Saturday, September 4, 2010

Japanese Ceramists at MCG

Over the years, a few noteworthy Japanese-American ceramists have done residencies and workshops at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. Almost everyone who enters the building notices the  tall, freestanding ceramic sculpture by Jun Kaneko. He calls this form a dungo, which means dumpling in Japanese.

Another large sculpture in the main lobby is a piece by Hiromu Okuda. Hiromu and his wife and fellow artist, Mieko, are from the world-renowned pottery town of Shigaraki, Japan. In 2008, they spent an entire month working at MCG. In addition to the sculptural forms he is known for, Hiromu is famous for making teaware. In fact, he is the 14th generation in his family to do so. There are examples of his tea bowl and cool water jar on the shelves of the ceramics studio.

Mieko Okuda is quite accomplished as well. She works primarily in porcelain, either creating small organic sculptures, or medium to large sized plates which she paints on.

Not surprisingly, almost every visitor to the MCG ceramics studio takes note of the Akio Takamori piece. Takamori is a professor in Seattle, Washington and his work is exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.

You can see one of Hiromu Okuda's tea bowls in the photo to the right.

Japanese-Inspired Glazes

Several glazes in the MCG studio are inspired by traditional Japanese glazes. The first and foremost is our Gold Shino, which is an Americanized version of the traditional Shino glazes from Japan.

Shino is traditionally a white glaze with red-brown flashing. It's said that it was first developed in response to the Japanese tea master Shino Soushin's request for a white glaze in the 1500's. Since then, many varieties have developed, including the carbon trap varieties that are so popular with American potters.

Temmoku, or Tenmoku, is an iron-rich glaze that originated in China. A Zen Buddhist monk was visiting China from Japan and fell in love with the dark brown tea bowls being used at a temple on Tianmu Mountain. It is said that in the 13th century, when he brought the bowl back to Japan, he didn't know what to call the glaze. So it was referred to by the name of the mountain where it came from.

Deb's Red is another iron-rich glaze in our studio which is inspired by the Japanese classics kaki and tessha, which are very similar. According to The Potter's Dictionary, "If the rust-coloured parts spread over more of the glaze causing rust patches, it would be called tessha and if the rust covered most of the surface it would be a kaki glaze."


Celadon is another Chinese glaze adopted by the Japanese (and mastered by the Koreans, as well). Celadon is typically pale green, obtaining its color from the iron oxide in the glaze (though it has much less than Tenmoku). Celadon is not an easy glaze to use, because it will be quite drab colored unless a special condition is achieved in the kiln, referred to as reduction.


The glaze named Oribe comes from the style of pottery made popular by the teamaster and warrior Furuta Oribe (who was a student of Sen no Rikyu). Oribe pottery is characterized by a dark green translucent glaze that derives its color from copper. Oribe wear often features brushwork, including designs painted in iron oxide, and incorporates clear glaze as well as the aforementioned green.