Soft white feldspar bordered by areas of rich, deep iron filled with cells of texture and color cover this pot from head to toe including the soft and undulating lid and purposeful knob. The truth is that every time you see a pot by Sakai Kobu, the Kobu-Shino immediately identifies exactly what you are looking at and though I have seen a number of mizusashi by him over the years, it seems like it is much more common to encounter his chawan than these larger pieces. As is readily apparent from the photo, Sakai throws his pots so they appear like that have a softness to them, the curvy lines almost look like the pot is in mid-collapse but it is these characteristic attributes that are so appealing to the eye and to the touch that are only accentuated by his skillful use of his modified Shino and iron glazes and his use of slips under the surface. Each pot paints a landscape, a portrait, a still life as the potter sees fit with his pieces resonating at different frequencies to different viewers, this is the beauty of his Kobu-Shino.
Friday, December 29, 2017
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
After I posted the iron and ash vase last week got me thinking to the sheer number of pots I have made in that combination of glazes, certainly a thousand and more. While going over this combo I remembered a lone bowl that was made as an extras from a set of six that hung around the studio for quite some time until a couple came and took it and a number of other pots home as gifts for a holiday past. I know it will sound odd that I would remember this single bowl which is illustrated but it spent some time near the wheel, covered in clay splatter and filled with slip brushes so i finally decided to clean it up and take a few photos. Though I made extras of the set, the customers picked six of the seven available and left this one which I was particularly happy with as the lines of the form and glaze came out rather well but the ash on the upper half was just different, almost chatoyant in nature like looking in to a wild cat's eyes. Once cleaned up and set on a shelf it became far game and was the first thing sold as some clients came to the studio, I still wonder if I should have left it clay coated and filled with brushes.
And because, who doesn't like Gordon Lightfoot;
Monday, December 25, 2017
Friday, December 22, 2017
Illustrated is a rather robust, exhibition chawan by Kishimoto Kennin. I handled this chawan a while back and always find it interesting when I can correlate an exhibition photo to the pot in hand to get a sense of not only what the bowl looks like to my eye and through my camera lens but also through the vision of a photographer in their studio somewhere in Japan. I will start by saying that the photo I took of the page out of the exhibtion catalogue is a bit washed out but at least from my experience does not capture the richness, depth and power of this Iga chawan which I have tried to portray in my photo. For those interested in technique, using my camera set to automatic focus and with the tungsten filter set to on, I used a 100watt tungsten bulb to photograph this piece and other than to crop the photo, no photo manipulation was undertaken. The photo I ended up with here is exceptionally close to what the chawan looks like in person and unlike the catalogue picture, you can see the depth of the ash surface, the richness of the clay and the perpetual wetness that the pot exudes. I have written about Kishimoto Kennin in previous blog posts, I truly admire how he handles clay and fires his pots from Iga to seiji and all the styles in between, he strive to allow the clay to speak under any natural of added surface and creates pots that add to the traditions in which he works. I was very happy with my experience handling this chawan and being able to see it here and there but it never ceases to amaze me how different a pot can look through two different lens.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
I just received this wonderful porcelain tsubo from a collector to put up on my trocadero marketplace, though quite a nice pot it doesn't quite go with all of his rather rustic, wood fired pieces. The exquisitely painted sparrow and foliage across the surface with vivid watercolor like effects calling to mind a scene right out of early autumn and wraps partially around the tsubo leaving large, imagined areas of negative space. The detail of the painting is rather intricate and obviously owes its inspiration to many of the Meiji era and 20th century Nihonga painters of which Watanabe Seitei and Konno Bairei immediately springs to mind. I took a group of photos and built this short video slideshow to help fill out the pot and hopefully give a sense of the quality of painting and the essence of 20th century Japanese porcelain painting.
You can see more of this tsubo over at my Trocadero marketplace;
Monday, December 18, 2017
Though influenced by traditional Japanese chaire, this tea caddy is close to the archetype but not entirely reliant on it. I have been making these little covered pots for quite some time and they make excellent an tea caddy for loose tea, tea bags or what ever one can imagine for their purpose which could include just sitting up on a shelf. Glazed in my temmoku with an ash glaze over, I tried to create the iconic drip on the front, omote of the caddy just like with many Japanese chaire which worked to a certain extent but ash glazes do tend to have a mind of their own. What I can say by looking at this little pot and the photo is that there are few surfaces that give as much depth, richness and beauty as a tried and true ash glaze.
