Wednesday, July 17, 2019

INVITATION TO TEA

Sleek, streamlined and purely functional there is nothing superfluous about this yunomi by Tsujimura Yui. It is quite clear from looking at this piece that the potter had a good idea of exactly how it would look after his unique style of firing in which lots of powdered ash are introduced in to the kiln when it is at just the right temperature forming a glass like surface on his pots.  In this case, the ash has run down the face of the yunomi creating slight variations in the surface before collecting as a thick green line at the base of the pot adding more visual interest to the form which is simplicity personified. The person who sent me this photo uses a number of his pieces and in this instance, I wonder if the photo was staged or if the yunomi is just patiently waiting, an invitation to tea?

"Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy." Sir Issac Newton

(Photo provided by a European collector)

Monday, July 15, 2019

SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER

I have had a number of studios over the years going all the way back to my first shared space with my ex-partner in Cleveland. From there I moved into a large single room in our first house also in Cleveland and then on to various spaces from New Hampshire to my current place in Little Falls. What all of these studios have in common is that space is in fact, the final frontier; balancing areas for working, drying pots, kilns, slab roller and storing supplies and an active glaze making room is always a challenge. The wet glazes are all kept stored under several 8' long folding tables along with a few bins used for various storage but the real problem has always been where and how to store the glaze chemicals and clay. As you can see, the materials are all stacked up with open bags in front of the pile and on top, this gives me a two foot pathway to maneuver where on the opposite side is a built in wood workspace with two levels of shelves for more storage underneath. On the workspace shelftop I have two scales, misc. small storage totes for holding brushes, misc. tools and other things in daily use including all of my cones with the wall in front covered in small nails holding up a variety of objects from sieves to a coil of elements. As I ponder the vast infinity of space it always seems to boil down to the same question; why is it whenever I need to open a new bag of some material it is at the very bottom, back of the pile?

"Space, light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep."  Le Corbusier

Friday, July 12, 2019

PHOTO ESSAY

Over a number of trips to Japan, I made the trek to visit the Kawai Kanjiro museum a half dozen times, twice in one trip and what would never fail to amaze me is that each and every visit yielded new discovers, new details missed the visit prior. This thought lead me to this Youtube slideshow video compiled by Kari Gröhn featuring the music of Bach which uses an assortment of modern and archival images to create a wonderful photo essay of the experience. The video starts out with a short, written introduction regarding Kawai Kanjiro and then proceed to a famous portrait of Kawai before moving on to a thorough tour of the residence, studio and kiln with a focal thoughtfulness that allows you to relive the varying details over and over again. As evidenced in this video, Kawai developed and lived in a simple, honest environment and by glimpsing in to his creative sanctuary, the objects and details that caught his eye, you can get a better insight into his personal work in many mediums on display. The video also shows a small selection of works by Kawai Hirotsugu which shows the relationship between master and student. All in all, I find this to be a wonderful visual introduction to not only the museum but into the nature of Kawai, his environment and his perspective on Mingei as it was displayed during his lifetime and how it continues to resonates today. Thanks for the video Kari.

(I have posted this on my blog and linked it to Youtube with the kind permission of Kari Gröhn.)


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

TIME WARP

Though I usually go for a more rough and tumble style chawan infused with a sense of serendipity I am pleasantly attracted to the contrast of the random quality of the background juxtaposed with the exacting precision and elegance of the gold decoration and strong, static form. Inviting to the eye, this chawan has a classic sense of nobility and refinement from a very different time as if it has time warped from several centuries earlier showing elements and influences from Kyoto culture of the aristocracy or from the modernism of the Meiji era. Most bowls would come off as very cold and contrived but decision carefully considered by the potter have created a rather striking blend of the refined, the practical and the modern. Made by Kato Ichiro (b.1974),  he originally studied with Ito Motohiko before going on to create a rather unique style that is heavily reliant on simple, elegant pattern based on historical decoration and his own unique blend of design. As a foot note, adding to how well this bowl works visually is the wonderful lift of the pot perched on a sturdy and well conceived kodai, foot that like every other small detail of the piece was obviously very well thought and planned out.

Monday, July 8, 2019

DEPRESSED BOWL

Despite the fact that I keep posting up pictures of teabowls and other Japanese "inspired" pots, at my core I am a rather practical, functional potter. I like the concept of everyday use and function and find it a rather significant motivator on most days though there are times that I just like to see what else can be done with a vase, a covered piece or a bowl. This temmoku bowl with side lugs and an overall rain pattern around the top and bottom of the bowl is not one of those pieces, rather it is rooted in function. The indented, depressed channel that surrounds the pot breaks up the continuity of the form as well as the decoration making for a visual focal point to the piece and serving a function in aiding in picking up the bowl while wearing oven mitts if deemed necessary. This is a rather basic bowl, meant for a modest amount of content and perched on a rather wide, stable foot which is designed for a typical "nuclear" family or a small get together as it will likely hold enough for six people unless one has invited your local sumo stable to dinner in which case I suggest one, possibly two of these for each guest. You can see the basic origins of these bowl forms by checking out this previous blog post
 
https://albedo3studio.blogspot.com/2016/06/cross-cultural.html



 


 
 

