All posts by KaratsuPots

Mini Workshop by Tsuruta Yoshihisa

Great news! Tsuruta San has agreed to give a one day demo and lecture during the kiln building workshop in fall 2010. See here:

For anyone not familiar with his work, Tsuruta San is a 3rd generation potter, and a veteran of over 30 years making Karatsu ware, and currently specializes in making implements for tea ceremony. He is also my mentor. I’m so pleased he’s agreed to do this demo, his knowledge is considerable and he’s always happy to share it. For anyone interested in Karatsu ware, tea ceremony ware, clay and glazes, or just making good pots in general, this is a great chance to see a master at work. Some of his work can be seen at the links below:

Above are just the links to pictures of ware. Browse the site for other interesting things, even if you don’t read Japanese. Some preview pics below.


Here is a short blurb on Okugorai chawan, the most famous of the Karatsu chawan, which were the Karatsu answer to the Korean O-Ido bowls (previously the name Okugorai alluded to the fact that scholars were not sure of the provenance (Karatsu or Korea)). Probably the biggest difference is that the Okugorai bowls were made for tea, because all of the other differences in appearance still follow the same aesthetic of beauty that the O-Ido bowls do.

The real debate begins when collectors, critics, and scholars get together and talk about which bowls fall into the Okugorai category, and which are just simply Kogaratsu (Old Karatsu). That’s pretty much a quagmire, and not really significant, unless you’re a collector of some kind, in which case you probably already know more than I do.

The points I want to stress today are the characteristics of the Okugorai bowls, these bowls exhibit just about every trait that is desirable in Karatsu ware, and much of what is sought after by makers and collectors alike can be seen in them. Okugorai bowls are generally larger in size, like the O-Ido bowls.

1. Me-ato: The spots left on the interior of the pot from the wadding used to separate pots when they are stacked in one another and fired.
2. Kannyu: Crackle in the glaze which absorbs minerals and tea tannins over time, and becomes accentuated.
3. Koshoku: Lit. ‘old color’. The color changes in the glaze and clay that occur over time and use.
4. Tsuchimi/Tsuchiaji: The unglazed area of the pot, which shows the bare clay. Tsuchiaji is the ‘flavor of the clay’, some clays have good tsuchiaji, others have none (are uninteresting).
5. Kairagi: Lit. ‘plum tree bark’. The crawling in the glaze which occurs over the trimmed parts of the bowl. Resembles the bark of a plum tree.
6.Chirimenjiwa: Lit. ‘crepe wrinkling’. Crinkling and tearing of the clay where it has been trimmed. Resembles the wrinkling of crepe cloth.
7. Yu-kire: Places on the surface where the glaze has dropped off or pulled back to reveal a bare spot.
8. Yubi ato: Fingerprints or smudges where the potters fingers slid as he placed the pot on the ware board and released it and pulled his/her hand away.
9. Ishihaze: Eruptions in the surface of the clay caused when the clay shrinks around a silica or feldspar stone, making it appear as if the stone is erupting from the surface.

Fun with some new clay

Tried out some new clay yesterday. It’s one of the ‘waxy’ sandstones that I dug a couple months ago, the one with the mystery green inclusions. Actually, the pure sandstone turned out to be unwedgeable, so I mixed it with some Karatsu white clay, about half and half. It turned out to be reasonably throwable, with some unexpected chunks and tears.
I trimmed the guinomi this morning and got some nice surfaces. Looking forward to see how this clay reacts to the glazes and the fire.

A beautiful morning

Took the dog out this morning for a walk. It rained all day yesterday and still cloudy and misting a bit today, may be in for more rain this evening. Anyway, cool and subdued, the low clouds hang in the valleys and the treetops like a soft blanket. When it’s early and like this, it’s almost like the outside world is muffled, and the immediate is drawn into tighter focus. It has the wonderful rain smell and the flowers stand out in the lush green. The dew brings all of the spider webs into view, really shining in the patches of sun that come through. All in all, a great morning to make good pots.
My neighbor’s old home. The land is all that remains now, and from the size of this little island of land surrounded by rice fields, I don’t see how a house could have fit there. I’ve been meaning to ask them about this. To give perspective, the hydrangea in the right of the picture is about 5-6 feet high. The old pots have been sitting there in the same place since I moved here 5 years ago, and I imagine they’ll be sitting there much longer. People use these pots for various things, from grain storage to oil and drink storage, to pickling, to human waste containment (which was later used on the fields for fertilizer).

I love this persimmon tree. Looks like a bonsai (with fruit and leaves actually to scale) to me. The persimmons are ripening now and the leaves are starting to fall. My neighbor has a very tall persimmon and uses the old method of getting them down. He cuts a piece of long bamboo(24″ plus) and splits the small end so it’s open a 1/4 inch or so. He can then stick it up under the stem of the fruit pinching it in the split end. Give it a twist and the fruit comes free, but doesn’t drop and smash because the stem is scissored between the split ends of the bamboo. Pretty clever.
A nice little dew covered flower. These were popping up everywhere at the edge of a field that used to have a house. I suppose whoever lived there before planted bulbs, and they’ve been coming up ever since, even though the people are long gone.

I’ve posted a couple more pictures of the accomodations I’ve negotiated for the kiln building workshop next October. These are posted at: