Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by bodhidharma » June 12th, 2015, 10:34 pm

It is true that Aussies are making some stunning pots and i am in the middle of purchasing one from Graham. I have a lot of Aussie pots. But, facing facts, Aussie pots are not collectable. Buy some now and put them away for 50 or so years then it is a different story. China and Japan have age, history and a proven quality. It really is as simple as that. The Chinese pot i posted is a hundred plus years old, hell, Aussie Bonsai is only 60 odd years old. And i do have some old Tokoname pots, i love them.
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by MoGanic » June 12th, 2015, 10:57 pm

JaseH wrote:LOL.. not a lot of pot lovers here? I love some of the locally made pots, I love some of the stuff I'm seeing from potters in the EU and the US. I also love a lot of Japanese pots. You cant just say we have good pots here why the interest in the Japanese stuff, they are totally different. Pretty much Mo is on the money. For a classically styled juniper or pine - an unglazed Japanese or quality chinese pot is hard to go past, we just don't have the clay here to be able to reproduce that.

We need to get one thing straight though - quality hand made pots aren't cheap! Regardless of where they are made. A Japanese or Chinese pot with age and patina demands a high price sure, and there are some Japanese potters who are in demand that you are pay more for, thats the same as any artist who's work is popular at the time. But, most Japanese or Tokoname potters works are very reasonably priced if you look into it.

I'm also just a fan of Japanese craft, those guys have a knack of focusing and refining the shari out of everything they do, yet still managing to maintain a sense of wabi sabi and spiritual connectedness. Be it bonsai, pottery, food, kitchen knives, wood work... they are masters! I admire that in them and appreciate what they produce. :worship:
Absolutely mate, their kitchen knives are second to none! But its that spiritual connection, the master and apprentice, respect, honor, wax on wax off feeling I love. I like anyone who doesn't like to do things half arsed - Aussie American French Nigerian Cat Dog Beetle or otherwise.




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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by wrcmad » June 13th, 2015, 12:55 pm

My :2c:
Rory wrote:Okay. I just don't get it. Call me uneducated, but...

What makes a Japanese pot or one with the word Tokoname so special? Is that what people are loving, that fact that it is one? If these were made by an Australian potter, I really wouldn't look twice at them. Thus, :imo: I ... just ... don't ... get it.

I am not saying I don't have a liking towards foreign pots, but .... seriously, just because it has a Japanese / Chinese stamp on it, how or why does that make it any better??? So often I see posts where the user has made a purchase of the faint whispering word 'tokoname' or 'japanese', and the site goes into love town. But to me the pots are nothing special, appearing sometimes poorly made and often seem drab or uninteresting.
I think you have missed the point... by quite a large margin.
It is not about the stamp or the word Tokoname.

To truly understand the significance of these pots (and some made in other regions of Japan), you have to talk to the Japanese, and attempt to understand their way of thinking... their psyche. It is very different to that of western thinking.
It is quite typical thinking for westerners to focus on the badge, or brand name, and see value in it based on brand status, trophy-worth, or the perceived social prestige of such brands. It is also typical thinking for westerners to consider cheaper alternatives or imitations as "just as good, only without the badge", or as a product of equivalent or comparible quality, without the status of brand.

However, the Japanese thinking reflects neither of the above two perceptions. They have an inherently different view in regards to bonsai pots.
For the most part, their best trees have been developed over many years or even generations. They consider their trees quite highly rated works of horticultural art and beauty, which have incorporated years of work and effort to produce, each one unique, with an aim of creating the unquestionable perception of natural age and beauty. These same inherent qualities are extremely sought after for the pot as well. The pot is considered just as much a work of art as the tree - and like most top-shelf art, it is priced at a premium depending on age, beauty, uniqueness, collectability, the artist, etc. While the focus of any bonsai is primarily on the tree, the pot is considered an integral part of the completed design, and for them, to abandon this line of thinking when it comes to pot selection is to cause the whole design to fall-short of the mark. Why put so much time and effort into producing the perception of age and beauty, only to finish it off in a shiny new sub-quality generic pot? This leads to the following comment:
MoGanic wrote:Truth is, the high price is for high quality as far as Chinese and Japanese pots go. The really high price is for high quality and old age. Also, one thing you cannot yet purchase from an Australian potter is antiquity. To have age and patina to a pot is a very desired characteristic, but one must have a tree showing equal age to match the pot.

