Posts Tagged ‘shigaraki’

Antiques 1-22-11

January 22, 2011

The first piece I saw was a Shigaraki bowl with a bad repair job. It is actually a regular bowl that the tea people made into a mizusashi.

The next is a handled  plate fired  Bizen  that I have photographed before. I took the opportunity to photograph the whole set of kamajirushi including the one that is in the bottom of the plate. I have labeled the different periods in the title of the pictures. If you click a picture and read the title it will tell you what period the shirushi are from. It should be noted the shirushi were for identifying work from workshops in the huge kilns and were not signed with an eye toward 500 or so years later and someone trying to read them. That is to say the images in the book I took the photos out of won’t match up perfectly with any one actual piece’s shirushi.

The next piece is a lacquered box, a piece of Japanese made tsuishu. Compare the detail on this Japanese made tsuishu with the Chinese made tsuishu I wrote about here. No comparison. The piece today is from one of the top dealers in Nara, not Mr. Kawase. It features a matsu, pine, take, bamboo and ume, plum motif. This is a strong indication it is newer. Older pieces will only have 2 of the 3 motif elements. The word for this type of 3 plant motif is shochikubai. Sho = matsu = pine, chiku = take = bamboo and bai = ume = plum. This is an interesting point. My children know this already but I think it would take a fair amount of studying to come across this commonly understood way of saying ‘a motif that contains pine, bamboo, and plum’ for a non-native speaker of Japanese.

The last piece is a kind of throw away. I really like the detail and that is why I photographed it. It is a handmade basket maybe from the turn of the century. It is colored from smoke. The material is bamboo.

I have so many pictures I am not going to try to organize them. If you click on the photo there is a title that will explain what it is.

Shigaraki, Gallery Yamahon.

July 14, 2010

I went to Shigaraki today to buy clay and glaze for a “Make something out of clay” event I am going to be a part of for my villages senior citizen group later this month. On the way back we stopped at Gallery Yamahon. They have a show by Nanako Kaji.  Yamahon is run and designed by an architect. It is a very nice space out in the middle of Iga’s Marubashira. I really like Ms. Kaji’s bowls.

After we had lunch at a Nepalese restuarant run by 3 Nepalese, not a word of Japanese or English amongst them. The food was very nice.

Making rulers.

May 6, 2010

Today was the first day in the studio in about a year. Having finished my kiln it is time to make some things to fill it.

I made shrinkage gauges for the 4 types of clay I will be firing. I only use unprocessed clay that I run through a crusher and a non-deairing pug. I am going to fire with two main types of clay and two experimental types.

The first clay and the one I have the most of is a mixture of two types of gendo, 原土. I guess ‘native clay’ although in my case it isn’t native to this area but comes from Minakuchi and Awaji Island. Minakuchi is great for Nanban but very weak, it splits and slumps if you look at it sideways.

The second is a mixture of Minakuchi clay and Jo Shigaraki clay, 上信楽. Jo Shigaraki is a cheap clay from Shigaraki, strong and has a high temperature tolerance.

The third is a mixture of Minakuchi and a clay called “Red #4″, 赤#四 from Shigaraki.

The fourth is a mixture of Minakuchi and a clay that is a mixture of a type of gendo from Kyoto and porcelain from Amakusa. I have a several hundred kilos of this Kyoto/Amakusa mixture and would like to use it if possible. I only made twenty kilos or so for testing.

I made pieces of clay that I marked every 5 cm. When I have fired them I will calculate the shrinkage and make a bamboo ruler that I will use for making work to the size I want.

Kyono Katsura’s Bizen firing. 4-1-10

April 3, 2010

Kyono Katsura is a Bizen trained potter living in Marubashira, between Iga and Shigaraki. The pictures show his small kiln that he fires Bizen ware in. He will be firing from Friday the 2nd. through Sunday or Monday. The total size of the kiln is small, about .7 cubic meters. It holds two stacks of 30cm by 40 cm. shelves, for a total of  4-6 levels in each stack. The fourth picture shows what looks like broken greenware. He uses them as bases for cups or other tall ware. The shielding created by the base helps to make “keshiki”, landscape in the finished piece. The landscape is the change in the design in the surface of the finished ware. A piece that is all one color isn’t very interesting, a piece that has an abstract design drawn by flame, ash and color is.

The picture that shows three bins of cut and split Japanese red pine also shows, to the right, what looks like charcoal. The packages contain a processed “log” of red pine oil and resin. They are cheap, about 700 yen per package. In a small kiln  they are useful because they give a small, intense flame that doesn’t have the trademark 5 meter long flame that Japanese red pine has. It would be the same as using oak or other short flamed wood, only much cheaper.

