Friday, February 15, 2019

PERIOD PIECE

Though possibly dated and perhaps a product of its time, this animated mizusashi was made by Kyoto potter, Kazan Shinkai. Richly decorated in thick textured slip, slip resist and muted oxide coloration this tea piece by Kazan has an appeal that translates as easily to today as the period in which it was made, the 1960s or early 1970s. The simple pattern is well orchestrated with the overglaze coloration and then is echoed in the custom made lid with triangular knob tying the pieces together. I am reluctant to say that Kazan is a guilty pleasure as that would not take in to account the highly influential and important body of work that he has left behind including his use of paper resist and thick textured slips and vivid colorations to bring his surfaces alive. This pot though a bit more sedate than some is a classic example of Kazan's pottery, a potter that Samuel C. Morse introduced to Carl A. Weyerhaeuser on their modern pottery trips to Japan in the 1970s, of which a fine bird appliqué bowl is now in the permanent collection. I should in fact apologize for using terms like "dated" and instead say, good work is  timeless and just a product of the period in which it was created. Is Kenzan dated? I certainly don't think so.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

CIRCULAR PERFECTION AND MORE

Today is one of those, no throw, no tool, no decorate and no glaze days, rather, I have some pots to pack and some errands to run. On a day like this what could be better than donuts which at one time were known solely as "circular perfection", but times have surely changed. My wife was away for work in the Oregon and Washington area two weeks ago and she sent me this photo from the well known Portland hotspot, Voodoo Donuts. Considering she was quite a distance away, I was not able to share in the donut festivities but let's face it, isn't  it just wonderful seeing these active, yummy looking and fun edibles? So while I am drudging about doing those tasks that I am not particularly fond of I will just keep in mind that in one of her trips to Portland, either I will tag along or at the very least, she will secret away a donut or two that can make the journey from Portland, Oregon all the way to Little Falls, New York and not even be considered day olds!

"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?" Matt Groening

Monday, February 11, 2019

WHAT FOCUS

I was in a hurry to photograph this particular Oribe style vase and rather than use my actual digital camera which was not at hand, I relied on my "emergency use" cell phone, basic technology from 2007 if I remember correctly. There is nothing smart about my cell phone, it has five emergency numbers programmed in to it and it takes very rudimentary photos at best, a lesson I learned the hard way and as I look at the phone know and look for a focus app I ask myself, what focus? Of course I didn't learn how poor quality the photos were until after the pot was gone and out the door, yet a new lesson learned. This 11" tall vase was thrown out of stoneware, incised with a thin, sharpened piece of bamboo and later glazed using my lepidolite Oribe glaze, a glaze which I use exceedingly sparingly but that is what was asked for. Though I use a number of Oribe style glazes, this particular one using lepidolite has a quality that I can just not seem to 100% reproduce without the rare material, especially the unique iridescence that it produces. Where slightly thicker around the mouth, the glaze is this intense, deep green pool that is just one of my favorite effects on pottery and mostly isolated to various Oribe, Iga and Shigaraki pottery. I apologize for the poor quality of the photo but since I am making very few pots in this glaze, I thought it may be worth sharing and the lesson that goes along with it.

I wouldn't bother enlarging the photo, it only gets worse the larger it gets!

Friday, February 8, 2019

ON DISPLAY

I find it quite a unique experience to be welcomed in to a collectors home to see and experience their collection. There are a myriad of advantages of peeking into one's collecting strategy and style from handling more pots, seeing pieces by potters you have not handled before, being introduced to new potters as well as seeing how ones collection is displayed and conceived. In this particular instance Mindy and I were invited to see a collection of a couple who like us, collect as a team with each piece discussed and vetted as a democratic process and with our collecting, Khan sometimes casts the deciding vote (in my favor of course). Of particular note was the way in which a large number of chawan and gunomi/ tokkuri were on display, well-lit and lined up on shelves that just seemed to float against the wall creating row after row of pots that just were asking to be viewed and handled, with permission, of course. I think you can tell a lot about a collector seeing such a large number of pots, carefully arranged and displayed from style and firing preference to a taste for particular potters. it was exceedingly enjoyable seeing this collection with just as many larger pieces as there were small treasures, a well thought out and balanced collection that left us eager to visit again at some future date.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

POLAR KOGO

Illustrated is a wonderful little kogo by seiji and seihakuji specialist; Kakutani Hideaki. I posted up a thrown and altered slip vase glazed over in a seiji glaze a while back and though just a diminutive piece, there are similarities. This kogo was thickly thrown out of porcelain and then had a foot tooled in the piece before Kakutani faceted the sides and top making for an almost polar landscape covered over in this soft, bluish celadon. I have to say it is a joy to see this piece in person, small, intimate and animated by the varying cuts making for a small treasure that fits in the palm of your hand and is easily tucked away on a shelf near far larger pots, residing in the land of the giants.