The problem is, some people don't understand the difference between Japanese and QUALITY. Not every Japanese pot is good quality but you'll find there are people who will still try to sell the pots at top dollar.

Tokoname is known for producing great quality clays and pots, hence why the name is synonymous with good quality pots. However, as with terming a pot "Japanese", just because it came out of Tokoname doesn't make it a great quality pot. One should still inspect the pot itself "just incase". I've seen pots selling with the word Tokoname slipped in somewhere, but what the seller meant was "similar to Tokoname" not "'made in a Tokoname Kiln".
IMHO, MoGanic has summed this up beautifully.
While there are different grades of Tokoname pot, the most sought after and expensive pots have all the elements of age, quality, uniqueness, and collectability - with a lot of the most sought after kilns or potters having ceased production. The Japanese value highly the things that only time can produce, and along with their trees, they seek out these qualities in their pots as well. As an example, it is sometimes astounding what kind of premiums are paid for a good patina!
JaseH wrote:...You cant just say we have good pots here why the interest in the Japanese stuff, they are totally different. Pretty much Mo is on the money. For a classically styled juniper or pine - an unglazed Japanese or quality chinese pot is hard to go past, we just don't have the clay here to be able to reproduce that.

We need to get one thing straight though - quality hand made pots aren't cheap! Regardless of where they are made. A Japanese or Chinese pot with age and patina demands a high price sure, and there are some Japanese potters who are in demand that you are pay more for, thats the same as any artist who's work is popular at the time. But, most Japanese or Tokoname potters works are very reasonably priced if you look into it.
I also agree with JaseH.
While there are some very expensive Tokoname's around, some good quality stuff is very reasonably priced..... in Japan. However shipping costs can inflate the price of these pots once they reach our shores.
Last edited by wrcmad on June 13th, 2015, 2:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Andrew Legg » June 13th, 2015, 5:43 pm

Ok, I have a pot fetish . . . . . There, I said it. To me, the value of a pot has to do with the amount of care that I can see in its production, the artistic quality of its design, the beauty of it's glaze or the quality of the clay from which it has been made. Tokoname is an area, as is Australia. That's all it is. The fact that the people of Tokoname have been making pots for a bit is what makes it special. They know what they are doing! BUT, one has to realise that you get Tok pots and Tok pots just like anything else. Some are volume produced in moulds, and these pots are less special that those hand made by a master potter. It shows in the finish. It shows in the quality and it shows in the end result. I have had the privilege of a trip to Omiya where I can look at he pots available for sale in Japan, and I can tell you right now that pots made by prominent pottery artists and those with beautiful design, age and patina are MUCH more valued and correspondingly expensive than the catalogue Tok stuff. So, like anything there are pots and then there are p o t s :worship:

Now, you'll get EXACTLY the same thing in Australia. You will find that you will get some potters who become great at what hey do, and some will not be quite so hot. That's jus life. I bought a lovely little Stone Monkey pot from Andy in ten UK. Love it. But I love it because I can see that it was made with care using quality materials, and it looks like the mutts nuts! I value it along with my good Toks. So, whilst you guys as Aussies should support your local artists, there's no point being totally selective. Dabble in the delights available elsewhere too.

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Bougy Fan » June 13th, 2015, 5:49 pm

I know a good quality pot just by looking at it - I don't need to turn it over to see a chop to tell me what I already know. Some potters have a distinctive style - I am sure everyone here can pick a Pat K pot from 10 metres. I have no Japanese pots as I have no conifers - not sure of why whether it's my dislike for conifers or the "plain" pots that go with them :whistle: My personal taste is for handmade glazed pots and the trees that suit them. That's the great thing about bonsai and most other things in life - you get your own enjoyment and satisfaction out it :tu:
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by MoGanic » June 13th, 2015, 5:54 pm

kcpoole wrote:
MoGanic wrote:
kcpoole wrote:Hmmm Bougy and I better be on our toes, as this one might go down hill real fast ! :palm:
Interesting question really and I am looking forward to the discussion that will ensue.

From a person that does not own any Japanese pots, for me it will probably the high degree of skill and obvious quality of the item. Unblemished or with that patina that quality will give off. I would think that in photos, there will be little of that obvious, tho.

Ken
Not even one???

