I received this photo the other day showing another one of my pots, hard at work at home in Cleveland. This black and white slip jar was made quite some time ago and is flanked by tomatoes and pears while holding its mysterious contents. I have made a lot of jars, jar sets and canisters like this pot with simple white trailed decoration over the deep black slip that I use and in fact it seems like I may have made more slipware then anything else while living in Cleveland at a time when black and white seemed to be at a zenith of its popularity for decorating and accenting the home. The truth is my original foray into slipware was using the black and white slip with non-traditional decoration under amber, burgundy and a green glaze until I decided to make up the base recipe without any colorants and so this slipware began way back when. I suspect there is a lot of this slipware out and about in Cleveland as prior to moving away, I sold about 85% of my pots right out of the studio on Hillbrook in University Heights and at a few Ohio Galleries, including The American Craft Gallery and Gordon Beale & Frank Gallery both down on Larchmere Blvd. It is always rewarding to see old pots in use and hear from satisfied customers who continue to use my pottery day in and day out.
Friday, January 27, 2017
A fellow collector or rather someone who is buying pots to use, sent these two photos which I assembled to give both views of the vase. The pot is an all naturally fired Echizan hanaire by Kumano Kuroemon, the type he puts in his blast furnace kiln without any glaze and as you can tell what is visible is the rich purple surface of the pot with areas of running ash, rushing to the bottom as the piece was fired together with an array of wad scars adding to the rustic and powerful landscape. The pot stand guard in front of wind swept pine scroll waiting for the ume blossoms to bloom come spring to fulfill the purpose of this vase. There is another factor to this vase as it was selected by Kumano to appear in the TOH #88 dedicated to his work (and vision) as a potter attesting to the fondness and regard he must have had for this pot. I think it is safe to say that with or without the vivid blossoms, this vase is more than enough to get you through the winter months with something to have a pleasant fireside chat with.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
A short while back, I made two covered jars each with two lids to possibly perform two specific or different functions and wrote a post about it entitled; PLANS CHANGE. The two pieces came out of the kiln this weekend and after photographing them I decided to build a short video slideshow to give a perspective of the pieces in the round or as close to it as possible, each also shown with their extra lid which allows them to act as koro or incense burners. I think that in the photos you can get a sense of the texture created by the rich glaze and slip and the varying effects of this incarnation of my Oribe glaze. With the pieces I went with a rather crisp, almost formal form down to the tapered foot with cut notches meant to echo the form of the body though in reverse. One close up in particular shows a rather wet, gravity defying roll of glaze that is highlighted by the light source and gives off a glint of the iridescence that copper glazes are capable of. Considering neither was planned and happened solely because I wedged up too much clay, I think I have found a new form to fill those tight spots between their bigger brethren.
Monday, January 23, 2017
Though Shakespeare's line is; "all that glisters (glitters) is not gold", at least in this case it is, superficially. Though not quite like the Maltese falcon, this small sculpture by Tsukigata Nahiko is in fact bronze with a gilding of pure gold over making for a rather opulent and rich looking little piece. Portraying a small shishi balanced and perhaps preforming atop a ball this sculpture is not highly detail, though creatively sculpted to bring the mythical lion dog to life in which you can sense the tension of his balancing act written across its facial expression. The ball is signed by Tsukigata with his Nahiko in English and his engraved mei signature leaving no doubt as to the creator. I have seen a number of bronzes by Tsukigata and have to admit his portrayals of shishi in a variety of poses and purposes, including as a koro, never cease to bring a smile to my face.
