Classical Glazes Part 1: The Many Faces of Namako

Dating to the Kowatari era, Namako(Nuh-mah-ko), or Sea Cucumber glaze, is one of many Classical Glazes still in use today.  Along with Kinyo(baby blue), Ki(Yellow), Tenmoku, and various Canton glazes, Namako is one of those glazes every Contemporary Japanese artist has their own version and spin on.  

Namako has many characteristics of Chun Blue glazes(thanks Steve) another Classical Chinese glaze that saw its peak in the 11-15th centuries.  Namako is characteristically dark blue, with notes of browns and white flecks.  Unlike Kinyo and other blue glazes, Namako gets its blue coloration from “spherules of immiscible glass floating in the larger glass matrix. These are of the appropriate size to scatter blue light and not other wavelengths thus making the glaze appear blue to your eye.” Traditional Namako includes things like Bone Ash(Calcium Phosphate) Rice-Straw ash, and Feldspar.  The white pattern in the blue is often “Hare’s Fur”, common to Tenmoku and Namako.

           Sea Cucumber or Sea Slug….you can see where the name comes from!

Today we’ll take a look at the many and varied faces of Namako, both from antiquity and the modern era.  

Now, on to the pots!  

Antique Chinese Namako

   Classical Jingasa(Old Hat) shape with Namako.  Like many Namako glazes, the white mottling is night-sky-like and shows great depth.

  A typical Namako glazed rectangle, showing brown at the corners and angles.  Generally, the darker the clay, the more blue will show, and the lighter, less.Brown Namako oval.  The blue shows in the bottom of the glaze.  
  Round Namako with lip, showing significant white.  A subtle Namako rectangle.
  Darker Namako oval with a good balance of white and blue.  A really excellent Namako with soft inner lip(Uchi Buchi, how fun is that to say?) and great depth.
  Another Brown Namako.  This is an excellent example of why it is often difficult to date Namako, as patina is difficult to see.

 Nakawatari Namako from Yixing.  Deep, rich blue and brown at the angles.  Namako round showing the desirable Hare’s Fur pattern.  The quintessential Hare’s Fur pattern.  Namako over Tenmoku.

  Namako lipped rectangle.  Deep blue with brown at the angles and very light white accents.

  Kowatari Canton Namako.  Canton Namako is quite rare, and shows more whites and brighter blues, along with a different type of pattern.
  Another Kowatari Canton Namako.  The brighter blues and difference In pattern can clearly be seen on this suiban.

Japanese Namako

While old Chinese Namako was very much shibui(complex but simple and subtle), contemporary Japanese Namako often tends towards hade(indulgently complex, wild).

Heian  Kouzan, Later edition Namako Rectangle with double incised corners.

 Harumatsu Namako Suiban.

Suishoen, Tokoname.  Namako soft cornered Rectangle. 
  Youzan, Tokoname.  Significant whites and running hare’s fur make Youzan Namako quite unique.Hidemi Shuhou, Tokoname.  Brighter blues and running whites are more typical of contemporary Japanese Namako.  

  Aiba Kouyou.  Crazy Namako.    Bushuan.  Unlike classical Namako, which is a single glaze, many contemporary artists use multiple glazes for a Namako effect.  Taisho Bachi, Japanese Namako(1911-1926).  Most Taisho era Japanese bonsai containers are copies of Antique Chinese glazes, and Namako are common.  They never show the same level of depth as Antique Chinese Namako.

  Aiba Kouyou, Tokoname.  Koyo has 3 versions of Namako, this is my favorite of the three. Reihou, Tokoname.  A very classical style Namako, suiting Reiho’s classical style.  Reihou, Tokoname.  Another very Classical style Namako.
 Double Glazed, Namako over Oribe from Gyoumu.  Contemporary artists frequently layer Namako over other glazes, Tenmoku being the most common.

  As Classical bonsai pottery becomes better known in the west, more artists are using these glazes.  Here is a really nice Namako from Roy Minarai of South Carolina.
 Another excellent Namako style glaze from American Stephanie Walker, showing great depth and some sweet foot drips. 

 American Namako from Tyler Johnson, showing significant running and excellent depth.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at classical and contemporary Namako!

  I hope to see everyone this coming September in Rochester, where I will be giving two lectures on Bonsai Containers.  It’s an honor to be invited, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone!
Thanks for reading! 