Friday, December 15, 2017
As I look out our front windows, there is bright white snow as far as the eye can see, covering the farms, hills and valley but if you look carefully, selectively, you can see areas of the thick snow melting. The vista reminded me of a slideshow video I made sometime ago and never posted of a rather unusual Hagi mizusashi covered over in a thick white shirahagi glaze resembling thick melting snow. The mizusashi was made by Miwa Kyusetsu XI student, Yoshida Shuen (1940-1987) in the early 1980s as a thrown "cone" that was then altered to create an ovoid form to which a very thick, over 1/2" roiro black lacquer custom lid was added. The mizusashi is accentuated by combed banding around the piece with a bold spatula mark on the face and areas of intense, dripping glaze resembling melting snow on the exterior and around the mouth of the interior creating a rather engaging visual presentation. Though I had forgotten to post this video, I certainly had not forgotten the pot and hope the slideshow fills out the conversation I had with this simple and practical Hagi mizusashi.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Illustrated is a detail shot of a futamono, covered box by Matsubayashi Hosai XIV, what makes this piece a bit different is just exactly what you are looking at. The Matsubayashi family have made Asahi-yaki for generations and what that means in broad terms is that using local materials, local to the Kyoto environs, their pottery is similar to gohonde spotted wares one normally thinks of as Hagi ware but it has its own unique qualities as you delve deeper into the pottery. The covered box which I recently handled and photographed will become a slideshow video at some point but I thought its unique character and Chinese influenced surface shows just how Hosai continues a tradition while thinking a bit outside the box. This surface is lush, exotic and well suited to the piece which is intended as a sweets box, thrown out of a fine stoneware clay the piece is glazed right up to the edges which have developed thick rolls of glaze without the lid and bottom being permanently affixed. Like the more traditional Asahi-yaki made by Matsubayashi Hosai XIV, this futamono is precisely thrown, well crafted and the glaze is applied with perfection, though not the normal pottery one would expect from this potter it is obvious that this was not his first attempt at such an uncompromising and demanding surface.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Illustrated is the turned footring interior of a terra cotta vase I made recently. As you can see the pot is decorated in my "falling leaves" decoration of red, yellow and green leaves on a rich, black background on terra cotta clay which includes sgrafitto outlining and detailing the leaves. The idea to decorate the interiors of the foot rings and undersides of lids has to do with something someone said long before I started making pots and has stuck with me" "every object has six sides", simple enough and from my perspective that includes the bottom. Though I don't necessarily decorate the bottoms or lid interiors on every pot, I do so when the mood and pot asks for just a little more embellishment or those times when I am just in the groove and a little more is just what the clay doctor ordered. I know that when in use this vase will have some water and flowers in it but when it it time to clean up and put it away it is easy to turn over a new leaf with little to no effort.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Back, shortly after we moved to central NY State a friend of mine called and excitedly told me he had found me the most incredible mizusashi that one could imagine. naturally, I asked for a description or a photo, after all we are living in the digital age but was told he was going to pack it up and ship it to me and it was a house warming gift. Days passed, then a week, then two and I decided to ask, how was it shipped, strapped to a herd of snails pointed in the approximate direction and was told his car broke down and he just hadn't made his way to the post office, I would just have to wait for the most exceptional, incredible mizusashi known to man. Several more weeks passed and one day while working in the studio the postman showed up with a somewhat large box for a mizusashi but I figured it was just well packed. As soon as I opened the box, I knew something was not quite right as the contents we not likely ceramic and the weight was off. As I pulled and cut away foam paper, newsprint and bubble wrap the piece emerged, not a Japanese mizusashi but rather a Danish Modern ice bucket designed by Jens Quistgaard for Dansk in 1950. Made out of staved teak with a waterproof liner on the interior, the Quistgaard ice bucket is a classic marriage of traditional and modern Scandinavian design and has proven to be one of my favorite "mizusashi" that could have been that I have every received as it was a gift from a great and caring friend.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Illustrated is a fine Kyoto style chawan by legendary master, Kiyomizu Rokubei V (1901-1980). This chawan shows the classical training Rokubei VI received from his father, the fifth generation of the family, with inspirations of Rimpa and Nihonga style painting The fine, crackle feldspar base glaze plays a fine host to the whispy grass and solid purple morning glories that adorn the chawan all sandwiched like a scroll painting between lip and foot. There is a balanced sense of nobility and pathos to this chawan that I can not shake but unlike the beauty of nature that it portraits, this chawan will endure long beyond most potters and viewers.
Monday, December 4, 2017
Illustrated is one of my bamboo form vases which came out rather well with a rich iron surface dipped in my favorite ash glaze. After the piece was thrown, I cut out three large areas creating a tripod style foot and using two little, pinched wads of clay I added lugs to either side near the top of the vase and then cut out half moons to match the feet on the piece. As you can probably tell, this is another pot that I got very lucky on as the ash ran all the way down the pot and stopped just shy of sticking the piece to the self; though I like runny glazes, this was more than a bit close. I have always been fascinated by various take-gata, bamboo form vases by the likes of Rosanjin and Arakawa and have tried to make my own version of the idea and when coupled with various subtle details and various glaze combinations I would like to think that I have succeeded.
