Friday, June 30, 2017


perspective; pər-ˈspek-tiv, the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
Every now and again my wife will look at a pot up on my blog and tell me that I need to add something to help define the size and volume of a pot. On eBay I have seen pop cans, cigarette lighters and packs, dollar bills and a host of other daily objects but I just don't find my way to using these objects, I would rather let the photo imply the size and let the viewer work out the mental math and imagery. In my years of making pots, loading kilns and making commissions I think I have become rather adept at understanding volume in the abstract until every once and a while a pot will show up that just defies the actual dimensions and the scale and volume catch me off guard.
Illustrated is a pot, well actually two pots that arrived here within a few days of each other by sheer happenstance and an example of not being fully prepared for the size of a piece. What you are looking at is a good size Shino chawan over 13cm across by Matsuzaki Ken inside a rather large Shino O-tsubo by the same potter which I thought may illustrate the point of perspective. The chawan was carefully placed inside the o-tsubo which are both glazed in the same fashion, a thin coat of Shino with a much thick, viscous layer of Shino being applied with the potter's hand and raked and in the doing leaving swaths of almost pure white in his wake. The two pots from different sources were both wood fired and have areas of various other effects across the surface including rich, iridescent yohen and ash dusted about the surfaces and interior of the chawan. The other interesting thing about these pieces is that both of them were bought out of exhibitions in Japan and are both illustrated in the accompanying catalogues. Maybe my wife is right, sometimes using the right object to show scale and volume is exactly what is called for.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


When I first tried my hand at majolica glazes back in the very early 90s  I spent some time at the library where I came across a book by Alan Caiger-Smith entitled, LUSTRE POTTERY (1985) and I decided to try my hand at reduction lustres. I had some reasonable success with the actual surfaces and lustres though the pots weren't very good and the decoration left something to be desired but I was achieving the effects that I was after. Simply put my biggest problem with working out this technique was that I couldn't get anyone else interested in reduction firing their terra cotta majolica pots so I had to fill a 40 cubic foot kiln all by myself just to run my tests, it was a rough, hot summer. I finally decided that what I needed to do was to take the same principles and apply it to cone 9/10 firings as the testing would go much quickly considering I was firing up to four glaze firings a week. Over time I was able to adapt the reduction lustres idea to high fire and used Shino glazes as the bases to work on.

I got to thinking about the lustres while having an email exchange recently and went looking for any slides/ photos of the Shino and lustre pots and after looking through quite a few slides realized I had neither photographic or actual examples of the work. After thinking about this for some time I remembered that I had put away a single teabowl I had made while working at Wesleyan Potters, one of maybe a dozen or so that I had glazed in my old Shino glaze and used an ochre and iron luster on. The bowl illustrated is the only lustre and Shino bowl that I have left and though at first glance the surface looks like it is just decorated in a caramel toned overglaze, as the bowl moves about the iridescent lustre pops and is high lighted by the differing light sources. You can see little glimpses of the lustre effect in the overall teabowl shot but it is more apparent in the close up detail photo and perhaps with time my photographic skills may get a bit better at capturing the surface to give a fuller account of just how playful the surface really is.

Monday, June 26, 2017


I found this pot recently on the ubiquitous auction site and will say that it was worth the risk bidding as the price was certainly right. I mention the risk as over the years I have looked at a number of Japanese pots made in the Persian and Sancai styles that in person were just lifeless and lacked any real presence, I am happy to report that is not the case with this low, basin style mizusashi by Fukushima native, Kataoka Tetsu (B.1952). Using a slightly off-white clay body, the basin was glazed in a clear glaze that is thicker and a bit milky on the interior and then carefully added pigments based on historical archetypes that flowed down the form in various hues of golden yellow, amber and rich greens. I find the potter's choice to leave some simple evidence of his throwing a wonderful choice that adds character, movement and a bit more surface enhancement to the pot making for a rich and lively piece. On a personal note, we have had the mizusashi out on a shelf where it is lite by a variety of light sources both artificial and natural creating a piece that changes from hour to hour and was a risk well taken. As the old knight may have commented; "you chose wisely".