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With Heike Van Gunst

Shosekis! (Part 3 of the Bang for your Buck series)

Ishida Shoseki

Ishida Shoseki was born in 1925, but didn’t start to create bonsai containers until 1969.  At the age of 50, she first trained under a professional potter, at wheel throwing,  under Bunsho, in Imari, and subsequently went on to study painting under Miyazaki Tosato.

Her style combines the best of classical Imari style figure painting and geometrics with a distinctly feminine touch.  She passed away in 2005, at the height of her popularity amoung Shohin enthusiasts.  

  An oval porcelain pot painted with landscape motifs in blue and green.
  An excellent figurative Geometric dragon.  A round piece with highly detailed geometrics and cloud panel landscape.  A hexagonal porcelain pot with landscape motifs and geometric patterns. On the feet of the pot there are painted flowers.  A round pot painted in blue. Two pines stand on a cliff above the sea. Below the cliff thow little boats are sailing along. In the background there are rocky islands.  Frogs like those painted on this round porcelain pot are a motif that Ishida Shoseki has used quite often, from the Chojugiga.  A rectangular porcelain pot with landscape paintings and geometrics.  The landscape motifs in the fan-shaped picture frames are painted in five colours.  Photo courtesy Yorozuen

Children motifs are popular with both Shosekis.

 A colourful flower pattern is painted on this round mame pot.  

A porcelain unpainted container with cut feet and lip.   

Blue glazed taiko(drum) with double bands of rivets.  Figurative parrot and palm tree.   

A landscape with hares is painted with black glaze colour on the light blue glazed porcelain pot.  The painting is by Daisuke Sano, the pot by Shoseki.  There is a frog motif on the other side of the pot.  Chop mark of Ishida Shoseki, signature of Sano, later edition signature.     A cascade pot with blue landscape painting. The composition and the use of free space is as remarkable as the vivid expression of the motif.

Yuki Shoseki

She was born in Tokyo in 1948, and in 1988 began her apprenticeship under Ishida Shoseki, after marrying her eldest son.  In 2005, she inherited the Shoseki name becoming the second generation Shoseki.  

Like her mother-in-law, and teacher, she is excellent with figure paintings, Imari style geometrics, and landscapes.   

  9 containers by Yuki in a variety of styles, showing the diversity of this artist.  Photo courtesy of German Gomez Soler.

  Rectangle with akae geometrics and landscape panel.
  Sometsuke geometrics.  Chojugiga.
  Soft rectangle with landscape.  Frolicking child in red.
  5 color children surrounded by Sometsuke geometrics.  Dragon and geometric details.
  Interesting rope border fan panel landscape and geometrics.  Landscape panel and geometrics.
  5 color Landscape hut on round.  Cricket panel and geometrics.
  An impressively detailed panel landscape and geometrics.  Frolicking children in 5 color.
 A cooperative effort from Yuki Shoseki and Shibakatsu.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the painted containers of Ishida and Yuki Shoseki.  

Take a minute and check out Heike Van Gunst’s excellent sister article to this one, at, Shosekis

Stay tuned, plenty of great articles coming out soon!   Thanks for reading!

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Inoue Ryosai

After a long summer and fall hiatus while I’ve been actually DOING bonsai, I’m back this week with the first of several articles to be published before the end of the year.  Thanks for being patient and sticking around!

Third Generation Inoue Ryosai(Inoue Ryotaro) was born September 4, 1888 in Asakusa, Tokyo, to the eldest son of the founder of the kiln.  The kiln was originally founded in the Edo period, and the family is descended from a long line of potters in the Owari/Seto clan.

He began his study of ceramics at the age of 17, and studied under “the father of modern Japanese ceramics”, Itaya Hazan.  In 1914, he inherited the family kiln and name, and moved to Yokohama, and built a new kiln.  The kiln was destroyed in 1923 in the Great Kanto earthquake, and he constructed a new, larger noborigama(climbing kiln) that still stands today, almost 11 meters tall.  It is “a mere 10 minute bike ride” from the kiln of another of the all time greats of Japanese Ceramics, Makuzu Kozan.

Ryosai specialized in export pottery for the high class Chinese and European markets, so pieces(like bonsai containers) for the Japanese market are exceedingly rare and culturally precious.  Ryosai won a host of prizes and awards in his lifetime, including the Emperors Prize in 1928, admission to the Japanese Acadamy of Fine Arts, and the rare designation as a living Cultural Treasure.  

