are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

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are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  marcus watts on Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:47 pm

Hi,

I look at lots of fantastic modern bonsai potting - absolute works of art and all credit to the makers - but i feel they are moving away from usable bonsai pots. To clarify I mean pots that will work well at show level.....I spend ages looking for quality pots as one by one my trees become worthy of one and the perfect acceptable show pot for me is like a picture frame - it needs to complement the tree perfectly without shouting too loudly, it needs to become part of the design but the star of the show must always be the actual bonsai....the tree must not be eclipsed by the fancyness of the pot, or the accent, the little bits of bronze or little countryside scenes etc. If everyone spends more time looking at, and photographing, the other bits they are probably too showy and loud - i love innovation, expression etc, but the hard part is balancing the total scene

I think older traditional high end bonsai potters work always knowing they would/will excell and gain great reputation with perfect but understated designs, but they know the tree must at least be equal in the composition. So many of the modern pots are so detailed, so textured, so sculpted, glazed in such complicated patterns, that maybe they are attemping to outshine the trees that could go in them - so i wonder it the potters are, at times, approaching making bonsai pots from the wrong direction - trying to make the pot the star rather than understanding the perfect relationship in their art is to complement a tree

This is just a general view i'm feeling more often these days when i see new pots showcased , it is not aimed at any individual potter, but i think there are modern collectable pots and usable pots - collectables are more like sculptures and not everyone wants one, brilliant useable pots will gain demand and long lasting reputation though for the makers maybe? also visible aging, patina, etc plays a big part in the long term desirability of a pot - i cant see it forming in deeply textured, cracked and intricate pot surfaces - the ones i see just fill up with normal dirt and algae really quickly.

any thoughts?

thanks Marcus


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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  level320 on Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:27 pm

hi,

i think it`s normal progress what`s happening, like in any other aspect of our life. for sure we are (i am) sometimes surprised
be the development.....how fast, how different something becomes.
as you already mentined there are for sure a lot of talented pot makers all around the world, sometimes with very strange points of view.
but like any stream it will solve itself.....by accepting or refusing.
you for sure also observed the increased interrest of many bonsai enthusiast for quality pots, antique pots, japanese and chinese.
even the availibility and offers of japanese and chinese pots (old and good ones) increased rapidly the last years.
i am also a member of the BFF (the biggest german bonsai forum) and observed a heavy increase in users interest on good quality pots.
some users collected already very nice collections of fine japanese or other classic pots..... and this group of users is growing.
personally i also prefer the fine classic japanese pot art .....several years ago i did not care about pots, it was unfortunately a part
of the game called bonsai, the tree was the goal. it took me a few years more to find out that bonsai is only good with good pots.
and for me i figured out that the japanese/chinese classic pots suit best for my taste...... i like them most and therefore i purchase them
whenever possible.
so i wish all the modern pot makers with all their fancy approach to pot making all the best....

kind regards
ladi

PS: excuse for my poor english



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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Billy M. Rhodes on Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:00 pm

Marcus

I agree, I am a traditionalist.

Many of our potters are artists and they want to produce art. As bonsai growers our art is the tree. I really don't see a resolution to the issue. There are US potters such as Dale C. who produce what I think are usable pots and accepts commissions if a customer has a special tree. (I could get in trouble here, I don't mean to say Dale isn't an artist, just that many of his pots I can use.) I think it also helps that Dale is also a Bonsai artist.

For you Marcus, I think private commissions might be the solution.

Billy

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Stone Monkey on Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:17 pm

Marcus

As a potter who makes the collectable pots, normal bonsai pots and other forms of ceramics I agree with you to a certain extent.

My attitude and outlook has, and will always be Bon=pot Sai= planting, they are both equal and both 50% of the
equation that is Bonsai. You can't have one without the other.

As you said the pot is the frame. If your frame is more flamboyant than your picture get a better picture :-)

All the best

Andy

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Only can speak for me ,but

Post  BigDave on Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:15 am

marcus watts wrote: i feel they are moving away from usable bonsai pots.


