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2003 Newsletter Archive



                   Written by Robert Yellin

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May 2003


Koie Ryoji; Guidebook for Antique Buyers

- Koie Ryoji Exhibition
- New Antique Buying Book
- Fukami Sueharu Exhibition in California
- New Ceramic Museum in Tokyo
- Raku Weekend and Mashiko apprenticeship
- Other News

Koie Ryoji Exhibition
May 16 - July 31, 2003 at EY-NET
At last, we are only a week away from the start of the one and only Koie Ryoji exhibition here at the e-y net office; it starts on May 16. It is another great honor for us and I do hope you'll be able to stop by either in person or online. I plan to have most of the works uploaded by about the 19th of this month. I will be letting all those who signed the guest book know when Koie's ceramics are indeed ready to view. Koie-sensei will be here on May 16th and 17th so if you have any questions you'd like to ask him please email me and I'll pass them along. No guarantees on a reply though -- you know how fickle famous artists can be. You can view the announcement card here:

New Book on Antique Buying
For those of you who visit or live in Japan, searching through antique markets can be loads of fun. One problem though is the language for some and also the wide range of unknown items on display. Well, a new book has been published "Flea Markets of Japan - A Pocket Guide for Antique Buyers" by Kodansha International. I wish I had such a book back in the early 1980s as it does contain many hints on how to make a successful purchase and other needed bits of information. It lists many of the markets throughout Japan, tips for bargaining, a guide of things to buy, useful expressions, and a neat monthly schedule. The author, Theodore Manning, lived here for about thirteen years and was employed as teacher, translator, and businessman. As with all who catch the "market bug" he was out at any given chance to hound the stalls. I can attest to how infectious the bug can be. The book is very useful but it does have its faults. In the "Tips for getting the lowest price" section, Manning offers this advice:

1) Pretend to be less interested in the item than you really are
2) Examine the item carefully pointing out any damage or defect
3) Suggest nicely there is nothing special about the item
4) Act shocked by the asking price, and remain speechless
5) Drag out the negotiating process
6) Negotiate a volume discount
7) Ask that an item be thrown in for free.

Now this is all too much -- act shocked! Can you imagine the acting that might go on, and how it might affect other gaijin shoppers. I have also been to hundreds of markets and indeed one can negotiate a price without having to be auditioning for a Broadway play. Most, not all, dealers know what they have and if you try to BS them, they will know it. They will also smell a gaijin rat immediately and again, this is not helpful for those of us who might visit the dealer afterwards. I suggest be honest without the drama and you'll end up getting a fair deal eight times out of ten.

One more criticism of the book is that the guide to items has a long vocabulary list and only a few of the entries have matching illustrations. It would have been much more helpful if each entry had a matching illustration. Also, in the ceramic section on Tea wares, Manning states:

"Like the Tea ceremony itself, all these items (tea utensils) possess what the Japanese call wabi-sabi, a calm atmosphere; a beauty born of simplicity; and a quiet, almost spiritual, power."

Yes, this is true for some wares but certainly not for all -- a gross generalization. By far, most Tea wares I've seen at markets lack much of these important qualities, and it makes me wonder how much Manning understands ceramics. In the review for the book in the Japan Times some months back, it shows a picture of Manning next to a 1960s standing advertisement for color film -- it gives an insight into what he was after.

Nonetheless, it is a welcome book and surely to make the markets all the more user-friendly for many an antique market devotee.

Fukami Sueharu Exhibit in California
In the small town of Hanford, some forty miles north of Fresno, California, is the Ruth & Sherman Lee Institute for Japanese Art --

Yes, I know what you're asking. Why in the world would there be such an institute in a place east of nowhere? Wish I could answer that for you and you might get an answer on their web site. I can say the institute has some incredible older works and I'm pleased to see that they're also interested in the new. To show such appreciation, they are hosting a rare look at the world of ceramic genius Fukami Sueharu. Fukami creates sleek celadon works that captivate the imagination and never let go. They are treasures of the ceramic world. The exhibition is titled Genesis of a Genius: The Early Ceramics of Fukami Sueharu, and is showing until June 28. Images of some of the displayed works and more about the institute can be viewed on the above web site. If you happen to be in that part of the US, I would highly recommend seeing this rare chance to view Fukami's work. Below is a link to an article I wrote about Fukami, a story that appeared in JAL's in-flight magazine a few years ago:

New Ceramic Museum in Tokyo
Are you in for a special ceramic treat the next time you're in Tokyo! After years of planning, the fabulous new Musée Tomo has opened near the American Embassy in the Toranomon district of Tokyo. The museum is named after Kikuchi Tomo, collector and elite businesswoman who also runs Kandori, the ceramic gallery in the lobby of the Hotel New Otani. Musée Tomo opened in late April and the opening party had a who's who of modern Japanese ceramics in attendance. Miura Koheiji, Fukami, Kuriki Tatsusuke, Kakurezaki Ryuichi and a long list of others were there. I asked many what they thought of the dramatic setting and all agreed that nothing like it has been seen in Japan. It is a milestone museum and so is the inaugural exhibition. More about the museum, along with many photos, can be viewed here:

