Sunday, December 2, 2012

Park Jong Il Teapot Set

Park Jong Il Teaset

There is something about Korean teaware that just makes me happy, and this Teapot set from Park Jong Il does not disappoint. A ghostly mix of Blue, White and Grey, with some pinkish purple fawn spots, its wonderfully put together and thought out.

The Cups are small simple and elegant, playing with them in your fingers is a huge tactile adventure going from smooth and glassy to several different types of rough and grainy.  Then there is the teapot which has been by far the most shocking so far. I will show what I mean at the end of this post.  It now looks like its an antique and has been in my possession for at least a decade.

Park Jong Il Teapot (teaset)

Last but not least is the faircup with the handle at an unusual but easily loveable angle.

Park Jong Il Faircup - Water cooler ( teaset)

As promised the picture of the highly stained ( for some reason on this piece I have been calling it a web), crackles on the teapot:

Park Jong Il Teapot Staining

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Self Made Celadon Teaboat

Celadon Teaboat

Keep in mind we are talking about the teaboat, the misshapen green thing underneath the teapot. I have had this piece for quite awhile, I really didn't think I was going to post about it, but it has certainly seen enough use, I figure I really should.

This is another one of the pieces whose form comes from day 1 of my pottery class this past summer.  It took me awhile to remember exactly what I did for this one, as i did not remember making a wide and shallow pinchwork bowl like this.  Well this piece was the Knee pot our teacher had us make.  I can hear some people wondering "what is a knee pot?"  Well its simple take a ball of clay throw it at a table while rotating it to stretch it out into a somewhat round shape to a somewhat uniform thickness. Lift it up, and throw it over your bent knee press it down slightly but not enough to leave dents in the clay.  Then pull it off your knee and decorate.

In hindsight, I realized this was the only finished piece that I will ever be showing off on this blog that I did not apply the white glaze to, that was not Western Raku fired.  But I went with the celadon glaze as I did a simple design that I was quite happy with on the bottom of this piece, which needed a semi-translucent glaze to show off.

Celadon Teabowl Bottom

Of course if I were to try and redo a piece like this, I feel just so I could apply the glaze as far down as I would have wanted to make sure the design was completely covered, I would create a simple coil foot. Although I would make it be a rather small coil, as I personally like rather low profiles for teaboats.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Booh-Ya, Tsuboya!

Nakamura Masahiro Yunomi (2)

I am going to say that Tsuboya Yaki falls into the category that I didn't know existed basically until I purchased this piece.  Tsuboya is a traditional Japanese pottery out of Osaka. While there is quite little information about it online in English, from what I have gathered their Yunomi are known for having this shape complete with rather large foot.

The artist is Nakamura Masahiro, and while this is not the initial piece I ordered from this artist ( the one I wanted was sold the day before and it had yet to show up in inventory). But the owner of the gallery informed me that he had another piece from this artist, and offered to send me photos.  Oddly this piece is really growing on me, The glaze pattern is quite interesting, I have never quite been one for Polka Dots.

Nakamura Masahiro Yunomi (1)

This though seems to be one of the Japanese pieces I have that is the most resilient, with no sign of staining in crackles in the glaze ( can't really even see any crackles on the inside).  Its also rather nice, and don't tell anyone, but when I just wanted to drink big cups, I brewed up some Black/ Red tea and poured directly from the pot into the cup, and it was incredibly nice.  With my hagi I am scared to do something like that as I feel the strong odours will somehow get locked in the clay and then every time I have sencha after that it smells like Keemun or similar.

So I guess onto my review of the piece.  Super smooth glaze that is fun to touch, and some how my pinky always finds its self resting on and playing with the foot, when I hold it or drink it.   It definitely falls into the category of teaware I have started to explore recently, which are pieces that strive for perfection in their shape and form.  As such it may not be readily apparent, but those two photos are from opposite sides of the cup, even though they look basically identical. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So I am known for loving Wabi sabi pieces, which depending on your choice of words could be considered rustic, wonky, rough, or just plain childish in their appearance. One thing I will say is in my limited work with making my own pottery, the real talent in Hagi and similar wares is making the irregularity of the piece seem like it just absolutely belongs there.  Whether it is a  flaw in the glaze, or just plain rough and irregular form of the piece, after you get to know the piece you wouldn't have it any other way.

So now for something completely different:

Tagami Munetoshi Yunomi

This lovely cup is from Tagami Munetoshi a fifth generation Mashiko potter.  I say something completely different because the cup like quite a bit  of Mashiko ware, and many other types of pottery in Japan they aim for near perfection in every piece.  I honestly never thought I would enjoy these nearly perfectly created pieces as much as I do, its shape is also incredibly interesting, and its fun to rub my finger over those three green dots on each side of the cup which were applied quite thick and are slightly raised above the surface.

