Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Illustrated is a detail shot of the inside of a medieval green and temmoku pasta bowl about 14" of so in diameter. Sometimes as I am going through a cycle, I rush by the past in a hurry and forget about surfaces that are tried and true and compliment what I am doing at the moment and this glaze combination never, or rarely fails me. I thought this detail shot really shows what the glaze looks like and allows the faux oil spotting to stand out rather clearly against the mottled, tortoise style texture of the medieval green glaze with its floating spots of iron balanced against the design. Considering both of these glazes started from nothing except what little I have learned about making glazes over the years, I am pleased with the depth and texture they both present and am happy with the variety that is compounded under varying light sources. Though this is not an Oribe glaze, I am reminded about a quote that I read in which the author/potter mentioned; "why would I need anything but green, the possibilities are endless".

Monday, May 29, 2017


"In the world it is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich." Henry Ward Beecher

Friday, May 26, 2017


I have written about Konishi Heinai II previously who is known for his rather idiosyncratic Shigaraki and Raku wares of which this chawan is a classic and dynamic example. Though Konishi was not part of the Raku family tradition and rarely identified his pieces as such, this evocative chawan was produced using the nearly four century old Raku process where a pot is glazed and then plucked out of the kiln at a fairly low temperature. The rather interesting thing about Heinai's works is that since he is not bound by any strict convention and spent time with another "unconventional" potter, Kawakita Handeishi, his pots have a uniqueness and individuality about them that certainly makes his pots stand out among other chadogu makers. Though well known for what one would or could classify as aka-raku and kuro-raku, it is his less conventional Raku pieces that have quite a bit to say and even more to contemplate as these pieces display a vision intent on its own voice. This particular surface paints an alluring landscape that reminds me of a combination of the Taisho-Showa Nihonga painters infused with a strong dose of the 20th century abstract expressionists, a blend that works well to compliment the rather sturdy and purposeful form. Over the years I have handled and seen a number of Raku (and Shigaraki) pieces by Konishi Heinai II and I am never disappointed with the imaginative, lustrous and thought provoking surfaces that he has plied to his three dimensional canvases.
"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."  Matsuo Basho  (1644-1694)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Sloop; Dutch- sloep, a sailing boat with a single mast and a fore-and-aft rig

Growing up I was always fascinated by the age of the sail and great wooden sailing ships, large and small and took every opportunity to watch all of the classic swashbuckler movies with Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power and many others. Luckily I grew up on Lake Champlain the site of the great Revolutionary War Battle Of Valcour Island and a lake filled with every type of boat you could imagine including fast and sleek sloops populated the water. Later on I spent a decade in Cleveland and Lake Erie and then again in Guilford, CT on the Long Island Sound a gateway to the Atlantic and lots of boats, many powered solely by sail. The point I am trying to get to is that having indirectly been around boats for a good portion of my life and fascinated by great sea battles building pots based on the posture of these vessels only seemed natural.

Over time I have made a number of teapots that were very influenced on sailing vessels from the battleships of WW1 (the Jutland T-pots) to thrown and altered pieces like this piece that borrowed heavily from sloops I saw as a kid and teen and this piece is fully functional and holds enough for two generous cups of tea or what have you. Thrown as a cylinder without top or bottom, the piece was pushed oval and then cut, darted and reassembled into the current form you see here being careful not to disturb the galley where the lid would fit. Once firm enough, I humped the lid upside down on the galley, dried it a bit and cut it to fit adding a pulled handle to appear like a banner flowing in the wind. I decided to put together this short video slideshow to help give a fuller account of the proportions and lines of this teapot and hope it helps.

Still surf rockin' after four decades;

Monday, May 22, 2017


Composed of what appears to be three distinct components, this rich gosu hakeme henko was made by Mukunoki Eizo using a construction technique and surface decoration he learned from his master Kawai Kanjiro. The interesting thing about this particular henko form is that the middle and top components  are made in one mold and the bottom in another, this has afforded Mukunoki the ability to create a number of forms using several separate molds and assembling them in various ways. The last two pieces of this type that I saw, the first was glazed in a rich temmoku  with splashes of tessha and the henko was only the middle and top components and the other had a split, notched foot pedestal as the bottom of the piece which was glazed in a shinsha copper red over some slip trailing around the large central portion of the pot. This henko has been decorated in a thick coat of white slip, hakeme style around the entire surface that once glazed in his own version of the Kawai-den gosu creates a rather active and captivating landscape. It may sound a bit simplistic but how can you go wrong with white slip and a Kawai school gosu?
"The aspect of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity."   Ludwig Wittgenstein ( 1889-1951)

