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

Thursday, March 23, 2006

After Use/Father and Son

We have all heard about how some types of Japanese ceramics change over time with use, such as Hagi. Well, I'd like to illustrate the point from my own personal experience with a Bizen yunomi I purchased about five years ago--maybe a bit more--and have used every winter since. I only use it during the winter for Bizen clay allows heat to reach the surface rather quickly--unlike thickly glazed Shine, for example, that retains heat--and warms my always cold winter hands. The Bizen yunomi on the left is now about to be set in the cupboard until the cold winds blow again. It was made by the late Nakamura Rokuro and has his fine drinking lip and form we've heard so much about for his guinomi-sake cups. Notice how dark it became compared to the unused one on the right. The rich chestnut tones are a delight to gaze upon and the yunomi has also became very smooth as well after endless times of being lovingly held and turned in my hands. The right one was made by Rokuro's son Makoto and at a simple glance one can also see the 'Nakamura Way' that has been passed from father to son. The throwing lines, shape, lip and kodai-foot all share a common bond, like looking in the mirror and seeing how one resembles a parent. Now Makoto's son has decided to become a potter and we'll no doubt see the influence of his genes in the way he forms pots; that's how it's traditionally done here in Japan.
The great joy and delight to use these 'simple' cups in daily life and watch them also come to life is something that the Japanese--and I--cherish.


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