Sunday, August 22, 2010

Some Basic Japanese Pottery Forms

While there are many Japanese pottery forms, we'll take a look at a few of the most popular in this post.

Perhaps the most beloved Japanese pottery form is the chawan, the tea bowl. The popular style is actually derived from the simple, disposable rice bowls made by Korean potters.

While the chawan is most often reserved for tea ceremony, the yunomi is a teacup intended for everyday use. A yunomi is taller than it is wide, and often times they are sold as a pair, with one slightly larger than the other (the larger one for the husband, the smaller for his wife).

A Japanese teapot is called a kyusu. A yokode kyūsu has a side handle, a ushirode kyūsu has a rear handle, and a uwade kyūsu has the handle on top.

Most sake cups are essentially a miniature chawan, and come in many different shapes. A choko (which means "boar's snout" for it's shape) is typically a very small sake cup, guinomi (which means "gulp cup") is typically larger. Many people collect guinomi as works of art.

A tokkuri is a sake flask. Again, tokkuri come in many shapes and sizes, and are quite collectible.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Throwing Off The Hump

The potter shown here is "throwing off the hump," a technique that is not typically taught to beginners in America. The primary benefit of the technique is that it allows the potter to continue making piece after piece without getting up. The main drawback is that it's difficult to compress the clay at the bottom of the pot because you're not pressing against the wheel head. It's also somewhat difficult to cut and remove pieces at first.

This master potter is demonstrating the making of a Japanese side-handle teapot, known as a yokode kyusu. His technique is amazing, but keep in mind, he is only attaching the pieces for demonstration purposes. To actually make the teapot, he would need to allow the various parts to dry a little before assembly, and he would obviously need to create holes for the tea to flow into the spout.

For more on throwing off the hump, watch this video demonstration by Michael Cardew.

Shoji Hamada

Shoji Hamada is perhaps the most well-known Japanese potter in America. Not only was he a talented craftsman, he was an eager showman who traveled around the world giving demonstrations and lectures.

Bernard Leach

You may be surprised to see a British potter on this blog, but Bernard Leach is one of the most influential figures in ceramics. 

Leach was born in Hong Kong to British citizens. As a young man he studied art in Japan under the tutelage of the great master Kenzan VI, and worked alongside future legends Kawai KanjiroTomimoto Kenkichi and Shoji Hamada. He returned to England with Hamada and established his own studio, and is credited with reviving the ceramics craft movement in the face of industrialization.

He was instrumental in reintroducing the western world to Asian pottery. Leach was a follower of the mingei movement which valued traditional crafts at a time when factories were beginning to mass produce nearly everything in our daily lives. Leach wrote one of the most famous books on pottery, simply titled A Potter's Book, 1940.