Category Archives: Ceramics

Kawai Kanjiro’s House


This is the house of Kawai Kanjiro, a legendary potter and a key figure in the mingei or Japanese folk art movement. His beautiful wooden townhouse has been preserved as a memorial run by his family. The building itself and the garden are wonderful, but you can also see here many of his works: ceramics, sculptures, and woodcarvings. His kilns are preserved at the back of the house. I was there back in September and took some 360 degree pictures which I shall share here as they give a good impression of how much there is to explore in the house. Just click on them to have a proper look around: Continue reading

Climbing Mount Daimonji with Robert Yellin & the Ricoh Theta

When you write a blog, and a reasonable number of people follow it, sometimes you get stuff for free. Probably this is the best thing I ever got for free:


Pretty, isn’t it? This is the RICOH THETA – the first camera that can take 360 degree panoramic images in one shot. And as it isn’t on sale yet, I’m the very first person in Kyoto who gets to give it a go! Soon after it arrived my friend Robert Yellin suggested we take it up Mount Daimonji for a test run and below are the results. Just click on the dew drops to step into a bubble and view the image in 360 degrees!

Crossing the Bridge at the foot of Daimonji:
Dai 1
In the Forest:Dai 2
At the top! You can climb this in 30 minutes at a reasonable pace and it really does energize you when you get to the top. I’m still buzzing from it now.
Dai 3

Taking in the view!Dai 4

After our descent we went back to Robert Yellin’s pottery gallery:Gallery 1

Robert had ice-cold beers ready! Much appreciated after our climb!Gallery 2
While we talked I expressed an interest in some of the works of Shimura Noriyuki that were on display. Robert brought out some mugs for me to look at. Colorful and quirky, I find them delightful.

Gallery 3

I actually ended up buying one, I liked it so much. I feel like every one of those pieces has a story in it, but this was my favorite (standard picture).

IMG_6516 (Medium)
It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Many thanks to Robert, and also to Daniel Rosen for choosing me to try out this great new toy!

Kubota Rekkou’s Blue Celadon Works @ Robert Yellin’s Gallery

On Wednesday I spent a very pleasant evening at Robert Yellin’s ceramics gallery, looking at all beautiful things that he has gathered there and enjoying his fascinating conversation. Robert had invited me up to see his new exhibition; the beautiful blue celadon of Kubota Rekkou. Light, pale and graceful this 青白磁 (seihakuji – or blue-white porcelain) stands in marked contrast to the heavier, and more rustic wood-fired wares already on display. Robert drew my attention first to the latter kind of pottery, the high-fired, unglazed “yakishime.” In the corner were two large jars, one from Bizen and the other from Shigaraki. Explaining how such works are made, he told me,

“The artist, makes the piece, the form, but has no idea how it’s going to turn out in the kiln… And the process is pretty intense you know. We just look at the finished product, but you have to think of the digging of the clay, the processing of the clay, the wedging of the clay, the drying… It’s a very long process to make a piece. And then they put it in this wood-fired entity of a kiln and they let go. Which to me is amazing because we live in this world where everybody wants control of processes, of their own lives, but it’s actually the letting go where a lot of the beautiful drama occurs. And that’s what goes on with these works. The potter put them in and had no idea how it would turn out, in coloration… It’s very different from Western aesthetics because it’s not perfect. You got these drips, you got cracks, you got fissures, you got pitted works, a lot of it’s uneven, but there’s a large portion of Japanese spirit in these wood-fired pieces. It’s the imperfection that makes them beautiful. And they are also very seasonal as well. These pieces are more meant for the autumn. They are heavy. They are really beautiful, large, energizing pieces. They are not really summer pieces…

Which is why I wanted to introduce a summer type of style. In the summer, you want something that imparts not so much energy, but a coolness. Something that you just look at and you’re cooled. And that’s why we are having this exhibition of the bluish-white porcelain called seihakuji. You just walk into this room and you feel very light and airy. The touch when you do touch a piece becomes chilled… And with the energy issues that are going to be happening this summer, how are we going to cool ourselves? The Japanese have done it in an energy-saving way for a long time. Whether it be furin (a wind-chime) , whether it be some mugicha (barley tea), or kakigōri (shaved ice). And obviously people have changed their surroundings in the past to match the seasons. This house has these screens to let the air flow through. These are summer fusuma. The Japanese were pretty brilliant about matching their lifestyles to the seasons. When it was winter this whole house was divided into individual rooms and you heated one with a hibachi or something. But in the summer, it was furin, it was kakigōri, it was bamboo and sudare (light bamboo screens)… and it was using vessels like this, because your senses are affected by colors, by touch, and how you make this part of your daily life. Just look at that color! It cools you on many visceral levels.” Continue reading