Friday, May 19, 2017


A short while back I had a collector send me a Shigaraki chaire by Kanzaki Shiho and by sheer coincidence a kogo  arrived the very next day also by him. The Shigaraki kogo is quite earthy and has a nice rustic appeal perfect for use in the tea ceremony or with ro or furo for other purposes. The top and some of the sides of the kogo has a nice blanket of ash while the rest has a rich fire color off set by marks made to animate the piece as well as to help establish the proper orientation of the lid to the base. The interior has a pink to reddish blush as does the base where it is prominently marked with the potters signature. Kanzaki Shiho is known for his dramatic, ten day long firings in his anagama wood kiln and this kogo shows some of the effects that his firings have to offer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


I threw a group of test bowls for my last firing, some were slipped and others were impressed with a texture pattern around the bowl. I have been working on figuring out how my current Oribe surface reacts with glazes and washes put over the surface of which this teabowl is one of the results. Using a heavily textured piece it was first glazed in the Oribe and then had a wash of iron painted on the surface, once dry it was then lightly sprayed with "drifting iron" concoction using a glaze atomizer. The results are a bit difficult to see in the photo though I tried to light up the surface as bright as possible but it is hard to see the metallic sheen and droozy quality that the overglaze had on the piece. The surface runs from the bright green of the Oribe to areas of rich dark black suffused with reddish iron areas and hints of metallic grey and deep burgundy brown areas under the right light which you can catch a glimpse of around the lip. In truth, I got much more than I bargained for or expected and think these tests are worth the time, clay and energy it takes to work them out. I am not sure what the next course of action will be but since there is so many more possibilities; another cycle, another group of tests.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Though there are no flowers in this vase, its purpose is clear, this well fired pot was created to hang. Made by Hori Ichiro, this Ki-Seto kake-ire was boldly and  traditionally wood fired and has a wonderful landscape effected by the ash and flame of the kiln giving it a dramatic feudal presence. The rich variations in the surface together with the direct form, spatula work and wonky mouth all come together to create a great little piece that is both elemental and timeless. Through a masterful use of Ki-Seto, Seto-Guro and Shino a portrait of a potter in absolute harmony with his clay, glazes and kiln(s) is displayed together with a powerful command of Momoyama and modern elements fused together in the works of a Mino potter, Hori Ichiro.

Friday, May 12, 2017


When I have discussions with people in person or by email that know very little about Japan, there are several cultural attributes that most everyone is aware of; sushi, kimono, Mount Fuji, chrysanthemums, Samurai/Ninja and bamboo. In fact, bamboo is one of the stalwart designs and decorations of Japan going back to even Neolithic times and in later times was part of what the Chinese and Japanese literati referred to as the Four Gentleman or the Four Noble Ones; the plum blossom. the orchid, the chrysanthemum and bamboo. To see how intertwined and developed the bamboo motif is you have to look no further than the illustrated futamono, covered box form by Oda Aya (b.1947). Decorated in a Rimpa influenced style the box form acts as canvas to multiple layers of overglazes and firings to create a surfaces which married visual and tactile textures with a shimmery copper background highlighting the surface. Oda Aya lives and works in Shiga prefecture and his work is typically decorated with naturalistic motifs such as seashells, cats, flowers of various types, bamboo, etc. of which this box, Bamboo Grive is an excellent example.  His work has been juried into numerous Nihon Kogie Kai Exhibitions over the years and he won the International Color Painting Gold medal in 1997 and the prestigious Grand Prize Excellence Award in 2012 for his tea ceramics. Oda has been collected by numerous private and public collections including the Ueno Royal Museum, the Miho Museum and museums in France and the United States. This classic box by Oda is a wonderful example of his work which is not particularly well known outside of Japan but it is a wonderful blend of the art of Rimpa, modern Japanese pottery and a design element which is readily identified as one of the iconic symbols of Japan.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I enjoy a pot that comes out and declares that its intention is to be contrary and in this case, the surface and gravity defying ash run is just that. This very well fired vase is by Kaneshige Yuho (b.1950) and the running brown glassy ash cuts across the surface horizontally while helping to define the vertical form finished off with two lugs at what would be the shoulder of the pot. Fired in a Bizen noborigama, the pot has a variety of effects from tamadare, goma and hiiro showing off much of what one expects from Bizen-yaki with a form that is common to Kaneshige Yuho. Born the third son of one of the pre-eminent chadogu makers of the 20th century, Kaneshige Sozan, Yuho first studied sculpture at Musashino Art University (Tokyo) before studying under his father and becoming and independant potter in 1980. Kaneshige Yuho is published and widely exhibited through out Japan and abroad having had a major three person show along with Kakurezaki Ryuichi and Kawase Shinobu in 2001. Though this vase shows the hand of the potter it is clearly guided by the surrounding influences of the Kaneshige family and over 400 years of Bizen tradition.