M-Watts,

A topic dear to me. thanks for raising the issue.

I have been making pots for 12 years. Originally I made pots for my own trees since I had a huge collection. Always made typical rectangles and ovals
Dark brown. made hundreds

When the trees thinned out and the years passed, I went to sell these pots-- same type, there was very little interest. When customers can get better Chinese, Korean, or Japanese pots in dark brown and traditional styles why spend extra for some big guy with the same thing.

But I noticed peers selling pots, fancy glazes , avant garde shapes, so I joined them. So locals would buy the Asian Dark Brown Traditional for conifers and buy my fancy glazed ones for accents, deciduous fruiting flowering . or for sticking on a shelf ... inside. LOL

Maybe this is mostly a function of what sells.

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Stone Monkey on Sun Dec 09, 2012 10:10 am

Marcus

I have been hauled over the coals already for my comment

"As you said the pot is the frame. If your frame is more flamboyant than your picture get a better picture :-)"

Just for clarity if anyone else got the wrong end of the stick, it was typed with a sense of wryness and humour and not meant to offend anyone.

Regards

Andy


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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  JimLewis on Sun Dec 09, 2012 12:58 pm

I have been hauled over the coals already for my comment

Why? As far as I'm concerned it was on the mark. Pfft on those who wielded the rake.

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Ryan B on Sun Dec 09, 2012 2:08 pm

I quite agree with Marcus's sentiment here, but the issue is one of proportion. There have always been Eastern potters making weirdly glazed, fantastically textured, and oddly shaped....downright unusable pots. Look to the multi glazed pieces of antique Canton ware, the common antique unglazed pots with inlaid scenes, the fantastic swirling glazes of Tofukuji, and every piece of painted bonsai porcelain ever. Take a look at these:
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/2012/07/05/suruga-yamasyou/
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/2011/07/30/pots-by-okatani-zeshin-part/
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/2012/01/26/bushuan-pots-part-2/
Many of those pots are downright unusable! Even in a shohin display!
That being said, the issue is one of proportion: while there have always been eastern potters making art pots that have holes in the bottom, there has also always been a significant percentage of eastern
Potters making classically designed pots with understated elegance...which, once they attain patina and age, have wabi sabi. In the East, for every fantastically glazed Bushuan or Tofukuji, there are 100 Yamafusas, Syuhos, and Namakos...for every carved Yamasyou there are a thousand Yamaaki, Gyozan, and Syuzan, for every animal shape Zeshin there are 100s of thousands of rounds, rectangles, and ovals.
Ryan
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  fiona on Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:25 pm

I have just set up a mini-display of pots as I see them as objects of beauty in their own right. Probably most of them will never house a bonsai as that is not their purpose. I also buy and commission pots for use with particular trees and in my experience, the bonsai potters are all extremely knowledgeable about what makes a good (indeed a perfect) tree-pot combination. This is most often because they themselves have good trees.

I completely agree with Marcus that the primary focus should be on the tree in a display (gosh, how often do we have the discussion about good trees "spoiled" by ill-chosen pots/accents/scrolls etc) but I think the "using" and the collecting can go hand in glove.

After all, I would never even think about putting flowers in a Clarice Cliff vase.

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  JimLewis on Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:28 pm

I have just set up a mini-display of pots as I see them as objects of beauty in their own right. Probably most of them will never house a bonsai as that is not their purpose.

Can we see it? (After all, I showed mine.)

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  fiona on Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:34 pm

I'd probably put it in a separate thread so we don't hijack Marcus's.

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:20 pm

Simple Marcus,

buy what you like, and use what you think will work with a tree, the others you can display, or fill with sand and use as incense holders or other.

There was a girl on-line who used to supply what felt to be seconds from Yi-xing at a very reasonable price, and very unusual dimensions or attractive decorations. I bought a few and sent some off as gifts to old bonsai friends.