Thats no good! Ill check if I have one to spare when I get home, and if so it's all yours! In fact, only one of my Japanese pots is currently ear marked for a tree, the rest aren't doing much at all!


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Thanks Mo :-)
and yep i do not have any, Never been to Japan ( at least since I was 5), and never been anywhere to purchase good japanese pots :-(

Ken
Ps PM sent.


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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by gerald randall » June 14th, 2015, 4:06 am

I read the whole post and decided what I wanted to say, then read Andrew Legg's post and he already said it. :yes:

The reality is that I buy quality pots which align with the quality and age of my trees. But the bottom line is appropriate quality. That can be sourced from everywhere and anywhere. Just because it's imported does not mean it's better.

What I do find though is that the unglazed pots from Japan and China are really good quality compared to what we get locally. Glazed pots are great, but the quality of an unglazed pot is much more evident.
But, then some of the Japanese and Chinese pots are real rubbish also.

Buy good quality pots, which are appropriate for the tree. :imo:

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by GavinG » June 14th, 2015, 5:48 pm

Refinement might be the word here. The "plain' Tokoname pots are usually beautifully proportioned, meticulously crafted, and exactly suited to set off an aged and complex bonsai conifer. To those who appreciate them, they have dignity and grace. The handmade pots are not necessarily more expensive because of the label and the reputation - they usually look "carved from a block" - because they often are, and the design can be more unified than something designed on paper and transferred to a mould for industrial design. An aged pot will not look BrightShinyNew, but subtle, and organic, and matches an aged tree better. Yes, people get carried away by reputation and label, but the bottom line is that these pots usually suit aged bonsai better than industrial products. Well worth asking the question - when you go to shows, look at the trees, and ask yourself whether the pot looks as aged as the tree. It's all part of matching the tree with the pot, an art in itself.

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Matt S » June 14th, 2015, 8:09 pm

Many many years ago I aquired a small number of Bonsai pots, all different shapes, sizes and quality. I was very new to Bonsai at the time and I gave away and swapped some of the pots that didn't appeal to me but there were a couple I held onto. You can probably see where this is going but there was one particular pot that I loved even though it was very plain - I loved holding it and turning it over in my hands, appreciating the texture and proportions. Of course many years later I found out it was a Tokoname pot and it's still my only one. I've always liked plain unglazed pots but I'm usually drawn to the Tokoname pots even if I don't know their origins.
Having said that I have a few Australian pots that I love and I think it's important to support our local potters.

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Elmar » June 15th, 2015, 8:13 am

What is it, though?

Do we not have the right clay here in Australia? Is the skill of the local potters not up to spec (I find that hard to believe)? Not that all potters here would be of the same level, but surely the skill here isn't off or far behind :?:

If it is only the tradition or the age, well, that will come with time!
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by JaseH » June 15th, 2015, 8:53 am

CoGRedeMptioN wrote:What is it, though?

Do we not have the right clay here in Australia?
Correct. For unglazed red/brown/purple pots we just dont have the clay. We can try reproduce it with oxides and additives, but, how much trouble do you want to go to for something that the Japanese/chinese potters already do so well.
Is the skill of the local potters not up to spec (I find that hard to believe)?
I'm sure we have potters that are more than capable of producing equivalent quality, can they do it and sell it cheaper? I think people under-estimate the work that goes into making hand made pots.

We have potters here making great pots. That isn't the issue. The question was why the interest in Tokoname pots.
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Rory » June 15th, 2015, 1:05 pm

So, I have read and re-read the reasons for those whom kindly replied to the thread, thank you to all your comments. I appreciate and better understand your individual loves for the Tokoname region. Over the many years of my interest in bonsai I have been shown oodles of pots from every corner of the world and have always wondered what the fascination with Tokoname pots was. With the birth of the internet, I pretty much had the background researched and understood theoretically what the cultural reasons were.

Tokoname pots - as has been mentioned in the replies already - come in all forms, just like every facet of the potters world. Over my time I have seen some very nice ones and many ordinary ones. I certainly am not dismissing their citys influence nor their long history of pot making. After all, bonsai in itself orginated in China, and thus credit for this beautiful art, be it both tree and pot and all associations to it, are rightly credited to China and Japans long history and culture.