His pieces are varied in style, and run the gamut from Unglazed to Glazed, to painted, carved and even enameled.  Truly an exceptional talent in all forms of ceramic art.

He passed away February 6, 1971. 

  A really fantastically glazed rectangle with cut feet and white clay.  One of the few I’ve ever seen up for sale.  Another wonderful glazed piece.  Very contemporary in both style and glaze, this is what makes the truly great artists: timelessness.    Another glazed piece, this one a soft mokko Showing an excellent patina.    It wouldn’t be fare to show Ryosai’s work without a few Non-bonsai related items.  A love crackle with just a splash of color.  A really striking kinyo oval.  Note the full coverage of the feet and the total lack of patina.  Truly a valuable item.  One of Ryosai’s painted sometsuke pieces. Taken from the blog of Haruyoshi San.  Charming and whimsical.

    A famous and outstanding overglaze enameled piece in black, red, and gold.  The detail is stunning.  Absolutely breathtaking piece.
  Another of Ryosai’s non-bonsai pieces.  Had to include this one, for the striking carving.  A glazed rectangle in a striped and rich green.  Great depth to the glaze.

An unglazed oval.  The clay color, patina, and form are striking.    One of Ryosai’s specialties was Flambé glaze, also known as Oribe red or copper red.  Under certain conditions(oxidation at 1220C) Oribe glazed are green, under others, they’re red.  The level of red in this woven glaze is simply outstanding.
  A six sided pot with a soba noodle glaze.  Great depth and fantastic, uniform fine oil droplets.

  Another painter container, this one painted with a rustic geometric band.  Charming and whimsical.
  Another Flambé glazed piece, in an antique mirror shape.  There’s just not much to say here.  It’s breathtaking.  Masterpiece. 

 A rich and deep green glazed rectangle with lip and bottom band.  Marvelous patina.  Simple, classical, lovely.

 A painted cascade container in cobalt-blue showing some fancy feet and wonderful patina.  Last up for the flambé/Oribe-red containers, is this matched set of cut foot squares with lip.  Simply outstanding.  No potter I’m aware of does copper reds quite as well as Ryosai(Imaoka does a pretty good version though).

  A simple and elegant celadon crackle in antique mirror shape.  

Six sided container with triangle feet in classical Oribe with painted horse.  Elegant.   Another painted container, in sometsuke.  A simple landscape and charming painting.

  And we’ll finish up our look at Inoue Ryosai with this fantastic mokko in Kouka-Yu(peach glaze).  Lovely, uniform color, striking in its simplicity and perfect form.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the masterpiece containers of Inoue Ryosai.

Stay tuned, I have several more articles coming up on the horizon, including a Co-op article with Heike Van Gunst of Germany (who is also translating my articles to German for Peter Krebs’ site) on Ishida and Yuuki Shoseki, several articles in series on antique Chinese glazes and clay types, and more!

Thanks for reading!

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Shunka Seizan 3

This will be the third installment of posts on the great contemporary potter and painter Shunka Seizan, who has recently won several awards and continues to amaze me with his diverse talents.  From post 1:

“His real name is “河村 政春” “Kawamura Seishun”. A veteran of more than 40 years as a bonsai grower, enthusiast, and lover, he is especially known for his maples. Shozan began making pots as a hobby 6 years ago. The works are all single block carved, and feature some of the best glazes I’ve seen from any modern potter, both in kiln change type glazes and clean, pure colors. Most of his glazes are kiln change type, in the best Japanese tradition of Tofukuji.”

To see more on this potter, check out these previous articles: 

Shunka Seizan 1
Pots in Process
Shunka Seizan Painted Pots
Now…..on to the pots!

  A Really complex Takatori Yu style glaze on a mokko pot.  Shunka Seizan’s Takatori Yu is the best Ive seen from any contemporary potter, the only that perhaps come close to Tofukuji.  An interesting dark Tenmokuu with a lighter secondary glaze.  Real depth in the darkness.        Multiple views of a green mokko with several different color accents.  Really nice crackle to the glaze also.  Man…..that is PINK!  Another pink pot with a splash of orange.  Russell?Brilliant yellow Footed and flared oval.  Seizan’s yellows are some of the best and cleanest.  Two tone cream rectangle with bottom belt and lip.  Really nice depth for a single color glaze can be achieved with more than one firing.  Remember that pink?  Wow….that’s RED!  Seizan’s reds are some of the cleanest and brightest I have seen.    A flambé glaze square from my collection.  Really nice two tone red and cream. A really great light green glazed six sided pot.  A little darker than celadon, I haven’t seen this color from any other artist.  Ikkou’s greens come close, but it’s a hair darker.