The cup its self when empty is so light and delicate feeling its almost like holding nothing at all, except for the slightly cool sensation on your fingers, there is no real sign that you are holding a piece of pottery. What was a wonderful surprise for me, is that although the glazing on the inside looked completely coherent, after a few cups of tea it stained in very fine crackles, giving the piece that well loved look I enjoy so much.

I will admit I have a lot to learn about Mashiko yaki.  I see no sign of a chop on this piece.  I almost wonder if its one of those things that takes some practice, and eventually you can identify a pieces providence on sight alone.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wonky, Pinchwork, and quite surprising

Pinchwork painted chawan (2)

I'm going to try and be as unbiased on this piece as possible, but I may wavery between hyper critical, and overly lovey dove-y with this piece.  This piece I actually made the form of on my very first day of ceramics class, but actually makes a decent chawan.  It is pinch-work with a coil foot. Sadly its quite wonky even for a pinchwork piece, due in part to the clay still being quite wet and weak when I attached the foot, so one side of the bowl is drooping.
Pinchwork painted chawan (1)

The glazing of this piece was a huge lesson in how unpredictable glazing can be.  I call this Chawan my Painted teabowl, because the effect is it looks almost painted ( not in any particular design, but just painted, with earthy colors).  I had actually imagined a far more edgy piece, that had huge contrast, between white, black and dark green.  But as I am sure the experienced potters (if there are any) that read this blog, will subtly laugh at my intent while reading this, but for the most part I was treating glazing more like painting as in, whats on top is what will be seen.  I by no means considered that yes this when it is fired melts substantially then hardens again into basically a glass on the surface of the piece.

So the glazing of this piece, as I wanted that very bright white background, and looking at the test tiles, one coat did not look as white as I wished.  So I did two dips into the white glaze, then took a calligraphy brush, and did subtle brush strokes of Tenmoku on opposite sides, and Oribe on the other two sides.  Tenmoku of course being a black glaze, and Oribe being a dark vibrant green.  Well I can understand what the Tenmoku did, as I only did a single brush stroke, and brushing glaze onto a piece does not apply it incredibly thick, and tenmoku when applied thin tends to be a browner glaze.  The Oribe though still throws me for a loop, somehow the thin layer combining with the white glaze turned purple, but even more so developed a texture different from the rest of the piece.

Painted Chawan Matcha

This piece actually handled its first bowl of matcha surprisingly well.  While it will by no means become a regular teabowl that I use, in part because the drooping around the outside of the foot, caused a rim around the outside of the piece in which the liquid settles, and is actually somewhat hard to completely drain from the piece.

All in all I think it's a great first usable piece made by me.  While it is far from the look I was going for, it developed a rather rustic look, with a color palate similar to some pottery I have seen from the western United States, mainly in the Rocky Mountain, or Southwest region.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Deishi Hagi Chawan

Deishi Chawan with Ikuyo-no-mukashi (1) 

 I really wanted to title this post "My First Hagi Chawan" or "My First High Quality Chawan" but both would be wrong, but somehow this chawan sticks in my mind that way, perhaps because I finally got a chawan in the style of one of the very first Hagi chawans I first lusted over.  It is a bowl in the style that my friend likes to call the "Frosted Gingerbread cookie" pottery.  

First and foremost I think I need to remark on how big this chawan is, and quite a few artisans are known for huge chawans, some of which I think border on impractical to use, but I started out using chawans on the smaller side of the spectrum.  To give an idea of the scale, I have two other Deishi pieces in a similar glaze, of various sizes. 

Side by Side Nested

I have a third photo like the second one but taken more from the side.  But all that really shows is that even when they are nested like that, the rims of all the pieces are all level, if not the inner two lie below the chawan lid.  But to give an idea of sizes, the smallest piece, a guinomi, holds about 60ml or 2 oz, while the medium sized piece is a nice sized cup for tea holding 7-8 ounces easily.  As you can tell these fit inside quite easily with a  bit of room to share for the chawan.  I never measured the volume of the chawan, as it really doesn't matter, as when using it you never make use of the entire volume of the chawan.

This piece does have its flaws. for one I find it almost uncomfortable to drink out of, as the rim seems to thick and blocky, with almost squared off edges, as opposed to a smoother and gentler rounded edge. It is slightly heavy, but I almost find that comforting, but I am a rather large person myself, and I tend to go with larger ceramics pieces to match my own size.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Julie Devers Yunomi

Julie Devers Yunomi

I have been remiss in posting lately, and I have had this little cup for over a month now, which I purchased before I learned that the artist is the teacher, and operator of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts anagama kiln.  The outside of this piece shows remarkably well how much wood ash can accumulate on a piece during wood firing.  As the only glaze on this piece is a Shino on the interior to help make it food safe.  The entire "glaze" on the outside consists solely of deposits from the wood ash, which on one side creates a very thick and glass like surface, and on the other side a very thin layer, that feels almost pock marked, with little hills and valleys.

