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   Snow Moon Flower

One can't stand long on tiptoe,
nor can one straddle the way.

Showing off does not reveal enlightenment.
Boasting won't produce Accomplishment.
Self-infatuation is no way to lead.

- Lao-Tzu [circa 5th-4th Century B.C. China] -      

Bizen Sake Bottle [17th century] 29.0cm.h.

  Inspired by Zen

    It seems that I am always drawn more to vessels that have been scarred in wood-firing.  Some vessels came in my possession from time to time.

    This large Shigaraki has many blisters and the distorted bottom.  A big hole was made on the side later for the purpose of pouring liquid out.  And finally the head/neck was chopped off with my intent for Japanese flower-arranging a several years ago.

    After hardships brought on by domestic use over many centuries, it seems this big vessel's life is coming to an end.  Yet its beauty has never faded.

Shigaraki Large Jar [16th century] 53.0cm.h.

             Memories of Master 'Furutani Michio'

    Furutani Michio (1946-2000) was born in Shigaraki and became a master potter through reviving Mediæval Anagama tradition.  His wood-fired vessels with simple forms mostly came from old shigaraki vessels, however they looked surprisingly fresh and exciting.

    His instructive Japanese Anagama book was published in 1994.  And the shell-wadding his spontaneous idea of its effective use has become a worldwide fashion among many wood-firers today.

    - The following episodes are what he actually taught with no words. -

    I was just a friend of Master Furutani as he took on no apprentices.  I visited him as often I could but only saw a few close friends around him and he rarely invited his clients to his studio and firings.

    I joined his firings and kiln openings a few times in Shigaraki and Iga.  Both kilns didn't have side-stoking holes and I never saw him using pyrometers and cones for his firings.  He was just casually stoking split-wood into the firebox and checking the flames from time to time.  In between stokes at night, we often went outside the kiln shed and gazed at the stars and the moon.  We worked very quietly with his respected kiln till dawn.
    At the end of the firing, the kiln was clammed up and rested to cool for a few days.

    When his pots were brought out and laid out in his yard.   All the pots were looking very dry at first, but soon, perhaps after having breathed moisture in the air, they started to look fresh and very attractive.

    Master Furutani was taciturn, but he was very witty when he spoke.  He rarely talked about his pottery, but we had more amusing topics and had really good fun chatting on the drink anyway.  I refrained from asking questions about wood-firing and his kiln building.  I observed carefully whatever he was doing and tried to find his master-strokes.  Somehow after finding me deadly serious about wood-firing, he began to tell me his thoughts and went into details of his wood-firing.  This whole experience has changed my life completely and helped me to become a good wood-fire potter.

    He came to see me at my very first exhibition in Tokyo, in 1997.  It was a pleasant surprise as I wasn't sure if he was coming or not.  He took me to a Japanese restaurant where we enjoyed lunch and a good chat.   He encouraged me in my new career as a potter.  This was to be our last meeting, as he told me he had a cancerous tumour and had been on medication for a while.
    In the summer of 2000, master Furutani passed away in Shigaraki, not even letting people in the village know.

    My master left me with his beautiful vessels and his secrets of wood-firing,  ...something I have to carry on as long as I live and wood-fire.

'His silent teaching' is still getting deep into my heart today...

... and I miss him very much.

 Vessels made by Master Furutani

   Zen Way of Living

We cannot prolong our lives,
but we should not hasten our deaths.

- Lieh-tzu [circa 5th century B.C. China] -         

Black Raku chawan [Raku-fired in the woods, 2015]

   Wabi - Sabi

Bizen Kiln-shelf 30.5cm.x26.5cm. and Oribe Bowl 14.8cm.d. [both early 17th century]

True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way.   It can't be gained by interfering.

Shigaraki 'Uzukumaru' [14th century] 11.3cm.h.

Click the 'Red Seal' to read 'My Story So Far'  >>> 

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