Chops Database

Just a progress report today. The chops Database has been reorganized and everything captioned, to make identification easier. I’ll be finishing up uploading, titling, editing, and captioning the rest of the new chops this week, then it’s back to articles and business as usual!
If you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions about the chops database now is the time to put them out there! Thanks for reading and being patient while I amend this resource!

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Nashville Bonsai Society Regional Expo and Show

Sorry For the lack of posts lately, readers! I’ve been working on updating the chops database, which is a long and arduous process, as there are more than twice as many chops I need to add as what is already there. Thanks for bearing with me and I hope you’re still reading! Anyway, I’m taking a break from the chops today for this post. Enjoy!

This weekend I attended the Nashville Bonsai Society Regional show and expo, and I wasn’t disappointed! This was my first professional level show where I entered a display, and I walked away with an honorable mention, and an invitation from Bill Valavanis to show my display at the National Exhibition in September. So, all in all, a success for my first show I think. The trees shown were all very top shelf, so to be recognized at all at this show was quite an honor.
Here is my display and the items shown. Thanks to Bill Valavanis for two photos of the haze and Pyracantha, and my full display, his ninja photo skills are so much better than mine.

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The full display, the one with my Honorable Mention award courtesy of Bill Valavanis and his awesome Photoshop skills. The awards were painted by Steven Miller. He did an excellent job.

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Pyracantha in a Bushuan pot.

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Haze(Japanese Sumac) in a second generation Heian Kouzan pot.

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Mixed Shitakusa in a very old Japanese Akae porcelain pot from Tarugen.
Other Displays
There were many great trees on display. Here are a few of my favorites(note there were several others that were really sweet, Shannon Salyer’s displays in particular, that I couldn’t get good pictures of).

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Two displays from Bill Valavanis. The Shishigashira took an honorable mention as well, and the Koto Hime took Best Professional.

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A ponderosa pine from my friend Don Kimble. Great tree and a cool Ram accent.

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Red Pine, Jane Kluis variety.

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Buttonwood from Michael Fedducia. This tree took the Mike Blanton award for Best Native Species.

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Shohin display created by Shannon Salyer.

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Very Nice Spruce from John Wall. Also took an Honorable Mention.

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Very sweet Chuhin root over rock trident and cascade black pine, from Gary Andes.

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A bunjinji pine on a Jiita which took the award for display aesthetics.

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An interesting display from the show’s brain, Owen Reich.

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And last, but certainly not least, a Rocky Mountain Juniper from the late Mike Blanton, entered by his wife Amy and detail wired for the show by Michael Fedducia. Named “Bucket List”, this tree took best in show, deservedly so. Mike was a dear part of the Nashville community and the bonsai community at large and is greatly missed. Awesome to see his legacy living on, in both his bonsai, as well as in all the enthusiasts and professionals he inspired who were at this event.
This was an excellent show, and I hope next year more of you make it out. It’s definitely worth the trip, and Owen and John do a great job with it!
Thanks for reading!

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Kutani Ikko 3

There are several contemporary painters of Bonsai pottery whose works are celebrated and lauded, and rightfully so: Itou Gekkou, Fujikake Yuzan, and Tsukinowa Shousen, just to name a few. But, to my eye, no painter quite comes close to the greatness of Tsukinowa Yusen more than Kutani Ikko.
Like most painters of Kutani origin, Ikko works often in go-sai(5 color) paintings, but his best work, in my opinion, is his Akae(red) painted pieces. For me, he is perhaps the greatest painter of Akae pots of all time, surpassing even Yusen. If you’re looking for a painter whose work will be valued in the coming decades like Yusen is valued today, look no further, this is your guy.
In the Table of Contents you’ll find two previous articles on Kutani Ikko, if you’d like to see more of his work.
Now, on to the Pots!
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A go-sai piece featuring a significant amount of Red. The detail views show the incredible brushwork and depth that Kutani Ikko is known for. The well placed blue highlights really make the figures come to life. This is a collaborative piece with Heian Chikuho, which is the hanko to the left of the Turtle with Ikko’s signature.
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Multiple views of a 5 color pot with a style I think is unique to Kutani ware, and mastered by Ikko. The paintings appear quite literally three dimensional, much more like an oil painting than the line paintings common from other painters. The sense of depth and reality to the scenes is impressive, and, as always, the detail is outstanding.
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How about a red? This pot is a great example of why I think Kutani Ikko may be the greatest painter of Akae containers of all time. Both sides if the distant view seaside landscape show a fantastic use of negative space, while the sides are greatly detailed. Incredible brushwork, depth, and a great sense of loneliness…all with a single color. It’s tough to see in the bottom photo, but this piece is a collaboration between Kutani Ikko and Eimei Yozan.
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Another red, this one an incredibly detailed figure painting of a dragon on a mokko shape pot. The detail is really quite striking. Perhaps my favorite part of this pot is the unique painting on the rim.