"Gold's father is dirt, yet it regards itself as noble." An old proverb
Friday, January 20, 2017
As I have mentioned before, over the years I have come to think of Kimura Ichiro and his work as quintessential Mashiko-yaki from it simple execution, design and glazing to its folksy, utilitarian practicality even when it comes for articles intended for tea ceremony. The posted illustration comes from an old catalogue of Kimura's work and illustrates the honesty and range of his pottery and even though this pot is intended as a mizusashi, it is easy to picture it in an multiplicity of uses from rice storage to holding your cat (or dog) treats. I am impressed by the simplicity of the form made all the more interesting by the crackle glaze that reminds me of eggshell impressed lacquer decoration that has been around for centuries. The surface on these pots is enjoyably tactile with recesses creating fissures which in turn create the wonderful visual landscape of the pot. After you study this pot for a while it is easy to see the influences of his master, Hamada Shoji from the effortless practicality and simplicity of the form to the easy to use classic style knob set a top the recessed lid. The raised bands around the form and mouth of the pot look very much like they are holding the pot together and keeping the volume of the interior from expanding any further; with all of these visual and tactile cues I think there is little else that could have been done to make such a simple mizusashi so thoughtfully interesting.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
I was lucky enough to handle and study this wonderful E-Shino chawan by Hayashi Shotaro back in 2012 at which time I took quite a few photos of the piece. As time went on and I was making slideshow videos of pieces I have handled, I made one for this Hayashi chawan and then somehow forgot about it but while cleaning up the computer recently I found this video and several others that I thought I would share from this group of lost and found videos. As for the chawan itself, it was quite large, very powerful and one of the finest I had seen as attested by the fact that it was part of an exhibition that the potter had back in 2011 (?). In my opinion it is one of those near perfect chawan that fits well in the hand and every detail is just right without a single element being out of sorts or asking for a slight correction. I hope the video coveys the chawan to its absolute best and wonder if you will agree with Hayashi's pick to include it in a major exhibition. Enjoy!
Monday, January 16, 2017
I found an old photo of one of my winged covered serving pieces with a large spiral knob recently and the time spent making it and others flooded back as if made yesterday. This one is thrown out of stoneware with a notch cut foot , glazed in Shino and then fired at PSUC while working with Bill Klock sometime in the late 1990s while I was living in Cleveland. This photo came from a bunch of negatives I recently converted to digital images and the platter was made along with maybe 50 or so pots that were intended for the reduction glaze firing at Plattsburgh State or for Bill's wood kiln and in this case, the piece was dusted with a thin coat of ash prior to firing to enhance the effects. I miss those days of going back to work with Bill at the university and to his studio on the old Jersey Swamp Road, making pots, firing kilns and tending the fire while talking about his time with Bernard Leach and visits to see Michael Cardew. It is amazing that a simple photo can spark a number of memories that are held within, well beyond the image captured.
Friday, January 13, 2017
I put this short video slideshow together to try to capture the presence, attitude and intention of this Shigaraki chawan by master potter, Otani Shiro. Though clearly a very visually pleasing chawan, from my perspective this chawan is all about purpose, the function it was created for, tea. The bowl fits well in the hand, the mouth is smooth and unincumbered by debris, the pool is smooth and wisk friendly and the weight of the piece is just about perfect. The manner in which the bowl was thrown and ever so slightly manipulated to create the soft, rolling lip, curved exterior and the smooth ash covered interior calls to the viewer, an invitation to use. I am not trying to paint this bowl as the perfect chawan, rather it was created using adegree of resolve, broad knowledge of the chanoyu and the utility of an everyday pot; it was crafted with experienced direction and in doing so a rather lyrical bowl was made.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Looking like it was painted and made during the time of the great Rimpa painters, Ogata Korin and Kenzan or Sakai Hoitsu and Suzuki Kiitsu, this thoroughly modern molded piece was made by Ningen Kokuho, Arakawa Toyozo. Having the feel and appearance of some old Kyo-yaki this pot was painted with little more than white and black pigment on a blushed earth toned clay and then covered over in a thin and highly effective clear glaze to create an object that is truly timeless and certainly difficult to pinpoint or attribute to an particular artist/potter. Arakawa suceeded at making the various styles that he worked in to his own identifiable vocabulary and is well known for his underglazed and overglazed pots that add to his body of Shino, Seto-guro, Ki-seto and Kohiki wares. I am never disappointed by what Arakawa's pots have to say and each and every one has a story, a narrative about form, surface, purpose and aesthetics that go to the very core of pottery making and using and place his pottery among some of the finest ever made.
