Sharaku was born Masahiro Shimotori(霜鳥昌弘) in Niigata Prefecture in 1940, but currently works in Yashio in Saitama.
He had great interest in Bonsai, and studied at Shunkaen under the renowned Kunio Kobayashi, and won awards for his Satsuki, notably the Excellence Award for Satsuki Shaping from Kindai Bonsai.
He found his true calling in 1997, when he began apprenticing under blog favorite Shigeru Fukuda(aka Bushuan). In 2004 he apprenticed in Guangdong to study clay and Chinese technique for a year. Sharaku has won numerous awards for his pottery, and now runs a pottery school in Saitama.
Unlike Bushaun, Sharaku specializes in single color glazes that are very bright and clean. But it’s easy to see his old master’s style in his complicated Mokko shape pots, for which he is rightfully famous.
Now, on to the pots!

A selection of Sharaku pots I photographed for sale at Shunkaen.

A bright yellow Mokko shape, formerly of my collection. Clean, bright yellow. These pots will be masterpieces once patina has taken it’s toll and toned them down.

A small green glazed three footed round in my collection.

A selection of Sharaku pots on display in a show at Shunkaen.

And a few more on display at Shunkaen(the painted cascade not Sharaku).

A really impressive Red mokko. Very rich and warm glaze.


Sharaku’s entries in 2 different years of the Gafu Ten held Shohin pottery exhibition and competition.

Photo By Bonsai Rien

Photo By Bonsai Rien

Photo By Bonsai Rien
A selection of mokko shapes in green, indigo, and red.

Check out that glaze!

A really fantastic antique mirror shape in bright orange with Chicken Feet. The tight angles and points are razor sharp and clean. Excellent clay work.

Another Antique Mirror shape in pink

A really nice small cascade from the collection of friend of the Blog Nathan Simmons.

A really nice mokko shape with a rather bluish celadon glaze.

A two toned red round with drips. It’s rare to see a potter who really embraces and specializes in red Glazes, and Sharaku’s are some of the best.

A different orange glaze than the previous pieces. This one is thicker and a little more rustic.

Photo by Bonsai-Rien

Photo by Bonsai-Rien
A multi toned red cascade. A different red than the previous pieces, more of a Canton red. Very lovely and warm.

Photo Credit: Kenny Tay
A really impressive mokko shape from the collection of Kenny Tay. It’s rare to see two toned glaze like this from Sharaku. Very nice piece.

Sharaku’s three artist marks. The Kabuki image and Sharaku’s artist name comes from the 18th century Ukiyoe Artist “Sharaku”, whose woodblock prints and paintings of sumo and kabuki are masterpieces of the time.

Sharaku’s “Kabuki Actor Otani Oniji II in the role of Edobe” that is the model for Shimitori San’s artist mark.

And we’ll finish up today with a little Winter Jasmine in a Sharaku pot.

If you’re in the area, I’ll be giving a lecture on The History, Appreciation, Classification, and Identification of Bonsai Containers for the Atlanta Bonsai Society January 24, the Bonsai Society of Upstate New York January 27, and the Birmingham Bonsai Society February 9th. I hope to see a few readers of the blog out, despite the chilly weather!

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s article on the pottery of Sharaku,
Thanks For Reading!

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Bang For Your Buck Potters 2: Koyo Toen(鴻陽陶園)

Aiba Kouichirou
Aiba Kouichirou was born in Showa 19(1944) the son of a potter whose family specialized in pots for plants and tableware, a kiln founded by his grandfather. In early 1970, Aiba Kouichirou built a new kiln, changed the name to Koyo Toen, and began making bonsai pots.
Aiba Koyo is most famous for glazed pots, but he also makes unglazed pieces and suiban, in addition to other wares. He is perhaps best known for his Oribe Yu glazes, and I’ve heard it said that his work with Oribe in the last decade rivals that of even Heian Tofukuji. In addition to Oribe green and blue, he makes some really nice starved Oribe in red and white, as well as crackle yellows, motif carved pots, and unique one off glazes. Pots are created using several different methods: Wheel, hand carved, slab, coil, and hand formed.
Aiba KuniakAiba Kuniaki was born in 1973, and recently took over the head of kiln, under the name Koyo Juko. Juko San has widened the production of the Koyo kiln into more diverse wares, and continues the tradition of excellence of his father.
Aiba Kouso
Kouso is Aiba Kouichiro’s Wife, and she makes smaller containers and Kusamono pots on the wheel, in Koyo’s famous glazes.