Julie Devers Yunomi Side (1)

If there is one thing that absolutely fascinates me about pottery, but I have never seen any well documented guidelines regarding, would be the thermal properties of pottery pieces.  This piece, feeling of average thickness, and sort of glazed is an incredible finger burner when holding near boiling liquids.  But besides that the large smooth graceful curls working their way up the sides are great, and add a very funny comfortable texture to the piece.

Julie Devers Yunomi Inside

Julie makes quite a variety of wonderful wood fired pieces, while I do not think she has an outlet to sell online, her website is .  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Making pottery

Two classes into my beginning ceramics class, and I am learning many many things.  First and foremost is that clay is incredibly fun to work with, though getting it to do exactly what you want it to do is perhaps the biggest challenge.  So far my class has covered  slab, pinch, and coil pottery, while our first weeks worth of work has just gotten bisque fired ( have not seen how my pieces fared yet).  I look forward to learning about glazing which I understand will be covered this upcoming week.

The biggest surprise for me was how much I would enjoy coil pottery, and I have my fingers crossed that a yunomi/ wan I made will turn out in the end, as I love the shape I made with it, and it is something that could not be made by being thrown, at least not easily.  Its a somewhat standard wan shape, but its built up on a triangle, and the piece though it bows out and is bowl like maintains the hint of a triangle shape throughout the entire piece.  I also spent a decent bit of time carving the foot to make it actually look like a foot for a cup.

At the same time I am a little bit scared as the substitute instructor the other day gave us what was a cross between a warning and a reassuring comment, that honestly quite a few pieces just do not make it through the entire firing process, even for very experienced potters.  Granted while I am not sure that any piece I have made has been "great" I am worried that some of the pieces I put the most effort into, would suffer from  "overworking" and as such end up having some sort of structural failure during the process.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Taking the Next Step

Tonight I took the next step in my ceramics education, I enrolled in a beginning ceramics class at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts.  Honestly I am a little scared, for a multitude of reasons, most of which I will try and explain in this post.

I am not an artist ( at least not in the typical sense).  The last time I took an art course I was in middle school.  While I do not think I will suddenly be a great creator of ceramics, I hope I have at least have some skill  gained from appreciating the handy work of some incredible artists.  I heard it was said that with relatively little practice a major official in Japan was creating chawan  with skill shown by those that have practiced for much longer due to the fact that he had been such a lover o f tea and teaware for so long.  Honestly the closest I get to being an artist is when I masterfully weave together logical arguments to create a logically sound proof of a mathematical statement.

Besides understanding what I like from a few different glazes and in terms of clay's, I honestly have no clue how to create those effects in the kiln, or in the selection/ mixing process.  While I certainly hope some of these things will be covered in a Beginning ceramics course, I can definitely say I am very particular about my teaware, and I am worried that while it may be fun, it will be an exercise in futility in which I create a bunch of pieces I never want to use.

Most of all and I feel somewhat silly in saying this, but I am quite worried that I honestly will not enjoy it at all.  Living out in detail the hypocritical critic.  Where I write a blog about appreciating ceramics, and enjoying ceramics, critiquing artists work, but in the end not even being willing to ever put my own work on the line. I would feel like a journal editor reviewing submitted papers, in an area I have never worked in.  I could try and judge if it meets its end goals, but I would be completely unable to appreciate the beauty in the approach, or the ingenuity in getting the result.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gyokko Yohen Kyusu

Gyokko Tiny Yohen Kyusu

I had not expected this day to happen for quite some time, if ever.  But it happened when I went on a teaware buying binge fueled by a tax rebate, saw this little guy and said why not.  But yes I actually own a Kyusu smaller than some of my Yixing teapots.  This little guy in theory measures in at 140 ml but I would like to double check that ( keep on forgetting) because it honestly seems so small.

It is a great little Tokaname Kyusu made by the artist Gyokko, and fired such that it shows off its lovely Yohen effects.  The fire created such a wonderful appearance on this piece, with bands going from aging dusty chocolate, to almost black clay, to a nearly rusted piece of scrap metal, then the most interesting band is somehow so incredibly shiny it looks like it got painted with oil.

Gyokko Tiny Yohen Kyusu other side

Although using this piece while definitely doable, feels precarious.   Its one of those things that I have large enough hands grabbing it from above, my fingers on all sides wrap around and touch the edge of the bottom of the kyusu.  So when using this I feel like a giant using a normal sized teapot.  In fact while with most kyusu's I like to have a decent part of palm touching the handle, it just does not work. When I pour with this kyusu it is thumb and middle finger on opposite sides of the handle, right where it is narrowest. and my index finger on the top of the button. This is the most comfortable with me, but the handle does not get within an inch of my palm.

