Third Iteration

So I’m in the middle of doing the third iteration of my Kusamono / Shitakusa vessels and they are coming along nicely. I love love love this clay. Its very porous and I think that it would be good for the plantings in such a small place to be able to get enough oxygen to the roots. This is the advantage of terracotta, not only is it cheaply produced and low fired but it is porous as well. We’ll have to keep in mind that the plants that are paired with these pots may need to be watered more than something that is in a plastic or fully vitrified pot. I’ll have to prove this out but it seems that if the roots can get more oxygen then they will flourish for longer.

Keeping the pots from cracking by wrapping them to carve the hard clay.
First two done!
All 8 carved. Got a bit fancy with some texturing on a few.

I have been getting heavily into Kusamono since I learned the term from my friend Chuck. This is something that I’ve never seen before. Mushroom cultivation for Kusamono! It seems to be a high investment in effort and time for a small payoff but for originality I give it two thumbs up. If you care to dive into the way other mushrooms are grown the success rate is a bit higher and the technique should translate very well to the more decorative mushrooms such as the beautiful Amanita Muscaria which reminds me of Christmas.

There is an excellent article dealing with creating Mushroom Kusamono that I found – – Just beautiful!

The Ensō Project

Being that I am always learning, failing, refining and trying to improve, I have had many discussions on habit, discipline and ritual. I think that ritual and repeated practice is a thing of beauty. There is no “perfection” when a human being is involved. Is there?

In the beginning there is pure potential. Potential for anything to happen within the laws that govern our existence. Then there is the idea, the spark that is the very first impetus of creation. Then comes the external motions needed to create that idea in the physical world. We move away from the infinite, the directionless void that holds all potential, and towards a more focused action.

Once you master that action and you create, over and over and over again, there are subtle variations. This IS perfection! The perfection is in the subtle variations. It can be argued that you can make a machine or a computer drift into imperfection, even more perfectly than a human being could, but is that something else? A question to ponder I suppose.

I have a tattoo on my back that is the same shape of a pendant that I gave my wife years ago. I was drawn to the pendant because of its small shape and that it was hammered by hand and had a beautiful weathered look to it. It was an Ensō. My Ensō symbolizes the eternal bond, the lean times and the times of plenty, together with my family. The fact that the fuller part of the Ensō is on the bottom represents the laws of the universe and gravity pulling the aspect of fullness and fulfillment into its natural position.

The Japanese have circular crests called Kamon which are used to identify individuals or families. There is a list of thousands of these crests here. My Japanese lineage goes back to the Tanaka (田中) and the Wakabayashi (若林) families and is another search and story altogether. I could also consider the Kamon a sort of Ensō in that within the circle or boundary there is a family and the symbol representing that family is carefully chosen.

Suffice to say the simple circle holds meaning  and symbolism that is fathoms deep.

The creation of an Ensō symbolizes when the mind is free to let the body create. Each one contains within it the expression of what is in the artist when he or she created it. And by extension what surrounds the artist. And by extension of that, what the world wants to be created. And by extension of THAT, what the universe wants to exist. We do not create, the universe creates. The void creates. God creates. We just practice and do our best to let it be created without hindrance. Some creations come out better than others and there is a direct relationship to the mindset of the body that manifests that creation and the creation itself.

I am happy when I am in the “flow“. My mind is not concerned with anything else other than the present moment and what I am doing or just purely being in that moment with nothing to do. I tend to gravitate towards activities that let me get into the flow so that I can practice getting into and coming out of it gracefully. Adapting to change has been something that I have always wanted to be more accepting of.

To turn something so simple as a drawing a circle into an act of meditation is beautiful. My goal, if you can call it that, is to turn everything that I do into a sort of meditation, an act of worship and devotion even. To be in the moment, the eternal present.

Today I created an Ensō project of my own. Using clay.

  • 21 Eight ounce balls of clay
  • 21 Days
  • 21 Meditations
  • 21 Pinched Vessels

Each vessel created will be a meditation. It extends the amount of time that I have practiced my craft and helps me to practice effortlessly getting into the flow. It allows me to free myself from the technique and get into a deeper level of creation. A simple pinched vessel. A simple circle. A simple life.


Out of the fire and into the …

The bisque firing went as expected to Cone 04. The home processed clay from Lake Lanier was sifted through a window screen and retained some pretty course grog and stones. There was a single crack in the lip of the Chawan after the firing. I repaired it as best I could with some slip, let it dry.

The main firing to cone 6 went very well a few nights ago. I had several items of high value in this firing and spent the night getting up and checking the temperature and inserting the final plug in the kiln to slow the cooling once peak temperature had been reached.

I glazed my new style miniature bonsai pots in Shino and used a sponge to remove some of the glaze on the higher portions of the texture. The internal I left unglazed. My Mother and I did a quick project using one of the pots and created this beautiful little accent. I learned that this is the art of Kusamono or Shitakusa. You can find these pots and others on my Etsy Shop –

Small ceramic bonsai pot with matching drip tray. Kusamono / Shitakus


The Chawan was glazed in clear. The inside was glazed very heavily to see how a thicker glaze application would take and to possibly seal the very porous body. I was very surprised, neigh stunned, to see what came out of the kiln once the temperature dropped and I was able to pull out the wares. The color had changed from its mars-like red to a dark brown with white speckles and an almost purple hue. You can see the contrast in the Kodai (or foot ring) below. An absolutely gorgeous gem! I have to work on the clay body as it is very porous but there is so much potential here and it is very exciting.


My Mothers sculpted piano is precious to hold and admire and I think we have an heirloom on our hands.

Miniature speckled stoneware piano sculpture. Glazed in clear.

Although the Chawan, made from the earth beneath my feet is exiting and bursting with potential, this is the one that I consider my finest piece so far. I call my pinch vessels my Ensō series. Like the Japanese concept of the Ensō each of the pinched Yunomi vessels I make are unique and singular in their existence. Each portrays the character of the creator and the context of its creation.

Made with white stoneware and glazed with Tenmoku which displays a beautiful variation of dark brown breaking to gold. It was created by hand over the course of about an hour. Each curve is subtle and graceful. It is the culmination of each pinch and motion of smoothing the inner and outer. It is a quiet mediation on creation in its simplest form. Shaping by hand. No tools involved.

Next post will be something that has been in the making for around 6 months. A wedding (and now baby!) gift for friends.