Friday, December 1, 2017
I remember the first pot that I ever saw by Tokuda Yasokichi III, it was a long time ago and was part of an exhibit that was also showing pieces by Hara Kiyoshi, Udagawa Hosei and another potter who I just can not name at the moment and never saw his pots ever again. The Tokuda was an elegant, large gourd form vase with a brilliant assemblage of colors complimenting and provoking the lines of the piece, it was quite wonderful and did I mention large? Over the years I have seen a disproportionate number of vases in all shapes and sizes and lots of plates as well but mizusashi and chawan, few and far between. I am certainly not suggesting in any way that his chawan and mizusashi are "rare" or "scarce" as I have seen them all over the internet and in catalogues and books but I can count the chawan I have seen on one hand and about the same for mizusashi. The illustrated chawan is an earlier work by Tokuda with a deep, rich purple ground accented with copper greens and blues and even white punctuating the bowl. The bowl is simple in execution but a perfect ground for his brilliant glazing and enameling to which few can match his technique and craft. Though I have not seen many Tokuda Yasokichi III chawan first hand, I can say without any hesitation, they have never been anything less than a rewarding conversation in color, space and form.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
Quite a few years back my wife and I were at a museum show of gemstones and in the exhibition was a large emerald crystal that was absolutely radiant and just full of energy, I have always suspected that her interest in wood fired pieces with sheets of glassy ash and bidoro possibly stems from that momentary experience. I recently had a chance to handle a very medieval style Iga mizusashi that had a great surface inside and out as this photo of the ringed emerald pool of fractured, glassy ash will attest. To get a perspective, the center of the bottom is slightly pushed up which creates an unintentional but vivid channel that encircles the entire interior ring with this rich, emerald ash making for a most welcome surprise when the lid is removed. I am constantly amazed at how much this simple style of pooled, melted ash and some emerald crystals have in common visually from the intensity and depth of color to the fractured nature of the structure making for a rather intense experience.
"Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in the world; it is the last limit of experience and the last effort of genius." George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin 1804-1876)
Monday, November 27, 2017
I was going through a file of photos over the weekend to send a few examples of a piece a customer was interested in ordering and came across a group of an Oribe style tataki mizusashi I made some time back. Having a number of photos, I decided to build a short video slideshow of the water jar that I hope gives the piece a bit more depth and shows some of the details in both clay and surface. I enjoy making pieces like this as I have said before, despite what plans you may have, once that paddle hits the clay, you get what you get and can guide the piece in certain directions but total control is out the door which in the end makes for a much more casual pot.
Friday, November 24, 2017
I saw this very well wood fired chawan the other day and was immediately struck by its posture, form, surface and incised decoration, it is one of those pieces that you have an instant connection to, a dialogue which just feels right and is obviously not just another bowl. The teabowl was made by legendary Tokoname sculpture and potter, Koie Ryoji and bares his signature across the surface as a bold, lyrical design across the ash coated surface. Few potters have been as imaginative, bold and even provocative as Koie through out his long career from his Chernobyl series of sculpture to his thought provoking pottery which pushes the concept of function, tradition and accommodation. I like this chawan as much because it has a comfortable attitude with a simple form and decoration as it is the embodiment of the casual which like his contemporary, Suzuki Goro, Koie spins out such pieces with seemingly effortless and boundless energy.
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
I wanted to take a moment and wish all those who participate, a very Happy Thanksgiving. Despite everything that is going on in the world and here at home, I know that my wife and I have much to be thankful for and at this time of year we can reflect on those things and wish the same for everyone else.
Illustrated is a large, oval black and white slip platter that I started making quite a long while back while still living in Cleveland. It is about two feet in length and is certainly up to the task of presenting a well cooked turkey and all the timings. The second photo is of a large wild turkey that along with nearly a dozen of his compatriots spends its days sunning itself and foraging on our property and is just letting us know that he is rather happy to be celebrating Thanksgiving as well.