"Of the time, but timeless" Eero Saarinen
Monday, January 9, 2017
Back when I first started making pots I would work with ash glazes until my fingers were red, split and sore from the caustic nature of the material, same goes with iron glazes in which my hands and forearms were covered in a rash from the glaze. Within a short time all that folly came to an abrupt halt as I delved into the nature of the materials I was using and how to properly work with them and insure my safety and the safety of the potential user. Since I started making pots a number of materials have been reclassified and their safety questioned and guidelines established for percentage of use in glazes for these materials as well as creating a eutectic where the glaze melt is met and all the materials are in suspension, trapped within a solid. There are exceptions to what materials I will use and among those I will not and never have gone near are materials like various leads, uranium and several others but the most important thing about making pots is understanding the risk, reward and safety of what you work with. I always come from the viewpoint that ever material I use has some potential risk from the inhalation of particulate matter to heavy metal oxides that are best not absorbed by the body.
I assumed it went without saying that before you try anything, especially that you read off of a blog or a random page with a glaze formula that you investigate the nature of each constituent and understand how to properly handle the material. Since way back in my Old West approach to making and testing glazes, I have created a series of steps that are meant to ensure my safety and (yours) the user of my pots including not using materials that are deemed harmful on the food contact surfaces of pots, casting aside certain materials where the jury is still out on their safety and for myself, I always use an approved respirator, never a paper mask and wear latex gloves and sleeve protectors when using glazes that are not friendly in their liquid state (manganese and iron glazes spring to mind). All this being said, the bulk of my glazes/slips are made using pretty innocuous stuff like ball clay, feldspar, kaolin, whiting, neph sy, red art and gerstley borate with the additions of iron oxide, copper and cobalt. It is always best to err on the side of caution to keep you and your customers 100% safe and bear in mind, just because you read that someone else is willing to make use of specific materials doesn't mean that you should. Do your homework.
As another pottery observation, while looking at this stack of over a ton of materials isn't amazing that what ever you are ever looking for is inevitably at the bottom back of the pile. How does this always happen is it a law of physics?
Friday, January 6, 2017
Every pot has its nuances and subtleties but seeing them without the pot in hand can be a major obstacle and this is one of the reasons I have been posting the slideshow videos I make from time to time. For some pieces, even when the pot is right in front of you, those subtleties are masked in shadow and the wrong lighting but thanks to our friend the Sun, occasionally the attributes that bring a piece to life are plain to see. I received this Bizen vase a few weeks back to ID for a collector and after taking quite a few well lit shots, I set the pot over on a shelf to wait for the inevitable light show that happens in the later afternoon and wasn't disappointed. As you can see in the photo a wide array of hi-iro flashes and subtleties are brought out with the sunlight and the vase is painted in a number of colors and tones making for a rather attractive canvas. Made by the later Bizen potter, Masamune Satoru when this pot first arrived and was on a different shelf, my wife referred to it as the hidden vase as it was in a poorly illuminated spot in the house and was like searching for a form in the darkness. I took enough pictures to put together a slideshow video which I will post at some point in the not too distant future.
"Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions, nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous." Leonardo da Vinci
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Recently my wife received an email with the attached photo of a lip bowl that I had made some time back. This bowl was made as a small family use bowl, thrown out of stoneware, altered just a bit, than stamp impressed on the four sides and glazed in my temmoku and medieval green glazes. I am always pleased to see my pots, or any handmade pots in use, completing the purpose of the piece. While I will say I have never been in a hurry to use chawan that I have collected, my pottery is meant to be strictly functional objects and if in the process, someone considers them attractive and decorative that is fine by me. What I have concluded over the years is that there is nothing more comforting, satisfying even than a table set in thoughtfully and well crafted handmade pottery and hopefully you agree as well.
(Photo provided by R&K M.)
Monday, January 2, 2017
A short while ago my wife went ahead and bought a pot for herself, she fell in love with the piece despite the less than flattering photos which was certainly offset by the very appealing price. I partially mention this as it is rather rare that she initiates a purchase and because when it arrived, though poorly packed but safe and sound, it was a much better and enhanced version of itself. We were rather shocked at just how much better the piece was in person, it was literally night and day and I wonder if it had been photographed better if we would have gotten it at all. I built a short video slideshow of the platinum and gold overglaze painted Rimpa futamono (covered piece) made by Yasuda Michio (b.1949), student of Banura Shiro, Rimpa and Ido chawan specialist. I hope this conveys the atmosphere as well as the aesthetics of this piece, enjoy.