumano Kuroemon which I carefully unpacked and then placed on a shelf and in the moment that it took to get my camera, the ribbon thief appeared like a ninja stalking a medieval Japanese castle wall. Khan, like most cats is especially fond of string, rope, ribbon and box cord (himo) and loves the little tufts at the ends which he can be seen going for as I was walking in with camera at the ready. I gently encouraged him out of the room and took the pictures of the mizusashi before packing up the box and packing material and placing them out of the reach of Khan, I can still hear him wailing away outside the door.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I was reminded about this teabowl bowl recently with the new tests I am carrying out that are using manganese/cobalt glaze applied over the Oribe. In the illustrated teabowl I was using slips with a fair amount of iron, manganese and cobalt under the glaze and it would produce a slightly runny surface with a rich iridescent sheen where the slip was placed. This particular Oribe formula was one of the first ones that I used seriously and had less copper and no iron in the formula which made a less intense and vibrant surface so the use of the slip helped activate and bring the surface to life. I can not remember exactly when this bowl was made but I suspect it was well over a decade ago and was part of a set ordered from a tea practitioner of which this bowl was a spare. I was much more timid with what I would do to a glaze back  that I was testing back then adding tiny increments and alterations as opposed to today when I figure, what the h3ll, it is only ceramic alchemy and since I am using neither plutonium (Pu) or uranium (U), what harm can come of being a bit bolder?
"Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall."  Tobias Smollett

Monday, February 20, 2017


Illustrated is another slender Turkish blue vase by the late Kato Kenji. This particular vase is just a bit different than others I have posted as it has a slightly quilted form, is banded with each segregated panel having its own individual design which ties together the entire pot. It is easy to get stuck on a singular aspect of a potter's work but if you have seen Kato Kenji's pottery in person, there is a sense of awe regarding the seeming spontaneity, bold flair and speed of his brushwork which he has adapted so well to each and every form that he has used. I should also like to add that in certain respects like the well practiced designs of Hamada Shoji, Kato's brushwork, designs and decoration always have a freshness and brightness to them proving it is hard to get tired of something that comes from the heart and spirit of remarkable potter.