Monday, September 17, 2018


It's another Monday, the beginning of the second week of a new cycle so I started the day throwing several varieties of bowls including this meduim size serving bowl. After throwing a group of eight bowls it really dawned on me just how many bowls I have made in my time making pots and that is excluding teabowls. I have always made a great number of bowls from two to ten pounds followed by covered serving bowls and plates of all sizes, I don't think I can even guess at this point how many I have made. Going way back to my days at CSU I can remember days where I was all caught up on my tasks as ceramic assistant to fill a number of 8' long folding tables with bowls, at least 40 but likely quite a bit more. I am not bragging as I certainly know there are potters who make way more stuff than I ever will, I am only reflecting on how the bowl form is so elemental and essential to both potters and those that use them. It seems that everyone needs bowls, everyone uses bowls and by making hand made bowls it keeps at least a small percentage of the world from using plastic or commercially manufactured pieces. I am realistic enough to understand not everyone wants a hand thrown ceramic bowl but at some place in the back of my mind I believe that an object made by hand can at the very least bring some measure of beauty and contact between material, maker and user that has helped nurish the world for thousands of years. I would like to think that my bowl, ready to be cut off the wheel head is in some way a small part of that tradition.

Friday, September 14, 2018


I really enjoy the pottery of Kawai Takeichi (Bu'ichi), not because like many collectors I can not afford Kawai Kanjiro's work but rather because I see his pieces as an extension and continuation of the ideal and ideas that his master is so well known for. I suspect that many pottery students rely on copying or creating works in the style of but Kawai Takeichi saw the heights of his teacher as a challenge and deciding to work within the confines of the Kawai-mon, tradition, he managed to create pieces which are not copies but rather are unique to the potter and still maintain a visual that is recognizable for where they sprung. This wonderful gosu blue koro is an excellent example of Kawai Takeichi's work, style, idea, form and surface are easily to identify but it clearly falls within the unique confines of the style and school which his master is so well known for. Though a simple koro, there are complex, small details that display the mastery of this particular ideal and dedication to function and the mingei movement while showing off a sense of design particular to Takeichi and the Japanese aesthetic. There are a lot of reasons why I thoroughly enjoy Kawai Takeichi's pottery and this small gosu koro is just about all the reason that I need.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Like a simple set up for a comedy routine or a music video, you can ask yourself, what do you get when you take a simple form, a ferocious firing and one such possible outcome is this lean Matsuzaki Ken vase. Showcasing a variety of wood fired effects, this simple yet elegant form is exceptionally well fired without hiding any of the defining lines or cluttering up the surface allowing for the idea and grace of the pot to be easily visible to the viewer. Having wood fired a number of times myself, I can say that though you may have a sense of where pots should be placed in the kiln, every firing is different and as such the surface comes out based on a wide array of factors that are not totally in the control of the potter, the fire has way too much sway over the outcome. That being said, this Matsuzaki vase is just as close to being perfectly fired as possible with its surface painted by fire and ash to stellar effect. The shoulders and side of the pot have a wonderful build up of ash that creates a lot of variation in one many may refer to as "another brown pot" with hints of the surface treatment articulating the surface where a sureform tool or rasp was used to help defing the angles and planes of the piece. As the song goes, with the somewhat random end result in question, "how did I get here?" and the answer is a mastery and dedication to a violent and labor intensive process and a great sense of form.

Monday, September 10, 2018


I mentioned last week that in an effort to work out this faceting idea that I had also made several other pots including bowls and vase forms. Illustrated is a medium size bowl that was faceted rather directly with a standing ridge dividing the form in half horizontally that had just come off the wheel head. One of the things that I like about this technique is that it creates a number of hard lines and areas that will break and/ or trap glaze making for a richer surface using my temmoku, Oribe or iron yellow letting the throwing and faceting being the only decoration that is necessary. Like other pieces before this one, I will facet the foot, finishing it in a hexagonal or octagonal shape with the interior tooled into a normal foot-ring, this helps tie the bowl and foot together. It may be obvious that this serving bowl is not quite as deformed or altered as the teabowl and water jar were, I thought a more straight forward form would make for a slightly easier to use pot while keeping the overall sensibilty that I was after intact in the form in other words, just the smallest nod to conservatisms which has never hurt anyone, has it?

Friday, September 7, 2018


Archetype; the original pattern or model of which things of the same type are representations or copies, a perfect example

When looking at 20th century Shigaraki, Iga and Bizen pots in particular, it is quite clear just how many pieces are based on medieval archetypes mostly created during the Momoyama and early Edo periods. There are of course many exceptions especially as you look at the works of Kakurezaki Ryuichi, Kojima Kenji and others who though used these very same archetypes, they were used more as a framework and basis for their later work. The slideshow video I have posted here is a classic pot based on an archetype that many potters have tried their hand at and this one has that distinct feudal feel to it despite having been made in the last decade or two. Created by Imura Mitsuo (b.1946) this hanaire shows the classical influence of a much older pot along with hints of his master, Sugimoto Sadamitsu  showcasing a blend of a well fired face with the reverse showing off both hi-iro and the real honest nature of the clay,  tsuchi-aji in typical Ko-Shigaraki fashion. There are wonderful little details on this vase from running emerald green ash around the waist to a solitary deep, rich green bidoro drip perpetually suspended off the lip of this pot embued with a carefree, casual posture and character that spans the old to the new in only the time it takes to throw and fire the vase.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Now from time to time I have been accused of sometimes having rather alternative, even peculiar taste, in food, music, film, books and even pottery to which I always retort; "it is not peculiar, it is particular". I do know in various conversations, more often than not, there are those who are not huge fans of Kumano Kuroemon or Tsukigata Nahiko to name just a few, works that are on the fringe or are created by ecentric characters excercising their inner voice. I don't think this is necessarily any indictment of my preferences but rather a clear indication that there is a wide array of tastes, preferences and interests out there and this is just exactly what it takes to make the world go round.

