Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shark Skin Glaze, Kairagi

Perhaps my favorite Hagi glaze is Kairagi or Shark Skin, which as far as I understand is so named because it was said to resemble the sharkskin placed over the handles of Samurai's swords. But the characteristic appearance of a Kairagi glaze is a white straw ash appearance glaze with lots of exposed clay underneath with the glaze crawling at many unique angles.

Yame Gyo White out too

This hohin (hobin ) is one such glazed item, while the Yunomi pictured below is a second. Both of which are by the artist Mukuhara Kashun.

Mukuhara Yunomi

These are the only two Mukuhara Kashun pieces I currently have, but I am loving them every chance I get. Although I will say I have only seen this glaze done by one other artist and Kashun is by far the better of the two in terms of execution of this glaze. The most amazing thing about him pulling off this glaze while Hagi is known for showing off use through staining, even these pieces in pristine condition show stains in the wrinkles in the glaze.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Simple Elegance, porcelain

MTR Yixing Red

This is slightly surprising even to me, as I tend to love ceramics that show off wabi sabi, but yet I highly treasure certain of my highly refined and exacting porcelain pieces. Especially with a simple painted design often done completely in one color, I feel gives the piece a striking look of perfection.

Andao Da Hong Pao color

I honestly feel it is due to the nature of porcelain, that it can come across as "perfect." Colorful or highly decorated glazes seem to behave quite differently in different circumstances, which I feel are likely to evoke very strong emotions in terms of love or hate. The fact that porcelain is pure white, with perhaps a painted design seems to distance it from most emotions, the most you can say is I do not like the shape, or the design is not my favorite.

Wuyi and the mist edit

It is often the simpler the design I feel people have less of a reason to take a stance towards or against. But the perfection and the lack of flair often attempted to be shown off by other styles of tea ware.

I still prefer Japanese teaware, and glazed and slightly more stylized pieces, but I was taking a while to admire the simple porcelain pieces today, and was amazed at their simple elegance.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Koudai and Chops

Deishi Guinomi Kodei

Personally I really like viewing the Koudai or feet of a piece, as I feel it really helps me get to know the piece so much better. In fact I have many pieces some basically completely coated in glaze and others with a nicely and fully exposed foot. I personally like being able to feel the fired clay and view the composition of the clay. This also goes for the artist mark, and I am not fond of pieces in which the artist mark or chop has been completely covered by glaze.

Seigan Sansai Square Foot Guinomi

For example this piece rather rubs me the wrong way, the foot is nearly completely covered in glaze and most confusing is while there is some exposed clay at the very bottom of the foot, the carved area in the center which normally bears the stamp of the artist is completely glazed, and in a black glaze so I can not even make out any sign of an artist stamp.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Daisen Yaki

Suzuki Sakazuki

Daisen Yaki or Daisen Ware, has honestly eluded my best efforts to learn about it. Hindered most likely by my nearly nonexistent Japanese language skills. So far I know of only one vendor that offers Daisen Yaki to the west, that being Magokorodo, so I actually contacted him with several questions trying to learn more about this type of Japanese ceramic ware.

I honestly view the response to my questions as a bit of a puzzle, I have enough experience in foreign languages to know that it is completely different from being able to read another language, then being able to write in it in a way that is completely understandable to a native speaker of that language. That being said I think in my correspondence with the vendor things got lost in translation in several steps, which may fuel me to try and improve my Japanese. But I have honestly been rereading the message a few times a week trying to gleam as much as I can from it.

Suzuki Yunomi

My questions focused on whether or not T. Suzuki is the only artist producing Daisen Yaki, as his works are the only pieces I have ever seen labeled as such. While I still can not gleam from the vendors response an exact answer to that question the more I read it the more I understand about Japanese Ceramics in general. Some things I have already known such as the names of most types of pottery focus on the region in which they are produced. Although there are many different kilns all over Japan and only a few of them have any sort of wide spread notority, and even fewer are known for consistently producing top notch works of art.

So I am looking forward to acquiring more Daisen Yaki pieces, currently I have the two pictured in this post. The most amazing thing is how incredibly different these two pieces are.

HouDe DHP in Suzuki Sakazuki

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Like what you buy and buy what you like

Full Pot

So every new tea drinker somehow hears about the magical qualities of Yixing. I am not to say they do not exist, but with Yixing I feel it should really be a personal desire to use these pots or not. I just sold 3 of my Yixing pots, and I have plans to try and find homes for the rest sometime in the future. But in short I have decided Gaiwans are by far preferred by me, for Chinese tea.

