Robert Yellin's Japanese Pottery Blog

Greetings from Kyoto, We've just moved our gallery into a magnificent old Sukiya style home located very near the Silver Pavilion; a stunning area and setting for the inspired ceramic art we share with the world. Please visit us if ever in Kyoto or online at and

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Photos from the Japan Ceramic Society Exhibition Jan. 2006

The Japan Ceramic Society recently held it's annual award-winners exhibition in Tokyo at Wako, Ginza. Wako Hall is one of the best spaces in Tokyo for exhibitions as the large room is very flexible in terms of layout. Although I often attend department store exhibitions such as at Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya(they often show the best) I find the galleries very static and stuffy. Not so for Wako as you can see in these photos. The JCS Award is one of Japan's most pretigious for the clay world and and a complete list--make that almost complete, 2005 winners Nakajima Hiroshi and Ichino Masahiko have not been added yet as well as winners for 2004, who are Hayashi Kuniyoshi, Kiyomizu RokubeXIII and Tashima Etsuko.
Every year the JCS has a theme yet that was bypassed this year to allow each artist to select what they wanted for the 60th anniversary of the JCS's founding. It was a good choice as the works this year were more varied and interesting than years past. Standouts included a spectacular Hagi chawan by Miwa Jyustsu ( a little over 6 million yen..) and a tall Bizen work by Kakurezaki Ryuichi. On the disappointing side was the lack of energy found in Tsuji Seimei's recent output; it's quite sad actually as I'm sure it reflects his current health, which I've heard is not on the bright side, unfortunately. Wada Morihiro's selection lacked the crisp design motifs he's so well known for and the form was lackluster, as was the jar by Mashiko's LNT Shimaoka Tatsuzo. Surprises included a silver glazed bowl by Mori Togaku and Hayashi's whimsical 'doll on wheels.' The variety of forms and styles was quite good and the exhibition was a success for the JCS as many came from throughout Japan to enjoy the selection. Here are a few photos---sorry there will be no slide show on e-yakimono for the foreseeable future---and if anyone would like more photos please email me. For those who can view Japanese, the JCS HP is at and a complete list of JCS winners until 2004 in Japanese only can be found here:

Friday, February 24, 2006

At Last, Finally....The Mingeikan HP

I've been talking with a few directors at the Japan Folk Craft Museum (Nihon Mingeikan) for years now, " Ya'all need a web site! So many people in the world love this place yet can't find any information on the Net (except what was on" One forward looking person agreed, yet to get the other directors to agree was something else. Getting wa--harmony--for decisions in Japan is paramount, and that often means long meetings, and then getting everyone's hanko (seal) on paper; that can often takes years, as it did with the Mingeikan. Museums are often in a financial pinch and the Mingeikan is no different, maybe even more so than others. Fine art has many fans yet fans of mingei seem to be dwindling. How unfortunate that is! With Japan full of 100 Yen shops, people are losing the sense of what 'value' something has other than cost.
Anyway, the wheels were set in motion after I introduced the Mingeikan to Mark Schumacher(the web designer who has done my web sites along with many others, a great talent he is/ his HP is and he designed a wonderful site, after nearly pulling out all his hair at the back-and-forth-and back-and forth-and back...between Mingeikan management and curators. Luckily, he has enough patience---most of the time--to deal with it. And so, voila!:
It's a splendid bi-lingual site with fabulous photos and Mark's easy to navigate design. I'm hoping they also create an online store selling what they offer in the gift shop there. Please do tell anyone interested in mingei about the web site, the Mingeikan needs our support!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Hoshi Masayuki Tokyo Exhibition

One of the first Bizen potters I became acquainted with is Hoshi Masayuki(1949-), one of Mori Togaku's first apprentices(1979). Hoshi wasn't born into a potting family and studied philosophy at Joshi University in Tokyo, his birthplace. His work is in the always refined and light realm and is very popular for the table. His first exhibition of the year will be at Gallery Sei in Minami-Aoyama 5-18-11(3rd Fl.), Tokyo from Feb.24-Mar.11.(Ph.03-5766-1799) The theme is more Mashiko than Bizen---pitchers---a form not usually equated with Bizen. If you happen to be in Tokyo do stop by and say hi for me from an old friend.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hosokawa Morihiro in S.F. Chronicle and Skype

An interesting article today in the San Francisco Chronicle about former Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro. The author called me last week and we spoke for about 20 minutes, he used some of what I said in a quote and then other comments not noted directly or from a column I wrote sometime back--see it on Any 'ol way, always good to have ANY article on contemporary potters in the press:

If the link doesn't work, just google the paper and then search for Hosokawa.