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Another Mokko shape, this one in 5 color with more traditional Kutani style painting. Each of the 5 colors really seems to pop with life and brightness.

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A small round with a rather impressionistic 5 color landscape. Compare the painting style in this piece to the traditional Kutani style above, and you can really start to get an idea of Kutani Ikko’s range.

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Another incredibly detailed dragon, this time on a rectangle. Pretty much full coverage of the outer walls, common for Kutani Ikko figure paintings.

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A distant view landscape in red on a mokko shape pot showing depth, detail, and fine brushwork. Very much an Isseki style pot.

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Multiple views of a very small round with 5 color landscape and figure panels bordered by red geometrics. The hand for scale and the detail shots really gives you an idea of how incredibly detailed these pieces are for their size.

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And we’ll finish up today’s look at Kutani Ikko with all four sides of this red painted oval with figures and near view landscape. To me, the subject matter in this piece is very Yusenesque, although the incredible detail is even more striking than much of Yusen’s work. Fantastic brushwork and interesting pastoral details make for a lovely piece that really illustrates Kutani Ikko’s skill with red.

I hope You’ve enjoyed todays look at fantastic contemporary painter Kutani Ikko! Thanks for reading!

Posted in Modern Potters | 1 Comment

Suifu Sanjin

Suifu Sanjin was born Masashi Usui(薄井正志) in Ibaraki in 1921, and passed away in 1994. He took the name Suifu as a suggestion of his hometown, and Sanjin is a reference to the literati of old. Only around 200 pieces exist, and the limited nature of production was discovered after his death. He made pots solely for his own use as a bonsai lover, from 1963 to 1967. His specialities include Iron Glaze(TetsuYu), Tenmoku Glaze, Tenmoku with fine oil droplets(Yuteki Tenmoku), and Buckwheat glaze(SobaYu), and forms vary from the rustic, hand formed, and asymmetrical, to more classical shapes. Due to the relative scarcity and popularity, prices are correspondingly very high. I’d say around 75% of the 100 or so I’ve seen are formerly of the renowned Takagi Collection.
Let’s take a look!