One such alternative interest of mine is the works of Ota Minoru who made pots that he saw in his mind's eye and are rarely dedicated to a traditional ideal or archetype rather defining his own persuasive alternative paradigm. Ota's pots embody a sense of the casual, loosely thrown without a concern for many of the more practical aspects of pottery making which creates a body of unique and very idiosyncratic and often "quirky" in a good way pots. Case in point is this oddly thrown and distorted Shigaraki mizusashi which is obviously well fired with a rather traditional style surface but the pot is anything but. Looking just a bit like it is in the perpetual act of collapsing, this mizusashi has a wonderful posture and presence and I can see it easily being used in the tea ceremony or adorning a shelf. The lid easily compliments the body of the pot with an easy to use knob and covering the opening in its own non-chalant manner pronouncing that this piece is both a bit askew and distinctly purposeful all in the same breath.

Monday, September 3, 2018


For Labor Day this year I thought I would share a work-in-progress of an idea that was much more labor than I expected. This idea came about in a rather curious way as I was looking at several teabowls upside down on a small cedar board that has been banging around the studio all the way back to Cleveland. I was looking at the bowl and wondering if I could make a lid like I have seen on Haida bentwood boxes and decided to give it a try. I am sure that right off it is clear I am no wood worker and using the tools at hand; a saw, wood file, wood chisel, an ancient ball peen hammer and sandpaper I decided to have at it. I have spared you a lot of the drudgery in terms of the slideshow but for a bowl that has very little time invested in it, the lid ended up being almost two hours of labor which included the three coat of polyeurathane to seal the wood. After the lid was completed, I made a group of knobs and settled in on two which were fired in a subsequent glaze firing. I choose the stupa style knob and attached it by using a metal pin that ran into the wood and ceramic knob with epoxy to hold it fast. As you may be able to tell, the lid is just a bit larger than the pot and is angled upward to give the lid some visual lift. Now I won't say this is the greatest feat of wood working ever but considering it was my very first attempt I am relieved that I did not cut myself, break the bowl or incur any unforseen calmity all in the pursuit of yet another out of the blue idea.

Friday, August 31, 2018


I recently had an email exchange with a fellow collector and at some point, he mentioned a Fujisan chawan that he admired but had missed out on. I have not seen the piece but from past experience, it is rather difficult to orchestrate the Fuji-san motif well so that it articulates appropriately with the bowl form. I am certainly not saying it can not be done as there are quite a few chawan decorated with Fuji that work quite well. This reminded me of a Wakao Toshisada Shino chawan that I have on the hard drive of just such a bowl with exactly that motif and to my eye, it works exceptionally well. This chawan has a sprawling scene of Fuji-san that covers the entire face of the chawan in a variety of colors and technique creating a powerful image which fits the form so well as if the two are absolutely inseperable. Wakao Toshisada created an image that is reminescent of many a great Edo period painting with hints of the great Rimpa and Nihonga masters in this work presenting a powerful and three dimensional painting on a classic and timeless chawan made by a master at the very top of his craft.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


From time to time I like to go to Youtube and watch videos of master craftsman at work and the subject matter is broad from a wood worker making a shoji screen, a sashima knife, a soba artisan, Jiro dreaming of sushi or most recently a bucket maker. I happened across this video of a master bucket maker who starts off with a rough log and using only an ax, a plain, a chisel and hammer, he patiently turns the log into angled staves and using rings of plaited bamboo a bucket is born directly relating to Yangi's "beauty born of use" concept. Watching such cratsman would seem to have little to do with pottery but in many cases it is this unlikely inspiration that sets an idea to sprout. A few days after watching the video, I couldn't get the sense of the bucket out of my mind and figured there had to be a way to create such a piece on the wheel that was not literal but had the spark that originally interested me the most.
After several ideas and attempts, I hit on the illustrated pot, an oni-oke-wan (Oni bucket-bowl) that has what interested me the most in the beautiful cedar buckets that I watched being made. Once the logistic of making the piece were worked out I expanded the idea to also include cover jars, bottles, serving bowls and vases like the illustrated covered water jar with both ceramic and lacquer lid. I am constantly amazed at how a seemingly unrelated inspirational spark can lead tonew things being made and in this case creates the essence of what I was seeing in a wood bucket though in a far more forgiving and plastic medium.

Monday, August 27, 2018


I know I have mentioned the story of our first trip to Shigaraki and literally standing in the rain in front of a potter's home and last week while converting more slides into digital images, I came across the most appropriate photo. Illustrated is the front gate of the home and studio, Kochu-gama ("Kiln inside a Tsubo") of Honiwa Rakunyu II from late October 1990. Today the kiln is maintained and run by Rakunyu III where many of the studio pottery and ideals of the kiln are carried on. To this day I can only say of all the places to be lost and confused at, this turned out to be one of the absolute best.
Also illustrated is a three-view image of a classic Honiwa Rakunyu II chaire showcasing an excellent firing and surface. The decorated shoulder is covered with a sheet of glass which also spills off and down the form at several points including over the dark face of the piece where the pot rested near charcoal and reduced to this sobering coloration. As the image shows, this chaire is like a three act play with each segment narrating a different aspect of the story yet in the end, all is tied up in to one complete package.