I myself just don't see the fascination that is associated and still see them as a hyped status symbol. As stated in replies, it is not a reason that I cannot afford the pots to question their worthiness, nor that I feel they are worth more for their history or tale. As also stated, you can pay a premium for any pot from any potter in any country, depending on their perceived beauty, and to a lesser extent, their effort and costs put into each pot. Reading the replies, it seems that some appreciate the Tokoname pots because of their history of the pot making city, the history of each potter and the love that they hold for their profession and their heritage that makes these uniquely rare, and often old pots so desired and collectable.

For me however, the above paragraph highlights (in my opinion) reasons for why I feel the pots are over-rated. I too feel that a pot is certainly a work of art yes, (forgetting about the history and philosophy that preceeds it), but a pot should be allowed to stand on its own merit and be critiqued without requiring a history or an appreciation for this history to critique the pot. If one has to learn all the history behind the pot to appreciate it, then in true essence it really is just a status symbol. I doubt that most users on this forum can honestly differentiate between these highly regarded old and unique Tokoname pots and a common less quality version. If they can, then all merit to them and I hope they appreciate them.

I guess you can look at it from another point of view. If a multitude of similar katana were made in Japan by the same maker but one was actually used in combat by a famous samurai, then generally speaking the one that was used in combat will probably command a higher interest. Thus a higher price tag would follow for a multitude of historical and appreciative reasons rather than the item itself. But if this knowledge of the previous owner is lost in time, then these swords will command the same price.

Now, there is a funny moment in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Beloch is talking to Indiana about antiques and why they are so reverred and priceless. He relates it to a watch that he pulls from his pocket and says it is a common item today, but bury it for a thousand years and it becomes priceless. Now, that is in itself a loose example of antiquity, but one nonetheless. The fact that Australia doesn't really have a sense of antiquity is in my mind a reflection of the fact that the higher quality Tokoname pots are primarily a status symbol simply because of their age.

I stand by my assesment that in my opinion the pots are over-rated. If I was to find a potter who could replicate Pat Kennedys pots which obviously lacked the PK stamp, it would still be a beautiful pot to me and I would be happy to own it and would pay the same value, regardless of the fact that is was not made by PK and doesn't hold the PK stamp (sorry Pat). But I would not value a PK pot more than the clone because the pot itself is what I critique. What I mean is, because a pot has a Toko stamp on it, the majority of users without realizing may be subconciously paying for this stamp or an intrinsic value, whether they truly believe it or not.

Whether a pot is aged or not, I can't contemplate how this makes it a better pot. Of course I understand that antiques command a premium for the fact that they are aged and some people pay more for something that is simply older, but it doesn't change what the pot is. If the pot has been kept for a hundred years it is still the same pot. If you choose to pay more because it holds antiquity then by definition you are paying a premium for the 'story', but you obviously love it for the age that it holds. I understand this. But if one is paying for the aged 'collectable' value, then it saddens me a little to think that the true quality of the pot is being overlooked.

Yes, the point is always going to be subjective I also understand, but the philosophy of this appreciation may be lost in time, and as we see past what 'story the pot may be telling' and focus on the pot itself, this may come to light. Call me uneducated again, but I can't see a pot telling a story. It just sounds slightly pretentious to me. I value the pot for the pot itself, not whether it has a stamp on it or not. The countless queries about who or where the pot is made from doesn't detract nor attract a higher material value in my eyes.

In my eyes you don't need a long history of culture to associate a grandoise appreciation to something. I completely respect that many users will always see an artistic love of their Tokoname pots and I love that they have this sentiment. On the other hand I hope that they make sure they are valueing it for the right reasons and not a sentimental association of culture. Then again, perhaps this is what they indeed love. :)

Having said all of the above, people may change their views in time as the great Bodhi has often pointed out. In my eyes living a life of closed mindedness is not living, thus I am happy to remain open minded.
Last edited by Rory on June 15th, 2015, 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by JaseH » June 15th, 2015, 2:50 pm