Some years ago I bought thimble sized pots from I believe, Bonsai by the Monastery, charming little things. I found that they grow succulents very nicely, water soaking just once a week.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Dale Cochoy on Sun Dec 09, 2012 7:47 pm

As a potter who makes nothing but one-off hand-made bonsai pots I guess I have to defend myself by saying that AS AN ARTIST ( in both bonsai for 34 years AND pottery for 14) that we , as with all other artists, have our own new ideas, signatures and traditional ideas that we like to add our own thoughts too. For myself I can say that almost every time I sit down to make a bonsai pot I am not sure what direction I am going until I start work, UNLESS I'm making a commissioned pot which I would have thought out and calculated measurements beforehand. I told someone years ago that I don't do this for you, I do it for ME! JUST EXACTLY LKE most bonsai artists do. I'm old enough in the arts to remember back when Kimura was not popular at all in Japan with older artists because of his new concepts. Now, if you said anything bad about him the hero worshippers would tear you apart in print! Wink
I have to admit that when I see what folks pay for some of these pots like collectable Tofukuji pots that I immediately think of my teacher describing some pottery as "Easter Eggs" and I'd never think of paying some prices I've seen for a signature pots of ANY KIND, especially if they are like many I see are simply just not good pots with warping, cracks, etc. If you only knew how often I saw pots being discussed as really great and thinking to myself, "if I made that, no one would even pick it up to look at it"!
I have to admit that MANY pots I have made/make I never expect to see with a plant potted in them, and thats fine by me. My house is FULL ( and I mean every shelf) of pots from all over the world that will never see dirt!
As artists, we make what we want to make and often they are not appreciated and we become their "owners" ( to take a line from Richard Robinson who I can remember chiding about low prices to dealers ) but it is our art, heart and soul, whether YOU appreciate it and think it goes with your tree or not. This attitude of MINE is summed up in the name of my pottery business that is written on the bottom of most every pot " Yakimono No Kokoro' or "Heart (or Soul) of Fired Things"
BTW, I just have to say that VERY OFTEN the combo of a tree and pot isn't the pot at all, it's an ugly, cheap, stick of a tree with poor, or no, styling!
Another thing I've noticed for 14 years and often chuckle about, are folks who tell me they are "traditionalists" and ONLY buy unglazed containers.....Then, 20 minutes later they are paying for 5 pots that are neither!
What they are REALLY meaning is that when they want an unglazed traditional slip-cast fancy rectangle or oval they usually get a Japanese or Chinese mass produced pot, or maybe a hand-formed mass produced pot.
We like what we like, and we want what we want, and the artists and the pottery world is all the better for it.

D.

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  level320 on Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:23 pm


Dale...good arguments

kr
ladi

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  marcus watts on Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:00 pm

Stone Monkey wrote:Marcus

As a potter who makes the collectable pots, normal bonsai pots and other forms of ceramics I agree with you to a certain extent.

My attitude and outlook has, and will always be Bon=pot Sai= planting, they are both equal and both 50% of the
equation that is Bonsai. You can't have one without the other.

As you said the pot is the frame. If your frame is more flamboyant than your picture get a better picture :-)

All the best

Andy

Hi Andy - I loved what you said - i really did laugh out loud because it was a perfect response frrom an artisan potter. well said and dont apologise......

Bon and sai happen to have 3 letters, so they are equal in that sense - artistically tho an equal painting and equal frame will not harmonise as they are in permanent confilct to draw the viewers attention. This is not a true balance and will spoil the overall sense of oneness -in an excelent display the pot complemets the tree not equals or detracts from it, the stand must complement both not dominate either - and the accent must not scream in our face 'look at me'.

i totally agree with the points put across by the potters - you are free artists and you know as well as i do that the fastest selling pots are usually so unique they are not really usable (but wow they look great! Very Happy ) - but this lays at the hands of the buyers who may not yet understand the balance, and i expect a person with a lacking tree hopes an intricate pot will give it the wow factor at the next club show Twisted Evil . It only takes a table full of pots with surfaces like a car tyre to sell out instantly to indicate where the demand is, and that type of work pays the bills. The pinacle for many bonsai growers is to see their work well recieved in national and international shows though, and hopefully lots of modern potters will want a few that make it to the top displays as well as lots of unique artwork to sell in the sales area.