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Two views of a hand formed and altered diamond shaped piece in Tenmoku glaze. Very characteristic of Sanjin’s Yohen Tenmoku(Tenmoku is a Yohen glaze, meaning that it changes color on the kiln depending upon firing conditions). Like most of the Suifu Sanjin containers one sees, this piece is formerly of the Takagi Collection.
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A pair of Containers from Miyabi published in 2005, cataloguing 30 years of Shohin articles recognized as Japanese National Treasures.
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In addition to being a famous lover of Bonsai, Suifu Sanjin was a famous collector and lover of suiseki. Ive seen many stones formerly of his collection, and most of them, like this piece, also have Daiza carved by Sanjin.
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This is an interesting powder blue glazed pot with a unique form. Both the unique glaze and form make this piece characteristic Sanjin.
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Another Miyabi-Yu pot, a National Shohin Treasure. This piece is Yuteki Tenmoku, one of Suifu Sanjin’s specialities. The glaze is beautiful and warm.
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One last Miyabi Yu pot from Suifu Sanjin. This piece is very classical in style, and the red glaze is really spectacular.
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Three views of another Yuteki Tenmoku from Sanjin. This may be one of my favorite classical glazes. You’ll note the paint pen designation on the bottom, marking it as part of the Takagi collection. In researching this article on Sanjin, I discovered that pots in Takagi collection were numbered according to glaze type, or shape if they were unglazed, rather than by maker as I’d previously thought.
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A three footed round with a very thick and deep greenish cream glaze. You can see a slight crackle to the glaze, which barely shows, indicating that this pot was likely never used.
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A classically shaped reddish brown glazed pot with cloud feet. The very slight blue highlights really make the glaze spectacular.
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A bag shaped pot with a very thick silver-green oribe glaze. Great depth and color to this glaze.
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A rarely seen unglazed piece from Sanjin. Good form and nice rustic clay.
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A very interestingly formed high footed square with a peach colored glaze. Unique forms and glazes being Suifu Sanjin’s specialty, this is a characteristic piece.
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A hand formed bag shape with Tenmoku glaze. Great depth and color to this Tenmoku, and an interesting shape.
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Another hand formed bag with Tenmoku glaze. The glaze on this piece is spectacular, with it’s fractal swirls of green, brown, and black.
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Another rare unglazed piece. The texture to the outside of the pot is very nicely done.
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A really interesting rectangle with a metallic green glaze and multiple braided hemp rope decorations. Very unique, I haven’t seen anything like this from other potters.
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Here’s a really unique exaggerated mokko shape with Buckwheat glaze. Very interesting style, simultaneously rustic and refined.
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A really lovely pinkish red glazed pot. The glaze has a slight crackle to it, which doesn’t show up too much, indicating that this pot was rarely used.
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A very classically shaped rectangle with cloud feet and dark green glaze. A simple pot, showing Sanjin’s versatility in both unique and interesting pots an classical simple styles.
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Suifu Sanjin Artist Marks

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And we’ll finish up today’s look at the work of Suifu Sanjin with this gourd shaped piece with a fantastic Tenmoku glaze. The glaze is warm and complex, the pot’s style unique; an excellent example of the pottery of Suifu Sanjin.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve enjoye today’s look at the excellent and rare pottery of Suifu Sanjin! Up next: Another Pots from My Collection post, an update to the Chops database, and long awaited first post on Antique Chinese containers. Stay Tuned!

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters | 2 Comments

Wakamatsu Aiso

In today’s article, we take a look at the pottery of Wakamatsu Aiso, a true collector’s potter who is renowned for small containers. Aiso hailed from Kyoto, as did most of the greatest Japanese Bonsai Ceramicists(not Tokoname…..), such as Aiso contemporaries Heian Tofukuji and Tsukinowa Yusen(a few other greats from Kyoto include Makuzu Kozan, Hayashi Takemoto, Ino Shukuho, Heian Kouso, and Seifu Yohei).
I have not been able to find dates of birth OR death for Aiso, but as a contemporary of Tofukuji I think it’s safe to say he lived somewhere around the late 19th century to around the 1970’s. He was the original founder of the Kiln At Kouso En that would later fire works from Tofukuji, and become the kiln of Heian Kouso.
His pots were very limited in production, despite this, however, he is consistently ranked with Tofukuji and Kouzan as one of the greatest potters of the 20th century. His pots, it is said, are hoarded by collectors. This seems to be true, as there are supposed to be hundreds of them, but one rarely sees them come up for sale(relatively speaking). Aiso was most skilled in glazing and enameling. His glazes are original, unique, and employ both excellent and pure single colors as well as some Yohen glazes that are pretty, elegant, and refined. His enamel technique was Kyoto-classical and flawless.
Now, let’s take a look at the pots!
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A few different examples of Aiso overglaze enamel porcelain. Very clean enamel work, excellent glazes, and very beautiful color combinations. This is a classical Kyoto style of pottery, an excellent examples can be seen from many potters of the region.
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A really brightly painted small cream crackle glazed rectangle painted in 5 color with children and pony motifs. Interestingly whimsical, the style of this piece reminds me a lot of the more common first and second generation Ino Shukuho pots.
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A bright yellow glazed shallow rectangle with lip. Really nice rich yellow, with just enough to patina to show age without being green.
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A really interesting, and rarely seen, pink glazed rectangle. The thick glaze really softens up what would otherwise be a pretty angular pot.
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A very nice bright blue rectangle. The light clay peeking through the thin glaze at the angles is a nice touch.
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For comparison, here’s another blue rectangle. Note that the glaze is entirely different, much thicker, giving the piece a much softer feel than the previous blue.
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A lovely blue green rectangle with cloud feet. Excellent patina, and cloud feet are rare on Aiso pots, almost all of them have cut feet.

