Among the many well known Japanese potters of the late 19th and early 20th century, no potters’ work is more varied, in size, shape, glaze, colour, and clay than Heian Tofukuji. In addition to high quality and great usability, it is this variety that makes Tofukuji such a well regarded potter, but it is this selfsame variety that makes good forgeries sometimes difficult to identify. Unlike many potters, who specialize in a particular type of pot, glazed or unglazed, or particular glazes or clay bodies, the works of Tofukuji are excellent across all fields of bonsai pottery. If we look closely at the pots of Tofukuji, we can see that other potters have made their signature pots based on the duplication of a single Tofukuji glaze, while the styles of his pots are ubiquitously duplicated.
Originally a comb maker, when his job was eliminated, fairly late in life, Tofukuji decided to become a professional bonsai potter. The use of the local public kiln, and the kilns of friends and fellow potters at first, necessitated the smaller pots that, only decades after his death, became so valuable when Shohin Bonsai overtook larger sized bonsai in popularity. One need just glance through a Gafu Ten album to see that in most years, 1 of every 25 pots is a Tofukuji, 1st or 2nd generation, while in some as many as 1 in 10!
Here and in the next post we will look at 20 glazed pots by Tofukuji, from the collected pots of Yorozuen.
Thanks once again to Yorozuen for allowing me to use these images.
An interesting green glazed round with a blue glaze highlight. Many potters use blue highlights on green or oribe pots, the signature glaze from Kouyo uses this technique. This pot calls to my mind the image of waterfall, a cooling effect, perfect for display of this pot in summer.
Thick Green glaze with silver overglaze speckles, marvelous patina, and cut feet. Many famous Japanese potters publically espouse the influence of Tofukuji on their own styles, and if I was told this was made by one of three of them, Ino Shukuho, Aiba Kouchihira(Kouyo), or Watanabe Kazuhiro(Ikkou), I wouldnt doubt it for a second.
An interesting light glazed pot with grey and blue mottling and highlight features. This pot evokes the image of a thinly clouded moonlit night sky in Spring for me, like an abstract or impressionist painting.
Metallic green glaze on hand formed round with 3 cut feet. A very thick glaze(common in Tofukuji glazes) that would be perfect for an informal and feminine Azalea, to my mind.
Tofukuji is famous for his blues. No potter brings more depth and richness to varying shades of blue, with the possible exception of Kouzan. This white underglazed pot with light blue overglaze and cloud feet is light in appearence, like a clear brook on a Summers day, perfect for display in the season.
A light green oval, simple in style, shown here to illustrate the patina. The pots of Tofukuji often have a single placed spot on the underside or inside, perhaps to test the viscosity and adherence of the glaze, or, as the fellow collector who showed me this thinks is possible, that he knew exactly how important these spots would become. Hidden from the daily stresses of dirt, water, fertilizer…these spots, like the drips in the glaze of the above pot, show little to no patina after years of use. So it is possible from these spots and drips to tell the original color of the glaze. Here, one can see that this pot was a very light green, and see the darkening of the glaze over time.
A deep indigo pot with strong, clean lines, softened slightly by the feminine feet and rounding of the glaze. Deep, rich color to this glaze, an excellent darker blue.
Another darker blue, with a completely different feel and style to the one above. Clean, strong lines and cut feet make this a strong pot to me. The glaze is once again deep and rich, but in a completely different style and thickness to the pot above.
Light green glazed drum with rusticly placed nailheads and darker green brown overglaze. Heian Kousen was one of a couple of potters who publicly proclaimed the influence of Tofukuji on his work in the early 1970s, on television doing bonsai pot demonstrations. From there began the rise of Tofukuji pots in popularity, and price! One pot dealer goes so far as to say that we never would have heard of Tofukuji or Kouzan if it were not for Heian Kousen! One can see the influence of Tofukuji easily in Kousen drum pots, they are clearly homages to pots like this one.
A very thick green glazed pot with a marvelous patina, and perhaps darker green brown overglaze. This pot evokes the image of the fresh green of Spring emerging from the long brown Winter, for me.(As a bonsai guy, this is an image I never mind having evoked!)
In the next post I will present 10 more Tofukuji glazed pots. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy these pots as much as I do.