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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Koito Taizan

Koito Taizan was born Nagakura Saburo in 1911 and died in 1997.  The Koito-yaki kiln was one of old kilns in Japan, and first opened in the Edo period, Kanei era(1624-1643).  Before the war, Koito Taizan returned to his hometown after an apprenticeship in Seto, in order to establish himself as a potter, and reconstruct the kiln of his forefathers. 

He asked Kyuzo Murata of Kyuka En in Omiya Village, his cousin, for assistance and guidance in reconstructing the Koito kiln, and completed the task in 1946.  If you’re not familiar with the name, Murata was a famous bonsai artist, and Koito Taizan began making small bonsai containers commissioned by Kyukaen.  In 1949 the first stage firing of 200 small bonsai pots was completed.  The containers fascinated enthusiasts from the start with their whimsy and charming decorations.  Shortly after winning the coveted Fine Arts Exhibition prize, Koito Taizan was forced to leave the kiln to his son as honorary director after a political appointment as Ethnic Director of Hida, and he never fired bonsai containers again.

Consequently, There exist only 200 total Koito Taizan bonsai pots….that’s extraordinarily rare.  Koito Taizan containers are valued for their simplicity, charming, and whimsy, unlike many if the other popular painters whose work we’ve looked at, which is judged on great detail.

Now, on to the pots!

   Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  A classically painted six sided pot In red showing excellent Patina.      Multiple views of a small rectangle with huge lip and various designs.  Charming.  An interesting rectangle with lip and cut corners.  Excellent patina and interesting flow to the painting.          Multiple views of a cut cornered rectangle with dragon.  Koito Taizan’s style is interesting and unique, and very apparent in this piece.    A Blue painted rectangle with birds and clouds.  Reminiscent of Okumura Shouzan.  A Simple rectangle with flowers and crackle glaze.  Colorful and whimsical.  A very simple rectangle with line designs.  Lovely and very unique pattern.  5 sided container with geometrics and kanji.  This foot style is very rare for Koito Taizan.    Another blue painted container similar to the one above, with birds offset in porcelain.   Only Koito Taizan and Okumura Shouzan use this technique well.  A soft red glazed rectangle with arabesques.  Simple and classical.  One of only a few glazed containers from Koito Taizan.  Very nice Ruri glaze.  Reminiscent of Tofukuji and Aiso.  Reddish Ochre rectangle with cut corners.  You’ll note that almost all of the Koito Taizan shown here are rectangles or squares.  Taizan used only press molding and carving, so there are very few ovals or rounds(real ones anyway).  Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  Octagon with a rich Oribe green and lovely patina.  Photo courtesy Yorozuen.  One of very few legitimate ovals that exist.  Marvelous patina and simple design.  A six sided contaner with patterned quince flower panels.         Another of the few ovals that exist.  Interesting pattern, like fluer de lis.      Another oval with an interesting fluer de lis pattern.  The patina on this piece is exceptional for a 65 year old piece of porcelain. And we’ll finish up our look at Koito Taizan with this cut cornered rectangle, photo courtesy Yorozuen.  Excellent patina and an interesting mountain and mist scene, reminiscent of Katsushita Hokusai.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the work of Koito Taizan!  

Thanks for Reading!

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters, Pot Info, ID, Hanko, Books, ect. | 3 Comments

Kutani Ikko 4 Part 2: Shunga Ten

For this section, I have to give a shout out to Fujikawa Koukaen apprentice and friend Dario Mader, who took excellent photos of this display of fantastic Kutani Ikko containers at this years Shunga Ten show and shared them with me for the post.  There were lots of other photos floating about but Dario’s are detailed and crisp.  

Thank you Dario!

Shunga Ten is one of the top 3 Shohin bonsai shows in Japan, and takes place in late March, in Osaka.  It is the spring show to late Winter’s Gafu Ten and Fall’s Shuga Ten.  Shohin compositions are all about expression of the season, so the different shows are really quite interesting.  In a given year you can often see the same, and the best, displays at Gafu, Kokufu, Shuga, and Shunga Ten and compare the displays with their appearance in different seasons.

