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, March 21, 2006

A Really Bland Bizen Guinomi

Bizen is my first love and we never forget our first love (third grade, Joy), and thus I really look after her, Bizen that is. If you've ever visited Bizen then you've seen the dozens of shops that line the streets in and around the train station; most, sadly, are full of what I call 'plastic Bizen.' What do I mean? Well, at first glance the firing and effects are Bizen no doubt, yet there's an unnatural gloss to them and ever more than that a lack of depth. It takes years and a lot of handling works to be able to see the difference. By all means, if a certain Bizen pot--or any for that matter--appeals to you then buy it, enjoy it and learn from it; it should 'ask' you many questions. Those who have visited my web gallery know I often offer fine shuki--sake vessels--and Bizen is always well represented. So, I'd like to show you photos of what I consider a 'plastic Bizen' guinomi to give you a visual definition of what I mean. This guinomi pictured here I often take to talks to illustrate the point. As noted, at first glance it's very Bizen, yet take a closer look. Look at the overall balance of the work; how the foot relates to the lip; how the foot balances the piece in relation to the diameter; how the lip is so uniformly rounded; how the inside has no character. I guess that's how I would describe this bland piece overall as well, totally lacking character. It has no emotion and thus leaves my senses with nothing to ponder; it doesn't call out to be used. And for any guinomi--or chawan-yunomi, etc..--that should be a key voice. Take in the photos and 'see' if you can hear what I'm talking about. To look at what I consider--and one small voice that is---not up to par I hope will allow folks to deepen their eyes, just as Yanagi's selection in the Mingeikan has done for me. Not to totally discard this Bizen guinomi, it looks fine with paperclips on my desk.


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