Friday, November 16, 2018


I just put together this short video slideshow of a nice Hamada Shoji nuka and tetsu vase that came my way. I know everyone has their own reasons why they like Hamada's work but the characteristics that sticks out in my mind is that his pots are both casual and authentic. This nuka pot, like the bulk of Hamada's pottery is direct, there is nothing fussy or over thought about them, they appeal on both an intellectual and gestural level and like most great pottery fill an emotional need for objects that are created to fulfill unique roles in our daily lives even if a bit out of step with our modern times. I think that pots like those by Hamada tap in to some mysterious, deep seated sub-conscious where people needed pots, ceramics to live, function and even survive day to day and season to season. I hope this video helps impart the casual, authentic nature and various details to give a fuller account of a typical Hamada Shoji Mashiko pot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


I don't think that you can get much simpler than this cool blue chawan by Kimura Yoshiro. The color grades from dark to light as it rises up the pot, the lines of the form are direct, imbued with confidence and purpose and the slight wavering of the lip/ mouth breaks up any implied sterility the chawan may have suggested. At first glance there is a stillness and coolness to this chawan that would suggest being aloof or indifferent but to the contrary the calming blue and broken rhythm created by the lip beckon to the viewer, see me, touch me, use me and in this I see a sense of a well centered warmth that is far more inviting that the mere descriptive elements might suggest. I find the subtleties of form and color have been used so skillfully, a product of lots of work and experience to create such a simple bowl that has a depth and complexity that many chawan lack despite all of their attention and details. Kimura Yoshiro has succeeded in making a simple piece that illustrates just how complex simplicity really can be.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Last Friday we made our way down to Middletown, CT to drop off pots for the upcoming annual holiday sale. I probably should just mention that this trip involves minimal effort, basically there and back again in a day trip verses the amount of packing materials, boxes, bubblewrap, tape, two days packing on my knees and UPS charges that add up quite quickly without  the  area bonuses of the excursion. The drive is quite nice with the tail end of autumn hanging on as you pass through the Berkshires and down to southern CT with a further trek from Middletown to Guilford for what adds to the reason we are in the area in the first place. In Guilford we start out getting a tasty cheeseburger and onion rings at Nick's, followed by grabbing up some pastries at Meriano's and then to a very nice wine store where the owner always has wonderful wines and suggestions for our Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Years dinner wines. I know I make mention of this trek every year but it just makes the drop off of pottery so much more special when involves stops at locales that used to be part of our daily lives when we lived in the area. I miss distinct aspects of Guilford, along with Williamsburg, York, Windham, Cleveland and Plattsburgh, more than just a general sense of nostalgia as each area had something to offer, wonderful experiences and opportunities and stuff that you just can't find anywhere else.

Illustrated is the show card and a temmoku and medieval green tray covered in meriano's pastries; cannoli, almond, chocolate and strawberry-cheese croissants.

"I don't like nostalgia unless it's mine." Lou Reed

Friday, November 9, 2018


Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding the potters Hori Ichiro and Yamada Kazu revolving around how they worked and the wellspring of their inspiration. Quite naturally the conversation was steered toward the Enbu-Shino work of Yamada Kazu and the origins and technology of the glaze and it brought me back to a stellar chawan only recently made in that style that I had handled back in 2012. This Enbu-Shino chawan came from a collector that had decided to part with his collection so he sent it to me and I was able to handle it for several weeks as well as take quite a few photos of the piece from just about every conceivable angle. My initial take away from handling the chawan was the raw energy transferred from the fire, trapped in the surface and the tension created, over time that impression has lasted and I still have that same sense, I see a lyrical, almost abstract presence painted on the surface. From my perspective, this style is another in a long line of potters, especially in modern times, pushing the clay, glaze and firing to find where the limits really are and as a by-product of this experimentation often wondrous results unfold. No matter how you interpret Yamada's Enbu-Shino, it is certain to leave an impression and spark a conversation.
The following is a part of the description that I used when it was put up for sale on Trocadero; "Powerful, dramatic, enigmatic, there is a nearly unending number of descriptions that would still all fall short in describing this large Enbu-Shino chawan by Yamada Kazu. Enbu literally means "dancing fire" and it is that dancing fire that pushed the clay and glaze of this chawan to the very limit where the glaze turned to molten glass and began to flow like lava down the sides and into the interior of this pot. But pushing the limit is nothing new for Yamada Kazu who has broke new ground in his pursuit of Shino, Oribe, Ki-Seto, Seto-Guro and even Shigaraki pottery."


Wednesday, November 7, 2018


Looking a bit like the trunk of a windswept pine this powerful Shigaraki vase was made by Hyogo Prefecture potter, Omae Satoru. This positively medieval looking hanaire is coated with a myriad of all natural glaze effects and colors from glassy ash to crusty charcoal with a ash drip suspended off the bottom like it is trapped in the wind a result of being fired on its side. The pot was thrown and then manipulated, gouged and to complete the form, thick, nascent lugs have been attached at the shoulder to complete the form. It is quite obvious from the surface that a brutal and ferocious battle, a battle royale if you would, has taken place between clay and fire all at the behest of a potter dedicated to creating works that provoke and challenge the viewer. Omae Satoru creates a variety of work from Shigaraki and Bizen to Karatsu ware and beyond having moved from Kobe to Shigaraki where he set up a studio before moving to Awajishi in Hyogo in 2010, possibly just another step on his potter's journey. What I can say about this battle scarred vase is that it speaks of a potter who is willing to push the limits of not only clay but the firing process and every potter who does so adds a page, perhaps even a chapter to what it is to wood fire.

