Friday, March 31, 2017


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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


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

Monday, March 27, 2017


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

Friday, March 24, 2017


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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


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

Monday, March 20, 2017


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

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

Friday, March 17, 2017


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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


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

Monday, March 13, 2017


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

Friday, March 10, 2017


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

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


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

Monday, March 6, 2017


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

Friday, March 3, 2017


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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


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

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