Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

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Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on May 2nd 2012, 12:37 pm


Mod note

original images elapsed and post was deleted

Ed's right. The stoneware body is too fine in texture and not quite dark enough to be by Hamada.

Even if that had not been the case it would be very difficult to attribute something like this as being by him, without a box or any written documentation. However, that doesn't stop some auction houses and sellers on that well known internet auction site from doing so on occasions.

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by marston on January 2nd 2013, 8:59 am

This may be too late to be of any use BUT....this is a Hamada piece. I have no doubt of that. It has been in an oxidised area of the kiln hence the blueish colour of the cobalt and the whiteness of the body. However, it is in my opinion, by Hamada. I have no idea why the other two comments were so damning and so sure it isn't Hamada.....absolutely a Hamada press moulded bottle.
Phil Rogers
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on January 2nd 2013, 10:25 am

Welcome to the forum Phil and any opinion is never too late, although as the original poster only ever made the one post above it is probably too late for him/her.

I know that you will have handled far more pieces of Hamada's work than me and because of that I accept that your opinion should be given more weight than mine but I do stick by everything that I wrote last May.

You and I could argue about whether a pot is by Hamada or not until we are blue in the face but without any provenance then to me it is just a pot that could be by Hamada.

The brushwork on the bottle in question certainly is good enough to be by Hamada and the glaze faults down the side would have prohibited it from having been exhibited by Hamada, hence no box. However, the question asked at the top of the post was "anyone know if this is a Hamada piece?" and the answer to that is "No".

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by big ed on January 2nd 2013, 10:49 am

Always find it strange when a piece is ID as 100% positive with no provenance , yet when when its questioned or has another opinion it's wrong , no provenance no id , these shapes have been copied , now that is a fact , I had one with various numbers impressed on it , so unless it was witnessed being made then the jury is still out Laughter
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by dantheman on January 2nd 2013, 11:53 am

quality is the best provenance in my experience

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by NaomiM on January 2nd 2013, 12:14 pm

marston wrote:This may be too late to be of any use BUT....this is a Hamada piece. I have no doubt of that. It has been in an oxidised area of the kiln hence the blueish colour of the cobalt and the whiteness of the body. However, it is in my opinion, by Hamada. I have no idea why the other two comments were so damning and so sure it isn't Hamada.....absolutely a Hamada press moulded bottle.
Phil Rogers


Very useful information. Thanks. Happy

As for the other comments, one can only go on the information available at the time, and one's own experience, and maybe ask oneself If I were offered it as a Hamada bottle, would I believe it was by him? That answer may be a very definite No at least until someone else can give it a better provenance.

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on January 2nd 2013, 12:19 pm

dantheman wrote:quality is the best provenance in my experience

Not sure how that works?

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by dantheman on January 2nd 2013, 12:34 pm

well I tend to buy only great examples when the potter is highly collected or pricey which lessens the possibility of fakery

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on January 2nd 2013, 1:06 pm

dantheman wrote:well I tend to buy only great examples when the potter is highly collected or pricey which lessens the possibility of fakery

I think that we might have to disagree on that.

If any art is collected and/or pricey that makes the possibility of it being faked more likely and if you are going to fake something, much better to make the fake a great example surely?

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by dantheman on January 2nd 2013, 1:33 pm

yes I suppose so

although I have mainly bought pottery under Ł50 so the fakers are not able to reach the standard

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by big ed on January 2nd 2013, 4:08 pm

Price is no Guarantee of Quality , prices can and are manipulted by potters , buyers and anybody that has an interest in the goods no matter what it is , look at hirst for an example , did his works ( joke) really sell for millions , did they F**k , christ he hasn't even got clothes that fit the litte sod , his agent on the other hand is Big Laughter all the way to the bank , wonder who the next muppet , puppet artist will be in the public eye .
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by marston on January 2nd 2013, 5:21 pm

The longish explanation that I posted earlier has disappeared....one or two strange opinions here!! Wondering where my post went??
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by skay on January 2nd 2013, 5:42 pm

No-one has deleted anything Phil, if you mean the below - its on page 1 of this thread.

marston wrote:This may be too late to be of any use BUT....this is a Hamada piece. I have no doubt of that. It has been in an oxidised area of the kiln hence the blueish colour of the cobalt and the whiteness of the body. However, it is in my opinion, by Hamada. I have no idea why the other two comments were so damning and so sure it isn't Hamada.....absolutely a Hamada press moulded bottle.
Phil Rogers

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by marston on January 2nd 2013, 5:44 pm

[quote="skay"]No-one has deleted anything Phil, if you mean the below - its on page 1 of this thread.


