Monday, August 3, 2020

INSTAGRAM


Though I doubt it will matter in the scheme of things the way the world is going at the moment, but I decided that if Instagram is good for over one billion people, what the heck, maybe I should give it a test run. Like my blog which has just sort of evolved and has stayed true to the disclaimer regarding its rambling nature, I suspect that Instagram will just sort of happen and reflect perhaps a broader sense of things that I see, hear and watch. In the course of an average day, I do end up taking pictures that I rarely know what to do with, some have to do with all the wildlife that makes its way through or resides on our property, while other are pottery pictures and quite a few detail photos of all kinds of things here and about. Like the blog where I ramble on about whatever comes to mind, this venture is more about dragging myself into the moment and doing so mostly in a photo or video and a simple caption. I am not sure where to go with this platform but thought it worth giving it a try and of social media in general I am reminded of a famous TS Elliot quote; "Distracted from distraction by distraction" and since I am easily distracted, I hope I can do my best to do just that.

Up from the depths is a combination of two of my favorite things; Shino and Godzilla. What's not to enjoy? 


Friday, July 31, 2020

FINISHING TOUCHES


Having a peculiar interest in mallet vases, I thought this photo was worth sharing. This illustration of Furutani Michio putting the finishing touches of what is likely to be an Iga mallet vase originally came from a pottery magazine from 1999 which shows him making a variety of different pots as well as a group of finished, fired pieces. As you can see in the photo, this pot was made by the coil and throw method and the proportions show a solid, purposeful intent created to not only stand up to the ferocity of the firing process but to function as intended without fail. The surface has been left with just the simplest of marks created during the making process with only the minimal amount of added detail to imbue a bit of animation to the form. I have seen an handled quite a few mallet vases by Furutani Michio and it is quite clear that despite their height or width there are "fixed" proportions that guide his hand in each and every case, locked away through years of experience and study that in the wet clay, just happen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

CROSSED PATHS


As luck would have it, for about a week these two tokkuri crossed paths, both coming and later going their own way but they were enjoyable to handle and study during their stay. I had them both on the corner of a shelf though not as close to the edge originally as in the photo and I noticed this wonderful shadow that was present and decided to take this particular shot of the two tokkuri just hanging out but casting a rather moody and impressive shadow, like siblings, even twins. In the background there is the Kojima Kenji Iga piece and in the foreground is the Echizen-Shigaraki tokkuri by Miyoshi Kentaro but as is immediately clear, they cast a nearly identical shadow made just a bit more atmospheric through the black and white imagery. On a side note, though we live in very different times, look at the B&W photographs of photographers like Ansel Adams, there is an absolute clarity to the imagery in an uncluttered, unfettered and pure way that color can get in the way of and as I look at pots sans color I sometimes think, there is the essence of the pot stripped to its bones, pure fired clay. 

"To think of shadows is a serious thing." Victor Hugo

Monday, July 27, 2020

MORE, MORE, MORE


Every now and again I find myself motivated to make up a new clay body for some specific aim I have in mind. I occasionally will use a formula but honestly prefer to just wing it based on having used quite a few different clays over the years and having some sense of what the constituent parts play in strength, plasticity and durability. In this case, test body #1, my goal was a porcelain(80)/ stoneware(20) mix so I went ahead and figured out possible materials and made up 10lbs of dry weight clay which yielded somewhere north of 13lbs of usable clay, having mixed it to a slurry consistency and then drying it out on bats and finished by wedging the dickens out of it. My first step was to make a series of test pods which I fired to make sure the clay didn't melt, slump or bloat and worked well with a variety of glazes and then I set about throwing some test cups like the one you see here.

The clay throws quite well though it would benefit from sitting around for a while but I went ahead and threw three teabowls, a vase, a koro and lid and two other test cups out of the mix. All in all I am happy with the clay body and think it deserves a larger run but making up more means more materials, more time, more energy, more effort , more space and perhaps I can stick to mixing it up 10lbs at a time which is quite frankly just a hell of a lot less "more" than I signed up for.


Friday, July 24, 2020

ZWEVEN KOM*


Though I have not seen this particular chawan in person, I have seen four and that many more in catalogues, hikidashi style teabowls that at times resemble some of the characteristics one associated with American Raku. Made by notable Iga potter, Kojima Kenji there is something very lyrical and animated about this chawan which is decked out in areas of lustrous black, smoky, crackled off-white and almost Oribe green splashed across the surface here and there, seemingly arbitrary. The form of the chawan looks stretched and looks like it is struggling with the decision to go one way or the other but the posture is rooted in the smallish kodai which is cloaked in a wonderful shadow cut by the lift of the chawan which looks a bit like it is hovering above the surface. At its core this chawan has blended function and playfulness to conjure up a flirtatious narrative that is pleasing to the eye and all business when it comes to its intended purpose. It would be quite nice to handle this chawan at some point or perhaps one like it despite the fact it is in Japan (at the moment?), I can always dream on, odder things have happened.

(*It just sounds better in Dutch which in no way is influenced by PROFESSOR T)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

EAST-WEST


Many years back when my wife and I would travel back and forth between Upstate NY and Cleveland we used to stop in Victor, NY home of the East-West shop run by the late print dealer and author, Merlin Dailey. Besides having a stunning array of prints including by Sasajima Kihei and Kosaka Gajin, two of our favorites, Merlin had a nice selection of mostly mingei oriented pottery including the works of Funaki Michitada and his son, Kenji. Though they were pricey we were afforded the opportunity to handle quite a few pieces with new ones added (and subtracted) on each new visit. Though we did eventually buy a Funaki Michitada piece there was a long, slipware o-sara platter with the most evocative but economical design which had just arrived from Japan and well out of our budget. 