a point well made earlier was that plain brown rectangles go unwanted but actually it could be these, if they were the absolute pinnacle of your workmanship in every way, that will end up in more demand once maturing growers realise the fancy ones have such limitations.

great comments,

cheers Marcus


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The frame analogy

Post  Ryan B on Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:36 am

I quite agree with everything Marcus said, except for the so-called "frame analogy." I don't think the "frame analogy" is apt when discussing our containers and trees. The frame for a piece of artwork, be it painting or photograph, is incidental to the art holds, and in no way a part of the composition. In fact, a frame is unnecessary for a painting, while our Bonsai must have some type of container, even if it be an invisible one of plywood(Hagedorn) or a stone. In many contemporary museums and galleries, I see the bulk of work hung without frames.
Unlike a frame, though, The container in a bonsai composition is not incidental, it is part of the composition, albeit an often quiet part. I'm not so sure I'll buy Andy's 50/50 in anything but a top shelf shohin display a la Gafu ten, but it's at least a good 70/30. I see the great pieces from Kokufu and Taikan Ten, and those antique Chinese pots have a unique sort of power and age that matches up with the trees quite nicely, 100 year old pots have their own kind of loudness. If you were to plant a younger tree in them they would be dwarfed by "simple unglazed rectangles." And in that sense, Andy is right on the 50/50 tip...many of those pots equal the trees in both cost and age!
Ryan
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  peter krebs on Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:40 am

Hi Marcus,

good discussion.
Excuse me, sorry, my English is not so good to me to participate in the discussion.

Here an interview by Will Heath, in which I say a lot about an pot.

http://www.artofbonsai.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=3812

Best wishes
Peter
______________________________________
The World Of The Pot http://www.peter-krebs.de

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  marcus watts on Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:31 am

well explained Ryan, yes i agree that the frame is not the right analagy as the composition usually relys on the two parts - and yes, in visual expression a 2:1 tree/pot 'score' would feel balanced in many cases.

It is interesting how a pot could be concieved - a potter crafting a classic pot (non commission) over several days / weeks could look at the finished form and surely imagine and hope the tree it ends up with is worthy and complementary - i admit i think if i was potting i would visualise a tree as i made the pot even. To me this would be a bonsai potter of the highest level and understanding.

To produce lots of material with no clear vision of the actual use, or to look at a finished work and have no idea how it could be successfully planted suggests the artist and sculptor side being stronger than the bonsai side of the character.

cheers Marcus

It would be excelent if we had some images of modern super textured, mega glazed pots perfectly combined with the perfect tree. I can picture some newly wired pines in beautiful sculptured containers - but the trees were young and lacking (in bonsai terms) with raffia, tape, 100% wired etc so the pot needs to draw the eye away from the tree for many years

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:02 pm

Listen,

the way a frame works in Fine Art is to provide a window to watch the world on the outside, and that fact, will decide the depth of the frame, the width of the frame and so on.
If the image is powerful and large, the frame can carry decoration that suits the subject.

If however the subject is mostly decorative, as say of colour or design, the frame is normally thinner and lighter and more akin to those used for photographs.
The frame used here does not compete for attention, since a frame is also a decorative feature.

So to the tree decides the pot it needs.

It is expected that potters will want to show off their skills or put their best foot forward.
For my part if I bought a Cochoy and it was just beautiful, I would just display it and accept it as just that.
I don't really spend a lot time theorising about is it Art or all the nonsense.
If I like it and desire to have it , I will just buy it and there is no thought about resale.

I recently bought a psuedo bone [ think resin cast ] reproduction of a Chinese mermaid, simply because the face was so believable and it was a gorgeously innocent Chinese face.

If you have hung your hat higher than you can reach ---- over spent on unsaleables - please can the drive to turn craft into Art in the hopes of getting back cash wasted.