But I am incredibly fond of this little guy.  In fact makes doing small sencha tasting incredibly easy, and in  a pinch could likely also be used for Gyokuro.

Gyokko Yohen, and Seigan SO

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Seong-Il Chawan

Seong Il Teabowl

I now have my very own piece of Korean Hagi, and I am loving it.  This cream white piece that is already starting to stain wonderfully.  It is also a classic rice bowl shape, very similar to the Ido style teabowls that are so renown.

My biggest pet peeve on this bowl, which granted I have not fully tested to see if it is actually more my new chasen rather than the bowl itself.  In all honesty all Chawans I have used previously have had a rather flat bottom, and this bowl shaped bottom is so rounded, I have been having an incredibly hard time whisky my matcha. Although I have only tried using my new 80 prong ( instead of 100 prong) chasen.

So more on this piece, feels great in hand, uses Buncheong Clay.  Amazingly enough this is one of the few glazed pieces I have seen that almost actively seems to pull water underneath the clay, and in fact just having water sitting in the bowl the cracks will darken.

Grandpa Style Sencha Complete

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eiichi Kohiku Yunomi

Eiichi Commisioni Grey Scar

I have sung Eiichi quite a few praises in the past, and this is no different.  My biggest issue is the size he choose for these pieces, as from everyone that got one of these in the Teachat Eiichi Commission Special Offer, has remarked on their large size.  It is less of an issue for me because I am incredibly fond of big cups of sencha, and this cup is a near perfect match for a kyusu I have in terms of size.

The glaze is certainly interesting I happen to go for one that showed "Grey Scars" as I like to call them.  Maybe because I am not sure I am fond of just the orange/ beige color strictly on its own.  The above picture shows my favorite feature of this cup, which has me thinking about affectionately naming it "Scar face".

Eiichi Commision Inside

Surprisingly through many cups of sencha this is still resisting any signs of staining, which I thought might occur quicker due to its many breaks and pits inside the glaze  ( pictured above).   If this stains anything like the Biwa I happen to have it will be a really interesting looker once the staining does start to take place, giving it an incredibly ancient look.

In terms of form and shape Eiichi did outstanding work, he let the glaze and the oni-hagi clay cause the wabi sabi effects of this piece, and otherwise threw a near perfect form for this cup, super straight walls, just minor ridges from formation spiraling up the sides. I always find those ridges are great to assist with gripping the cup. The cup looks nearly perfectly circular, and I bet I could set a piece of cardboard on the top of this cup, and it would hit nearly everywhere along the rim at once.  Unlike the woodfired Yunomi I got from Eiichi, the foot is immaculate.

Eiichi Commision side

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Park Jong Il Teacup

Park Jong Il Teacup

I'm using this lovely little beauty right now, and it is quickly becoming my favorite teacup of its size. Its a pretty basic Korean style cup, except it has the added kiln effects, which are apparent in the above picture.  The kiln lead to "blemishes" in the appearance of the glaze leading to these blueish purple patches.   But of course me being me I absolutely love those little blemishes, I just wish somehow they managed to work their way all around the cup.

Park Jong Il Teacup back

I am honestly not sure there is anything I do not like about this piece.  Lovely very pronounced and well cut foot. Rustic looking but well done glazing, and an absolutely amazing shape.  I think I may need to try and find some more pieces, by this wonderful artist.

While I am enjoying a Korean Tea, with Korean Teaware, I thought Korean music should be in order.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


A project of a year in the making, which sadly the most I participated in this offering was to be a "pre-commited" participant.  This is The Eiichi Commission  which at long last we have seen pictures, and given a name to the design of this project.  It is somewhat ground breaking in the sense that previously the glaze colors done by Eiichi have been White, White, White, and more White, either thick or thin, perfect coatings or crawling with cracks.  This project was given the name of Kohiku, which is the name for a somewhat traditional Hagi glaze style in which a bit of color change is aimed for after applying a slip glaze doing a Bisque fireing and then applying an over glaze and firing once more.

Photos can be found here, and as I am pre-committed I definitely will have one finding its way to me.   Those of you familiar with the styles of Yunomi's/ teacups that I like may already have a decent guess at what style(s) my hopeful choices were from.

I will say I was quite impressed with these pieces in general, although I am not overly fond of the bright orange color.  I am secretly hoping that these are telling pictures but not super accurate in terms of color, and that the color is actually a bit more neutral and passive in nature.  Although I would love to see how this fire-orange ages and progresses through the 7 stages of hagi with use.

Look forward to another post (or more) in the somewhat near future.