Pots from the Koyo kiln are very inexpensive for the quality, so they definitely fall under bang for the buck potters! An excellent Oribe from Koyo Toen can cost as little as 125$, while a similarly glazed Ino Shukuho can run several hundred, and a Tofukuji several thousand!

Now, on to the Pots!
Aiba Kouichirou





5 pots showing the diversity that Koyo achieves with Oribe type glazes based on kiln position and the amount of oxygen available.

A fantastic Oribe glazed rectangle from the collection of friend of the blog and maple master extraordinaire Matt Ouwinga. Excellent patina on this piece. I’d be hard pressed guessing this was a Koyo and not a Shukuho.


Another from Matt Ouwinga’s collection, a very early edition in a cool Canton type glaze. The highlights of blue and even gold in the multifaceted green crackle are outstanding.

A really nice speckled Kinyo glaze rectangle with indent corners and cut feet. Very nice and interesting glaze.

A unique cut cornered dual tone glazed rectangle with heron and octopus facade carvings. Very interesting glaze, the darker side would be the side that faced the fire in the kiln.

This piece features a Takatatori Yu type glaze, like Oribe, it is another that Tofukuji was famous for, and Kouichirou San also proves quite skilled with it.

A Canton Green six sided pot. Great depth and multiple tones make this piece outstanding among green pots.

A really beautiful Oribe showing quite a bit more blue than is normal.

Another 6 sided pot in a Canton style Green glaze. The difference In tone with the previous Canton green 6 sided pot is remarkable.

A Canton Red glazed pot. Very classical in finish and glaze.

A really nicely glazed semi cascade type square, also in a Canton red type glaze. The very soft and warm glaze on such a strong and angular pot is interesting.

A Canton Ruri (indigo) glazed rectangle with striking lighter Kinyo or Ruri overglaze.

Last up for the First Generation of Koyo Toen we have another Canton Ruri type of glaze with pinkish red highlights. Very unique and lovely color combination.
Kouso Koyo

A really interestingly glazed Kusamono pot. I haven’t seen this glaze on any other Koyo pots, perhaps it is Kouso’s own recipe.

This is the most common example of pots made by Kouso, Aiba Kouichirou’s wife. Thrown on the wheel or pinched, these pots are often finished with some of Koyo’s signature glazes, and are a deal for the price.

A similar piece to the above, but in unglazed brown.

An interesting wheel thrown eggshell.


Two more Kusamono or Mame containers in Koyo’s signature Shinsha Red from Kouso
Kuniaki Aiba(Jukosan)
Most of the pictures in this section come from Jukosan’s Facebook page

Kuniaki Aiba stands among his wares with the Kiln built by his father in 1970.

A display of pots from Jukosan at this years Shuga Ten Shohin Bonsai show.

A really nice Oribe Suiban from Jukosan. The son has definitely inherited the skill of the father!

A uniquely glazed rectangle in blues and indigo. Simply lovely.

A facade carved unglazed cascade with Dragon. Very nice Shudei clay and a nicely detailed dragon in a classical Tokoname style.


Jukosan’s entries in the 2012 and 2013 Shohin Bonsai Association’s pottery exhibition held during Gafu Ten in January. These entries really show Jukosan’s versatility as a potter.

A Canton Green glazed rectangle. Very nice glaze and the blue highlighting to the right is exceptional.

Glazed Peach bloom red rectangle with cloud feet in the classical Tetsu Gakkan style pot. Very clean and solid red glaze.