Monday, May 8, 2017


Illustrated is a tall yet very thin stoneware teapot that I made and despite its lack of width, it is still very functional. Decorated using my ishime-ji, stone texture technique, I created a space that created a framework around an inlaid decoration that I hope helps define the form and purpose of the pot. The ripple effect design was cut in to the surface using a piece of sharpened bamboo and later was inlaid in a white slip which vitrifies to create the contrast to the background. Despite my constant grumbling in reference to hand building, I like making these tall and narrow façade forms, they present a number of construction problems as well as a great surface to explore. I have made these forms in nearly every clay I have worked with except Egyptian paste and the Ocmulgee River fire clay I used to wood fire with Kirk Mangus though I have yet to wood fire one of these forms. I suspect that if I ever get a chance to put one of these pieces in a wood kiln, I will have to rethink how they are built as currently they are being fired in gas or electric and I tend to make them as light as possible so I would have to go with a thicker slab than I am used to. What ever the case, despite my real love in throwing it is abundantly clear, sometimes the only way to get where you want to go is to embrace the process that best suits the mind's eye.

Friday, May 5, 2017


When you think of the larger pottery studios across Japan the constant hum and bustle of the master, apprentices and other various works brings to life the pottery of every day use throughout the country. These big potteries produce functional and utilitarian ware in every conceivable shape, size and surface from Bizen, Oribe, Shino, Shigaraki and of course Mashiko to name but a few. Illustrated is what is arguably the definitive kyusu style teapot direct for Mashiko and the studio of the late master, Shimaoka Tatsuzo. Created with pure function and elemental aesthetics in mind, this style of teapot is a pleasure to use and contemplate while enjoying one's tea. The angles of the comfortable handle and well constructed spout are perfect for the task and the lid sits just deeply enough in the galley to stay put while the classic Shimaoka surface adds more to the experience than just the simple act of pouring tea. Though based on a number of archetypes that proceeded it, this teapot is a quintessential staple of the Shimaoka pottery and all those apprentices who came and went over the decades of such considered and thoughtful design and production.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


There is a quiet and grace to celadon which is not lost on potters who makes pieces that are best suited with seiji glazes; simple and streamlined forms with accents only where called for. Starting life as a thrown round bowl form and then ovaled, this seiji mizusashi has a beautiful, cracked, double refractive surface which clings to the thoughtfully thrown vessel where the slight undulations to the pot are accentuated by the surface. The mizusashi is then completed with a custom made black lacquer lid which compliments the form to the fullest creating an eye catching work that takes decades of experience to carry off.
This functional and simple tea piece was made by Kyoto native Kimura Nobuyuki (b.1965) who studied with his father, Kimura Morinobu one of the Kimura San- Mori; Kimura Morikazu, Moriyasu and Morinobu. Nobuyuki set up his own pottery studio/kiln in Shiga prefecture in 1992 and has had a rather busy career winning numerous awards with frequent exhibitions through out Japan. His work is predominantly seiji pottery with a variety of glazes that run from light elegant blues, rich greens, yellows and even pinkish lavender pieces all the while keeping in mind what forms are best for this deceptively simple glaze with a dash of complexity thrown in to keep the potter on their toes.

Monday, May 1, 2017


I made this large or more correctly defined, long oval baker some time ago and recently came across the image. At the time that I made this I was doing some tape and newspaper resist to create designs and decoration and this particular pattern came to be called "wavelength". I am not sure where the name exactly came from but it does seem to suit the undulating design which I think works fairly well on this baker which was at least 20" long though I seem to remember longer. I made several of these at once, working in series using a variety of designs/decorations that would work well on the elongated forms and accentuate that length. I know it will sound odd but this original abstrakt background came from an old western in which a scene at dusk showed this wonderful muted Technicolor skyline, it may have been John Ford's; SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON. It never ceases to surprise me how thinks make there way into my clay from years of being saturated by television and movies, countless books read, museums visited, pots seen and handled and I would like to think that how I assemble all of these small building blocks, the work is distinctly my own.