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For comparison, check out this Tofukuji I photographed at Koju-en. The similarities are surely striking.
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This is a really spectacular piece! It’s tough to tell what was original glaze, and what is patina! Really excellent!
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Another beatific rarity! Lovely metallic green over light Kyoto clay. Ovals, like cloud feet, are rare for Aiso.
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Another cloud footed rectangle, this one in a very nice, classical, green oribe. The oribe yu shows just the a slightest crystal highlights on the surface.
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I’m not positive, but this glaze looks to be Takatori Yu. Take a look back at some older posts for more information on this rarely nicely executed glaze.
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Here’s a really nice and well patinated cream glazed rectangle from the collection of friend and cream glaze fanatic Matt Ouwinga.
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And another from Matt’s collection. A triple rarity: porcelain round with relief carvings of Chrysanthemum. The awesome patina on this truly one-of makes it exceptional.
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And one last from Matt Ouwinga: a glazed blue with white highlights. The thick and uneven glaze is awesome, and calls to mind some of Tofukuji’s more exceptional blues.

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A really nicely glazed small rectangle. The lighter highlights around the angles are even and nearly symmetrical, a difficult effect in a Yohen glaze.

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And we’ll finish up with the only Aiso I have in my collection, a small rectangle.

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This pot has a severely damaged and unreadable hanko, but by comparison of the clay, the unusual glaze, the unusual size of the dranage, and the size of the unreadable seal, I’m positive it’s Aiso’s work. The unreadable seal is 1.5cm, a spot on match to one of two that Aiso used(the other is 3.6cm).

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Another Aiso from the Kinbon encyclopedia with an identical glaze and size.

I hope you’ve enjoyed todays look at the pottery of Wakamatsu Aiso. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters, My Personal Collection | 2 Comments

Echizen Hosui 2, or, The Difference Between a Copy, and Homage, and a Forgery

Today we’ll take a second look at the work of Echizen Hosui, and take a look at the subtle difference between a Copy, a Forgery, and an Homage. For our first look at Hosui, you can look back here:
Echizen Hosui
Echizen Hosui was born Zenzo Yoshida in Fukui prefecture in 1936, and began making bonsai containers in 1974. It’s quite clear from his work that idolizes many of the greatest artists of Bonsai pottery, including Tofukuji, Yusen, and Aiso. Today we’re going to take a look at some containers that are marked as Hosui, and some that were made by Hosui, but marked as the work of Tofukuji. I don’t think these containers were meant to be forgeries, as enough clues were left for the discerning eye to distinguish them as copies. However, every pottery collector should be aware that such copies exist, and be able to distinguish between them and the real thing.
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First up, from my collection, this small blue glazed round, riveted drum pot with cut feet. At a glance, I’d say this was real. The patina is excellent, the clay looks kosher, the style is spot on, the glaze is one Tofukuji used extensively, and there’s even a little excess clay on the underside where the drainage holes were cut. All the salient details one looks for are there….
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Except for the stamp. Having gotten all the major markers correct in creating this copy, it my contention that Hosui deliberately left the stamp pretty far from the mark, to avoid this being sold as the real deal. Let’s look next to a couple of real stamps:

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The middle stamp is Hosui. The scale of the letters in relation to the leaf is all wrong, the right side doesn’t show any serration, the serration on the other sides is over exaggerated, there’s a gap at the petiole, and the tip of the leaf is rounded, as opposed to pointed. Additionally, the kanji are much coarser than the original. Everything about the stamp is deliberately off, and, from first glance at the gap at the top, intended to mark this as a copy.