No...another one...explaining the reasons for my thoughts on the Hamada.....I posted it but maybe I did something wrong....
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by skay on January 2nd 2013, 6:04 pm

I think you must have, as I checked the log. It would be great if you tried again Jumping For Joy

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by decurio on January 4th 2013, 5:49 pm

Thanks to everyone who replied to my post. I greatly appreciate all your comments, divided as they are. Phil, if you have anything to add to your arguament, I'd be very interested to hear from you. Kris (decurio).
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by marston on January 4th 2013, 6:10 pm

Nothing really to add. Despite what the oher have said...it is a Hamada piece. Attribution can be a tricky thing BUT one relies on an expert when there is no provenance. That's why people take things to the Antiques Roadshow and the like...to get the judgement of someone who knows instinctively based on experience and study what they are looking at. The doubters on this piece are wrong....the bottom line is this.....would one buy that bottle as a Hamada? ( assuming one has the money of course!) The answer to that is yes I would...would I sell it as a Hamada and risk my reputation...yes I would. It always amuses me when people who have no experience of making and firing make comments about clay and glaze colour. The fact is that Hamada's kiln held 8,000 pieces...it was huge and there were differing zones of both temperature and atmosphere. The whiteness of the body and the rather 'blue' blue is due to oxidation.
You have a Hamada bottle....without blowing trumpets there isn't anyone in the Uk who knows his work better ( that sounds conceited!) but its true.
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on January 4th 2013, 6:20 pm

decurio wrote:Thanks to everyone who replied to my post. I greatly appreciate all your comments, divided as they are. Phil, if you have anything to add to your arguament, I'd be very interested to hear from you. Kris (decurio).

I would be very interested to know how you came to own this bottle and why you posted the images on here last May?

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by big ed on January 4th 2013, 7:16 pm

marston wrote:Nothing really to add. Despite what the oher have said...it is a Hamada piece. Attribution can be a tricky thing BUT one relies on an expert when there is no provenance. That's why people take things to the Antiques Roadshow and the like...to get the judgement of someone who knows instinctively based on experience and study what they are looking at. The doubters on this piece are wrong....the bottom line is this.....would one buy that bottle as a Hamada? ( assuming one has the money of course!) The answer to that is yes I would...would I sell it as a Hamada and risk my reputation...yes I would. It always amuses me when people who have no experience of making and firing make comments about clay and glaze colour. The fact is that Hamada's kiln held 8,000 pieces...it was huge and there were differing zones of both temperature and atmosphere. The whiteness of the body and the rather 'blue' blue is due to oxidation.
You have a Hamada bottle....without blowing trumpets there isn't anyone in the Uk who knows his work better ( that sounds conceited!) but its true.

Phil , not only does it sound conceited, it sounds naive as well , basically what your saying is that if you say something is hamada then it is , no question , experts are ten a penny these days they are in all spheres including the antiques roadshow who have their fair share of so called experts whom we have had to correct in the past ,why would a person need to throw pots to recognise a style ? do you have to paint to recognise art ?, instinct is a great thing but it can be wrong and often is , are you seriously saying noone else could have made that pot ? if so that amuses me as well , Ed
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by marston on January 4th 2013, 9:05 pm


Phil , not only does it sound conceited, it sounds naive as well....

Well...not sure who you are but you obviously seem to know best....

I'm dipping out of this forum.....some very strange opinions and some of them fairly vacuous........
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by big ed on January 4th 2013, 9:08 pm

thing is , I don't presume , Bye then
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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on January 4th 2013, 9:50 pm

As someone who has dealt in studio pottery for longer than Phil Rogers (aka marston), unless you include selling your own pots, and has made their full time living out of exhibiting and selling both British and Japanese studio work for 14 years, I suspect that I might have picked up a little knowledge and experience along the way.

I most certainly do not regard myself as knowing everything about British and Japanese studio pottery or the work of Shoji Hamada, although I have sold a bit in my time. I might even confess to having an instinct about a pot on occasions and buying it solely on that instinct. However, I feel as a dealer that my priority is to my clients and I would never attempt to sell anything as being by a specific potter on that instinct. If I believed it is by a potter and buy it for myself then that is fine but to sell that pot on, by saying the pot is definitely by a potter because my instinct tells me, to my mind is wrong. I feel that if I did that I would be letting my clients and myself down. The same applies to coming on this forum and giving a definite opinion on instinct alone.

Phil Rogers has a right to his opinion and a right to be amused by mine; it is just a shame that, as a fellow studio pottery dealer, I have found his opinions and attitude saddening.

The bottle could be by Shoji Hamada and because of its imperfections the lack of a box is understandable but I do not believe that anyone can know that it is definitely by Shoji Hamada on the information presented here.

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by Potty on January 5th 2013, 3:34 am

marston wrote:The fact is that Hamada's kiln held 8,000 pieces...it was huge and there were differing zones of both temperature and atmosphere. The whiteness of the body and the rather 'blue' blue is due to oxidation.

Could you please explain the finesse of the clay used?

studio-pots wrote: The stoneware body is too fine


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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on June 11th 2014, 10:52 pm

This morning I received an email from a gentleman in the States, who had come across this thread while browsing on the internet.