Monday, February 4, 2019

TESTING, 1,2,3

Illustrated is a second generation ash test that I have been working on quite recently. This is a basic 1:2:3 glaze composed of, you guessed it, just three materials of which one is wood ash. The first tests were very stiff and had a series of issues but I altered the formula, a basic batch recipe and started off using the glaze much thinner than in the original tests and went from pots, to rings to this bowl with the next test waiting on the bisque and another bowl test before moving on to bigger pieces. Over the years I have become much more careful and judicious in the testing process trying to keep the cost of materials, energy, clay and time down to a minimum and yet the biggest problem still remains, when do you give up on a particular test formula? I can still see the promise in this surface, especially on all the cuts, facets and angles of this bowl and think it is worth just a few more tests considering there is still test glaze available and some bowls just begging to be glazed.

Friday, February 1, 2019

AMAZED, MAYBE NOT QUITE

At this point I am not sure that I would say that I am amazed by the styles and diversity of a number of Japanese potters but I think it a safe bet to say there are some things that you just don't associate with specific individuals. In the case of this illustrated chawan it would seem to be something of a rarity to see actual "decoration" on the piece with a few fluid and spontaneous brush strokes of iron over this kohiki style bowl of rather stoic and formal form.  It is easy to see the potter, Tsukigata Nahiko in the form and surface of this pot being a thick, heavily crackled kohiki surface with an ash based glaze over the piece but what does stand out is the use of brushed iron decoration on the front of the chawan. Though I have literally thousands of images of various works by Tsukigata this is the first decorated pot that I can remember seeing though as a talented calligrapher and painter, there are a large number of calligraphic tiles done in Shino. Aside from the tiles, there are a number of pottery pieces that have one form or another of some calligraphic or abstract decoration in the slip prior to being glazed in Shino or other glazes (https://albedo3studio.blogspot.com/2014/01/gone-forever.html ) but as I mentioned, this is the first example of actual brushwork that I can think of. I'll go on record by saying that I am not exactly amazed to see this piece in Tsukigata's body or work but I will admit to being just a tiny bit surprised.

"Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise." Alice Walker

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

SCARRED CLAY

I have an internet friend that knowing my interest in wood fired pottery send me jpegs now and again that he thinks may be of interest. The other day he sent a group and among them was a handful of images of a rather animated Shigaraki haikaburi chawan by Kowari Tetsuya. At first glance the form looks pretty straight forward defined by its brief and concise nature but as you study it you see the naturalistic twist to the form that set the piece in motion and is echoed in the lip and lower lines of the pot, not quite as simple as first thought. The chawan is covered over in a mostly drier natural ash surface with the face being punctuated not only by areas of wad scars and a rich hi-iro but also by several ash drips and a series of punctuated areas where the feldspar has melted out of the surface. I find the bowl eminently practical with its straight sides and solid kodai but there is a sense of wit and playfulness that makes the chawan just that much more interesting. Admittedly, Kowari Tetsuya is one of those potters that I enjoy how he handles the clay, molds it to fit his mind's eye and chooses a firing style that best compliments the pot be they Kohiki, Shino, Oribe or Shigaraki, each is chosen to bring out the most of the form and purpose of the pot.

"Brevity is the soul of wit." William Shakespeare

Monday, January 28, 2019

SAFFRON FACETS

This teabowl was part of a recently fired group of similar pots where I was trying to figure out how each glaze and glaze combination worked on this idea. This teabowl is glazed in my saffron, iron yellow glaze, dipped once and where the glaze ran and pooled around the horizontal projections it built up creating a darker area as well as running over the edges with a neat effect reminding me of some glaze attributes of Agano-Takatori wares. The translucent nature of the surface allows the way the clay was dealt with while wet to show through which is a nice feature of this glaze making the piece static, almost like it came directly off the wheelhead. I suspect the next steps will be to see what slips look like over this faceting and under the effects of the saffron surface hopefully creating another, distinct look.

Friday, January 25, 2019

STYLE & SUBSTANCE

The box is inscribed IGA STYLE CHAWAN but I think it is quite easy to look at this piece and see that it has Iga written across the entire surface. Made in Gifu Prefecture by Mizuno Takuzo, despite being a traditional Mino potter, he created a wide array of distinct wood fired pots that center around Mino-Iga and Iga style pottery. This Iga style chawan is a typical example of Mizuno's unglazed, haikaburi style wood fired pieces that despite being made miles away from Iga have many of the tell tale signs of that distinct pottery excepting the clay body which is much more Mino in origin. The face of this chawan has that medieval presence that I am very fond of that at first glance defies its age with running ash giving way to the rough surface underneath with areas of spatula work and other slight manipulation giving an overall depth and sense of movement to the piece. The green ash highlights the undulating lip and stoic form which balances very well with the exposed clay color of the kodai. I can't help but think that this purposeful pot is an honest combination of both style and substance all in the guise of a rather forthright "Iga style" chawan.