Painted Pots

Seizan has been painting containers for a very short amount of time.  That makes it all the more impressive that these are so nice.  You’ll note that all the paintings are homages: like most Japanese artists, of any form, Seizan is learning to paint by copying great and famous works from history and scrolls.   A scene from the anthropomorphic Chojugiga scrolls.       More Chojugiga.  These are classical and whimsical subjects for bonsai containers.

And Then there are These…..these are available if anyone is interested, feel free to drop me a line.  The full 55 container set is available piecemeal….hurry though I doubt they’ll be available for long!    


This is a small selection of the full set of Ando Hiroshige’s famous “53 Stations of the Tokaido Road”, with the corresponding woodblock prints of the original.  All of the greatest painters and carvers have done versions of the “Stations”, including Sano Daisuke, Bigei, Chazan, Tosui, Shousen, and Tsukinowa Yusen.

Seizan’s versions are incredibly detailed for such small Shohin containers, and stand up well to the originals.  The yellow glaze and nicely done inset panels really set them off.  Really excellent work.  Hurry!

Hope you’ve enjoyed another look at Shunka Seizan!  Thanks for reading!



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Bushuan 5

Shigeru Fukuda is one of my favorite contemporary Japanese potters, and has been featured numerous times on the blog. 

For previous posts, click here: Bushuan Posts. 

He is quite famous in Japan, although not because of bonsai and pottery.  He’s something akin to the Japanese Dale Earnhart, as he’s the winningest Japanese auto racer in history, with more than 60 wins.  He currently owns the Kawaguichi Auto Racing track in Saitama.  

Insofar as hispottery is concerned, it’s said that’s he’s the “reincarnation of Heian Tofukuji”, for his diversity of form, unique glazes, and exceptional depth.

  Here, Kunio Kobayashi prepares a stone display at Shunkaen with Bushuan Suiban.  That’s Fukuda Shigeru to the left.  

Now, on to the pots!



     Multiple Views of an outstanding crackle yellow glazed Tetsu Gakken style rectangle with painted and carved bamboo and tiger.  Simply gorgeous.          A spectacular rectangle with multiple color glazes.  A riot of beatiful glazes.  Truly unique style and execution.    A more muted Multi color glazed square in earth tones with just a hint of blue.   


   One from my collection.  A really nice yellow glazed rectangle with significant crystal formation.  This container is difficult to photograph.  The amount and complexity of the crystals is outstanding.

IMG_3353    An outstanding round with full cloud feet and darker multicolor glaze.  Complex and beautiful.    A tall jingasa(hat shape) with running green glaze.    Bushuan Oribe, with his characteristic heavy notes of blue cobalt.  Another Oribe, in round bag shape.  Showing less blue and more of a multi color effect.   A really lovely shinsa red, in a classical oval with terraced feet.    Just too much say here…..the spiral fluting makes this piece and it’s glaze wild.  Breathtaking.      Another Oribeish glaze.  This one showing some great crystal structures around the rim.  The center braid really sets this piece off.Another really exceptional drippy red, with notes of pinks….good lord that’s a lot of different reds.  I’ve seen a couple of these highly textured glazed rounds.  Now this is a use of texture I can totally back.IMG_1013Another from my collection, green Oribe with cloud feet and a lovely crackle.IMG_9803    A last from my own hoard: a really lovely rich blue over Oribe.  This is a tiny piece at 3″ but guaranteed to be a show stopper nonetheless…. 

Wow……nuff said.
Another painted and carved piece, this is an exceptional Oribe rectangle on multiple levels.          And we’ll finish up with this streaky blue rectangle…..crackle, drippy blue-green glaze, bottom glaze, carved handles…..this has it all; a true masterpiece in every sense.

Hope you’ve enjoyed another look at the pottery of Shigeru Fukuda, Thanks For Reading!