That is not to say I never got joy from yixing, I enjoyed watching the pots develop a patina slowly through use, much like I enjoy watching my hagi yaki change slowly through use. It just has to do with the fact that yixings never sang to me like Japanese and Korean ceramics.

The short summation of my experience with Yixing, the right pot will compliment the right tea, but then in the end you are not really enjoying the tea as it is somehow slightly changed by the yixing. Then you run into some worrying questions such as "does this tea taste good because it is being brewed in this pot?" or "would this tea taste better if brewed in a different vessel?"

Some people enjoy the hunt of matching the perfect yixing teapots with the perfect tea's, I am not one of those people. So I will stick with my love of other ceramics.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Museum" Collection

So while I run the site The Hagi Project, which catalogs my ceramics collection of Asian influence. I have long since thought about creating a collection of pieces which I would not use, and when I have the means, display it in an interesting fashion in a noticeable location. This has lead to me doing quite a bit of window shopping through many galleries trying to decide what may be collection worthy for my "Museum Gallery."

It has lead me to realize that there are no hidden deals in Japanese Ceramics, and especially by the means available to someone who probably will not travel to Japan for some time. So that being said I recently acquired two pieces that upon open I was so incredibly taken with them that I thought of starting a museum collection with these two pieces.

This post is a bit of a musing on why I am not sure either piece will be put into such a collection, after staring at the pieces for quite some time in spare time or when I needed a bit of a break in my studies. I will say that I find ceramics so incredibly calming, and wonderful to admire that they often make for a great 5-10 minute study break to examine the pieces.

Deishi Guinomi

First off is a Hagi Guinomi, bought under the initial impression of using it for Gyokuro. It is a Straw Ash Glaze ( Shira), and even though I've held the piece in person, it was not until a lot of people looked at the photo and commented on blue, only to have me try and explain reasons why it appears blue such as a sunny day with nice blue sky, a blue curtain located near by, and I do not know if it was power of suggestion, or if it has some special character that really makes it look blue in slightly diffused lighting. I am thinking of trying to create a Light box to take pictures at a closer to Studio Quality.

Upon its arrival I was incredibly taken with this piece, but the more and more it dawned on me, there is a very specific reason why that side of the cup is facing forward in the photo. While the rest of the cup is by no means bad in terms of glaze effects, I would have to the other three quarters of this piece has glazing which is just average in terms of appearance and effects for the artist Deishi Shibuya. But this quarter of the piece, it is exceptional the play between the brown clay body and its incredibly rough texture in stark contrast to smooth but lumpy white glaze, in a nearly random pattern gives a truly wonderful effect on the piece.

So the more I thought about it the more I realized that should I create such a collection after a few years of acquiring pieces whether they be for use or such a "museum collection" eventually I would arrive at the realization that this piece is not that special, as 1/4 is a far way from completely, though I will say that the shape and clay work to make the body are also good to great, maybe not exceptional but certainly above average compared to the other pieces of his that I have.

Suzuki Guinomi

This piece is incredibly stunning, and it is the first time I have ever seen such an oilspot effect based on a white glaze. This piece was acquired for use with Chinese Teas, though it is actually a Sakazuki which is a flatter shaped cup for drinking Sake.

This one I am still slightly in the air about but my current reservations revolve around the fact that while this is a stunning glaze, and wonderfully formed ( seemingly almost to perfection) with actually a wonderfully tactile clay body, I realized that every time I pick up this Sakazuki to examine, I spend less than a minute examining the clay exposed in the foot, and basically the rest of the time staring into the bowl of the cup. Which while it is a stunning glaze runs into the problem of actually becoming boring after less than 5 minutes of looking it over, and seemingly shorter and shorter times subsequently.

For example look over this picture and while it is stunning at a glance, you will realize you tire of it somewhat quickly.

Suzuki Guinomi inside

And the glaze on the outside of the sakazuki is a standard white glaze that I have had little motivation to study again after the first two or three times looking over the piece.

The more I think about it, especially after writing this up, I am almost certain I will put it into use, and therefore not have it be part of a theoretical "museum collection."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What pleases the eye

What pleases the eye is not always easy to use or even all that practical to use. I am sure there are many examples of this, but I am going to use a set of pieces that I find very visually attractive but hardly get around to using due to their nature.