The illustrated platter jpeg has been on the hard drive for some time now and thought it was certainly worth sharing. Made by Funaki Kenji, this piece is very similar to the piece that we used to visit. As I said, there is a seductive quality to the simple slip decoration which brings to piece to life. Filled with movement I think this o-sara is classic mingei pottery, devoid of any trappings or traces of the superfluous trappings of modernity ever careful to keep any aesthetic decisions from interfering with function. I really do wonder where that wonderful platter went and I can think of more than a few functions it could perform if only it were here and taking up space on the mantle would be first and foremost among them.

Monday, July 20, 2020

DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME


In my down time, I have been cleaning up and discovering things I didn't remember having like a small bucket of a white ash raku glaze tucked away in the back of my glaze room shelves. It was of course bone-dry having last been used in CT I think so I decided to pour in some water and make it glaze-worthy again. It took a couple of days to break down from what was a large hockey puck of materials but it mixed up well and I decided to give it a try on a few bisque teabowls, made of earthenware that had been hanging around collecting dust. Once glazed, I put it in my small electric test kiln and waiting for the glaze to melt and mature at which time I used an old pair of glaze tongs fitted to two pieces of old pipe, snatched the bowl out of the top loading kiln and dropped it in shredded newspaper and some sawdust and here is the results.

Now admittedly this is not the most epic raku piece ever made but it was certainly spontaneous enough and fun, the thrill of reaching into that red hot kiln, pulling out the pot and moving it to its reduction bed all the while glowing fiercely makes me want to give it another try despite being more than a bit hard on the kiln. As the title implies, don't try this at home but remember to take risks, even small ones as I am constantly reminded, life is short.

Not that it matters all that much but this is what i was listening to as I quickly wrote this post, from a wonderful album I should mention.


Friday, July 17, 2020

CLARIFICATION


In a recent post I had put up a detail shot of a Morino Kako henko with a rather interesting glaze surface and was then asked to put up an overall shot of the piece. Illustrated for clarification sake is a picture of the Kako henko which shows off his rather technical glaze mastery as well as the almost eerie effects where the two surfaces interact as well as the lustrous, halo like apparitions that paint various areas of the piece. Though the henko form itself is rather simple and on the small size I think the vivid aesthetic of the surface more than make up for those "short comings". Even more intriguing about this bottle is that it was made as a limited edition set with a large, full color book showcasing many of Morino Kako's masterworks of which almost a half-dozen are glazed in this fashion. The set is housed in a large sturdy box with the vase in a selected space for the wood, signed storage box and the book which is in a deluxe slip case and cardboard box as well, all as snug as a bug in a box, as it were.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

AN ODD COUPLE

I received this picture in an email from a fellow collector in Canada a while back and as soon as I opened the jpeg I was back in Japan for just a moment. On one of our last trips visiting with Furutani Michio, his wife brought out a large lacquer wood serving tray covered with varying yunomi, small bowls and plates in a wide array of styles including wood fired kohiki ware and all types of Shigaraki and Iga each one playing host to various small treats and confectioneries. It may play on the nostalgic but moments like these are seared in to my memory where life and pottery blend.

Though not quite as dramatic a presentation, though there is always time to expand, this odd couple still makes for a grand gesture, waiting patiently for some tea or perhaps a spirit to fulfill the purpose of each of these charming yunomi. On the left is a classic form by Furutani Michio with just enough movement in the clay to keep the eye entertained with the wood fired kohiki surface as rustic and austere as some melancholy Kamakura era poem while the more lively piece on the right is visually activated by a series of deep throwing marks that place the cup in a perpetual state of movement with the right combination of ash and hiiro completing the narration of purpose.

I should also say that I use the term austere, austerity very carefully, in my mind it is a compliment and a great descriptor of Furutani Michio's work, it is the process of considering the purpose and form and stripping it to the minimum where 99% of the superfluous detail is removed and in this an honesty or truth is revealed. In doing so perhaps the tiniest amount of "extra" detail is left to entertain the eye and spark a conversation that may even betray the minimalist aesthetic in some small degree and lasts a lifetime.

"The simplest things are often the truest." Richard Bach

Monday, July 13, 2020

THE REPURPOSED DUO

Several months back I had thrown a group of porcelain teabowls that were intended for a glaze firing, I needed 4 as an order and they were to be glazed in temmoku and ash. As poor planning would have it, though I had thrown six to cover the four needed, try as I might, two just were squeezed out of the bisque and subsequent glaze firing. For some reason or another, the bowls missed out being bisqued several more times and were actually beginning to collect dust up on my shelves so this past firing I decided to repurpose the duo and etch them with whatever design popped in to my head. Illustrated is one of the examples with a repeat design around the body of the bowl under one of my Oribe glazes which I think highlights the etching rather well.

The other bowl had a far less successful outcome from the get go; the design just never pulled together and I decided to glaze it in the saffron glaze, the end result just didn't work out well at all and it has already met the hammer, broken up in my shards box. Having already delivered the four temmoku and ash bowls, I really didn't have a lot invested in these two bowls and I do think it is important to take "risks" regardless of how small they may be and in this case I think the form, design and surface all worked to produce that "harmonious outcome" I didn't know I was looking for.