The Gyouzan kiln is well-known for producing some of Japan’s best contemporary bonsai pots. Why are these pots so well respected? Clean lines, solid builds and attention to detail could be a starting point for describing Gyouzan pots.
For me, it’s their handmade character that makes them stand out. Straight lines are essentially straight but have a hand-finished character that distinguishes them from form-made pots. Here are some Gyouzan pots that exemplify the characteristics which we’ve come to expect from the kiln.
And here are some I found out in the garden
Unglazed rectangle – (See more pots from Gyouzan at Japanesebonsaipots.net.)
This was my understanding about Gyouzan pots before visiting the kiln. Then I met the man responsible for making the pots, Yukizyou Nakano.
Nakano has a great sense of humor was very generous with his time when we visited. He explained that he’s wanted a gallery of his work for decades and finally took the opportunity to build one in recent years. Since building it, he’s become a collector of his own work. If you find yourself bidding on a Gyouzan pot on Japanese auction sites, you may be bidding against Nakano himself.
Some of Yukizyou’s pots
More Gyouzan pots on display
Nakano built many of his pots on commission. After accepting a commission, he’d commonly build three pots and then sign the best one which would go to the customer. Today he’s reassembling these sets when he can and adding them to his gallery.
When asked which were his favorites, he surprised us by opening a box of shohin pots.
Shohin pot box set
It wasn’t clear that these were his favorites, but he was clearly fond of them. We were too!
He then opened a smaller box with five identical pots save for the color. He explained that the pots were fired at the same time with the same glaze but found that the glaze produced different colors depending on where the pots were in the kiln. He couldn’t have predicted this would happen but was very pleased that it did.
Same glaze, same firing, different colors
Today it seems like Nakano focuses on teaching as much as he does on building pots. Although we saw half-finished pots in the workshop, he was much more excited to talk about his recent students from all over the world.
Looking around Nakano’s gallery, we noticed a number of pots that were a bit more fanciful than the work with which we were familiar.
It turned out that this was the tip of the iceberg. Outside, Nakano showed us his more creative designs – a couple of which may show up in an upcoming Taikan-ten.
Turtle-shell (or ocean waves, or cloud-covered) pot
Unglazed rectangle – on the conservative side but with a modern touch
Unglazed oval with a curious outline
Bamboo design on unglazed oval
Glazed round pot
Nakano’s most creative work incorporates stands into the design.
Pot with spaces for two accents
Round pot with stand
Round pot with accent pot
Accent pot and round pot
Tapered rectangle with space for two accents
Two round pots with stand
Lest Nakano have all the fun, his wife also creates ceramic containers. Most are filled with ornamental plants in the side yard, not far from where Nakano uses his own designs for growing flowers.
The Nakano family’s informal containers
Pretty nice flower pots
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