Coffee Cup Set

These cups or mugs are rather problematic to drink out of partially due to their stunning triangular shape. Now as someone who has used these cups on multiple occasions, I have no good suggestion at how to fix the cups. The angle between the handle and the sides of the cup make it an awkward angle to hold the handle and drink from the cup, at least for me. Granted the wonderful thing about round cups is the handle could be held at any angle the drinker wishes, as long as the handle is not trying to occupy the same space as your face when drinking you get a surface perpendicular to your bottom lip.

So when drinking from this cup I often forgo holding the handle entirely and rely on handling the cup, which when holding very hot liquids the thinness of the ceramic is a problem. But Good thing I much prefer to drink my hot beverages on the cooler side.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Non-traditional Korean Teaware

It has been said about Korean teaware that there are the traditional celedon type glazes, with traditional "kyusu" type designs, and then there is the new wave of Korean Teaware Artisans, which take their influence from a wide variety of area's. Seong-il is one of those new more revolutionary teaware artisans in Korea.

Seong-il Lid Rest

First off this little addition to my order, a what I can only believe is a lid rest, at least that is what I am using it for. While I think it might have been a slightly defective piece due to inconsistencies in the glaze on top, the wonderful flower design surely makes this a well loved treasure.

Seong-il Wood Fired Teapot

Seong-il Wood Fired Teapot (2)

And I have wanted a wood fired teapot ever since I saw some amazing wood fired Kyusu's. While this only has a little bit of the effect I believe it has a "Salt Shino" on it which while glazed gives the outside of the pot a rather natural clay like outside to the teapot.

Seong-il Shino Cups

These two Shino cups are really starting to open my eyes to Shino, and how great it can be. These basically look like Child versions of the Chicago Potter Pink Shino Yunomi, and I may just do a side by side comparison of both of them as a post on this blog in the future.

So as I try and focus this blog on, what I have been learning about pottery though acquireing these pieces. And While this is a bit of a focus on the differences between Traditional and Non-traditional teaware, I felt I should include a picture of what I can believe is rather traditional for Korean teaware.

Geum San Tea Set

Clearly these offer two completely different styles.

But the biggest thing I learned had to have been the wonders of Shino, just from the little peak through the window I got to see.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Learning, in many ways. A Jason Fasi (BearsBearsBears) piece

From Other Ceramics

I know the artist of this piece through Teachat an online forum, in essence I know him as a Puerh drinker first, and ceramic artist second. Especially since Ceramic arts is something that is not his primary job.

That being said this piece described a little bit as a California Hagi, though I forget its actual glaze name. It is the most esoteric piece I have in my collection. Esoteric in the sense that it is "glazed" but glaze covers very little of this piece, and in essence the glazing especially on the outside seems to be applied with the same design as that of random brush strokes for accent on other Ceramics pieces I have seen online.

Though I learned from this piece, as while it is nice to look at, and nice to hold, the inside is quite rough, and it feels far to rough against the lips for me to like to drink from it often. It is odd, I have no problem with lumpy, such as Hagi is quite often lumpy against the lips, but the fact that my lips are basically being pressed against unglazed rough sandy clay, it bothers me slightly, not to mention how hard it is to clean after having matcha in it.

But I will say the form of this piece is quite refined, and rather perfect.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A piece that makes me go Hmmm

Seigan Sansai Square Foot Guinomi

I am sure every collector of something has one item they are not entirely sure is genuine, or that is so unique they have never really seen anything like it. Well this piece is both at once.

The box it came in does not concern me at all, as it all looks rather legitimate, what concerns me is seen in the picture. Somehow the center of the foot of this piece is glazed, the place where the artists stamp occurs. So while I can see a place where I think the stamp is, there is no way to really make out the artists stamp on the piece itself.

While the clay looks like something Seigan can easily have done, and the glaze is the Sansai glaze, one of the glazes he is known for. I have recently found out that you can go into certain ceramics stores in Japan and buy premixed glazes that are basically identical to famous glazes. Though a bit of reassurance is inside Japan, Seigan is honestly not famous enough to draw much of this sort of forgery.

So while I am always open to the fact that this piece may not actually be his, I am pretty sure it probably is, but that brings up the fact that this piece is so incredibly unique in other regards.

Notice the square foot. I have never seen Seigan or any other Hagi artist produce a square foot like that.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hagi Teacups of various styles.

Looking at all my Hagi teacups that are actually able to be used for tea with ease. Two of these are Special offer so I can not say how readily similar styles are available outside Teachat Special offers, I will comment on where I have seen similar styles/ if I have seen similar styles.