Now….on to the pots!     An overview of the display of 12 containers from Kutani Ikko and Kutani Ai at Shunga Ten.  The reds are all Kutani Ikko and some of the blues are Kutani Ai.  For more information on her, check out Part 2 of the post on the 10th Modern Bonsai Potters exhibit.  Sizes, shapes, styles and color are all variable, creating an impressive and well balanced display.  The balance in the display shows an interesting playfulness with symmetry: reds on one side, blues on the other, and a mix in the center.  Ikko is as famous for his five color pots as any other, so this dichotomy of Ikko reds and Ai Blues is quite intentional on the part of the display creator.  Demon footed Akae landscape round.  Rectangle with lip, red landscape, and cut feet.  Red dragon mokko with impressive arch feet detailing.Sometsuke landscape square.    Mokko with lip and inset painted cloud feet with Akae cliff side landscape.    A really interesting mokko with a river valley scene in red.     Small sometsuke Oceanside landscape rectangle with cloud feet.  Sometsuke landscape rectangle with lip and cloud feet.  Purse or bag shaped round with lip, full cloud feet, and distant view sometsuke landscape.  Square with lip, half-cloud feet, and sometsuke landscape with figure on Panel.Six sided container with small lip, chrysanthemum panel, sometsuke landscape, and full cloud feet.  Small traditionally painted square with sometsuke landscape panel and geometrics.  

A really fantastic display showing the talent of a contemporary painter whose work is rapidly increasing in popularity and value.

Another look at a Famous Collaboration

We’ve looked at this famous collaboration before, but for those just now coming on board with the site I thought we’d take another look, since it was recently offered for sale.  A collaboration piece dating to the late 1980s: painted by Kutani Ikko and the body created by the greatest of all Japanese painters of bonsai containers, Tsukinowa Yusen.   


Views of the container, from multiple angles: a small rectangle with typically Yusen flared feet and go-sai overglaze enamel.  Yusen is considered the representative painter in the Japanese Bonsai canon.  For more on his work, follow these links:

Tsukinowa Yusen Part 1
Tsukinowa Yusen Part 2

Detail views. The thick overglaze enamel and use of negative space and proportion creates a marvelously three dimensional image with movement and visual power.  Yusen would have been in his early 80s when this piece was made, and Kutani Ikko just beginning his career as a painter.

From the opposite side, a calmer image and opposing directionality creates an impressively usable container.   

A true masterwork and continuing evidence of Kutani Ikko’s greatness in the canon of Japanese Bonsai Container Painters; Yusen deigned to work with but a few painters and potters whose work he admired and respected.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two part look at contemporary master Kutani Ikko!  Up next we’ll take a look at the charming containers of Koito Taizan, stay tuned and better yet, subscribe!

Thanks for reading!


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Kutani Ikko 4, part 1

This will be a two part post,  there are just too many images for a single article.   To see the previous posts on Kutani Ikko, with his background and history, follow this link:

Kutani Ikko 1-3






Multiple views of an incredibly detailed sometsuke dragon pot.  The painting is surreal and realistic, and the rim detail and Rakkan mouse are lovely. 


Really nice demon footed round go-Sai with lip and traditional Kutani images of playing children.


Vented six sided pot with classical stylized dragon.  An interesting mix of trafiotnal and contemporary.  The geometrics and feet are especially nice.



Mokko pot in Akae with landscape and figures.  Another collaboration piece with Takao Koyo.  The detail creates a great sense of dimensionality.




A third collaboration piece with Takao Koyo, mokko shape landscape in red.  The Koi Rakkan painting and arch feet are especially nice.






Multiple views of a smaller round sometsuke with landscape and figures.  Again, the level of detail is incredible.




Another 6 sided vented pot with landscape.  The feet are awesome and the color mix is lovely.




Very traditional Kutani style overglaze enameled piece.  Busy and very intricate. 


A go Sai rectangle with landscape and figures.  Incredible depth to the landscapes and the willow is pretty and well detailed.


Raijin and Fujin, storm gods.  Classical subject matter.


A five color demon footed round with landscape and figure.  The landscape in this piece is interesting: less detailed, more impressionistic.

Small round with plum and sparrow.  Nice use of negative space.


An oval mokko with Yusen style turtle doves in red.  Another excellent use of negative space.




Another mokko in red with highly detailed landscapes.   A spartan scene with good negative space.

A small whimsical round with stylized geese.  


Another small round with a far view landscape.  The level of detail is most impressive for a 3″ container.



An incredibly detailed cascade dragon pot in red.  Breathtaking.