Monday, November 20, 2017
I decided to take a photo of another Furutani Michio Iga mizusashi out of the same catalogue as the one last week to show not only the exceptional surfaces that he was able to achieve but also to showcase a rather unusual form of the potter. Over the years I have been consistent in my view that every time you think you have a handle on the scope of a particular artist, potter you encounters something akin to a curveball. I find this especially the case when dealing with Hamada and Kawai, I'll see an exhibit, get a new book or catalogue and there on the very next page is a pot that is just not typical or "usual" for the potter. I find this Iga mizusashi a bit different for Furutani Michio but I will admit as I look at the surface and the lid it is immediately apparent what I am looking at. I guess I thought to put up this photo and the other to just share what I can not help but think are among the finest Iga mizusashi of the modern era.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Back when we used to live in Cleveland my wife and I would spend time visiting The Verne Collection, run by Mitzie Verne and her son Michael. For a short time they were collecting modern Japanese ceramics during visits to Japan and selling them at their gallery which at the time was located at the John Carroll University. Among the artist that they carried, at our recommendation was the Iga potter and ceramic artist, Ohira Kazumasa who made this fine set of five plates that are patterned as leaves, these were among a group of his work that we acquired from the Mitzie back when times were much simpler and prices were very reasonable. At the time, very few Westerners knew about Ohira's work and the Verne Collection was in most likelihood the first to carry his work outside of Japan and offer his pottery in the West which included his block style vases, plate sets, two very large chargers and various other pieces. Over the years we would pull this set of plates out and use them but before last week, I had never photographed them and thought to put together a short slideshow video to give the perspective of how enjoyable these pieces have been for use and display for over two decades. Please enjoy.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
I like getting surprise packages and one just arrived from Japan yesterday filled with over 30 pounds of misc. catalogues. In the group was a nice Tsukigata catalogue as well as two on Furutani Michio, one being the source for this illustration. This wonderfully fired, Iga mizusashi is one of only a few of this form that I have seen and based on the surface it must have been in the most opportune spot in the kiln which must have yielded some rather spectacular pots and surfaces. I love this type of firing with lavender, grey ash, hints of deeper greens, blues and emerald tones about the surface with a bright ash belt created around the middle of the piece in the depression. I find this to be a rather inviting pot and love how it goes from dark to light as you move up the pot which is topped off with a classic Furutani Michio style lid that sits within a well defined galley just above the surface of the pot. I will admit it is a bit like Christmas when I get the occasional group of catalogues but now I am making my next Christmas list and this mizusashi is right at the top.
Monday, November 13, 2017
I threw this green pair of Oribe style bowls at the request of a customer. I was asked to throw them the way I would normal teabowls that I make but they would be used in a variety of functional roles and likely not for tea. The pair was thrown with slightly undulating lips which is created by altering the pressure while throwing making a few low and high spots and the interiors are slip free so as to have no overt texture which may get in the way of a spoon (or spork) while in use. As most potters, there is no way to control how someone will or will not use your pieces as I have discussed in previous post nor would I necessarily want to, to be quite honest. I'll make stuff and how it is used at its new home is fine with me and let's face it, it is easy for me to imagine a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream or a bowl of chili surrounded by some homemade corn muffins as props for my pots.
Friday, November 10, 2017
My post from the other day got me thinking about the number of Takauchi Shugo pots I have handled over the years but specifically reminded me of a rather interesting mizusashi that he had made that was based on the teoke form. Illustrated is a rather unique Oribe teoke-mizusashi by Takauchi which was thrown and then hacked at, sculpted, incised and engraved to which a squared lid was added to complete the package. The rich, deep oribe accents every nook and cranny of the form, high lighting all of the rips, tears and marks left by the potter while the clear glazed areas show off the abstract stylings that Takauchi Shugo is well known for. The interior has a deep pool of Oribe glaze that draws the viewer in to the pot and the carefully placed recesses along the horizontal handle fits well in the hand for easy carry. I have to admit that if you were to try to explain the concept of this piece, I suspect must people would have a hard time thinking it would work out well in terms of form and function but having seen it first hand, I can certainly attest to the fact that if anyone was going to make this work it was going to be from the mind and hands of Takauchi Shugo.
(BTW it occurred to me that I have handled two other Takauchi Shugo mizusashi and if I can find the photos will post them up at a future date as well.)
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
I remember the first piece of Oribe style pottery that I saw by Takauchi Shugo nearly 30 years ago, it was a tall, wonky bucket vase form with a sculpted handle passing through either side of the raised handles. The surface was a mixture of gouged out channels and incised design covered over in a rich, deep green Oribe glaze which straddled tradition and modern quite well; a similar piece can be seen In Rupert Faulkner's book, JAPANESE STUDIO CRAFTS on page 33. The illustrated mizusashi is a much later piece by Shugo, still skirting the conventions of traditional pottery while making a rather adventurous and contemporary statement adding a fresh approach to Oribe-yaki. Glazed over in a wonderful, dark Oribe glaze with areas of clear glaze high lighted by spontaneous, abstract designs unique to the potter, this mizusashi is a remarkable statement about the potential of traitional tea vessels that push a bit at the boundries, this is surely where Takauchi Shugo shines the brightest.
"Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way." Aristotle
Monday, November 6, 2017
Recently I ended up firing several kiln loads of pots that were a mix of my regular stoneware, porcelain and the high iron stoneware that I have been making up myself in small batches of about 40 to 50 pounds of clay at a time. The reason I even mention this is that I am pleased with the variety and range that I get from the glazes I use on the pieces making it seem like they are different glazes as opposed to different clay bases which alter the appearance. The only real exception to this is the use of my temmoku on the two stoneware bodies where it comes out almost identical but on the porcelain it is just a tiny bit translucent making for an interesting effect especially over stamped decoration. The illustrated Oribe style jar was thrown out of the iron stoneware and then had a thick band of combed slip applied, over the slip it is an intense, mottled green but over the rest of the body it has a thick, deep green appearance with mossy tendril effects from the additional iron in the clay mingling with the glaze. Though it isn't terribly different then the effects on the regular stoneware it is just different enough to create a surface and appearance that is both related but apart from one another providing just another avenue to explore in the ongoing search to see what else I can get copper to do.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Considering the timing, I remembered that I had a short NHK video on the hard-drive of Tsuji Seimei and decided to post it up to Youtube. At the moment, there is an ongoing exhibition of the works of Tsuji Seimei at The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo which showcases the work and diversity of a rather divergent, traditional based potter who specialized in creating Shigaraki pottery among others. I hope there is enough to glimpse the genius of the this exceptional 20th Century potter in this short video clip, enjoy.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
sumptuous; (adjective) extremely costly, luxurious, or magnificent
When I think about Banura Shiro my mind often strays to the sumptuous Rimpa art of the Edo period with Ogata Kenzan and Korin among others, the extravagances of the court and the wealth of the merchant class who patronized so many of the artists and craftsman. I think that Banura would have fit right in with his classic yet individual flair for form and graphic surface decorations and certainly with his use of gold and silver added to his pottery of which this illustrated chawan is an excellent example. In many respects this teabowl is like a decorated screen with a gold background that further serves to highlight and accentuate the silver leaves casually placed about the surface, this chawan could have just as easily been created in 1750 as the 20th century. As most potters can likely attest, the use of gold and silver is a complicated tight rope to walk, the balance, amounts and design all need to be very carefully considered and well thought out prior to execution or the results become more than a bit "hadé" (gaudy). For Banura, he employed a wonderful visually and tactile texture behind the gold which breaks up what could otherwise be a rather ostentatious and even boring surface. Creating a gilded surface of varying hues, intensity and concentration showing off an understanding of how far to go without going any further, though rich and elegant it manages to remain just mysterious enough to engage the viewer and get a dialogue going.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Over the weekend we bought candy for the impending knock on the door which signals that Halloween is upon us again. We decided on two ceramic pieces for the candy, one a large lip bowl in temmoku and iron glazes and on the shelves near the door this recently fired small Oribe style covered jar. The contents give a sense of the scale to anyone familiar with the "fun-size" candy bars and also points out the function and practicality of hand made pots, especially when chocolate is involved. This covered piece held the contents of one 11 ounce bag with some room to spare, in other words, it is a good size and rather accommodating for any of your favorite treats. Happy Halloween.
Friday, October 27, 2017
I have mentioned in previous blog post how it is not really possible to overpack a pot for shipping so when a pot or box arrives damaged I just can't help but feel somewhat responsible for setting the circumstance in motion. I recently had a somewhat heavy wood fired pot sent my way and as the piece was not packed securely enough within the wood box it acted like a bowling ball in a balsa cube and just demolished the box. All told, the box arrived in 11+ pieces, not including the signed lid which escaped without so much as a scratch, but the rest of the box was more akin to a puzzle box or a fallen Humpty Dumpty than a storage box for the pot. After examining the damaged remains for a bit I decided to try to reassemble the box as best I could with limited carpentry skills and little more than wood glue, craft twine, small nails, a hammer, paintbrush and a razor knife. I carefully reconstructed the bottom first and once together and dry attached each side wall, most in several pieces. I will admit, I cheated a bit using four very small nails to reinforce the sides as well as four on the base reattaching the base to the walls, all of which would have been traditionally done using small wood pegs. After three sessions, with glue dry and joints sanded, I replaced the cord and though obviously a bit out of sorts, the box was reconstructed. Ultimately I will suggest having a base box made to fit the lid but for the time being, the pot has a storage box and what was broken has been restored, well, more or less.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
From time to time I intentionally make lidded pots without their lids to see what I can come up with using other materials or even found objects. In the past I have used wood, copper, tin, aluminum, cast acylic but wood seems to be the most natural especially when making mizusashi inspired water jars. The accompanying work in progress video slideshows shows the simple steps getting the lid correctly fit, sanded, prepped, "painted" and having the knob attached. Since I am not a wood worker by any stretch of the imagination, getting the lid cut in a perfect (?) circle is beyond my skillset and tools on hand so a friend of a friend, a cabinet maker provided the blank and I set about carefully sanding the piece to fit exactly in to the galley. The upper part of the edge is sanded to a round contour and the bottom has a bevel to match the pot. This is not my first use of a "homemade" wood lid and not likely be my last but I think it adds a distinct look to the pot that a ceramic lid or a bought, commercial mizusashi lid would fail to provide. Thanks for watching.