A simple yellow crackle. Not nearly as showy as some of these others but one of my favorite glazes from the kiln.

A nail carved rectangle. Jukosan is certainly multi Talented!! The nail carving style reminds me of Kouzan or Chazan.

A Canton Red glazed rectangle. Great depth and warmth to the glaze make it something better than what you get in red from many other potters.

This one comes from the collection of my friend 陳瑞堂. A really spectacular green shot through with mottled patches of deep blue. A very exceptional glaze.

Last up for Jukosan, we have this rectangle. There’s so much going on here I don’t know where to start! The tiny details like the asymmetrical drips of the rich green overglaze, the tiny rivets at the inset corners, and the cloud foot peeking through on only one side, all combine to make this container a piece of rare excellence. Still quite a young man(at least I hope he is, he’s only a couple years older than me!) we’ll be seeing excellent work from Jukosan for decades to come.

Thanks for reading! Several more articles in the works this week, including Imaoka Machinao, Hayashi Mokuu, and a much asked for apparently overdue piece on the Yamaaki lineage. Stay tuned!

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Ono Gishin

Ono Gishin was born in Sukumo, a castle town, the eldest son of a Tosa clan samurai, Ono Fushikichi, in 1839, and passed away in 1905. As a fifth rank Noble, Gishin was the head of his Village in Tosa, But was a strong supporter of the Meiji restoration, and as such, later joined the Japanese Ministry of Industry and Engineering at the age of 31. The next year, in 1871, he joined the Ministry of Finance, and retired from civil service in 1874.
During his time he spearheaded numerous public works, including the building of Osaka harbor and improvements on The river Yodo.

In addition to his bureaucratic service, Gishin was a renowned businessman, industrialist, and entrepreneur, considered one of the founders of the Nippon Railway, the first privately held rail company in Japan, where he carried on some of the work started when he was a bureaucrat where the government had begun laying rail lines, and later led the company as president.
Gishin was also a courtier and chief advisor of Yataro Iwasaki, the founder of the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu, and it is said that Gishin laid much of the foundation for the Zaibatasu’s power, and that Iwasaki would not make any major decision without Gishin’s council, earning him the nickname 強一郎(Kyouichirou-The one Strength of. Ro[Ro here is a pun on the last Kanji of Yataro’s name]).(while not Bonsai related, I highly recommend checking out additional history on the Zaibatsu, Gishin, and The Iwasakis… as it is fascinating).

Gishin was very much what we would call a “literati”, and in addition to pottery, forged Swords, was accomplished at Go and Bonsai, and wrote Haiku. A true Bunjin in many pursuits.
His kiln was attached to his home, and he employed Owari potter Kato Shokichi to learn technique and glaze, and run the kiln. His work eventually outmatched Kato, most significantly in his fine glaze work.
Few works survive today of what was sold, those that do were mostly given as gifts to fellow literati, and were therefore cherished, and of them green and Adzuki Bean glaze are the most common, and best.
Now, on to the pots!

Photo Courtesy Yorozuen

Photo Courtesy Yorozuen

Photo Courtesy Yorozuen

Photo Courtesy Yorozuen
A really fantastically shaped and delicate piece with the Adzuki Bean glaze Ono Gishin is famous for. This piece is available from Yorozuen. For a mere 1 million Yen it could be yours 😉
Adzuki, or Red Bean, Glaze is a type of copper based glaze that is not as pure and bright red as Peach bloom red. It often has specks of green where the glaze hasn’t fully reduced to red. This is one of the most outstanding examples of the glaze in existence.

A deeper and richer red than the previous piece, closer to Peach Bloom Red than Adzuki Bean.

A speckled green glazed piece with two belts. This glaze is unique and exceptional.

A cream glazed pot with excellent patina. The large lip really makes the pot!



Another round piece in Adzuki Bean glaze with close ups. In the close ups you can see why Gishin is famous for this glaze, as his version has far less mottling than you see from others of the period.

A small fern accent in a greenish yellow Gishin. Very cool composition.



