Monday, February 27, 2017


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

Friday, February 24, 2017


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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


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

Monday, February 20, 2017


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

Friday, February 17, 2017


When I was first looked at this detail shot of a large Tsukigata Nahiko tsubo, I was reminded of some of the famous and intricate medieval glassware of Venini or Murano. The complexity of these glaze runs is dramatic and evocative composed of numerous layers and feathering that happen entirely by sheer luck tempered by years of experience to recreate these uncontrollable effects. As the natural ash builds up on the upper portion of the pot in time it becomes molten glass and begins its voyage down the pot picking up traces of feldspar, iron and calcium painting the pathways into mysterious rivers of texture and reflection. I am constantly asked, what exactly is my fascination with the work of Tsukigata and since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll just use this photo in the future.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


One of the things that I am not sure I have mentioned before is that I normally hold on to glaze tests that have seemingly failed and recycle them to test in combination with either new test glazes or ones that I am currently using. Such is the case for this small guinomi that I fired recently which was glazed in my most current incarnation of Oribe over which I used a thinned down version of a manganese dioxide/cobalt carbonate formula that when tested on its own came out a rather dark, oppressive and very dry  that was not overly attractive. About a month later I was back at making up a batch of test glazes and decided to try the MDCC glaze test over my current Oribe, temmoku, clear and saffron glazes to see what would happen and these are the results where it had some sucess. The surface has taken on a whole new look with areas of the Oribe green brightly highlighted between areas of droozy black tendrils and recessed areas creating dark pools. If you look closely at the foot you can see where the overglaze has run down the from and is just a micron or so away from running off the pot adding yet another dimension to this already versatile Oribe glaze. Though I am not overly fond of glazing, I love the Christmas effect when I make up and fire test glazes, each one different, unique and surprising making for a process I just never tire of.

Monday, February 13, 2017


There is a magnificent old Ko-Iga mizusashi form that I really love, it is solid, purposeful and has the appearance of a warrior at the ready. I have always admired that piece and its form so when a modern piece based on that pot with a rather nice Oribe glaze, my wife and I decided it would make for a nice Xmas gift for each other. We had originally decided on a different pot as our gift but when that fell through and this piece showed up with a bargain of a price, we thought it would be a good fit. Made by Oribe specialist, Nishioka Yu, this mizusashi blends the old Iga form with his old take on Oribe making for a rather sturdy and appealing pot. I put together a short video slideshow of the piece that should fill in some of the blanks and give a fuller impression of the mizusashi, I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Over the years, I have been asked if it is possible to make pots that went with the decorating scheme in a house or apartment. In some cases I was asked if I could match the drapes or upholstery of a couch or chairs and in one odd moment, I was even asked if I could match a set of serving pieces to their dog! The answer to that specific request was that I could not, I would not match their dog. In the case of my "Its Still Life" pieces, I have painted in wallpaper, tables, curtains/drapes and dinnerware that matched with the customers environment and have even made dinnerware to match the dinnerware painted in the pieces, a set of cups from this set was posted on my blog some time back.
Recently, I was asked if I could make a pieces for some dinnerware that matched a surface that I was shown. At first I was rather intimidated as it is a surface that I have never even tried to create and was honestly at a loss as to how to start. I told the customers that I needed to think about it and then came up with a plan which included initial testing before the finished testing could begin. The first step seems to have gone off okay and now I have made up several additional tests which need to be fired. The test rings are triple glazed with the first layer dipped, the second layer brushed on and the third layer was sprayed on using my handy-dandy lung powered glaze sprayer (glaze atomizer). I am waiting to fire these rings in my next firing to get the best and most accurate result in a fully packed kiln, I guess I am back to playing the waiting game.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


There is a wonderful old maxim; "anything worth doing is worth doing well" and certainly this video typifies a dedication to that ideal, taking absolutely no shortcuts in acheiving that end. There is really little else I can say about this video short of how amazing it is that there are still people willing to do things exactly the right way, through great effort and labor to get the pricise outcome that they originally conceived of. This video is just such an effort.

Monday, February 6, 2017


As if  cradled and suspended by a lotus blossom (nelumbo nucifera), this hakuji chawan is by Kawai Hisashi, a student of Kawai Kanjiro during the 1960s. Heavily carved out of blended Shigaraki clay, the lotus blossom design is in high relief and is a pleasure in the hand and the white glaze coats the bowl in a flowing surface while breaking to a clear accentuating the brown lines of the carved surface. Kawai Hisashi is quite well known for his high relief surface created for his molded works and for his thrown and hand carved pieces as well, many of which use his distinctive take on his master's gosu surface. The more I look at this chawan, the more I see the contemplative, almost spiritual side of the piece, embodying the Buddhist concepts of spiritual awakening and purity, both of which I think are reflected in the form and aesthetics of this simple bowl.

"Your heart is filled with fertile seeds, waiting to sprout. Just as a lotus flower springs from the mire to bloom splendidly, the interaction of the cosmic breath causes the flower of the spirit to bloom and bear fruit in this world."  Morihei Ueshiba

Friday, February 3, 2017


Stop me if you have heard this one before, a bellied cylinder is thrown out of porcelain, over a foot tall, then is carefully manipulated creating intersecting plains which are all covered over in a thin coat of white slip and combed to accentuate each surface, well it sounds simple enough on paper. Having had the opportunity to study this piece it is painfully obvious that the potter, Kakutani Hideaki (b.1945) is quite skilled at altering and moving porcelain as each intersecting plain is defined from the interior and I suspect from the exterior prior to having the slip applied. This all making for a rather intriguing vessel with a wonderful array of textures and a beautiful soft blue seihakuji landscape all stemming from an uncomplicated cylinder. Kakutani Hideaki, whose father was Ningen Kokuho for his iron tea kettles, Kakutani Ikkei (Tatsujiro) went on to  study with Kondo Yuzo and Kiyomizu Rokubei VI before setting up his own studio in 1975 and was awarded the Cultural Merit Award from Mie Prefecture for his dedication and preservation of his art form. Born into a household where craft was highly valued and its place in life well understood, Kakutani's work speak of a desire to create functional objects while being ever considerate of the beauty and atmosphere that craft presents to viewer and user alike.
"Strong reasons make strong actions." Wm. Shakespeare (King John)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I really like the contradictions in this colorful Oni(no)Kanabo painting by Sato Katsuhiko. The image portrayed is known as an Oni with an iron club which has come to mean a variety of things from ultimate resolve and determination to herculean strength however the oni portrayed doesn't exactly give one the sense of unwavering power and resolve rather he has a look of being a bit undecided and even a bit unsure of himself. It may just be how I perceive the semi-comical nature of this oni based a bit on folk painting and even Otsu-e but Sato has a sly wit and it shows in his painting and even his pottery and their decoration so I am going with the intended contradiction of image and action. At any rate it is a thoroughly enjoyable and vivid image brushed in a quick and bold style that is sure to get your attention. Though it is a bit premature, all I can think to say is; "Oni go out, blessings come in" (Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! 鬼は外!福は内!") as Setsubun is right around the corner.