Monday, October 23, 2017
Measuring in at just about 22" across, this handmade cryptomeria wood panel and large tile look wonderful over a doorway. The large tile is made of a dense stoneware clay and was then decorated using iron slip and a thin layer of Shino glaze to create this panel which read, NO (the second kanji from the word Shino) despite having a slight enso feel to it. Tsukigata Nahiko made quite a number of these calligraphic tiles and I have seen a lot of them in this style of traditional wood mounts made from cryptomeria japonica cypress with the tansu or screen style hardware around the corners, there is also a number of more free from, all natural frames in which a square recess was cut out to accommodate the tile. What I can say about these tiles is that they have a tremendous amount of intensity to them and the tile is solid, having real substantive weight which when balanced out with the lighter weight cypress frame makes the piece manageable and easy to hang. All you need to do is find the right place to hang it despite the lack of the precious commodity of wall space and enjoy!
Friday, October 20, 2017
Over the past decade or so I have spent a lot of time looking at the various types and styles of Oribe from the rich, bright greens, to the coral based Narumi, the playful and graphic Yashichida all the way to the feudal and powerful Kuro-Oribe pieces. Looking at all this pieces, old and new I am continually impressed with the wide array of decoration and designs used on the pieces, especially the bold designs based on textiles. The illustrated Kuro-Oribe chawan is one such bowl where the inspiration for the decoration is likely to have come from old textile patterns but with Suzuki Goro, who knows, the idea could have come from a food wrapper or some graffiti dreamed up out of his own mind's eye. Looking a bit like to large, abbreviated moving mandala, the decoration compliments the rhythm of the form and contrast well against the framed area of buff which highlights the brushwork. Though the playfulness and execution of the decoration may seem casual and extemporaneous, I suspect it was the nearly 50 years of doing, making, painting that creates a bowl that is just so appropriate, wouldn't you agree?
"Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even to your smallest acts. This is the secret of success." Swami Sivinanda
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
From time to time I find myself doing some calligraphy as the mood hits me, though Japanese inspired, I am a huge fan of the abstract expressionists and would like to think there is a mix of both East and West in what I do. I use both ink sticks and bottled ink in a wood fired suzuri that I have made for myself but I always find myself using a small cup for my suiteki as I have never bought one. This brings me to my recent purchase on e#ay in which I found a rather cool Shigaraki suiteki for a price I couldn't resist, $10 and nearly two months later it finally arrived. The suiteki is a molded piece, made and fired in Shigaraki by Kawai Koji and works just as I would expect with no dribbles and a nice flow. I have seen a number of kogo and suiteki by this potter as well as some of his smaller thrown pots and his subject matter runs from the various zodiac subjects to tanuki, small huts and minka, floral design and the shachihoko just like the one that recently arrived. To those unaware, a shachihoko is a mythical beast with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp and is associated with the ability or properties to protect things from fire which is the reason there are large sculpture of these beasts on either side of the main roof of Osaka Castle. This suiteki is a fun, useful piece that has been a pleasure to use and look at and I hope this short slideshow video conveys that.
Monday, October 16, 2017
I am still working out a rather easy, straight forward technique for creating line inlay on pieces and though the bowl illustrated is a bit simple, the idea of the design is beginning to work out just the way I see it. My original premise was to be able to create thin line designs using glaze inlaid in to another glaze, in this case the base is temmoku and the inlay is of a clear glaze that has turned to a bright amber due to the influences of the oxides in the base. The technique is simple enough, first the pot is glazed in temmoku and using ink I draw out the design then wax over the surface where the design is to be inlaid. Once the wax is dry, I scratch through the surface of the wax all the way down to the bisque using a nail I altered and then brush over the inlay glaze. I know, there is nothing ground breaking here but it allows for a thin line design to be created with almost no effort at all. The technique works so well that it is also easy to even write all over the pot which given the right circumstances may be just what a customer ordered.
