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

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.


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