Ever year on this day I take a pause, a moment of reflection to remember a remarkable potter. A pioneer in firing a traditional anagama, both Shigaraki and Iga pots are left as a testament to the talent, insight and dedication of Furutani Michio. I also take a few moments to reflect on those all too few moments of being at his studio, his warm smile, his nobility and all of those wonderful wood fired pots.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
I have seen and handled a great number of pots by Kimura Morikazu over the years but this particualr style always captures my attention. Kimura has creatively arranged his glazing in such a way to create bands of various colors at differing levels around the pieces, in this case the rich iron band around the top of the chawan is contrasted against the rest of the bowl which fades to black and the entire piece is covered with oilspots making for a rather attractive and compelling surface. This chawan was made back in the 1980's and was wood fired but like many of his pots, it defies being dated as it has a rather timeless quality that is connected all the way back to the birth of the technique in China to the creative applications of present day potters working with in this oeuvre. I hope the slideshows gives a fuller perspective of the chawan and hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed handling the bowl.
Monday, July 17, 2017
I have made a lot of pots over the years, with pots being shipped all over the US, some to Canada and quite a few other destinations as well, I think 21 countries in all. A number of these pots were sold through sales, galleries, craft shows, out of the various studios and now through internet sales, truthfully it is impossible to keep track of them and at times they are hard to recognize in description or even photos ( especially those from the CSU days). That being said, there are also times when it is easy to recognize a piece through shape, lip, foot, clay color, pierced holes in the foot for hanging and the overall posture, I believe the photo is just one such bowl. I'll add the caveat that I am 99% sure this is my pot, acting as a prop along side James Spader and Brian Dennehy in the TV show, BLACKLIST. I suspect the bowl was bought at a gallery in Maryland or Virginia where I showed, both now defunct. Exactly how the v-bowl got there is beyond me as it is the second pot that has shown up as a prop, the other a short lived Canadian TV show, so go figure. I am kind of honored that the show runners used the bowl exactly as I would hope as a focal point of a person's table, filled to the lip with 'stuff' just as the bowl was intended. This bowl may be just a prop but for a fleeting instant it was center stage and after all the television transmissions are on their way out in to the cosmos and who know who will see* the bowl next perhaps the inhabitants of Gliese 581c?
(* Before someone decides to say something, yes I am aware of the inverse square law and its relation to radio signal degradation.)
Friday, July 14, 2017
Looking a bit more like the exotic camouflage of some far away mammal, fish or lizard; this style of yuteki glaze is not something that you see every day. The jewel inspired spots burst out of the yellowish ground creating isolated universes of iridescence and shimming crystals which under the right lighting brings the chawan to life, creating a mysterious and contemplative surface that very few can achieve. Created by oilspot specialists and student of Kimura Morikazu, Sasaki Yuzuru spent a number of years under his master's tutelage as well as studying at the Kyoto ceramic Research Institute before establishing his own studio/kiln in Fukui (1979) allowing him to focus on this pursuit and creating pots and surfaces that almost defy logic and showcasing a long term dedication to his craft and art. In certain respects as I study this pot it appears like I am staring at the handiwork of a pointillist master who has place every spot exactly where it should be with the rich dark lip and highlighted band of blue-grey iridescent spots running around the center circumference of the bowl. At the end of the day it is the experience and his years of making, testing and firing that has created this exotic chawan surely setting him apart from his contemporaries and making it easier still to say, "Sasaki Yuzuru made this".
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Illustrated is a wonderful little saidei (layered clay) kogo by the late Miyashita Zenji (1939-2012) created by building up layers upon layers of colored clay on his ceramic canvas. Having grown up around clay, his father Miyashita Zenju (1901-1968) was a veteran porcelain potter and glaze magician, Zenji discovered his saidei technique and literally wrapped his evocative and creative forms in his multi-colored surfaces and though this kogo is simple in form it creates a lyrical surface that speaks to distant and exotic landscapes to destination far off both real and imagined. Miyashita's use of color and texture in balance on his forms illustrates a potter's intimate knowledge of his clay, form and material as well as an evolving aesthetic as his works and ideas matured. Though small in scale and at times easy to overlook, this saidei kogo is an excellent and mature example of Miyashita's oeuvre and speaks about a purity and honesty of a potter's vision.