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An authentic Tofukuji Drum in this style.

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Two other marked Echizen Hosui for comparison. Hosui loved this style of Tofukuji, and made many, most marked as his own work.

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Two other Hosui pots that are copies of Tofukujis. Like the blue drum above, these were both marked with the same off Kaede leaf Tofukuji stamp.

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Here we have another Hosui, marked as a Tofukuji. Again, the details are all spot on…style, glaze, clay…all good. Stamp? Not so much. Once again, the stamp is deliberately shoddy, marking this as a copy.

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The second is the Hosui. It’s too square, the style of the Kanji all wrong and too angular, and the spacing between the Kanji and the border is off.

So, what’s the difference between a Copy and a Forgery, and a Copy and an Homage? A copy leaves plenty of clues in the pot or stamp for one to tell it is not real, while a Forgery deliberately tries to avoid those clues so the item can be sold as authentic. An homage is a stylistic copy, or work that is intentionally stylistically similar to the work of another artist, but marked as the work of the artist creating the piece, while a copy will often be marked as the work of the original artist. It’s clear that Hosui greatly respected Tofukuji’s work, and also clear that he intended these pieces not to be confused as authentic.
More Hosui
In addition to Tofukuji style Homages, and copies, Hosui’s range is broad, and includes some very nice painted containers and odd accent pots.

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First up, a blue Sometsuke porcelain piece. We’ll take a look at this one first because it’s perhaps the most obvious Yusen homage pot. From the style of the pot to the painting, this piece screams “Yusen Homage.”

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Two pots from Tsukunowa Yusen for comparison.

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Three sides of a geometric painted pot with go-sai panels from Hosui. The five color paintings are detailed and very nice, if a bit cartoonish.

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And for comparison, an akae Yusen pot. Note the two figures on the cliff, a common Yusen characteristic that is also seen in many Hosui.

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Another 5 color Hosui. In my opinion, Hosui was most skilled in 5 color painting. This piece is detailed and very beautifully rendered.

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And….another Yusen. Note the stylistic similarities between this Yusen and the last Hosui image.

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An Akae painted landscape pot from Hosui. Very detailed and lovely landscape work, with excellent negative space.

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Three views of a sometsuke painted cascade pot by Hosui. Again, very beautiful details and very Yusen-esque.

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Another Hosui 5-color pot. This one is a little busier than the above 5-color, but still shows great detail and excellent depth.

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Two interesting accent pots from Hosui. In addition to these rather modern styles, which are common, Hosui also made many Kurama stone style slabs and scoops.

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And we’ll finish up our look today at Echizen Hosui with this interesting accent in a very modern Hosui rolled container. Very nice; very avant garde.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters, Modern Potters, My Personal Collection | 4 Comments

Pot in Process, and, A Correction

I happened upon this article yesterday and thought it was worth a share. The article depicts a much featured potter on the blog, and his process in carving pots from a single block of clay.
First up, a correction. Japanese is very different from English. The same Kanji can be pronounced a number of different ways depending on usage and context, and with a name, there is no context. So, on the blog thus far, I have referred to this potter as “Shunka Shozan”, but after seeing the hiragana pronunciation in the article, it is actually “Shunka Seizan”. So, make a note of it.

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All told, an interesting look at the process that goes in to making Shunka Seizan pots. And I thought this was kind of cool too, check out the finished product above.

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It’s one of my Shunka Seizan pots, featured on the blog in
Shunka Seizan

Thanks for reading! Up next we’ll take a look at a few more Shunka Seizan pots, followed by a much needed update to the “For Sale” and “Chops Database” pages!

Posted in Modern Potters, My Personal Collection, Pot Info, ID, Hanko, Books, ect. | 2 Comments