I just signed up for a free Net phone service called Skype. It's very nifty and super easy to download and use. For those of you who might have wanted to call yet were put off my phone rates and such, then this service is perfect. Since I spend most of my weekdays online, please call anytime using skype, would be nice to hear a voice every now and then:

I'll be away though all day tomorrow though selecting Hamada Tomoo works for our exhibition that begins on March 6th; stay tuned for previews.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Kohyama Yasuhisa's Extraordinary Tokyo Exhibition

Just back from a zip up to Tokyo where I viewed Kohyama Yasuhisa's exhibition at Takashimaya. All I can say is he is in a class all by himself, overwhelmed at the man's works; power, grace, simplicity, exceptional firings, soft tones, rippling forms, inspired. Will just post a few photos now and write more when time in on my side, enjoy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Connecting Pots/"The Potter's Eye"

The Mingei founder Yanagi Soetsu in his classic book "The Unknown Craftsman" speaks of 'the eye.' In his way, 'the eye' is the ability to see the inherent beauty of hand crafted works directly and intuitively. Or as Bernard Leach wrote in the introduction to T.U.C., "This aesthetic is the story of the seeing eye (as opposed to a knowledge-only eye). Let us call it an Eastern perception of the significant lovliness(s.l.)." I very much like that combination of words, significant lovliness; any of that in your daily life?
Well, we all know how much a good pot can play the role there, and although I focus on Japanese pottery, it certainly does not deter me from appreciating s.l. when I see it outside these shores. And so from a distant shore came a lovely book titled "the potter's eye/Arts and Tradition in North Carolina Pottery" by Mark Hewitt and Nancy Sweezy. Not only did the title reminded me of Yanagi, yet also the way the authors here connect beautiful pots with their very perceptive 'eye' and eloquent words. Of course, the focus is on the N.C. potting tradition--of which I've found out is full of truly spectacular pottery--yet the authors show the way an Iga Jar from the Momoyama period is related to a Four-gallon crock made by Solomon Lay in 1860. Or how a Chinese Han Dynasty shares temperament with a 19th century medicine bottle. The list goes on. Overall, this is a must book for any pottery library no matter what style or region you may focus on. The photos are superb, the essays enlightening and entertaining, and the way, like Yanagi's book, it asks us again to choose carefully what we live with, how we spend our money (Support you Local Potter!), and in the end that there's really nothing new under the sun, it's all connected in mysterious way. I'm sure Yanagi would understand that, and surely have this wonderful book on his shelf as well. Please note the book was published for the ongoing exhibition--ends March 19--at the North Carolina Museum of Art: and was published by The University of North Carolina Press: Mark Hewitt's HP can be viewed at (His work is a joy to use!)

In Tokyo at Kandori in the Hotel New Otani is Ohira Kazumasa until Feb.19th. The photo above the book is the DM card for Ohira's exhibition showing an Iga 'staircase' sculpture and chawan.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Left Out Haiku

A few years ago, or was it a bit more, I sat down in my kitchen with a 'wa-puro' (word processor) to type a book that was published in Japanese (translated from the original English) under the title 'Yakimono Sanka' by Kogei Publishing. It was well received in Japan and I sort of became known as the 'gaijin shuki king' by fellow collectors. Many folks asked when the book would come out in English (or part two in Japanese) and it finally did two years ago titled 'Ode to Japanese Pottery-Sake Cups and Flasks' published by Coherence, Tokyo. It is a book more of my passion--and believing that everything is connected--than of scholarly research. I wanted it to be a book of poetic musings matched with rich photographs (the sketch here is by Bizen's Hoshi Masayuki). When the English version was published I couldn't believe my oversight that I left out a key 'interlude' of haiku, and so I will print them here. They should have been printed on about page 130 and go like this: 1. The deep blue sea/splashes in my four mat room/Iga sake cup! 2.Ki-Seto wine cup/stars appear in daytime sky/Chuma highway calls. 3.Distant mountain range/appears on the horizon/on my Bizen jar. 4. Fuji's pure white snow/melted on clay body/Hagi sake cup! 5. Bringing busy mind/into the present moment/Shigaraki cup. 6. Straw wrapped vessels/miracles burn within kiln/Bizen sunrise. 7. Liquid harvest/settles in my humble clay cup/Momoyama dreams....
Just a small 'intermission' between pages and of course the Japanese version was more in tune with the traditional Haiku way. Haiku are great fun to write--and offer a small refelctive window on the soul--and any subject is fair game, even frogs jumping into ponds. Observe the 'small things' each day to really understand what matters most.....