Friday, October 13, 2017
I put together this short video slideshow of this uncomplicated and near perfect yuteki-temmoku tsubo to give a glimpse into what it looks like from a foot or so away. Made by yuteki and tetsu specialist, Hisada Shigeyoshi, this tsubo was expertly thrown and then glazed to show off a rich, dark, blue-black background covered in a vast array of rusty spots that punctuate the form. The majority of the spots seem to be in about four different sizes but it is the large spots around the inside of the mouth that really pull the viewer in, beckoning a further investigation into the interior which is also covered in spots which peer out like stars in some distant galaxy. Though simple in form, the rich and complex surface creates a dialogue that is both quiet and lasting, long after the pot is boxed and put away.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Like most people who live with hand made things, over the years we have traded for or collected a number of prints and paintings from both American and Japanese artists. Our Japanese print taste runs along the lines of Mori Yoshitoshi, Oda Mayumi, Clifton Karhu and the obligatory Saito Kiyoshi, more modern artists and though we have a few Nihonga, Rimpa and Zenga kakejiku scrolls and water colors it wasn't until my first introduction to the paintings of Tsukigata Nahiko that I ever considered owning an oil painting. I saw my first Tsukigata painting in 1991 or 1992 while in Japan, it was a really large painting of a Notre Dame in Paris that filled the wall of a reception room in a famous hotel in Osaka. I was in awe of the scale, grandeur and power of the painting but it was the vibrant surface which seemed alive and the thick texture that had me sold. Now don't get me wrong, having seen great paintings of a variety of museums, I would take a Monet, Homer or Church any day but like his ceramics, I find the painting of Tsukigata engaging with a power and manner that speaks to me on almost every level.
Illustrated is a painting of Fuji-yama by Tsukigata Nahiko that was painted in the late 80s or early 90s. I love the way he has captured the snow capped Fuji with the whole image being created in a rather fluid and dynamic impasto style bringing the piece into three dimensions and almost a tactile as his pottery.
Monday, October 9, 2017
Illustrated is the foursome of covered jars that I made several weeks back, for better or for worse. After they were glazed and literally at the last moment I decided to put wadding between top and bottom which in the end saved three of the four pieces from becoming permanently fixed paper weights. I took small, snake like ribbons of wadding and put it at four spots on each of the pieces and it turned out that it was needed on three of the pots, the yellow iron sunset didn't show and hint of running but the Oribe and Ao+ certainly did as the thick, rich glaze rolls will attest. Considering these pieces were made as an after thought and as pieces of the puzzle in loading the kiln, I am pleased with the feedback from the surfaces and carving and they will make for almost any task that you can think up including, but not limited to candy dishes, a plus in my book.
Friday, October 6, 2017
I have been very fortunate to have seen a number of potters, both Western and Eastern make teabowl and in doing so also trim or cut a foot in to their pieces. I have been very surprised over the years that when watching potters make Japanese chawan or Japanese inspired teabowls, the approaches are very similar; the use of a single tool and the slow rotation on a banding wheel of sorts. I am certainly not saying that the methods are identical but it is usually only the subtle, attentive details that set apart potters and their feet from one another. Watching potters like Suzuki Goro, Tsujimura Shiro, Kohyama Yasuhisa, Matsuzaki Ken, Suzuki Osamu and others, the formula seems to be the same with just enough idiosyncratic input to differentiate the works of potters dedicated to making chawan. There are of course, exceptions, some extreme when watching potters like Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Kato Tsubusa cut their kodai, but all in all the basic purpose and qualities are necessary to complete the teabowls, so only the individual nuances seperate kodai from potter to potter. I don't want to give the impression that if you've seen one, you've seen them all as each potter creates a kodai from the blank canvas of his piece which is revealed through well practiced cuts, removing clay and blending the positive and negative space that best supports their vision of the chawan.The accompanying photo is of the kodai celadon specialist, Kato Tsubusa. Cut and almost hacked out of the porcelain he works with, this is one of the extremes in the dealing with a kodai. As you study the foot, it may look simple in the execution but I would suggest trying it before making any sound judgements. On second thought, best to try several thousand first.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
I am amazed sometimes that an act as simple as changing a lid on a pot can make a really impactful difference. Illustrated is two distinct views of a kofuku style mizusashi by Takahashi Samon; on the left with the ceramic lid and on the right with a custom made lacquer one, both creating a striking visual presentation, literally a mizusashi for every season or at least two season. The mizusashi is a classic surface by Takahashi and as you can see both lids compliment the piece in distinct ways, adding to the dramatic movement of the pot established by the crisp, twisted planes that rise from foot to mouth creating a sense of perpetual motion. The smoky, meandering patterns created in the slip, move along the twisting fields adding to the animation of the mizusashi and add a hint of mystery and contemplation making the piece that much more engaging. Adding to the visual appeal of the pot is the adventure that this pot undertook before arriving here, this is the pot that I recounted in a previous blog post entitled; ODDS AGAINST in which the package went missing and when it finally did arrive it looked as if it had been savaged at sea, crushed, mushed and soaking wet but the contents emerged safe and sound. This is one of those pieces that sticks in your mind not only for the wonderful conversationalist that it is but also for the perilous venture it braved like a ceramic version of Homer's ODYSSEY.