From Hagi yaki
This is a classic style Yunomi by Mukuhara Kashun, and these are available in a vareity of sizes. I have seen some that are absolutely huge, and some that are about half the size of this. I think this qualifies as a medium sized Yunomi and it holds probably about 8 oz to the rim and a little more than 6 comfortably.

This was a Special offer at Teachat, and I honestly have not seen many teacups quite like this, it holds about 3 or 4 ounces making them a small teacup, but its so wide on top and is such an open bowl that it lets tea and water cool quite quickly. There are several slightly smaller Guinomi's (sake cups) in a similar style but they usually have steeper sides. But in terms of tea cups, quite a few non Hagi artists most notably American Artists have cups somewhat similar, though not as wide of a bowl.

This is billed as a wan, and these can come in several different variations, but these are rather standard and are a good all season cup. But at this point I feel I have acquired too many basic style wans. And while each is unique they are usually a bit on the plain side.

From Hagi yaki

These Tebineri (Pinch Work) Wans are almost hybrids between Classic Yunomi's and wans as all of them I have seen are a bit taller than wans but nearly as wide. I have seen a few of pinch work cups somewhat similar than these on by one of the Choun's who are known for pinch work pieces.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pristine or used?

Sen No Rikyu is quoted as saying "The value of a piece of teaware depends on its ability to make good tea." That being said, I feel there is a large emphasis in Western cultures put on having pristine looking ceramics among many other things. While of course I want to eat from clean plates and drink from clean glasses, I am comforted when something shows its use.

From Seven Stages of Hagi

Hagi yaki, and Korean ceramics are quite well known for the effect pictured above. When I see something like that, I personally feel "this cup has experienced tea as I have experienced it, and has stories to tell." I almost feel like the cup is an allegory for experience, this cup remembers a little bit each sip taken from it, it shows its been through quite a bit.

In contrast to pristine teaware, such as constantly washed and scrubbed porcelain. While they to might have stories to tell, I feel like when they get thoroughly cleaned, it is almost as if their memories are being completely wiped clean.

Granted a clean piece of ceramic can still look great, and show the care the creator put into its creation.

From Hagi yaki

But after extensive use, it develops in my mind so much more character.

From Seven Stages of Hagi

Again this is all personal preference, but I love my heavily used looking pieces.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Favorite piece of teaware

This is a post taken from my Tea Blog The Sip Tip for a Tea Blog Carnival post. I feel the discussion I went through in this post really fits in with the purpose of this blog.

"What is your favorite piece of teaware and why?"

A rather unsatisfactory answer, but rather true is, the latest Teaware acquired. As it is newest thing in your collection you are enamored with it, and you find its quirks appealing rather than trouble some. So as of writing this first part on April 17th. My latest piece of teaware acquired is Zhu Ni Yixing tea pot, which has been featured in this post.

But lets face it, I have a site The Hagi Project in which I mainly catalog my Hagi Yaki collection. So I would be lying if I said that my "favorite child" is not a piece of Hagi yaki. I hate to say that around my Yixing, or Lins Kettle, but the way Hagi change and feel. The fact that they seem to be border line alive.

The Hardest question is: Which Hagi piece is my favorite?

This is hard, as I really like Tebineri (pinch work) pieces, and Oni-hagi pieces. Oni-hagi is extra coarse clay, often with large noticeable, pieces of sand.

Tebineri pieces feel amazing in hand, and due to the pinch work nature, they tend to be a bit more unique and different than typical hand made pottery pieces. I know all hand made ceramics are unique, but the fact that masters artists can make hundreds of pieces that look rather similar, when using a pottery wheel. It seems when pinch work is done the piece is more organic in nature. While the pieces will look similar, when examining them with your hand you get to know and feel the soul of the piece.

Seigan Ao Tebineri Closeup

I like Oni-hagi pieces for reasons that are much harder to explain. Sometimes Oni-hagi clay can cause interesting effects to occur in the glaze. That and the fact that it seems to make the piece more likely to leak/weep, makes the piece feel live.


That being said, what is my favorite piece of Hagi-yaki? From what I said it seems a pinch work Oni-hagi piece would be ideal, but I do not know if I have ever seen one of those, it seems that combination is just not done.

So my favorite piece of teaware is my Noutomi Choun Hohin. Though sadly it is the hardest to actually capture its true essence in a photograph. But it feels absolutely amazing in hand, to match. This piece also looks rather alien in its appearance.