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Ino Shukuho, Part 2

Ino Shukuho is a legacy of 3 generations of potters, each with different styles and techniques.  The current Shukuho, Ino Yoshiki, was born in 1943.  His father, Ino Kiichiro, was a purveyor for the Imperial Houshokd, and was close friends with Heian Tofukuji; many of Tofukuji’s greatest later works were fired in the Shukuho kiln.  Shukuho has won numerous prizes and awards, and his containers are some of the most popular for Shohin bonsai in Japan.  The vast majority are carved from a single block of Kyoto clay, leaving production levels very low due to the labor intensive nature of the method.

Many works were commissioned bY Takeyama San of Fuyo En, who was a driving force behind some of the kiln’s later designs.  It’s said that 3rd Generation Shukuho’s Oribe Glaze is virtually identical to Tofukuji’s.  

Now on to the pots!


A fairly typical example of Shukuho Oribe glaze.  The light tan colored Kyoto clay body really helps the greens and blues shine.

Another Oribe, this one showing quite a bit more blue streaking over the green. 
Really fantastic rectangle with a metallic cream and greenish red glaze.  

Standard rectangle Oribe with cut feet, showing a significant amount of crystal formation.    

A really unique hand formed piece with a met takin silverish glaze.

Rare mokko shape in a darker green with crystals.  
Lovely oval in light blue and green.    

A rare and exceptional Suiban in Oribe green with blue touches.  

A light blue rectangle with cut corners and speckling. 

A really six-sided cascade in Oribe green with crystals.  

Nanban style Oribe.

A rarer style rectangle in Oribe with cut corners and great crystal speckling.  

For comparison, a world class Tofukuji Oribe in a similar shape and glaze.
A great rectangle with cut corners, lip, and cloud feet in an excellent Canton style ruri indigo blue. 


Oval Oribe showing significant blue highlights.  Lovely glaze.


An interesting Oribe blue with some texture under the glaze. 

A much rarer relief carved celadon porcelain six sided container.  Excellent relief work and beautiful celadon porcelain.
While these traditional Kyo-style overgraze enameled and painted pieces are more typical of first and second generation Shukuho works, some exist from third generation as well.  

And We’ll finish up here….with this Satsuki at the top left, Kokufu Sho Prize winner, in a Shukuho container.

That’s one sweet Satsuki!  And the Shukuho matches it perfectly.   

Wow.  That’s nebari.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look at Shukuho bonsai containers.  Thanks for reading!

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21 Questions for Kawauso Pottery and the Talented Roy Minarai

I started out thinking I was going to do an article about Kawauso Pottery(aka Roy Minarai on Facebook), but the interview stands well on its own. So, here it is in its entirety, along with a selection of Roy’s containers.
I think we can expect (even more) wonderful things from Kawauso Pottery in the coming years; with only a short time under his belt, Roy is already producing some of the best and most complex glazes I’ve seen in the West.  I own several of them myself, so am one of the few who has had the opportunity to examine them first hand, and they are as excellent in person as they are in photographs.  His truly unique glazes will certainly be collectible in time.  Head over to his page and give him a like on Facebook with this link: Kawauso Pottery.  And keep your eyes peeled: Roy’s containers will be available for sale to the public soon!

JBP:How old are you?

RG: “37”

 JBP:Where are you From?

RG:“Glamorous Lake Worth, Florida.”

 JBP:Where are you currently located?

RG:“Greenville, South Carolina.”

  JBP:What got you into bonsai?

RG:“What got me interested to begin with was visiting two places as a kid- the Morikami Museum and Gardens and the Mounts Botanical Garden. There I saw bonsai trees for the very first time and fell in love. I was so intrigued and captivated by those little trees. I could sit and look at them for hours. I recently went back with my wife Patti and explored the Morikami, and it was still amazing!”

  JBP:How long have you been into bonsai?

RG:“With that said it was many many years before I actually got any bonsai of my own. I had always admired and checked them out whenever I had the opportunity, but it wasn’t until 2013 when my wife encouraged me to get one, that I got my first, a trident. Then I got another, and another and you know how that goes…”

  JBP:Are you still doing bonsai, or has pottery taken over?

RG:” I still have some trees. I can say that I enjoy the pottery aspect of bonsai more than the trees at this point. Maybe it’s the result of pottery consuming my time, or just the natural evolution of things, but I find myself giving away a lot of trees and focusing on a few, mainly maples and crabapples.”