Monday, October 2, 2017
Illustrated is the foursome of covered jars that I made several weeks back. Ironically they came out of a bisque this morning and have now been glazed though I am unsured when they will be fired. I have two kiln loads of terra cotta pieces that have priority and am in the midst of glazing them and plan on loading the kiln this evening. The four stoneware jars have been glazed in Oribe, saffron iron and Ao+ along with a few temmoku and medieval green summer style teabowls. I have found that it is easier to glaze pots in smaller batches as I don't end up rushing and making mistakes as well as some bad decisions. I am hoping to get my stoneware and porcelain pieces glazed and fired sometime next week and will post up a few of the jars once fired provided they survive the whole adventure.
A perfect foursome;
Friday, September 29, 2017
I am sure that I am not alone in my love of a rather ubiquitous auction site that from time to time yields little treasures or more aptly put, object which collectors value more than the seller or fellow collectors. The illustrated little kogo is one such prize, a simple Ki-Seto kogo by Toyoba Seiya that is about as timeless and classic in form and function as they come reminding me of a wet, moss covered stepping stone leading one to a tea house or a small shrine well off the beaten path. Toyoba studied with Arakawa Toyozo which is rather apparent looking at this kogo with a glaze that is wet in appearance and has a depth that still allows the clay to speak which is highlighted by the dark, rich crinkled texture that frames the top of the piece. Having learned well from his master, Toyoba tends to create pots that are in no way fussy or contrived, most have a certain simplicity to the lines and concept of the form with glazes that compliment the pots to near perfection. Perhaps the one characteristic of this kogo that I enjoy beyond the form and feudal surface is the casual way both clay and glaze was handled with a single fingerprint to both punctuate the overall presentation of the piece but to also act as an ad-hoc marker to instruct the viewer/user how and where the halves line up. Does it get any more extemporaneous than this?
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Anyone that has been to the studio of Tsujimura Shiro is probably most shocked at the sheer number of pots stacked up on the ground about his property, from large tsubo to tokkuri and guinomi with every imaginable pot in between. Such was the case for this mizusashi, half buried in earth and grass and with the lid still stuck on the piece from the firing, a collector decided on this pot for his purchase as the color and form of the lid, mouth and lugs called out, "I am the one". Once retreived and clean, the medieval, rustic attributes of the Iga water jar were on full display exuding a strength and fundamental qualities of an ideal Tsujimura pot. The pot was well wrapped though without a box which would have taken two weeks to provide, but the new owner was more than pleased with his pottery and the experience where his new pot was taken from the ground as was the original material, dug and processed out of the earth to become a pot guided by the hands of Tsujimura Shiro.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Though I have a large table adjacent to my wheel to work on, I always seem to migrate to the wheel to do an handbuilding, altering, assembly, etc. When I am handbuilding, I have a old piece of Formica that I place over my splash guard to act as a work station and in the case of attaching knobs, handles or lugs as well as carving, I put a banding wheel on top of the wheel head and get to work. In this particular case, I needed to get the pot closer to eye level so once the bands were carved on the spinning wheel head I set about building a totem that gets me as close to the pot as possible for both the right angle and attitude of carving but for the right lighting and field of vision as well. Behind my wheel I have a clip on lamp with a 100watt bulb that helps illuminate the workspace and I must admit, after making pots for so long, I just feel comfortable and perhaps a bit more at home on the wheel as I do anywhere else in the studio.
Friday, September 22, 2017
This particular guinomi is one of those small gems that make it easy to understand not only the love of saké but of guinomi, salt firing, wood firing and the work of Ningen Kokuho, Shimaoka Tatsuzo. Though diminutive in scale, the is nothing small in the execution, design and firing of this guinomi having all of the bells and whistles a viewer or collector would want from the potter. From form, purposeful and well cut foot, impressed rope decoration and a mixed, misty infusion of cobalt from the salt and ash from the wood firing, everything comes together to paint a portrait of a perfect Shimaoka piece. All that is left is to get out a truly wonderful bottle of bourbon (or saké) and revel in "how sweet it is".
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Over the years I have received and shipped a number of packages, far too many to count or even remember at this point but ever now and again a package arrives and it is the packing as much as the contents that is quite memorable. The picture shows just why the packing struck a cord; the teabowl was exceptionally well packed within and without of the wood box and then using boxes that were certainly on the large size for the small tabi-chawan, each was perfectly packed with peanuts full to the top so that everything was as tight as could be. When I received the pristine package I knew immediately the packing was undertaken with absolute consideration that the pot would arrive intact even if dropped out of a plane at 30,000 feet. Because of the appearance of the box I knew to document the unpacking and left the package just as you see it so that I would have a record of a packing job that merits an A+ if not higher. Though I might not use boxes quite as big to cut down on the expense, there is a new standard. I thought I would mention, the tabi-chawan is by Koyama Naohiko and having had the chance to handle it for a couple of days I will put together a video slideshow of the pot in the near future.
(I apologize if it seems like I am a bit too excited about packing but over the 30+ years of collecting the number of damaged pieces I have received or have heard about makes really sound packing almost as important as the pottery itself.)