I can sort of see where your coming from, but I don't necessarily agree with it. I'll put forward my view points trying not to take too much out of context!
Rory wrote:I doubt that most users on this forum can honestly differentiate between these highly regarded old and unique Tokoname pots and a common less quality version.
Firstly being aged is a sought after quality, but not the only reason to hold Tokoname pots in high regards. I purchased some brand new pots from makers in Tokoname and the quality is outstanding. I have shown these to respected bonsai people locally who were also impressed with the quality. I see lots of Tokoname pots though that I do not like and would not buy, not to say the quality was bad though. I agree that there probably is a bit of Tokoname blindness from some enthusiasts that aren’t that 'pot knowledgeable' if you like. But that is no reason to 'write off' Tokoname pots as a whole as over hyped.
Now, there is a funny moment in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Beloch is talking to Indiana about antiques and why they are so reverred and priceless. He relates it to a watch that he pulls from his pocket and says it is a common item today, but bury it for a thousand years and it becomes priceless. Now, that is in itself a loose example of antiquity, but one nonetheless. The fact that Australia doesn't really have a sense of antiquity is in my mind a reflection of the fact that the higher quality Tokoname pots are primarily a status symbol simply because of their age.
I don't necessarily agree with this either. Antiquity is a seperate issue to what we are talking about and another level we havent approached yet. I saw antique pots in Japan demanding $20,000+ As I mentioned - Tokoname make highly regarded pots that arent old. Age is desirable because part of the art of matching a tree to a pot has to do with age. An old tree does not fit well in a shiny new pot, the age of the tree should be reflected in the pot. Its a functional aesthetic if you like not just a status symbol.
I stand by my assesment that in my opinion the pots are over-rated. If I was to find a potter who could replicate Pat Kennedys pots which obviously lacked the PK stamp, it would still be a beautiful pot to me and I would be happy to own it and would pay the same value, regardless of the fact that is was not made by PK and doesn't hold the PK stamp (sorry Pat). But I would not value a PK pot more than the clone because the pot itself is what I critique. What I mean is, because a pot has a Toko stamp on it, the majority of users without realizing may be subconciously paying for this stamp or an intrinsic value, whether they truly believe it or not.
That's fine - I hold artisan craft at a higher value personally, and although I probably would pay a little more for work from an artist I respected, I'm also arguing that no-one is replicating Tokoname pots to the same quality for the same price?
Yes, the point is always going to be subjective I also understand, but the philosophy of this appreciation may be lost in time, and as we see past what 'story the pot may be telling' and focus on the pot itself, this may come to light. Call me uneducated again, but I can't see a pot telling a story. It just sounds slightly pretentious to me. I value the pot for the pot itself, not whether it has a stamp on it or not. The countless queries about who or where the pot is made from doesn't detract nor attract a higher material value in my eyes.
I'm saying regardless of the stamp, the quality and style of Japanese pots is unique. I see a very unique quality and style in European bonsai potters works which would be desirable for a certain types of trees. I definitely see a unique style in Australian potters works which suits our natives to a tee. Having either style of pot is not mutually exclusive - we can still enjoy others!
In my eyes you don't need a long history of culture to associate a grandoise appreciation to something. I completely respect that many users will always see an artistic love of their Tokoname pots and I love that they have this sentiment. On the other hand I hope that they make sure they are valueing it for the right reasons and not a sentimental association of culture. Then again, perhaps this is what they indeed love. :)
What is wrong with valuing them for all those reasons if that is what people get enjoyment out of?
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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Grant Bowie » June 15th, 2015, 3:05 pm

I use a lot of pots; and have sold a lot of pots over the years as well.

In my private collection I would use about 1/3rd Australian, 1/3rd Chinese and 1/3rd Japanese.

The Japanese and Chinese pots are big enough for my trees, most Australian pots are not.

The Chinese do some lovely pots and some lovely glazes, and unglazed.

I just want to be able to buy a pot that is suitable for purpose.

I am not after a ceramic work of art; I am after a bonsai pot for my tree. Sometimes I have to use Japanese because it is the only fit .

(I don't have access easily to European pots)..

Simple.

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Re: Tokoname: I don't get it. Whats the big deal?

Post by Gerard » June 15th, 2015, 5:10 pm

I must admit that I don't quite get it myself. Last week I was lucky enough to purchase a bulk lot of old probably Japanese pots some quite beautiful others did not have great appeal to me but I bought them for the ones I liked. After some research I was able to identify 3 of them as Tokoname, and quite valuable but the ones I really like remain unidentified.
Having said that my favourite one is a little heavy, has strange dimensions but still feels like quality. Hard to explain but it is nice to hold and just feels old!
Q: Why are we all here?
A: Because we are not all there.

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