A very classical Kutani style piece with stylized dragon and geometrics.






And we’ll finish up up with this wonderful hexagon landscape.  A facinating and unique piece, from the uncharacteristically impressionistic landscape to the highly detailed feet.  A true modern masterpiece.

Thanks for reading!  Stay tuned for part 2, published later tonite!

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Kutani Aritomo

Kutani Aritomo was born in Hokkaido in 1984, making him 31 years old this year.   Once we take a look at his work, you’ll see that that is very relevant.

Aritomo earned degrees from the Hokkaido University of Education in Arts and Culture, and the Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani technology Training Institute, in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

His work at the IshikawaPrefectural institute and personal home work earned him his independence(as an apprentice would earn) in 2008.

His works are both unique, and classical, and use primarily the Akae and go-Sai that Kutani Yaki is famous for.

Now, on to the pots!


Aritomo’s Silver medal award entries in this year’s Pottery Exhibition at Gafu Ten.   Great diversity of form and subject.

The Demon footed pot above.  Outstanding detail and crisp painting.   



A few views of the oval from the show.  Again, wonderful landscape painting and very fine line work.  The flower motif encroaching from the side is original and a great, unique detail.




The round from the show.  Another excellent piece with marvelous and small details.  





A few views of another fantastic oval.  The five color flower motif encroaching from the side is gains spectacular.





Four sides of another impressively detailed rectangle.  Great use of negative space creates a tranquil landscape.





Another marvelous Akae rectangle.  The shading really creates a sense of depth.


A heavily detailed 5 color landscape.  The small details in this piece are marvelous, and the rim and feet details really make the pot.



A tall cascade with an Akae landscape. Great details and depth.


Last up, two views of another cascade or semicascades round.  The shading and perspective creates great depth, as in the above pieces.  Truly a masterpiece.

I hope you’ve enjoyed This look at up and coming master Kutani Aritomo!

Next up, Kutani Ikko part 4!

Thanks for reading!  

Posted in Modern Potters, Pot Info, ID, Hanko, Books, ect. | 5 Comments

Hayashi Mokuu

Well, spring sprang with a vengeance this year!  I don’t know about you guys, but I managed to finish everything I had planned for the season, from repotting, to grafting, to styling and on down the line….well, almost everything…I’ve been remiss in updating the blog with all the hubbub of spring, so now that everything is done, I’ll be playing catch up and posting twice weekly for a while.  First up, Hayashi Mokuu!
Hayashi Mokuu, whose real name was Hayashi Yoshikazu was born in Kyoto in 1901, and passed away in 1999.  He studied pottery under his father, who worked at one of the large Kyo Yaki kilns.  At the age of 20, he took a position with the Imperial Household Kiln, to acquire skills with porcelain.  After this, he studied with famous Kyoto craftsman Shimizu, where he began creating bonsai pottery. 
Mokuu was close friends with Heian Tofukuji, and they often created bonsai together, and also traded secrets and critiques of each other’s pottery works.  Some Mokuu even use Tofukuji’s glazes.  
Mokuu’s work is pretty varied, from charming small painted pieces, to odd figurines, to simple unglazed Nanban.
Now, on to the pots!

First up, here’s a very brief look at the types of wares Mokuu is known for, in his day job as a classical Kiyomizu style potter.   Interesting, and sometimes odd, figurines, tea and sake wares, and other assorted Kyo-Yaki ceramics.

   Three views of an akae painted paneled green round.  The paintings are both detailed and simple, the type of charming scenes Mokuu is famous for painting.   

 A very simple cut foot, glazed rectangle.  Fantastic patina.  I think this is a good example of one of those pieces Tofukuji may have had input on, perhaps even a shared glaze.  

   Another very simple and charming painted pot, this one sometsuke with black feet.  The patina really adds character to the piece.  A soft cornered rectangle with frogs.  Charming and whimsically painted.  A simple cream round.  Very nice, classical and clean.  A much more detailed landscape in red on rectangle.  The Kyoto style geometrics on the feet are a great touch.  A really marvelous celadon porcelain piece in antique mirror shape.  This is a nice container, but in this lighting it seems to positively glow.  A dark blue glazed ect angle with flower panel in go Sai.  Very interesting, very unique.  Only a couple of potters made pieces like this: Mokuu and Koito Taizan.    A personal collection of 9 Mokuu, really showing the diversity of form, shape, and color that Mokuu used.  The belt painted piece(top, top left) and sometsuke rectangle (bottom,bottom right) are especially nice. 

