Yesterday was the Hagakure Kenkyukai tea gathering conducted by my Ocha (tea ceremony) teacher’s mother (Ogura Sensei), who is also a tea teacher. My teacher, Kawakami Sensei, is shown at left in the picture (pink kimono), sitting on the stool waiting for the tea to be prepared. She’ll then pick up the bowl and take it to a guest, and receive the bowl after the guest is finished drinking. Ogura sensei is shown on the right, in the rear, wearing a light green kimono.

This form of the tea ceremony is called ‘ryurei’, and is conducted at a table, sitting on a stool or in a chair. Much easier on the knees…

Here is my Ocha sempai, Kuroiwa san, preparing tea for guests. Here, he’s finished putting in the tea and is adding water. He will then whisk it into a froth. The tea bowl was interesting, a pink Hagi bowl incised with many designs on the outside surface, and slightly oval. I was very surprised at the mizusashi. Just looking at it, is seems to be lacquerware, but when you pick up the lid you realize it is porcelain. It had this huge flaring rim, and the lid was actually only about 4 inches across, sitting down in the center. Not my taste as far as ceramics go, but quite impressive in itself. I didn’t inquire what it was worth…

I was only able to stay for the first hour or so of the event. I had to get back home because we had a local festival happening and all the grade school kids (including mine) were participating. After that was finished we had a big yakiniku (barbeque) party for the Shorinji Kenpo group (my boys and I are members) and for the Shishimai (Chinese Lion Dance) group, which my next door neighbor runs.

And here’s where the post finally has to do with pottery: One of the guys (Izumi san) who is a musician for the lion dance group turned out to be and old friend and drinking buddy of Okamoto Sakurei, the Karatsu potter who I’ve had a chance to visit a few times recently.The funny thing is, he had no idea how famous Okamota san is as a potter. He’s one of the top Karatsu artists currently, and his ware sells for big bucks. When I told Izumi san that Okamoto san was one of my pottery ‘heroes’, he just gave me a funny ‘what the hell for?’ sort of look. I’m not surprised he didn’t know of his fame, as Okamoto san seems to be quite down to earth and doesn’t toot his own horn all that much. If time allows, I’d like to take a group of interested folks up the mountain to visit Okamoto san during our kiln building workshop next fall.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that Isumi san and I will be going out next Saturday to dig Jinenjo, which are these long thin tubers that grow up in the mountains. They are a big pain in the butt to dig up, but are really yummy. Some people are really good at finding and digging them up, and sell them. A good Jinenjo can go for $60 or $70 bucks.

Here’s a page with some pictures of Okamoto san’s work:



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.

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