Bonsai can be a very expensive hobby, and as someone on IBC wrote - the playthings of the rich.
Been so since the ancient days.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Stone Monkey on Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:32 pm

Marcus

I can only speak for myself, when I make pots I do have a visualization 90% of the time of what tree & what style the pot will compliment as I am making. The odd 10% of the time I don't think, just make, which I suppose gives me that bit more of artistic freedom when making. I came into making Bonsai Ceramics, 10 years ago next year, from a tree perspective and made pots for my trees and it sort of went from there, eventually to a point where Ceramics took over and became my main passion. Other ceramics and the arty pots came much later, the past 4 years.

As with any art form, whatever the medium, I feel that boundaries have to be pushed, tested and toyed with. As Dale quite rightly said when Kimura came on the scene he was very avant guarde and "out there" now he is revered and quite rightly so. He pushed taste and boundaries and what he does in now accepted as the norm, even though xx amount of years ago it wasn't. I am sure artists turned their noses up when some young odd bloke called Warhol came along and screen printed tins of campbells soup and proclaimed it as art.

I suppose what I am trying to say, albeit rather shoddily, is that we need to evolve and move and try new things otherwise things stagnate and become mundane and banal.

Have a look at Nick Lenz's pot and tree combo's, they push the boundaries to the extreme, but to me they work, very very well in some cases.

Good debate Marcus and much like the "Is Bonsai Art" debate it could go on forever. Taste is infinite and varied and that's what truly makes the world a wonderful place

All the best

Andy







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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:43 am

Andy,

and I say this in the calmest voice possible -

You cannot get away from this simple situation ------ The tree determines the pot needed.

Additionally if your tree does not fit with the supplied pots, just call on a Bonsai pot potter and talk about having a one off made.

This is also where the cost comes in, because as the tree grows on you will have to 3 to 5 to 10 years or so re-order a new pot.

This is why I keep my designs simple, it keeps the cost down.

In 94 or 96 I was already talking to one of the better known Bonsai pot potters on your side. I was unable to go past the order because there was no way to safely ship the pot to me. Cost was not a problem.

The situation has nothing to do with Modernism/Warhol or other, just simple facts and being practical.

Lastly, unless Kimura's work is somehow recorded in 3d, it will vanish when he passes, as the trees grow on. Another reality of Bonsai.................so who was the bee's knees in 1920 huh, in Japan ?
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Ryan B on Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:27 am

In 1920? Who knows? But we have a definitive record from 1934 onward, what could be considered the modernist period of Bonsai....Kokufu ten albums. And as to "Kimura's work disappearing when he's gone, shenanigans I say. I've personally seen several masterpiece shohin from Count Matsudaira, father of Shohin bonsai, and many of these trees date back to the 20s and 30s.
Ryan
http://japanesebonsaipots.net/

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  BigDave on Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:51 am

Khaimraj Seepersad wrote:

You cannot get away from this simple situation ------ The tree determines the pot needed.

Additionally if your tree does not fit with the supplied pots, just call on a Bonsai pot potter and talk about having a one off made.


Say that as loud as you want bounce

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  BigDave on Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:58 am

Stone Monkey wrote: I came into making Bonsai Ceramics, 10 years ago next year, from a tree perspective and made pots for my trees and it sort of went from there, eventually to a point where Ceramics took over and became my main passion. Other ceramics and the arty pots came much later, the past 4 years.

Exactly the same here, and every other bonsai potter I know. natural progression, dont you think.

Its also natural to want to explore and stretch, and the traditional oval/rect brown, leaves me bored now. That does probably frustrates my pot fans, so as someone said we collect our own work... Rolling Eyes


Green rectangle 22 inch big, awaiting a rim

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Re: are modern pots going in the right direction? my thoughts and hopefully yours

Post  Ryan B on Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:04 am

Not just for potters in the west, Andy and BigDave. Most of the potters in Japan who weren't legacies got their start as bonsai hobbyists making pots for their own trees. Tofukuji, Bushuan, and Tsukinowa Yusen, to name just a few notables. This development from Bonsaist to Potter spans continents and generations, it seems.
Ryan
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