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I rediscovered this passage today in "Hamada: Potter" by Leach and I thought I'd share, given all of the talk of hakeme lately.  It's also a little relevant to Chris Campbell's post on Image Envy, I think.  Pages 112, 113, from the 1975 edition (first edition).


I like hakeme.  I have tried my hand many times and I always feel defeated and give up, although I know it is not a matter of winning or losing.  It is strange that every time I visit Korea and view the buildings in the countryside and the people flocking to the markets on special days and then return to Japan, I notice that my hakeme becomes much easier, although my stay in Korea had nothing to do with hakeme.


The Koreans did it because the slip flaked off when they dipped the pot in white slip.  They pressed the slip into the clay with a brush--they never talked about hakeme, the did not have such a work; all they did was to make sure the white slip was sticking onto the clay.  The preferred the whiter colour to the dark clay body.  But the Japanese then took it up as a self-conscious technique and gave it a name.  They began to make use of it as a pattern, and this is where they went wrong.  They even went so far in their efforts for achievement as to take the pot to a Zen master in a monastery, thinking he had no greed or self-consciousness.  They had the brushstrokes put on by the Zen master and then sold the bowl for a higher price.  This was indeed a disease and a mistake from the very beginning, but this is the direction in which many Japanese go.  For instance, in the early pots there would be some impurities in the clay as well as small pebbles.  In the firing, the surface of the pot would burst open like a raisin in a bun, leaving a big hole around the pebble.  This also became appreciated by the Japanese, but instead of letting it happen naturally, when they received an order from a patron they put some pebbles into their clay.  The pot would then have higher value.  This is a sort of illness--they purposefully put pebbles into highly refined clay.


I'd love to hear what you guys think about this passage.  Reading through it again, it leapt out at me.

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Hamada sees a tension between the self-conscious and free-flowing, between attempting to replicate natural phenomena and letting natural phenomena just happen. And we know which side he preferred.


A few years ago, I was in an Akira Satake workshop and we were stretching kohiki slip slabs (white slip over dark clay body). I was looking at my slab trying to figure out how to work around a few tears and surface imperfections. Akira came over and asked what I was doing; I explained. His reply to me was, "Find the imperfection and work with it, make it the central focus." It didn't sink in at the time. But, after several more slabs made and stretched at home, his words finally resonated as I'd look over the slab before me. Not every slab had imperfections, but those that do, I cherish. And, if I try to add imperfections intentionally, the slabs look contrive and unnatural. You learn to work with what the clay gives you.


As for picture envy, not for me. I'll look, appreciate, and learn . . . but rather than replicate, I'll try to apply that technique to my own work. Everything that we see can be improved upon. There is nothing wrong in copying; just don't be content to copy -- make it your own. In Chinese brush painting, students would learn by copying the paintings of the master/teacher . . . until the master/teacher was satisfied with the student's copies. That could take months, years of practice and copying. At that point, the master/teacher would allow the student to paint their own compositions.

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I think when we all discover the unexpected on opening the kiln and it is one we appreciate, we try to work out why this occurred and and try to repeat this.

If this is an illness then I'm ill.

If that mistake is appreciated by ones in the market for my work and want to buy this, then I would be rather foolish, if this is the direction that my work is headed, not to continue along this path. Eg richer iron glaze on a firing down schedule found by accident.....

If we are trying to make a living from this and not selling our soul, maybe it is ok, or essential. The naturally occurring flaw as the inspiration for further work, but it has to be integral with the whole feeling of the vessel or it wont get there.

With Bciske on the difficulty in emulating the "naturally" occurring flaws which enhance certain pieces.

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