Friday, February 10, 2006

Kaneta in Tokyo; A Few Photos

I raced up to Tokyo yesterday to see Kaneta Masanao's commemmorative exhibition; he has officially been named the eighth generation master of his family's Tencho-gama(kiln), yet will not change is name to Sanzaemon like that of seven generations before him. As expected, the works were dynamic and filled the staid Mitsukoshi gallery with an intense energy. Enjoy the photos and know this Hagi potter is making his ancestors proud. (Please note we have a few yunomi and guinomi offered on our web

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Sometime last autumn I received a phone call asking me if I'd be interested to start a web gallery in Japan. It was from The Asahi Newspaper and Dentsu and they wanted me to be their gaijin director. Why not I thought and so a new site was developed and went online in January, all in Japanese though. It's called 'Robato Ierin no Yakimono Sanpo no Michi' or Robert Yellin's Yakimono Walking Path, or something like that. The plan is for me to share my passion/knowledge/eye for domestic collectors. I really don't think it will have much of an impact at all, yet why not give it a shot.
Today a few folks came down from Tokyo to shot some pots for the next selection; thought I'd share a few photos of their 'pot tent.'
If you want to have a look at the web site, please do so here:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Kaneta and Kohyama in Tokyo

Two excellent exhibitions are happening--actually one now and the other next week--in Tokyo and if you happen to find yourself in the neighborhood then you might like to have a look. First is Hagi great Kaneta Masanao at Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi's sixth floor gallery from Feb.7-13. This exhibition is to comemmorate his succession to the eighth generation master of his family's kiln. I wonder if he's going to change his name....stay tuned
I have the catalog and it features his stunning kuri-nuki creations that have re-shaped the conservative Hagi world. He is surely worthy--and should be--given the JCS Prize, made a Yamaguchi ICP, and a future LNT!
The other worthy exhibition begins next week on the 15th (last day 21st) down the road from Mitsukoshi at rival Takashimaya's sixth floor gallery. There Shigaraki living legend Kohyama Yasuhisa will show new works---fired his kiln last week--in his (like Kaneta) distinctive voice. As noted in a past listing here, Kohyama's work graces the cover of the current Museum of Fine Arts, Boston catalog. From that catalog, and also on the Tokyo exhibition brochure, "Kohyama has traveled, taught, and exhibited his work throughout the world but has never wavered in his loyalty to Shigaraki, his town of birth and one of Japan's longest-established centers of ceramic production. His first independent kiln, set up in 1968, was an anagama-a simple tunnel kiln with a single chamber-the first in the Shigaraki valley. In the 1970s, he began to study and emulate Sueki, a natural ash-glazed stoneware made from the fifth to twelfth century, which places its origins even earlier than the oldest wares from Shigaraki. Using Shigaraki clay that still retains rough inclusions of feldspar and other minerals, Kohyama fires his works for about a week at more than 2350 degrees Fahrenheit(1300 degrees Celsius). This produces the much-admired orange-brown color associated with Shigaraki ware, but Kohyama goes even further, firing one or two more times to produce an austere, grayish surface that is similar to some Sueki wares. Kohyama uses these ancient materials and technologies to create sculptural ceramics with a modern sensibility. 'Wind' is a striking example of his recent work (the cover piece on the catalog), made by building coil upon coil of clay, which he sculpts and then carves using steel wires. The base is the smallest possible size and angle of the cantilevered upswing, it suggests the effects of natural forces on the surface of the earth-in Kohyama's case, the erosion of a desert rock by wind-born sand." (Excerpted from Contemporary Clay;Japanese Ceramics for the New Century" by Joe Earle)

Both Kaneta and Kohyama, although of different generations, are extremely important ceramic artists for their respective towns, taking local clay and spirit in new directions.

Monday, February 06, 2006

28 To Watch/Kato Tsubusa in New York

One of Japan's leading art magazines is Gekkan Bijutsu (Monthly Art) that focuses on all genres. Every few years they publish a list of potter's to watch and some regular readers of e-y net may recall the 2001 list. For their last issue of 2005 the magazine made of new list of 28 young ceramic artists to surely keep one's eye on ('potters the market has an eye on now' Ima ichiba ga chumoku suru). I will add that two names were also on the 2001 list, those being Kondo Takahiro and Matsui Koyo (works of both currently being offered on It was a real pleasure to also see on the new list Kako Katsumi, Tsujimura Yui and Mihara Ken! The whole list in the order they appeared in the magazine is: Ohi Toshio, Kondo Takahiro, Hayashi Kyosuke, Matsui Koyo, Aoki Ryuta, Akashi Hiroki, Uwataki Koichi, Uchida Koichi, Omae Satoru, Kako Katsumi, Kato Takahiro, Kaneshige Iwao, Kimura Nobuyuki, Sakaguchi Hiroshi, Sakurai Yasuko, Suzuki Tetsu, Tanahashi Jun, Tsujimura Yui, Terai Yoko, Tomioka Daisuke, Hashiguchi Nobuhiro, Fuji Takayuki, Mihara Ken, Miwa Hanako, Momota Akio, Morino Akito, Yamamoto Ryuichi and Wakao Kei. I may point out that except for the first four artists the list is in order of the Japanese 'alphabet.' In terms of age, four potters were born in the 1950s, 15 in the 60s and 9 in the 70s. Surely a list to watch with already a few names making a name for themselves overseas.

If you happen to be in the New York area, do stop by Dai Ichi Arts(249 E.48th St.) to see Kato Tsubusa's porcelain creations from Feb.7-March 4.