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.)

Monday, September 18, 2017


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

Friday, September 15, 2017


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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


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

Monday, September 11, 2017


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

Friday, September 8, 2017


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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


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

Monday, September 4, 2017


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

Friday, September 1, 2017


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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


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

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

Monday, August 28, 2017


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

Friday, August 25, 2017


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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


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

Monday, August 21, 2017


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

Friday, August 18, 2017


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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


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

Monday, August 14, 2017


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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017


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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


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