Choun Hohin

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Size and Shape is Key

So now that I've been acquiring more and more teaware, and other various ceramics, the more I notice certain pieces just tend to be used much more often than others. So I thought for quite a while on why I am always reaching for certain cups.


We can admit it, we all have our favorites in just about everything, and though the definition of favorite implies that there is only one, I feel you can have multiple favorites, one from each of various styles and makes. So while this definitely plays a role, and is rather obvious, we still need to consider the other points.

Size and Shape:

I never realized how much size and shape really play as a role in how I pick out my teaware. Today I was having a session using a Gigantic cup, that left me borderline frustrated. While the cup does hold a large amount of liquid, the fact that it holds that much causes a very reduced cooling time, something which must be taken into consideration if you are cooling the water for the tea in the same cup you will be drinking from. But not only that the cup was so big I was having my normally rather large steeps, and it left the cup looking almost vacant. The cup was just Huge for the purpose for which I wanted to use it.

But while size is important with cooling, so is shape, I have a rather favorite Yunomi by Mukuhara Kashun which during cool weather I felt my self grabbing nearly every time I wanted to have Sencha. But now that it is warm because it is a Classic Yunomi shape instead of the Wan (bowl) type shape that I have much more of, it cools a lot slower. It lends credence to the idea of different shaped Chawans, and the standard summer Chawan appearance of incredibly wide at the top slopping in slowly to the center and bottom of the bowl.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Admiring Korean Teaware

So I added to my teaware collection with some Korean teaware, thinking it would be a rather safe bet as Hagi yaki supposedly got its start from Korean Potters, and many of the forms in Japanese pottery come from Korean ceramic inspiration.

Geum San Tea Set

I really must say the sizing on this 3 person set is impeccable, the water cooler when full to the base of the spout holds just enough to fill the teapot, which holds just enough to fill the cups nearly to the top. Which is amazing regarding the sizes of all the pieces look completely off, mainly the teapot looks on the small side compared to the water cooler and cups.

TeaTrekker Seajak

After two uses the crackling on these pieces are already starting to change color, and somehow the piece feels so incredibly natural in hand. I am sure you can look forward to many more updates on korean teaware, and how this piece is changing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

D. Michael Coffee a.k.a Shyrabbit

Shyrabbit(Coffee) In Praise of Shadows 2

This amazing little teacup and stand arrived in the mail today, and is a Teachat Teaware Artisan special offer piece, done by Shyrabbit or D. Michael Coffee.

Shyrabbit(Coffee) In Praise of Shadows

I always appreciated his Nuka type glazes, but this piece really took me by surprise in its simplicity but amazing depth and detail. Shyrabbits etsy shop can be found here.

EoT Mansai in Coffee in Praise of Shadows

The theme for this piece is "In Praise of Shadows" after the name of a Japanese essay on aesthetics, which has been published in English. And this round of pieces was the last batch to receive his four corners chop. I hope to acquire and read In Praise of Shadows in the near future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The start of it all, Seigan Oni Hagi.

Super Ao ONI-HAGI, Sakazuki Hai (2)

One thing I will probably reference quite a bit on this blog is the great Teachat Special offers which start with Hagi Yaki, but since have broadened their gaze to the Teaware artisans that contribute to the board.

Sadly I did not jump in on the Special offers until the 8th one, which happened to be these small yunomi's. The taper on these are rather extreme, but they are made with extra rough sand. The term for Hagi yaki using this extra rough sand is "Oni-hagi" which I have heard various translations, but its a Demon, or Ogre or Troll hagi, basically it means its a bit rough, and borderline unrefined. That being said I have seen Oni-hagi of many types from loaded with large grains of sand, to clay that feels rough, but its outward appearance is rather refined.

The artist of this piece is Yamane Seigan, who is both a Martial Artist and a semi famous artist. I say semi famous as he is well known at least in the West, but his work does not warrant the hefty price tags that certain other artists works do.

Expect a lot of Teaware

So I am an avid tea drinker, and through tea, I have come to appreciate the amazing aspects of teaware, starting with my first ceramic love of Hagi Yaki. So the focus of this blog is focused on me learning about ceramics through acquiring them, holding them, and viewing them.

The first thing I noticed about artisan ceramics is how incredibly tactile they are, and I prefer the more free form and asymmetric style of Hagi yaki, and any other style of potter emphasizing the wabi sabi aesthetic.

I hope to share with you ceramics pieces and observations, and talking about artists. I hope you enjoy this blog and learn along with me.