 A really simple, really tiny “round”…at least from this front…. But turn it over and….   A taller round with carved landscape.  Very nice and rustic  If pressed, I would have guessed this was Koito Taizan.  His style, and the style of Mokuu, are often very similar.  

An odd and rustically painted black on crackle rectangle.  Butterflies and flowers.  Very modern. 

Four views of a more classical landscape in black.  Nice details and an excellent form, clean lines.   

    Our last look at the containers Alone of Hayashi Mokuu today is this excellent conch shell piece.  Really unique and interesting for a small Kusamono or shitakusa for Shohin display.

And before I leave you….how about some trees in Hayashi Mokuu containers?




Kuchinashi (gardenia)


I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the pottery of Hayashi Mokuu. 

Up next, Kutani Aritomo on Monday, more from Kutani Ikko on Friday, and several more posts are written and in process, 2 per week, throughout the next month!  Stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters | 3 Comments

Imaoka Machinao

Imaoka Machinao was born in 1925 in Tokyo, and uses his given name for his kiln. He began making Bonsai pots in 1964, and in1972 he moved his kiln to Ito, in Shizuoka.  A short 9 years later he had closed that kiln, and passed away in the mid 90s. 

 Imaoka has had a significant impact on other contemporary potters, especially makers of mame and Shohin pots.
He is recognized for works in celadon, cinnabar, Ruri, and white porcelain pieces, but is considered the master of “apricot skin glaze”(which I refer to affectionately as “brain glaze”) 

Imaoka’s Shohin pottery book.

 Now, on to the pots! 

Apricot Skin Glaze 

Kairagi Yu(梅花皮 釉), or Apricot Skin glaze, is a kind of extreme crackle style glaze, where the glaze separates into pieces and puddles, forming an intricate tracing of glaze over the body.
First off, I’d like to thank my friend Gerry Novotny for the stunning images of his Apricot skin glaze Imaoka collection. This is a small portion of those that he has, and it’s still probably the best there is.  All of the photos in this section are from Gerry’s collection except the last.

Kairagi Yu can come in many colors, but peach and cream are the most common.  Metallic gold, silver, and hematite colors are quite rare, making this collection all the more exceptional. 

Four metallic Apricot Skin glazed rounds, showing a variety of textures: flat plates, rounded bubbles, stone like texture, and a rather reptilian skin.A similar trio in Gold Kairagi Yu.

Four different views of a larger gold apricot skin glazed rectangle.  The texture is exceptional, and even the underside is glazed.  Truly a masterpiece.

A pair of more conventional Kairagi Yu glazed rectangles, both showing excellent patina.

Another pair of taller cascade Kairagi Yu.  

This one is fascinating.  A taller cascade with two tone apricot skin glaze and panel.  Really awesome.

This apricot skin glaze round is perhaps the most commonly seen color, and illustrates why I refer to it as “brain glaze”.This is the only piece in this section not from Gerry’s impressive collection.  It’s multi toned Apricot skin glaze makes it worth including.

Other Glazes

A five piece boxed set with a nice range of Imaoka Glazes and included stand.  Cool small collection.

This two toned small cascade piece is a really wonderful example of Imaoka’s work with cinnabar.  A really excellent mix of colors.Another cinnabar glazed piece.  The two toned appearance is common for certain glazes, the red side faced the fire in the kiln.A small porcelain piece with cut feet and two small highlights.This porcelain crackle with it’s excellent patina and even craze is quite lovely and easily usable.A similar crackle, this one showing no patina.  Still as shiny as the day it was made.Edit

A pair of smaller rounds in cinnabar and porcelain.  Both would make for nice Shohin shitakusa.A rarity, for sure.  This carved design porcelain Imaoka is one of a kind, which is a shame, as the carvings are very nice.Edit

Another cascade, this one showing a myriad of greens with blue highlights.A really nice canton style blue rectangle with geat depth to the glaze.Another tall cascade in multi toned green and brown.Edit

Two views of a rather exceptionally glazed lipped square.  The glaze has a feeling of Namako to it.These cinnabar Edit

swyares with dancer carvings are probably the most common Imaoka one sees around.A very small round with cinnabar and porcelain.And we’ll finish up today’s look at Imaoka with this awesomely glazed cinnabar and porcelain rectangle.  Absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for reading!  Up next, an article on Kyoto potter Hayashi Mokuu!