  JBP:How long have you been doing pottery?

RG:“Ummm. Haha. I feel like answering that question might change the way people look at my pots… A long time. Like 8-10……months.” (Editors Note: it certainly does change the way I look at Roy’s pots: they’re far far more impressive in the light of his rookie status!)

  JBP:What got you started in pottery?

RG:“I’m not sure. It would be cool if I had this experience that inspired and launched me into it right? But the truth is I remembered enjoying making a coil pot in grade school, and when I saw the amazing things people were doing with bonsai pots, I thought I’d give it a try. I have always thought I wasn’t artistic or creative. I’m good with words but nothing tangible or functional. Until pottery. Something clicked while doing my first pot in a friends garage, and I discovered something I never knew was there”

  JBP:What bonsai potters or artists have influenced you, Japanese or American?

RG:“That’s like asking a musician what bands inspire him, it would be cool if I could throw out obscure names that no ones heard of, but I’m not that cool. Bunzan, Bushuan, Eimei, Tom Benda, Andrew Pearson, Jurgen Robyns, Horst, Sonny and Stephanie Walker, to name a few… Also Bjorn Bjorholm- yeah he’s not a potter but the dude is so good at what he does and has so much fun doing it (just watch the YouTube series he does). It’s inspiring to see someone operate at that high of a level consistently, and still have as much fun as he does… and a guy named MRB. People like him that are so stoked -and knowledgable about the pottery side of bonsai really encourage me!”

  JBP:What are your upcoming plans? Show events? Website sales? Conventions?

RG:“Yes. Haha. I don’t know bro, I don’t have anything planned besides to start selling some pots on my Facebook page Kawauso Pottery and maybe a few auction pages… I’d love to do some shows, but without a name I’m not sure who would have me…”(Editors Note: You hear that Show Chairmen?  Here’s a vendor you need to invite to the next party!)

  JBP:How are your containers made?

RG:” I make them all by hand, slab building and carving. It’s a slow process with no wheel or molds, but it’s what I enjoy. For me the process of slowing down and being completely present is one of the things I enjoy most. The more I build pots the less tools I find myself using. Lately I use a few pieces of wood and my hands for almost everything.”

  JBP:What styles really intrigue you?

RG:“Right now I’m so new to all this that everything intrigues me. Seriously, I’m like a kid that just discovered Toy R Us for the first time! I find a new favorite pot everyday. Color has become a borderline obsession though. I mean, I like a nice unglazed Yamaaki or Bigei as much as the next guy, but what really intrigues me are glazes that look like they need batteries. That, and runs and drips. I’ve been working a lot on developing consistent drips and runs.”

  JBP:What styles or features do you not like?

RG:“I’m not a huge fan of rounds. (Ducking as I say it) It’s not that I dislike them really, but they just don’t really catch my eye very often…”

  JBP:Where do you envision your production levels?

RG:” If the past is any predictor of future production- a handful of pots every few weeks. Most of my pots are fired twice for the glaze to look right, so that slows production quite a bit, but I like the results! I don’t have plans of ever producing a lot of pots, I never want to take shortcuts or compromise. Not that you have to produce a lot, but I would have to, because my time is limited.”

  JBP:Where do you see bonsai now, as a movement? Do you think tastes are changing?  

RG:“I think that we are at the beginning stages of bonsai really exploding in the States which is exciting because of what that will bring about. It is established well in many European countries, and the trees and pottery coming from there are remarkable. I am really excited at the future of bonsai in the U.S. I know we are behind many places. I know that we don’t have the rich tradition of some places, but- we are growing. We are exploring. We are innovating. Some are exploring and embracing species unique to our country, while still others are growing traditional species strictly for bonsai, which will pay huge dividends!”

  JBP: I very much agree. Do you feel knowledge of pottery is essential to bonsai art? Or is it just the old “frame analogy”: find something that looks good and it’s ok?

RG:“I think that you can always just find a pot that looks good, but the greater your knowledge of pottery the easier time you will have. The more you know, the less ‘bro that’s a nice tree but what’s up with that pot?’ comments you’ll probably hear.” 

  JBP:What considerations do you feel are most important when choosing containers to match bonsai? 