He has an interesting answer to very cold throwing water in the winter.

Echizen? Tokoname? Tanba?

March 22, 2010

I am trying to figure out the visual differences between Echizen, Tokoname, Tanba, Bizen and Shigaraki. Bizen and Shigaraki are easy enough but 14th. century work from the other areas is more difficult. It is easier on more famous pieces but as I look at minor work they all look Greek to me as far as telling where they came from.

What is Nanban?

February 5, 2010

So, what is Nanban. The word is interesting in Japanese. It has two characters, 南蛮 The first means south or southern and the second one means unrefined. Taken together they mean Southern barbarians or if combined with a noun  mean Western ….  An example would be the combination 南蛮渡来の品 which means items brought in from Indonesia, Phillippines and Thailand. This combination dates from the Muromachi and Edo period but is still used today for antiques that are from that period and originate from those areas. Another example is 南蛮画、the last character means picture in this combination. This word has two meanings. Paintings brought into Japan from the West during the latter part of the sixteenth century. The second meaning is Japanese painters that painted in a Western style in the Edo period. One last example is 南蛮人 which means Westerners, in particular Spaniards and Portuguese.   The important part of the meaning to remember is its original meaning of unrefined. I have seen some dictionaries define the base word Nanban as “wild red-haired barbarians”. It isn’t hard to imagine the Dutch being blessed with that definition back in the day. Just a couple of notes on words for non-Japanese. The one that some people  like to trot out is 外国人, gaikokujin or gaijin in its shortened form. This is usually used for non Asian types. Another one is 西洋人, seiyoujin, an older word that was used for people of European descent, including North Americans and generally a polite word. You’ve come a long way baby.

How about today?

I should first of all say it seems completely right that a non-Japanese, me, should do Nanban firing in Japan.  The meaning of Nanban today is of a type of firing that is  low temperature  stoneware. I fire my work to a target of 1100 Celsius. The “keshiki”, literally landscape or decoration, is the color changes in the clay. This puts it into direct contrast with what is typically imagined when one says wood fired. The typical wood fired piece in the West is heavy on fly ash and reduction or in many cases non-reduced fly ash.  If you look at most wood fired work from outside of Asia it seems the influences  come from two general groups. Group one is Shigaraki and Iga. Group two is Bizen, Tokoname, Echizen and Tamba with Bizen being the best marketed therefore best known.  There are   more styles than these two groups .  Sue, Yokkaichi-banko and Nanban to name a few.

Nanban is a wide category. It is often called Bizen by Japanese but the differences are many. It is probably easier to define the differences first. In Bizen fly ash isn’t seen as a problem, in Nanban it is an undesirable point. Undesirable to the point that stoking proceeds so as to not stir up ash. That means no vigorous stirrings of ash in the primary fire-box, etc. The temperature of Bizen is often cited as 1,300 Celsius. That makes for a very hard looking surface and melts the fly ash. In Nanban one of the most desirable traits is a soft feeling and looking surface. There is  a finish that is characteristic of Nanban that I call a frog finish. Here is a link to a bowl I fired recently with that kind of finish. The picture of the inside best illustrates the effect.

The most desirable color for Nanban is bright orange to red. Colors that are possible are black, green, orange, red, purple, browns and whites. It shares a characteristic with Bizen in that single colors aren’t as desirable as a “landscape” of color.

Some good pictures of Nanban  here. Some good pictures of Bizen above for group one. A few examples of my work  are  here.

Iga Ueno and Shigaraki

November 8, 2009

I spent the day driving around the Iga/Ueno and Shigaraki area. I first stumbled on a guy firing a kiln while his father looked on. He was firing without any temperature reading devices. I felt much better about the condition of my kiln after seeing the condition of his kiln and  chimney. There are also pictures of his father’s work.

The second place I went is to a guy named Kyono. He does Bizen type work. The pictures are of his house. All the wood is black from smoke from a wood burning stove.

Antiques 3-11-09

March 13, 2009

This is a Momoyama era Iga bowl. The real McCoy. I have a Iga mizusashi I will post soon. Real Iga is less common than Shigaraki. I don’t really have a lot to say about it. It surprised me to find out it is so old. The condition of the glaze and surface suggested a much newer piece. It has a nice feel to the surface. If you try to make and sell something this relaxed as far as finish goes these days you would get shot down.


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