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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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!

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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!  

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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!

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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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