Friday, June 23, 2017


I have always been fascinated by the night's sky from an early age and spending time at the local planetarium growing up and now I wait anxiously for the stellar images provided by NASA and elsewhere from the Hubble, Cassini and other sources. Given this interest, it is easy to see why I find small universes and celestial bodies in the forms of pots and their surfaces which is so often the case with the pieces that I am drawn to. A while back I was able to handle and photograph a large Shigaraki tsubo and put the jpegs in a folder and skimmed over them for further study at a later date as I was still in the process of digesting what I had just handled and their they sat. I was looking through an EHD that I have and went to the tsubo file and was struck by this detail shot which was not taken with any other motive than to capture the surface where the ferocity and velocity of the firing had impacted. The image immediately called to mind a planetary surface where a stellar impact  had sent the debris, in this case, liquid ash running from the collision zone, the face of the pot which was fired at a slight angle which has distributed the ash in every direction. It is exactly this type of photo, detail shot that reminds me exactly why I take so many photos of each pot that comes my way as serendipity and not photographic skill will from time to time capture an image that speaks volumes about a pot and conjures up all kinds of memories and associations that words alone rarely can.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Illustrated is a rather robust, large and visually serious kogo by Mashiko ceramic artist and sculptor, Fujiwara Ikuzo. Ikuzo is well known for his sculptural installations in ceramic and glass throughout Japan as well as for his highly animated wood fired Fudo, Bodhisatva and Oni sculptures and is probably best known for. This two piece Oni kogo was created in a press mold and then wood fired and separates at the intersection of the teeth with piercings at the eyes to allow the fragrance of the incense to escape the deadly grasp of the oni's mouth. I love the combinations of the softly curved features and the angularity of the horns, top, sides and back making for a rather unique twist on a simple and common theme in kogo among other objects.

Monday, June 19, 2017


This simple combed pot has had an interesting journey from when it was made until now and it sprung to mind after Friday's news. This pot was made as my first "mizusashi", based on a pot I had seen in a book on Tamba pottery and with some help from Bill, I threw it and then combed the surface with horizontal ridges and then it was stamped by Bill and I. I call this my first as it was made after just three months of making pottery, was my first wood fired pot and was the first pot loaded into the wood kiln that Bill and I fired in 1989. Of course the slight down side of being the first pot loaded  way in back of the kiln is that it didn't receive much ash with just a light wetness on the face and some speckled ash on the mouth. This was also my the first pot I sold and was used by a person who did chanoyu who had it fitted with a lacquer lid. Over the years this pot traveled all over the East Coast and then made its way to the West Coast and then when the owner was severally downsizing after 40+ years of collecting they sent it back to me while I was living in CT. From CT to PA, VA and then back to just within a stone's throw of where it was made (at PSUC) I pulled it out this weekend, photographed it and put it up on a shelf surrounded by teabowls made by Bill Klock over the years. I know it is not a great pot but it served its purpose over a number of years and now will serve its new purpose. Thanks Bill.

Friday, June 16, 2017

WM. HENRY KLOCK (1933-2017)

I received some rather sad news this morning, Anna Klock called from England to let me know that Bill passed away while in St. Ives, a place he loved and a second home dating back to his time working at the Leach Pottery. There is little I can say about Bill that will convey his presence; father, husband, grandfather, friend, teacher and mentor to those that passed through his classroom and studio. Bill was a "constant measure" for me in regards to my pottery work and my outlook on life, to say he will be greatly missed is an understatement, he was a kind and caring soul who was always so full of life and optimism. Godspeed you on your next journey Bill.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


A super thick crawled Shino glaze with hints of the iron underneath and areas of natural ash coating the surface are all the textbook characteristics of an Oni-Shino vase by Tsukigata Nahiko. Though perhaps a little different than we are used to, this vase has a number of the classic traits that make a Tsukigata pot right down to this oft used form. The way the ash has created a mottled appearance to the piece adds to the chance, serendipity that makes Oni-Shino wonderful, it is this unpredictability that builds universes in clay and glaze that draws me to his work time and time again. I know that there are many styles of glazing and wood fired pots that have wonderful surfaces of innumerable possibilities just like Tsukigata but it is the complexity and diversity of his pots that blend a simple clay and a few other simple elements in to inexhaustible landscapes that few others can do that makes a potent and surreal monuments to a potter, some materials and the energy of unbridled flame.