RG:“Learn the “rules” (unglazed for conifers, masculine/feminine etc…) there are certain guidelines that just make sense and make a good looking display. With that said, I think it has to be something you like. You can get a pot that people say is perfect, but if you don’t like it, it’ll bug you every time you see it on your bench. I’ve done that sorta. I’ve made stepped feet on rectangles and just didn’t like them. Every time I looked at them I hated them, so I cut them off. I know they are “right” in theory, and with time my taste may change- but for me, right now, they’re not.”

  JBP:How about collecting containers? Is there a difference?
RG:“I don’t think so. I think that above all a bonsai container is just that- a bonsai container. Some may be so dope that you don’t want to fill them with soil and get them dirty and that’s cool, but they should be capable and functional. I love the idea of people collecting and appreciating pottery on its own, but I hope pots aren’t being made as non-functional collector pieces. Like in the mind of the artist, hopefully the thought process isn’t ‘this thing is useless for bonsai but it looks great.'”

  JBP:Now for the fun existential questions! Bonsai to many people is little more than a hobby, and something they do to relax…but a higher level of bonsai, as art, exists, and it seems to fight with the hobbiest level often. What do you think we can do to change this? Get the community together as a whole?
RG:“I think to an extent the divide will always be there. The amount of time, money, and knowledge people possess will naturally create gaps. Some of those can be overcome with patience and skill, but of the three, knowledge could be the most easily remedied. I think that the more we see people joining clubs, (which means clubs worth joining need to be established where they aren’t) getting good advice on forums and FB pages, and being exposed to proper bonsai, the faster we will close the gap. This means that those with the knowledge have a responsibility to pass it on as much as possible. Give constructive feedback rather than a condescending comment. Point people in the right direction, rather than just point out the direction they are headed is wrong. 
When people see good bonsai, and what is possible with patience, proper technique, and good starter material, they are less likely to over pay for that mallsai, with those awesome stones glued to the surface… ”

  JBP:For the longest time in American Bonsai, trees all seemed to look alike, and were mostly copies of Japanese standards, or by the rules pine styles. This has changed drastically, and with these newer and more complex bonsai that often come from Yamadori, we’re seeing new and complex containers, and glazes like your own, to match. The old rule was to downplay the container, how do you think the complex glazes you’re producing will work with trees?
RG:“I think my more dynamic glazes will certainly work well with the right trees. I think as there is a greater appreciation of containers and the art of pottery you may see people going away a little bit (just a little, put the pitchforks away, lol) from the idea of downplaying. Obviously no one is going to put a Yamadori Douglas Fir in a pot like most that are pictured, but I think they will work with a lot of deciduous and flowering species. I really think that a naked, heavily ramified gnarly deciduous hornbeam in a dynamic glazed drippy container would look great.”
  JBP:What would you personally like to see change in American Bonsai and container appreciation? Where do you see your art playing a role in our evolution?
RG:“I would love to see the enthusiasm for pottery continue to grow, and specifically to see American bonsai potted in American containers. Like the Artisans Cup or Nationals for example, I would be thrilled if the winning trees were mostly in American containers, but I am betting most won’t be. I know that age and patina play a part in that but I also think that right now, when people think of a show pot, most think Japanese or antique Chinese. I get it- they are stunning, but I also think that there’s some pretty amazing American pottery available. Hopefully the trend will be towards domestic pottery being at least an option. I don’t think we will ever go away from heavily using Eastern pottery, but wouldn’t it be cool if American pottery could be well represented at major shows!? 

As far as my part? I’m just a guy that has never had a teacher (besides a few tips via email from guys like Tom, Horst, Andrew, Sonny and Jurgen), never took a class, and who doesn’t know “the rules”. I just make pots that I like. If my wife likes it (she’s my toughest critic and biggest encourager) I’m stoked, if bonsai enthusiasts like them, I’m super humbled. I think those pots that are like woah are worth the ones that fall flat. I don’t mind giving pots to friends that put succulents or herbs in them, if the bonsai community deems them “unfit”.

Maybe in some small way the risks I take will help push the envelope a little and broaden the horizon for other potters now or those coming.  Maybe someone that never cared about pots beyond utilitarian use will see something that really stirs them and change the way they think a little… Maybe… Or, maybe one day I’ll toe the line, settle down and start cranking out plain blue pots and stop being so outlandish… But I wouldn’t count on that.”

 I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the incredible works being produced at Kawauso pottery.  Many thanks to Roy for taking the time to chat.

Thanks for reading!

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