Before I let you go, here’s a small plea for assistance.  Simon Jones is an English bonsai enthusiast who has been at it for thirty years.  A couple of weeks ago, the heater in his greenhouse malfunctioned, burning the building to the ground, and destroying his 30 years of bonsai work, and his hands as well, trying to save what he could.  He lost an impressive collection of Shohin and Chuhin native material, along with his tools, and many containers.  If you can, I’d urge you to donate an item to help get his collection back on track, contact me for an address, or if you’d like, you can donate to this paypal address: 


Photo Credit Will Baddeley

It’s times like these that bonsai enthusiasts worldwide band together to lend some support and assistance.  I have, and hope you will as well.

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Glazed Pots by Zyubei 3

I first wrote about Shigeru Zyubei in my third article here, all the way back in May 2011, in Glazed Pots by Shigeru Zyubei. Since then, his star has certainly risen, taking first prize in the 2014 Modern Shohin Potters Exhibition at Gafu-Ten for glazed containers.
From Zyubei 2: “His name is 濱田 重章(Shigenori Hamada) and his kiln named Hin Zyubeiei though his pots are commonly referred to simply as Zyubei. He was born in 1946 in Osaka and began creating shohin bonsai in 1972. By 1973, he was teaching classes in shohin at Shunshoen. In 1981, he began making bonsai pots, and purchased an electric kiln in 1989. After retirement in 2009, he began making bonsai pots professionally.”
Zyubei is obsessed with the old Canton Ao(green), Ruri(indigo) and Shiki(multi color) type glazes and has sought to reproduce them in modernity, to great effect. All of the containers(or similar) are available if any of you readers are interested in acquiring a piece(or 3!). Special thanks once again to Rie Aketo for the photos!
Now, On to the pots!


Zyubei’s Gold award winning entry in the 2014 Modern Small Potters Exhibition.


Two sides of a flambé glazed riveted hexagon. Really nice random mottling.

A fantastically thick glazed small square showing multiple colors and some pitting. Vibrantly Tofukujiesque.

For comparison, here is a famous Tofukuji showing similar warmth and glaze.


A very interesting oval! This glaze is utterly unique, and it’s understated swirling complimentary colors are sublime.

A reddish ochre glaze shot through with streaks of black and cream speckles. Another unique Zyubei glaze.

This is one of my favorite Zyubei glazes. A canton style glaze with running multiple blues. Absolutely gorgeous. One can easily see in this container that Zyubei is quickly approaching Tofukuji’s mastery of Canton style glazes.

A green Tofukuji with similar streaking, in Canton style Oribe.



3 different versions of a swirling Kinyo type glaze. Really interesting patterns that come up like reptile skin or swirling water.



Another of my favorite Canton blue style glazes, Ruri. Zyubei’s Ruri type glazes are often shot through with steaks light blue, green, or white, like lightning, or sometimes running water.




Five different versions of another unique Zyubei glaze. This one is like wave crests at night to me, or a starry sky far far away from the city.






And we’ll finish up with something new from Zyubei. These 6 super mini shitakusa containers are made by Zyubei, and painted by his wife, Momoka(百花). Very quaint and charming.
For the last month my free time to work on articles has been greatly taken by travel to clubs near and far to lecture on bonsai containers, so, sorry for the dearth of new articles!
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be finishing up several, including Imaoka Machinao and Wazyaku, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

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The 10th Annual Modern Shohin Container Artist Exhibition, Part 2

There were many other artists in this year’s exhibition that deserved note(in fact all of them were excellent). But my time is limited, so here are the entries that most caught my eye.
If you’d like to see the rest of the entries, and read a little more in depth about the artists in this year’s show, this is the Japanese Shohin Bonsai Association’s page for the exhibit:

10th Annual Pottery Exhibition, JSB

Special thanks, Again, go out to Mark and Rita Cooper, Miyazato Rintaro, Koji Yoshida, Dario Mader, and Haruyosi for allowing the use of their images. Thanks Once Again!