Monday, July 10, 2017
If I am set in to auto-pilot, I can sit at the wheel, music blaring in the background and throw round thing one after another, obviously, the wheel spinning in a circle has something to do with that. Though I enjoy round pots, now and again I find the need to break the form given from the wheel head from throwing and altering the piece either with a few subtle gestures or at times by radically altering and even reassembling the clay. In this particular case, I took a couple of low serving bowls and just moved them a bit to form soft squares, most noticeable at the mouth and rims. This is another of those "no rocket science" moments where just upsetting the form a bit changes the piece quite a bit and also adds somewhat to the actual use of the piece. As you can see the exteriors have had thick white slip applied which has been combed and once bisque will likely be glazed in the Ao+ and Oribe. I know it really doesn't seem like a big difference but by squaring the forms just a bit it breaks that rhythm of not only the throwing but the aesthetic outcome as well.
Friday, July 7, 2017
I will not get involved in the meaning or implications of this Zen Buddhist expression but it reads; HONRAI MUICHIMOTSU, a single line calligraphy that the great Zen pioneer Hakuin Ekaku and many other liked to brush. This particular scroll is by the highly versatile painter, calligrapher, sculptor and potter, Tsukigata Nahiko. Brushed in a thick and bold black ink, the easily identifiable calligraphy stands out against the stark white paper which is punctuated in three spots with the read seals of the artist. The mounts are very well done but are simple in that they don't add any conflict with the ink though they frame the painting to the fullest. The scroll is hung in a spot which the owner has "designated" their Western tokonoma and on a lacquer stand there sits a simple, bluish white Yi Dynasty style 20th century Korean vase which happens to be in-between its floral garnish at the moment. In receiving this photo I am reminded how easy it is to create small accents of Japan within an otherwise thoroughly Western environment.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
There is an old misconception that the drink, Tang was invented as a result of the NASA space program but the truth is it was around before manned space flight but its association with NASA certainly made it quite popular and a must have household item. As for this exhibited Tang influenced Sancai chaire, though it is not necessary a household item it could be a focal point of any tea ceremony most pottery collections.
Made by Kato Kobei VII, son of Ningen Kokuho Kato Takuo, this full and rounded chaire was thrown out of a fine white clay and then glazed in an alkaline based clear glaze with accents of copper and cobalt added to the surface which became droozy and melted down the pot. The fine incised line which circles the pot acts as a strong focal point especially where the rich green and blues become a bit deeper in the recess capturing the eyes attention. Kato Kobei VII comes to this style, inherited from the vast experience, experimentation and interests of his father creating works in the Persian and Tang Sancai styles which bare a resemblance to his teacher but shows a careful and studied approach to the work which defines the pottery of a unique voice in not only form but application, design and decoration. There are few potters carrying on this pursuit and this chaire serves as another brick to shore up this distinct tradition.
Monday, July 3, 2017
I threw this vase using a rather iron rich clay which I make myself, it is a bit labor intensive but I enjoy the way the clay throws and also what it looks like once fired. In this case I made a tall vase with lugs and covered the body in a bright white slip which was combed and then glazed over in one of my Oribe glazes. This Oribe glaze has a bit less iron than normal to allow the contrast between the bright body and darker, unslipped clay to stand out against each other. The indents at the base of the pot are from where I pick the piece up directly off the wheel head once thrown an accent I like and can be seen on many of the pots that I enjoy from Bizen, Shigaraki and Iga. The neck and mouth of the pot were man handled a bit to get them to warp which adds to the less than perfect and casual approach I was after while making the pot and hopefully come off as a bit less contrived and more playful and natural in feel. I enjoy making pots like this that come off the wheel nearly complete and in the throwing I can just shut down, let the music play and let the clay go exactly where it needs to.I would also like to take a moment to wish a Happy Fourth of July to all that wish to embrace the spirit!