(With any luck, I will put together a video slideshow of this pot in the future.)

Monday, November 5, 2018


I am still struggling with making this NOA, nuka oatmeal glaze work consistently as well as determining exactly how to use it. It is proving to be extremely temperature sensitive and demanding its own place in the kiln or it comes out way too stiff and rather unattractive. It has been quite a while since I have tried to use a glaze that was this set on an exact temperature and am beginning to wonder about its overall efficacy and reproducible results. In general I have a list of properties that a glaze should have in order for them to go into any scale of production, they are as follows;

>First and foremost suits my interests and works well with my forms and other glazes and washes, in other words, it plays well with others

>Easy to make

>Materials are readily available (except my lepidolite Oribe)

>Cost effective

>Not overly finicky in the glaze application

>Good glaze to body fit

> Slight variations in firing temperature with similar results

>Consistently repeatable results>Little to no crawling or pinholing

>Preferably a 90% success rate in firings

Obviously my list of glaze criteria is nothing but common sense requirements but I know I have fiddled and struggled with glazes in the past and probably will so in the future that are just never going to pan out as reliable surfaces. By coming up with a list it is much easier to just say, enough is enough and stop wasting time, money and energy to fight a fight that can not be won and know when and where to pick your battles. The jury is just not out yet on my NOA glaze quite yet.

Illustrated is a stoneware bottle with the nuka oatmeal glaze over black slip accents, top and bottom and iron and black glaze accents around the piece.

Friday, November 2, 2018


I found this illustration the other day while I was trying to do some "research" on Sung celadons and there it was between some wonderful old Chinese pots. This light blue kannyu-seiji chawan is by Kishimoto Kennin who besides mastering this particular glaze has delved deeply into a wide array of surfaces and styles from Shino & Oribe to wood fired Iga-yaki. I love the casual form and posture of this bowl and the horizontal ridge that runs around the piece creates a wonderful glaze stop where the glaze pools a bit, darkens and the fracture pattern is altered. The ridge is highly affective on this chawan creating a rich visual element to the piece which breaks up the uniformity of the walls of the pot as well as the continuity of the surface. The ridge and lip create dark, iron saturated lines that together with the unctuous roll of glaze at the base and around the fingerprints add yet more definition to the lyrical and mysterious quality of the chawan. Over the years I have seen quite a few pots with this style of glaze and ironically many are stayed in their presentation, some even boring but in this chawan, Kishimoto Kennin used all of his years of experience to create a pot that is a dissertation in what it means to be kannyu-seiji.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018


I am not quite sure if this meets the Halloween criteria but I thought, what the heck, it's my blog and as long as I operate within the known laws of physics, I should be okay. I found this image a while back and it immediately struck me as a powerful and iconic image that only Fujiwara Ikuzo is capable of and it is fiercely wood fired as well. Looking a bit like a sentinel guarding the kimon, demon's gate, he exudes an attitude and posture which defies entry unless perhaps he can be tricked in to a game of gakko (tag). As with many of Fujiwara's hand sculpted pieces, this Oni is filled with dynamic tension and power and yet has just the slightest hint of wry humor in his expression which has a sense of being inviting, impish and a bit nasty all at the same time. Given the way in which Fujiwara Ikuzo sculpts his pieces, the wood firing has added a softness and shadow to the form giving it quite a degree of dimension and personality, bringing this somewhat disagreeable character to life out of a large block of clay. What's not to love and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2018


I think I showed this particular Falling Leaves covered piece as greenware two or three weeks past. Here it is now fired and still warm from a firing this weekend showing leaves falling about a dark black background which I hope establishes a mood and sets up a sense of motion about the pot. I posted this to give a perspective of the piece from greenware to decorated where in many respects, little changes except the pot gets fired and the surface obviously changes quite a bit, but thanks to a really dependable terra cotta clay, there is little to no warpage, a small amount of shrinkage and very rarely does the clay crack. Though this clay is not the greatest to throw and can be quite a struggle at times, all in all given the clays super powers, it is worth the effort.

"The one thing that matters is the effort." Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, October 26, 2018


Here is an excellent ink wash by sometsuke master and Ningen Kokuho; Kondo Yuzo. Though painted in black and white and not blue and white, this simple and easily recognizable thistle design is along with persimmons and sharp mountain landscapes a trademark design of Kondo Yuzo. As mentioned these designs are usually portrayed in deep, vivid cobalt with faint washes of blue to even grey tones with the additions of red and gold depending on the piece. Known as the Japanese thistle, cirsium japonicum, this particular plant caught the attention of Kondo early on and can be seen on many of his works throughout his long and illustrious career as one of the finest sometsuke artists of the 20th century. Beyond his initial family and students, the influence of the stylistic renderings that Kondo Yuzo is so well know for has influenced both potter and painters alike during his lifetime and well beyond.

"The thistle is a prince. Let any man who has an eye for beauty take a view of the whole plant, and where will he see more expressive grace and symmetry; and where is there a more kingly flower?"  Henry Ward Beecher