Friday, July 5, 2019

SPEAKING OF IGA-ORIBE

I had the opportunity to handle this rather interesting Iga-Oribe mallet vase a couple of years back. It has rather nice, if a bit slender proportions but the posture and sense to the pot made it rather appealing not to mention the rich painterly surface created through a combination of glazing and wood firing. Made by Mino veteran, Mizuno Takuzo, this vase is part of a classic body of work in this style by the potter which also includes Mino-Iga, various Shino surfaces, Oribe, Ki-Seto, Seto-Guro and quite a few others. Perhaps one of the really appealing features of this piece, besides the animated form is the wonderful pooled surface at the depressed area of the shoulder composed of rich, translucent blue-green on one side and a milky, cloudy light blue on the other caused by its proximity to direct fire during the firing process. Though a rather serious, Momoyama influenced pot, there is something quite spirited and lively about the pot, it just exudes a sense of the positive which I quite enjoy and gives  this Iga-Oribe mallet a certain degree of curb appeal and a touch of everyday nobility.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

WAIT, WHO?

A friend I share pictures with sent me this photo a while back and when I read the label, I was like, wait, who? This chawan is by Bizen legend, Mori Togaku and when his name springs to mind I think of his massive kiln, large, and I mean large storage jars and a variety of Bizen fired pots from chadogu and beyond. What doesn't come to mind is wood fired glazed pottery as this illustration clearly is and before you ask, it is marked with his mark and the box is clearly signed but the aesthetic is just not what I normally think of. Now admittedly, I may be out of the loop or just not up on the totality of Mori Togaku  but if I were pressed to identify this piece from just this single photo, Mori would not be in my top 50 answers. Actually at first glance I thought it had a bit of a Mino-Iga vibe like the surfaces of some of Mizuno Takuzo's pots though obviously not by him either, honestly I just would have narrowed it down to Mori Togaku. As irony would have it, once I received these photos, plucked from the electronic ether, I actually ran in to a second piece glazed in a similar but not identical manner so my suspicion is there are a number of these pots out there. For my last confession, I have really not followed the work of Mori Togaku all that much, not sure exactly why and despite the fact that I realize he makes some wonderful pieces he is just not really on my constant radar. I really like the two pots of this style I ran in to and would love to see more, especially a mizusashi but since these are the only two examples I have seen in thirty years I suspect it may be a while before I see another or with the way things work, perhaps tomorrow.

Monday, July 1, 2019

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING

I stumbled on this image the other day while collecting up a group of slides to be converted to digital images and had honestly forgotten I had made this set. Back in the mid-90s, while still living in Cleveland I was asked if I would like to be in a figurative show and given that I had three months to prepare, I thought, what the heck, why not. I remember making two sets of these stone texture cups and pitchers, several cup and saucer sets with "Mayan" inspired figures and a large covered house box with a series of alien life forms, really landscapeman designs on the piece and a couple of large plates with painted nudes on them. It was a fun task as it got me to think a little outside the box and away from safer designs that I felt comfortable with and out of this came some ideas that I use to this day like the Rapunzel , Europa and the Bull and Leda and the Swan. The illustrated set was easily made from cutting out slabs and then squeezing them until they create a puffy, three dimensional form and adding handles which also carry on the anthropomorphic attitude of the pieces the stone texture and inlay accents just finished off the pieces. It is odd how I couldn't remember the pieces until I saw the slide and then it actually brought me back to where I was when they were made, back at my Hillbrook Road address in Cleveland Heights with the ever present  music playing in the background.


Friday, June 28, 2019

BOWLED OVER


I am constantly amazed at the wild and unique variety of modern Japanese pottery and even more so regarding pieces based on centuries old traditions with a modern and spirited approach. I recently had this large and impressive bowl in my hands which is based on the old tradition of Kuro-Satsuma, Black Satsuma which see its roots in the late 16th century with the influx of Korean potters in to Tateno, Tatsumonji and Neashirogawa in Kyushu. This classic yet modern Naeshirogawa-yaki  piece was made by Araki Mikijiro and was showcased at the ASAHI CERAMICS EXHIBITION in 1983 (where it won a Special Award). The slideshow video should show off the variety of color variations and wonderful repeated detail in the design which brings a rather elegant atmosphere to what is a functional pot of which Yanagi Soetsu considered the works of Kuro-Satsuma as a standard bearer of the Mingei movement. The exceptional use of motif, decoration for which Araki is well known, truly brings this pot to life, animates it and makes it anything but your standard Sunday dinner serving bowl. I didn't use a lot of photos for this slideshow but I suspect you will still get a sense of the presence and scale of the large, pleasing and impressive Japanese pot.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

LASTING IMPRESSION

At first glance it is easy to see this Shigaraki piece as larger than it is but in fact it is only a guinomi. What gives this piece the deceptive ability to confuse is a combination of form, posture and a great surface all "engineered" by veteran potter, Kohyama Yasuhisa.  Everything about this guinomi from its animated posture, well conceived foot and undulation to the lip gives the impression of a chawan while the surface paints a narrative much larger than the dimensions of the pot. Admittedly, I am biased when it comes to the work of Kohyama-san but I think it may be somewhat easy to make a good first impression, but making a lasting impression like this little beauty, now that is a different story.