Painted Containers




As mentioned in the Part 1, i had another friend whose work was accepted in the exhibit. Ruban Yu is from Taiwan and has been making ceramics for Bonsai since 2008, and painting containers since last year. I’ve followed his painting progression from the beginning, avidly. His work is already excellent for such a short time, and shows great promise for the future. Stay tuned for a full post about Ruban and his work in the near future!

Another favorite of the blog, Echizen Hosui, showed 5 pots in this show. Excellent diversity of form, color, and size. There is an incredible amount of detail for such tiny pieces.

Kutani Ai also showed 5 pots. Excellent detail to these sometsuke pieces. Really fine lines and brushwork. It’s interesting to note that all are appropriately blue(Kutani Ai’s(藍) artist name means “Indigo”).

As always, Takao Koyo’s pots were impressive, and showed off his unique style. Check out the table of contents for a full article on Takao Koyo from last year.


Yuki Shoseki’s entry of 2 containers. Classical Shoseki kiln style paintings: Children and the Choju Giga are popular subjects from both the matriarch, Ishida Shoseki, and Yuki.

Another student of the Shoseki line, the painted pots from Shosui(祥翠) also show the lineage very clearly in both style and subject. This line of female painters is often whimsical and playful.




Multiple entries from Kyougoku Shiho, one of my favorite modern underrated painters. I did an article on him last year. His style is sometimes a little loud, but also very classical, and his dragon paintings are the best traditional Kyo-Yaki style dragons I’ve seen outside of the work of Tsukinowa Yusen.


Interesting entries from Mayu, who often collaborates with Munakata Isso. The former piece is peaceful and quiet, and the latter downright angry. An odd juxtaposition.



Last up for painted pots, we have the entry from female painter and potter Ashikawa Tomoku, who signs her works Yamachi (山ち).
These were some of the most impressive pieces in the exhibition to me, as (see a pattern yet?) she has only been making and painting pots for 2 years. Not only are the pots themselves good: varied shape and form with clean lines, but the paintings are also pretty outstanding for the time involved in BOTH fields. Either one of those skills normally takes many years to master…this is one to watch for in the future.

Unglazed Entries



Of the relief and figure carvers of the current generation, Oya Tadashi(大矢 忠) is the Sruga Yamasyou to Mashi Furumoto’s Zeshin. Tadashi took home top honors in the 2011 Exhibit, and his pots have become highly desirable and collectible since.


Doshita Keishin’s entry this year was excellent, but really nothing new. Excellent calligraphy and clean unglazed clay work are the trademarks of this artist.

The unglazed entry from The Glazed Category Silver award winner Kyushi Jinbo(Jinkozan). These pots were interesting to me, a bit like classical western wooden planters, but in a good way. Unusual colors as well.


The entry from Tani Ranzan. I’m placing it here in the unglazed section because the orchid pot style cascade, while excellent, is really nothing unusual from this renaissance potter. The unglazed figurines, on the other hand…..

Glazed Containers
Here is where the exhibition got really interesting in my opinion. There were 4 artists who are students of Bushuan represented, and many of the other selections reflect a similar, unique, Tofukujiesque style of warm, odd, and one off glazes.
But before we look at those….

This Monkey has Stone Cahones. This is the glazed container entry from Andrew Pearson. Not only did Andrew have the fortitude to enter the competition, and the talent to win, but he had the brass to enter in two categories. Well Done, once again Andy. Very nice and clear single color glazes showing a brightness not often seen in Western bonsai containers.
And If you decide on a new line of “Stone Cahones” pots, Andy, feel free to the name, just send me one, mate.





The entries from yet another favorite of the blog, Shigeru Zyubei. Zyubei was the first pretty well unknown potter I discovered when I started researching Japanese Pots, and since then his work has garnered numerous accolades, including the Gold prize for Glazed containers in last year’s exhibition. The multicolored thickly glazed yellow was one of my personal favorites from this show.
More on Shigeru Zyubei here:
Glazed pots by Shigeru Zyubei
And here:
Glazed Pots by Zyubei 2

Glazed pots by Hisashi(久). Really nice and deep glazes and an interesting variety of form.


Another of the entries from Shigeru Fukuda’s students, a trio from Nanbu Yoshiaki(南部 孝明). Not only are the glazes pretty spectacular(and like the Award Winning entry from Jinkouzan, clearly reminiscent of the teachers’ work) but the carving, clay work, and detailing is very good. Another fresh name to watch closely.


