ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

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ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Calusa on June 10th 2015, 12:50 am

I was at an estate sale in Los Angeles over the weekend and there was a large collection of Mid Century studio pottery. Most of it was simply identified as "studio pottery". I recognized the signatures of several well known potters and I bought several pieces. One large unmarked piece nagged at me until I realized it looked like it could be the work of Shoji Hamada. I did an internet search of images of Hamada's pottery and found several items showing similarities in decorative motif, glazes etc. including a large shallow bowl that had the same "foursquare" pattern in exactly the same colors. Additionally, the precise manner in which the foot was trimmed is a dead on match to a picture of another platter I found . Needless to say, I bought the piece (it was very reasonable).
As an aside, it should be noted there was also a piece by Shinsaku Hamada, Shoji Hamada's son. I was able to verify this through another internet search of images that turned up a nearly identical cylinder vase.
So my question is: are any of you well versed enough in Hamada's pottery to offer an opinion on attribution? Can anyone guide me to specialists who might know? Thanks for any help you might be able to offer.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Calusa on June 10th 2015, 12:52 am

Forgot to mention the piece is 14 1/2" wide by 2 1/2"high.
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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by NaomiM on June 10th 2015, 1:54 am

It may be an unpopular thing to say on this forum, but the person you need to ask is Phil Rogers; self-proclaimed Hamada expert, but one who's opinion is taken seriously by a lot of collectors. Otherwise, you'd need to contact Hamada's son, (or grandson Tomoo), who also gives appraisals, but I assume he charges for the privilege.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by studio-pots on June 10th 2015, 8:46 am

I understand that Shinsaku is the only person who has the authority to attribute items as being made by his father and there is a cost involved. Also it isn't something that can be done from images by him or anyone else, as seeing close up and feeling the item are very important. If anyone says they can and be 100% certain they are lying.

There are of course many unscrupulous dealers in studio pottery, who will make the attribution for their own personal gain, and some are taken seriously by collectors, who frankly should know better.

Having said that the glazing on the front of your platter looks very good and the glaze colours match those used by Hamada but I am concerned about the swirl within the foot ring and the glaze on the back. Might it be possible to see a close up image of that with part of the foot ring?

One line of investigation that might be useful, if it is possible, is to find out who the owner of the pots in the sale was and if he travelled to Mashiko. If he did then it is possible that he visited Shoji Hamada and bought the platter directly from the pottery when there would not have been a wooden box provided. Equally though it could have been bought in Mashiko from the Tsukamoto kiln that was churning out copies of Hamada's work when he was famous or other potteries that were doing the same.

In reality I think whatever any "expert" tells you that without any provenance this platter will always be "in the style of Shoji Hamada" at best.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by studio-pots on June 10th 2015, 9:01 am

Also just noted that the Tsukamoto kiln exported Hamadaesque items that were sold through a company, Takahashi, in San Francisco.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Calusa on June 10th 2015, 4:07 pm

I am aware there can only be at best an opinion or attribution.
It would likely be difficult to find out what a dead person did or where he/she may have traveled, especially since whatever heir consigned the collection to sale apparently had no understanding or care regarding ceramics.
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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by studio-pots on June 10th 2015, 6:36 pm

It is difficult to really judge the glaze from images but it looks a little too thin to me, although if I could see and touch it I might change my mind on that point. However, that spiral throwing ring is the thing that I still have a problem with and puts me off thinking it was made at Hamada's pottery.

It is a very well decorated platter and is something I would have bought. It is also something that if listed in an auction as being by an unknown potter would I imagine attract bidders thinking it was by Shoji Hamada but I wouldn't be one of them.

What might be a way forward for you, if it's possible, is to try and locate a potter in your neck of the woods who worked in Mashiko and get an opinion from them. A number of Americans went out there and worked with Shimaoka if not Hamada and their opinions would carry some weight if they were able to actually touch the platter. I know California is a big place but I think there are one or two potters and maybe more there that were apprentices in Mashiko.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Calusa on June 10th 2015, 7:33 pm

Thanks S-P, good idea. I remembered I do know a guy who spent time in Mashiko with Hamada in the 60's (Frank Matranga, who worked for Raul Coronel and Hal Fromhold for a time before living in Japan for a couple of years). I've reached out to him and am waiting for a reply....
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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Calusa on June 12th 2015, 9:01 pm

I did contact Phil Rogers who says this is not Shoji Hamada's work, but rather another Mashiko potter working "in the manner of" Hamada to sort of "jump on the bandwagon", though it was apparently not done with fraud intended. Rogers agreed with studio-pots' observations that there is a difference in the glazing on the back side as well as the treatment of the foot. Personally, not being really conversant in Hamada's work (like they say: a little knowledge can be dangerous), I worried the pattern on the front seemed a little too symmetrical. Oh well, live and learn--at least I didn't pay much for it.
The good news is that the piece I picked up by Shinsaku Hamada is apparently genuine. The following photo shows the piece I bought with a printout of a very similar piece from Contemporary Japanese Ceramics site behind it. The decorative motif is apparently somewhat of a signature for him.

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by Potty on June 13th 2015, 1:19 am

I thought it looked too nice to be by Hamada! Big Laughter

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Re: ANY OF YOU KNOW HAMADA WELL ENOUGH TO VENTURE AN OPINION?

Post by philpot on June 13th 2015, 6:36 am

Its the eternal point with anything claiming to by Shoji Hamada. Unless its got absolutely cast iron provenance,most sensible collectors would leave well alone. You would always have that nagging doubt at the back of your mind,and that uncertainty is fatal for any collector.
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