Three similar pieces with different glazes. The red and cream glazed pot reminds me of one of Koyo’s signature glazes. The red side would be the side facing the fire.

A tall red cascade. Very clean and rich red.

A round Canton green glazed pot with really excellent cut feet. Very nice glaze and clearly excellent foot work.

And we’ll finish up today with another piece available for sale, this one from Kinbon, also a steal at 1 million Yen! Excellent clean glaze with cool accents and feet.


This piece is accompanied by a box, which establishes the provenance of the piece. The box was made for the pot by a famous Yokohama collector of Gishin’s work in 1939. Boxes like this that establish provenance can be especially important in high value pieces where forgeries are common.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the article! Thanks for reading!

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Takemoto Hayata

Takemoto Hayata was born Takemoto Masenori In the first year of the Kaei period, 1848. The son of Takemoto Yotoki, a Shogunate Bannerman, he was born into the Samurai class of nobles in the feudal Shogunate system in Tokyo. As his father was powerful and he himself was a samurai, they lost everything in the Meiji Restoration. In 1867, upon the restoration of the Emperor to the throne, the Shogunate ended. Over the course of several years, Samurai and Daimyo had their rank, property, income, and elite status revoked by the Emperor.
Many Samurai chose to side with the Emperor, and in Takemoto’s area of Tokyo, these became the Tokyo police. Many others did not go quietly, and revolted. The revolts were quickly squashed by the new Imperial Army, headed by a core of Samurai that were the Tokyo Police. Takemoto refused to fight on either side, and thus, having no income, property, or trade, spent the rest of his years living in poverty.
Takemoto and his father were already pottery hobbyists when the Meiji restoration occurred, having made the acquaintance of Inoue Ryusai, a Seto Potter who visited the Edo suburbs. After the Restoration, Takemoto began producing pots professionally and in earnest, having built a kiln with his father from old bathroom brick and tile in the Takatamura suburb of Tokyo very early in the Meiji period, dubbed Takemoto Hayata.
After repeated failures and much consultation with Ryusai(who eventually became the foreman at his kiln when he adopted western Slip casting methods), Takemoto began producing excellent small works, loved by the Imperials and their retainers. Eventually he also produced vases and tea ceremony items, but is still most famous for his bonsai pottery. Most of his work is in the Cochin-China style, but several other glazes, clays, and techniques were employed before his early death in 1892, only 44 years old.

Count Matsudaira and his wife at Kokufu 1

Count Matsudaira’s Mame Bonsai display at the first Kokufu Ten

It is more than significant to point out that Takemoto is considered by many to be one of the principles responsible in the creation of Shohin Bonsai, albeit indirectly. Count Yorinaga Matsudaira is considered the most important person in the popularization of Shohin bonsai in Japan, and his love of Takemoto’s containers is well known and documented. One of the reasons Count Matsudaira was able to fulfil his goals in creating tiny Mame bonsai was surely the new availability of tiny containers made by Takemoto, many of which were commissioned by the count. But Count Matsudaira is a whole post in his own right….so….on to the pots!

A pair of rectangles, crackle and cream glazed, both in the Cochin style, from the Matsudaira collection.

A really awesome crackle Cochin style mokko from the Matsudaira collection. The patina is incredible. One thing that is wonderful about pots like these is that their lineage and ownership is well established(for the most part) and if one is diligent, can find out where every single bit of that patina came from over the last 130 years.

A very impressive(and needless to say expensive!!!) collection of Takemoto pots. This really shows the diversity of form and glaze that Takemoto used. Takemoto is most famous for his Cochin style crackles, but reds, blues, and completely unique odd one offs are also well known and impressive.
Speaking of…
Cochin Style Crackles

First up, a really sweet rectangle from the collection of friend of the blog
Matt Ouwinga. An excellent example of Takemoto Craze.

From the side, one can see the proportions that seem so odd to us today, the same proportions one normally sees on the Chinese pots of the period.

A fairly famous pot, here it makes an appearance in a very old and rare book about Bonsai pottery published in the 40s or 50s.