Another trio of very uniquely glazed pieces that show an interesting variety of form. This entry is by Fukuda Tadahiro, who goes by the name Koto Chukan(古都忠寛). Excellent antique mirror shaped pieces and very rich, deep, multilayered glazes. The red piece is definitely the best red in this exhibition(or maybe just my personal favorite).

Another student of Bushuan, this entry comes from Jinbo Michiyo, who goes by the name Mi(美). The crackle cream glazed piece is especially nice.


It seems there was a bit of a trend going for students of Fukuda Shigeru, as all included red glazed pieces in their entries. This display from Tomatsuri Isamu is no exception. Very nice work showing a subtle elegance.


The entry from Horie Bikoh. Love them or hate them, one thing you can’t disagree with is that Bikoh has his own unique style. His overglaze enameled pieces are unmistakable, and his clean, sharp clay work is excellent, as you would expect from an apprentice of Heian Kouzan.

Last but not least:

We have this entry from female potter and painter Koide Michiko, who goes by the name Ma(ま). Though it properly belongs up top with the Painted Containers, there is enough to say about this thoughtful entry that it gets a category all it’s own. The artist is a fashion illustrator and designer in Tokyo, and has been creating Mame bonsai and ceramics since 2011.



The theme of the piece, “Coudenhove-Kalergi Photon,” is a reference to Mitsuko Aoyama, one of the first Japanese to immigrate to Europe, in the late 1800s. She married Austrian nobility, Count Heinrich Coudenhove-Kalergi, in Tokyo, in 1896.
The corset, when thus looked at contextually, becomes much more than just a pretentious affected piece. As a historical figure, Mitsuko Aoyama is an interesting choice for subject matter, especially for bonsai ceramics. Japanese art in general, and Bonsai Ceramics in particular, have a long and storied tradition of drawing direct inspiration from legends, other famous artworks, and historical figures, and creating homages to them. For example, Yusen’s interpretation of Ando’s 53 Stations from the last post, or the anthropomorphic animals of the Choju Giga and Fox’s Wedding we’ve seen from many artists in past articles(and in several of the entries above!). In light of that very Japanese tradition, I see this entry as a modern interpretation of classical homage.

Mitsuko and Count Coudenhove-Kalergi

A popular Memoir was published about the countess, a musical was produced as well, and even in Manga, she stars in the book Lady Mitsuko. Note the crane on the fan on the above poster, and on the pots.

Putting aside the seemingly Avant Garde nature of this entry, the pottery and painting work is superb. While not my favorite entry from this exhibition, it certainly ranked, and it’s undeniably the most thought provoking and challenging.
What would you plant in a corset container? I’d go with a fern shitakusa….ferns were all the rage in Europe in Mitsuko’s time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the 10th Shohin Potters Exhibition!
If you’re in or near any of these areas, I’ll be giving a lecture on Bonsai Containers at the Atlanta Bonsai Society on Saturday, the 24th, at noon, The Bonsai Society of Upstate New York in Rochester, Tuesday the 27th, the Birmingham Bonsai Society February 9th, and the Greater Louisville Bonsai Society February 16th. Come out and see me if you can for a presentation on the History, Appreciation, Classification, and Identification of Bonsai Ceramics! I will have containers for sale and a high quality container will be raffled off at each location.

Thanks for reading!

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The 10th Annual Modern Shohin Container Artist Exhibition, Part 1

Every year I look forward to the images and summary of the Shohin potters exhibition held during Gafu Ten in January and sponsored by the Japan Shohin Bonsai Association. But this year I was anticipating the results something special as I had two friends in the exhibition.
This will be my 4th article on the exhibition, tempus fugit and all that, click on the “Table of Contents” page for the previous articles on the 2012-2014 exhibitions.


Due to the large volume of images and detail photos, I’ve separated this article into two posts, the winners and special exhibitions and other entries. Stay tuned for part two later today.

However, before we take a look at the winners and the exhibition photos, allow me a second to once again congratulate British Potter Andrew Pearson, of Stone Monkey Ceramics, first for having the fortitude to even enter the show(at the clearly right headed urging of Peter Warren and Akiyama San), and second, and foremost, for taking a gold award in the unglazed category. Well done Monkey.
I’d also like to congratulate my friend Ruban Yu of Taiwan for his excellent showing in the exhibition.
Special thanks for permission to use their images for these posts goes out to Mark and Rita Cooper, Miyazato Rintaro, Koji Yoshida, Dario Mader, and Haruyosi. Thanks Again!
Now, on to the pots!