Monday, June 12, 2017


I was recently contacted and asked if I made a specific item to which I responded that I do and made several in the past few months and would find pictures and send them to them as a reference. I will admit my skills at storing files and photos is a bit archaic but after some searching I did find the photos as well as some others I had been meaning to use. Back in October I had posted a photo and post entitled, LUTING which was not necessarily meant to be a one and done post with some additional photos which I have just now found. In this photo there is the before and after photos of the luted trumpet vases and specifically the decorated B&W slip vase that was made. The decoration is simple dots and lines which I use to enhance the vertical nature of the vase as well as to divide it into segments which helps to create a unified piece. At the base where the slip has run off the pot I use a wood tool and with the wheel spinning I clean up the extra slip which in turn ties all the stipes together at the very bottom of the pot, a small feature that I happen to like. I try to be more attentive and follow up on blog postsand hope this concludes at least one of the topics which I have started.
The original blog post can be seen here;

Friday, June 9, 2017


I have mentioned before how we are basically accidental collectors when it comes to gunomi but every now and then there is a piece that is just to compelling to pass on. This particular Hagi guinomi with wari-kodai has such a rich, deep and complex surface that it was just too perfect to forget so we added yet one more guinomi to the collection. Made by a rather skilled Hagi craftsman, Matsuno Ryuji (1954-2005) this guinomi has a surface that has a wide array of colors, tones and textures making it a delight, especially in the shaded sunlight of one of our display areas. Matsuno specialized in a number of styles of Hagi and also pursued the field of abstract, sculptural ceramics which he created as modern Hagi pieces at his studio and kiln, the Ryokuei-gama which he founded in 1974. This particular guinomi is a typical example of his work in which he showed great skill at navigating within the this tradition yet trying to infuse his work with his personal vision to carry out a meaningful dialogue between the past and present of Hagi-yaki.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


In looking at this E-Shino chawan and drawing rendered on the interior of the storage box lid I think it is easy to see the influence of Arakawa Toyozo in both clay and ink. This chawan was made by long time Arakawa apprentice and Mino specialist, Nakayama Naoki and his blend of his master, Momoyama archetypes and his inner voice are clearly on display with the ink rendering also paying homage to his versatile teacher. The form shows off generous and sturdy proportions which are perfect for the intended function of the bowl while the simple blushed white Shino and direct underglaze iron decoration create a mental picture that most viewers can embrace and understand. Though a simple bowl in design and execution, I have always maintained that there is a deep complexity to simplicity and the simpler the appearance the more difficult the creation where things easily go wrong and are glaringly obvious in their lack of continuity and balance, that is just not the case here. As I study this bowl it is "just so", you can second guess all of the potter's decisions but in the end, everything is just as it should be in both the clay and ink of this classic chawan.
"The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity." Douglas Horton

Monday, June 5, 2017


When I am involved in a cycle that involves carving terra cotta pieces, I like to throw the pieces, tool them the next day and then loosely cover them in plastic and wait a couple of days to carve them. By working in this way, the surface is perfect to carve and the pots stiff enough to handle without them warping from the process and I have found that throwing lidded pieces, in particular on a Thursday, tooling them on a Friday and coming back to them on Monday is the best way to go. The weekend acts as a natural distraction from the pots and under normal circumstances I lack the patience to wait two days before I carve them, this way it is much easier to set them aside both literally and figuratively. The illustrated covered serving bowl was tooled and slipped on Friday and carved this afternoon and you can see in the photo there is just enough wetness to the surface to making the decoration easy to carve but stiff enough that the carving tools can make reasonable cuts in the clay. The exterior of the bowl and the top of the lid are both carved overall with the XOXO pattern while the interiors are left with the unslipped, rich terra cotta surface that looks quite nice once glazed and fired which is also highlighted on the interior of the knob where I have stamped my makers mark on an added wad of clay. I like carving pots, I decide how each one will be carved, set up my work space directly on the wheel, put on some relaxing but not sleeping (!) music and set about carving, making for a good start to the week on another rainy day in Central New York.

Friday, June 2, 2017


Illustrated is a large tsubo by Tamba veteran, Ichino Etsuo. Made sometime around 1992 the face of the piece was actually the bottom of the pot while it was being fired, resting on its belly with straw underneath to create the hidasuki style cord markings that look like they have been framed by hiiro and other ash effects. Though this tsubo has a lot in common with the other Ichino Etsuo pot I post a while back, the surface of this is less controlled and shows the nature and ferocity of the fire contained within a wood kiln with a strong, rich coating of ash running across the back of this pot. Over the years I have not seen a lot of Etsuo's work, perhaps two dozen pieces from chawan, mizusashi and tsubo but each one has a strong and simple form accentuated by experience and intuition when using nothing more than clay and flame to create and paint his works.