Another very famous crackle, this time in blue. The very light and non uniform crackle makes this a prize, and very unique.

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of Takemoto? Well, you’ve got no excuse. While not exactly extensive, there have been several articles referencing Takemoto in English. William Valavanis’s 50 Year book(which is wonderful btw) has a great article on the history of Shohin Bonsai that makes mention of Takemoto. There’s the photo above, taken from Bonsai Today, issue 85.
And as I’ve said before, John Romano’s article on the history of Shohin Bonsai in International Bonsai issue 3, 2011 is excellent, and gives proper place to the importance of Takemoto in Shohin Bonsai history.

A really nice tiny crazed piece with an unbelievable patina!

Crackle glazes are sweet, but it’s pieces like this one, and the next one that are stand apart excellent. I mean, you can get antique Chinese crackles for less than similar sized Takemoto, but not with touches like these. Small unique touches of unrepeatable wabi sabi.

A very famous and unique pot, named “Zan-setsu”-“Remaining Snow.” Crackle glaze sparingly used on a dark clay body. If you look in the standard art history and ceramics books, they pigeonhole Takamoto, because in their prejudice they give weight to the vases and tea stuff, and discount the Bonsai Containers, in most cases calling them flower pots or basins. “Takemoto confined his efforts in producing monochromatic porcelain and in this he attained marked progress”….really? This piece is neither monochromatic nor porcelain and one of the greatest works of the period! Pfft.

A very famous pair of Shohin Bonsai Cultural Treasures made by Takamoto. In the book Miyabi, the commentary on these pots is “This pair of Hexagonal pots made by Takemoto is valuable. Although Takemoto made many similar shaped pots, most were smaller than these pots. The beautiful glaze is a speciality of Takemoto.”
Unique Glazes

Five very small pots displayed together at Gafu Ten for recognition as Cultural Masterpieces. This type of glaze is also one of Takemoto’s specialities, and comes in many colors.


Two red glazed pots in the same glaze style as the above. The white peaking at the corners softens the pots which are otherwise angular.

A very rare and large vase by Takemoto. The glaze is simply outstanding.

This pot is another Cultural Masterpiece. A really fantastic and unique glaze, like waves at night.

A small Mokko shape pot. Later potters like Ichiyo would emulate Takemoto extensively, especially small pots like these.

A small Ichiyo from my collection.

And a Takemoto. Note the foot shape a proportions, clearly the Ichiyo is an homage piece.

This green glaze is another of Takemoto’s signature glazes. It is soft and warm.



Three views of another Takemoto in this signature green glaze from the collection of Matt Ouwinga. Very representative of Takemoto’s work.
Other Pots

A very rare series of Six, Six Sided painted pots from Takemoto. Also Cultural Masterpieces. An interesting display.

A very nice cascade unglazed pot. Clean lines and very nice clay make this a treasure.

The previous unglazed piece paired with a similarly shaped Takemoto in a cream glazed Cochin style. The patina on the Cochin style is excellent, as is the display of the two pieces together.

A blue glazed rectangle with cut feet. In pieces like these one can see the influence Takemoto had on later potters like Tofukuji and Aiso.


And we’ll finish up our look at the pots of Takemoto with this fantastically patinated Cochin style cream glazed round. A fantastic pot, and the equal or better of anything that came from China in the same period.
A few Shohin Bonsai in Takemoto Pots


Shohin Ibota(Rough Bark Japanese Privet)

The Kinzu(Hong Kong Kuquat) in the second shelf, left, is in a Takemoto


The Chojubai, second shelf, left, in a green Takemoto

The broom style Zelkova, bottom shelf, left, is in a wonderful yellow Takemoto rectangle.

And that will do it for today’s look at Takemoto Hayata! Thanks for reading!

If you’re not already following the Facebook “Bonsai Auctions”, you should head on over.
Here are a few of the items I’ll be listing there this week.