Raku Weekend
Mie-based ceramic artist Wali Hawes will be hosting a Raku weekend May 24-25. Below is the itinerary as described by Wali:

Saturday morning brief introduction and outline of course. We build the wood fire kilns. An updraught and a cross draught. After lunch we glaze and fire the pieces. Evening we then go to the "onsen" to relax then back for supper. This is then followed by an "Artist Talk" Wood firer Kanamori will explain about his firing, his work and philosophy. He will then do a small Tea Ceremony. Sunday morning consists of the building of a gas kiln and an oil kiln. After a paella we then fire the kilns. We shall also be doing a Fast-Fire salt (Salt glazing raku style). It is hoped to do some large pieces raku firing. Being a hands on workshop full participation is expected. Practical results are the important thing and hopefully you will be able to build on your experience coupled with the information at your disposal. We cover clay bodies, glazes-mainly a white, Chojiro`s akaraku, copper-ruby lustre, copper matt and "naked raku"

The cost is 15,000 yen per person, which covers all materials -- you get to take pieces as well, food and wine, that is breakfast, lunch and supper, a dossier with kiln plans and glaze recipes, accommodation and the onsen. I can't tell you what an experience it is. I warn you though that it is very intense. I hope you will participate. Please let me know if you are interested as it will help me with the bookings.

Best wishes from Wali Hawes

Mashiko Apprenticeship
Mashiko-based potter Okuma Toshiaki is looking for an apprentice to start this August. Says Okuma:

"My name is Toshi Okuma, I live in Mashiko and own a small ceramic production studio called Yumito. I would like a foreign professional potter working outside of Japan to come to my studio and create their pottery works and then have an exhibition at a fine gallery in Mashiko. I will pay for the round fair air tickets, and supply a great working studio space and living apartment. I have good size working space, three large gas kilns, one med. electric kiln, eight electric wheels, four pug mills, slab roller, two extruders, plus many extras. I have a very clean apartment furnished, with kitchen, bath/w shower and toliet, on my property to stay here and work in comfort."

Any interested parties please contact Okuma-san directly at

I must add I have never met Okuma-san nor have I seen much of his work, just online at (Japanese only). If anyone does take the offer I take no responsibility or liability for any issues that might arise.

 Other News
The Japanese ceramic art world mourned the passing of Living National Treasure Matsui Kosei on April 11. He was 75. Matsui had a prolific career and became famous for his often-thrilling neriage works that earned him the LNT designation in 1993. His son Koyo will take over the Gesshu-ji kiln in Kasama, Ibaraki-ken. Kato Tatsumi also passed away recently. Kato was the son of LNT Kato Hajime and was a respected artist in his own right. He was awarded the Japan Ceramic Society's Award in 1977. His father was named a LNT in 1961 for overglaze enamel wares.

Miwa Kyusetsu Xl is also now part of history, although I'm very glad to say he's still quite fine and potting away now as Miwa Jusetsu. His eldest son, the erotic and eclectic Ryosaku, is now known as Kyusetsu Xll. It is of great interest to see how the new Kyusetsu will fulfill his role. Kyusetsu's of the past have made some of the finest tea utensils in all of Hagi's history. I particularly love Miwa Kyustsu X's (Kyuwa) chawan that are so full of charm, grace, and a very strong spiritual presence. The artist formerly known as Ryosaku has made some of the most vulgar and graceless Hagi the world has ever seen. His last exhibition at Mitsukoshi had him exhibiting vases attached to topless goddess figures. I was almost embarrassed for the guy. Of course he also had his chawan there with spiraling red hearts. Don't get me wrong though, the new Kyusetsu has made some stunning chawan -- especially his dragon series of a few years back. I'm sure within a years time he'll be having an exhibition in Tokyo and I, like the rest of the ceramic followers here, eagerly await this new chapter in the prestigious Miwa family.

The new issue of Tojiro takes an in-depth look at the world of Kato Tokuro and also a look at the works of anagama potters.
Honoho Geijutsu examines the way Japanese have looked at foreign studio pottery and potters. It features works by all the major overseas ceramists of the 20th century. Both of these publications can be purchased on-line at

A new craft magazine will be launched soon by a former HG editor and famed art photographer Tanaka Gakuji. It's titled TAIKI and as soon as I get my hands on the first issue, I'll give you the low-down on its worth.

Well, I think that's enough for this time around. May we all find some "illuminating discernment" in our daily lives that adds great joy and beauty to the simple rituals that strung together create life.

Be in touch,
Be well,



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