The Award Winners

Unglazed Containers




Andrew Pearson’s Gold award winning unglazed trio. The attention to detail is outstanding, in both the razor sharp lines and relief carvings. The display is very well presented also. Andrew is the first Western Bonsai potter to exhibit at major exhibition in Japan, and certainly the first to take Top Prize. Sure, this site is called Japanese bonsai pots….but anybody who wins a show in Japan qualifies in my book.
More of Andy’s pots can be seen(and purchased) here:
Stone Monkey Ceramics


The Silver Award for unglazed containers went to the artist Hiroshi(宏) Sugiahima Shigehiro, for a trio of stained, or perhaps Matte or slip coated pieces. Very interesting colors and forms to these pieces.


The bronze for unglazed containers was awarded to Yatani Kouhei, who goes by the artist name Ryusai. The containers are especially impressive when one considers that this artist has only been making bonsai and containers since 2012.

Glazed Containers



This year’s top award for Glazed pots went to Shinobu, who some of you may remember from the 9th show, where he took the top prize in UNGLAZED containers! From last years post: “The Gold in unglazed containers was awarded to Shinobu(忍), of the bonsai garden Amemiya-En(雨宮園) in Yamanashi.”
The glazes on these pieces are pretty spectacular, varied, complex, but still very easily usable. Impressive clay work and container shape as well.



The silver award for Glazed pottery went to one of FOUR students of blog favorite Fukuda Shigeru(Bushuan) who were chosen to exhibit in this show. The artist is Kyuji Jinbo , who goes by the names Jinkozan (神久山) or Jinbe(じんべ). He also entered in the unglazed category. Interesting glazes and good looking clay work as well. The red is decidedly reminiscent of his teacher’s clean red glazes.



The bronze award for Glazed pieces went to Matsuda Tsutomu, or 静雲寺. Another bronze award winner whose work is most impressive in the very short length of time spent in the art…3 years in this case.

Painted Containers



Top honors in the painted category went to Yamada Shigetoshi, who goes by the artist name Shun(俊). I’ve written an article about this artist before, here:
Fine details, both in the painting and the varied shapes and feet of the containers, made this display the clear winner.



One of two Kutani area painters in this exhibition, Kutani Aritomo took the silver award for painted porcelain. Very detailed paintings, and excellent clay work in a myriad of shapes. The demon foot piece is especially nice. A little variety in the color could’ve won top honors I think.




Bronze was awarded to Yokotani Toshihide, formerly known as Shuzan, now working under the name Shunhou(俊峯). Shunhou is a former apprentice of Owari Yuhou, who I’ve featured on the blog before. Good variety in shape and color. Excellent pieces.

Special Exhibitions
There were two special entries in this years show, from Veteran potters Ito Gekko and Watanabe Kazuhiro.



Ito Gekko’s special exhibit


Ikkou’s exhibit in the show. A very cool display comprising the four most common classical unglazed natural colors and Ikkou’s own brand:

In order, they are Kurodei(黒泥-black clay), Shidei(紫泥-purple clay), Shirodei(白泥-white/tan clay), Shudei(朱泥-vermillion clay), and Koudei(紅泥-Ikkou’s own Red clay. Actually a little brighter than classical Shudei!).

In addition to the Modern Potters competition, Gafu Ten is also host to a couple of other exhibitions. This year there was an International Shohin photo competition, and congratulations to Mark and Rita Cooper, Pedro Morales, and 張珺理 for their awards. In addition, every year the Shohin bonsai, containers, stands, and stones that are selected and named treasures of Shohin Bonsai are also displayed. Of special note this year were two complete sets of Tsukinowa Yusen’s paintings of Ando’s 53 Stations of the Tokkaido Road.


Yusen’s Tokaido Road containers are composed of 55 painted pots and 5 blank porcelain pieces, to even out to five 12 pot sets. It’s exceptional that two complete sets have remained together.





I hope you’ve enjoyed this first look at the 10th Modern Potters Exhibition!
Stay Tuned, part 2 coming up tomorrow!

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