Posted in Famous and Antique Potters, Trees | 4 Comments

The Yokohama Guild

In 1973, a meeting at the home of Uchiyama Choju had some very auspicious results. A joint meeting of the Kakkuken Association of wood fired pots and the Tenji Kai Soku Bai(Association for sale and display) ended in argument about the future direction of the association, ways to improve upon display and pottery, and sales. In order to solve the apparent rut the old associations found themselves in, 3 potters joined together to form a new association of potters and Bonsai artists dedicated to improvement: The Yokohama Guild(横浜逸品会). The first meetings and discussions with the founding 3 memebers, Chairman Tsujimura Takashi, Okatani Zeshin, and Uchiyama Choju began at Choju’s home, and the next year the first Yokohama exhibition was held there as well, to attract new membership. It is still one of the most important Bonsai pottery exhibitions in Japan: the Kawasaki Company Small Handmade Pot Exhibition. In 1976, the first Yokohama Guild Exhibition of small bonsai was held.
Meetings are held monthly, and the membership is extensive, with members mostly focused on mame and mini containers and bonsai.

As you can see, the list of members past and present is extensive, so rather than comment on the pots I’ll allow you to make your own appraisals, as the post is already pretty long winded.
Let’s take a look at a few selected works of potters on the extensive list of members of the Yokohama Guild: On To the Pots!

Founder: Choju

Founder: Okatani Zeshin






Founder: Tsuji Murakyo



Doshita Tomio








Doshita Keishin




Hayashi Bonka






Enkei Youzan




Mizuno Tadashi




With Doshita Keishin













Usuto Kyoshi


Beppu Yoshihara







Ito Shouzan







And We’ll finish up Today’s post with



Thanks for reading! After months of working on the Chop and Signature Database during my allotted time for the blog, it isn’t finished, but I’m sick of it(for now!). I’ll return to working on it eventually, but for now it’s back to articles! Stay tuned! Upcoming articles will feature Takemoto, Koyo, and more extensive looks at some of Japan’s classical regional ware.

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters, Modern Potters | 5 Comments

Bonsai Connect(Reblogged From Bonsai Unearthed)

Bonsai Unearthed

This is a new website I’m developing as an information resource and sounding board for everyone from seasoned bonsai veterans to the newest person who thinks bonsai are only available from ephemeral vans on the side of the road. This post is an all-call for those bonsai industry vendors, bonsai professionals, and bonsai organizations that have not yet submitted a profile. It’s really simple to do. Contact me via this site’s message system

Please include a single paragraph synopsis of who you are and what you do. A second text segment can be more long-winded. Any pertinent website links can also be included. After that, I’ll respond and refer you to the place to send photos.


For now, this is limited to businesses, professionals, and organizations in America. For those of you who have a business and would like to have a separate page as an instructor, please provide separate text for both. If you have any questions, please include them in your message.

The goal here is assist in the connection between bonsai practitioners and organizations /businesses. This is not a new website for you to manage, but a starting point with links to your site, blogs, videos, etc.

Over time, it is my goal to provide accurate information for those seeking to join a bonsai club or study group in their area as well. In many cases, this information is out-dated online or the email addresses are inactive. Yes, the Nashville Bonsai Society website is not up to snuff yet, but one thing at a time. The American Bonsai Society has a National Organization Database, but how many people knew that? There will be a link to that too : ).

Later versions will have more bells and whistles like a proprietary feedback system to share your experiences with instructors and vendors as well as secure forms to update data yourself.

If anyone out there would like to volunteer for beta testing, please send me a message.


Owen Reich


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Chops Database

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

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Nashville Bonsai Society Regional Expo and Show

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

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


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

Pyracantha in a Bushuan pot.

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

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


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

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

Red Pine, Jane Kluis variety.

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

Shohin display created by Shannon Salyer.

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

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

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

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

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

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Kutani Ikko 3

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



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




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


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


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



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




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

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

Posted in Modern Potters | 1 Comment

Suifu Sanjin

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

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

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

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

Posted in Famous and Antique Potters | 2 Comments