Saturday, September 17, 2011

Vintage Chinese pot

I bought a vintage Chinese bonsai pot. The previous owner Dorothy Koreshoff had it for a long time. According to her it is an imitation of Kanton green ware produced somewhere in northern China. It was certainly a mass-produced flower pot of its day. However, this pot tells a story. I instantly fell for the wonderful dragons-and-clouds decoration and beautiful running glaze forming tears all around the base (arrow 1, picture below). In fact, the glaze ran so much that the pot’s feet got completely stuck to the kiln shelf and had to be broken off (arrow 2), which probably was a normal practice. I know that the pot is old because it is wood-fired and mass-produced pottery in China is not wood-fired for many decades. The gloss on the inside surface of the pot (arrow 3) is molten wood ash. Also, only wood-firing produces flashes on unglazed surfaces. The flashing shown at (arrow 4) actually happened because another smaller pot was fired inside this pot. The weight of this smaller pot made the bottom of the big pot sag and it slightly distorted its whole form. All this makes this pot very unpretentious and reminds me of Yanagi Soetsu’s unknown craftsmen and the Mingei movement. The pot has no artist's mark. I also know how this pot was actually formed. The creases on the bottom of the pot shown at (5) indicate that the pot was formed by pressing a slab of clay into a mold. If the pot is old enough the mold could have been made of wood and not plaster. Now, you know what I mean when I say this pot tells a story.

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