The contents of his email were very interesting and I believe relevant not only to this thread but to the wider issues regarding the attribution of pots to the potter, Shoji Hamada.

I have asked his permission to cut and paste the content of his email and add it to this thread and he has kindly allowed me to do so. This will appear in the next box.

He does apologise in advance for its length!

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Re: Shoji Hamada Bottle? Some thoughts on attribution

Post by studio-pots on June 11th 2014, 10:57 pm

"I was intrigued by this thread as I have been a long-time admirer of Hamada’s work and have recently seen many pieces of pottery offered for sale on-line with what I think are dubious attributions to him. As I lived in Mashiko between 1981 and 1984, two of them as a student in the workshop of Shimaoka Tatsuzo, I think I may have some helpful insights.

There are general problems regarding the attribution of work to Hamada Shoji that go far beyond the fact that he did not sign his work (seals and signatures can, after all, be forged). First, it is important to bear in mind that Hamada (and Shimaoka) ran workshops; they were not individual artist-potters in the Western sense. Nothing was made in Hamada’s workshop that was not made under his supervision, but he certainly did not make, or even handle, every single piece. Much of the standard dinnerware of the Hamada kiln was made by workers, and at most Hamada decorated these pieces. Tea ceremony ware and one of a kind pieces are more likely to have been made by Hamada himself; these pieces are also most likely to have been sold in signed boxes, and would meet what I think are the expectations of Western collectors regarding original works of art. Second, Hamada arrived in Mashiko at a pivotal time in the town’s history when the traditional ware of the Mashiko kilns - mostly large water basins, grinding bowls and sake bottles - were being rendered obsolete by the installation of running water in most Tokyo homes, increased production of inexpensive glassware, etc. As Hamada gained recognition, the local potters realized that the only way to survive was to make pots in the Hamada style. So, a great amount of 'Hamada-esque' ware was produced by Mashiko potters, including large factories such as Tsukamoto and Hasegawa. As Hamada used glazes and materials traditional to the area, any potter working in Mashiko could easily duplicate the ‘Hamada’ look. Further, many of Hamada’s patterns (ladle pours, finger swipes, glaze overlaps, etc.) lend themselves to easy forfeiting.

Ideally, to establish authenticity, a Hamada piece should be in a signed box with a known provenance. Exhibition pieces usually had a small slip of paper with the gallery name and exhibition number glued to the inside of the foot on the bottom. The combination of a signed box, such an exhibition tag, a catalogue with a matching photo and exhibition number, and a receipt from the gallery would provide fairly certain proof that the piece is genuine. However, there are many reasons why a legitimate Hamada may lack a box: the box may have been lost, destroyed or discarded; or a box was not requested by the buyer. This is especially so with pieces in Western collections as foreign buyers of the mid-20th Century seldom realized the significance of the signed box. There is also a market for signed boxes, which are then used to pass off forgeries as originals, so the provenance of any piece is still important. Works lacking signed boxes or certain provenance can be authenticated by Hamada’s son Shinsaku, who holds his father’s seal. If Shinsaku agrees the work is his father’s, he will write ‘Shoji Saku’ (庄司作 - made by Shoji) and affix his father’s seal, write a brief description of the piece, and then sign "known/determined/written by Shinsaku" (晋作識) on the inside of the box lid. To the best of my knowledge, no one else is authorized to sign a box authenticating a piece as Hamada Shoji’s work.

The piece in question here is a press-molded bottle certainly in the Hamada style. It was glazed with a clear glaze and decorated with iron and cobalt brushwork. The brushwork was then painted over with wax and the entire piece dipped in kaki glaze, resulting in two diagonally arranged ‘windows‘ with brush decoration on each side of the piece. The overall layout and the brushed patterns are ones Hamada often used. However, I have some issues with this piece and personally would not buy it as an authentic Hamada without further documentation. Also, as an overriding caveat, I do not believe any definitive authentication can be made by photo. The issues I have are:

  1. The pale color of the clay. This alone does not bother me too much as the bottle may have been dipped in white slip when leather hard. Shimaoka made some pieces that were decorated with kaki and overglaze enamel (aka-e) in wax-resist windows (rather than with his signature jomon zogan) and these pieces were usually treated this way to give a white background to the enamel. I do not know if Hamada did the same thing, but it is certainly possible.
  2. Press molded bottles in the Hamada style were churned out in Mashiko - they are perhaps the easiest of Hamada’s pieces to copy.
  3. The bottom of the bottle strikes me as odd - the inside of the foot is oval, not rectangular - the inside bottoms of Shimaoka’s molded pieces were angular. I have googled press-molded Hamada pieces and the bottoms of ones I could find are also angular. This is not proof certain, as Hamada may have used different molds and mold-makers for the same shape throughout his career; Shinsaku would be familiar with his father’s molds and could make this determination. For comparison, see the foot on this piece auctioned by Bonhams: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20999/lot/3324/
  4. Hamada made very sparing use of cobalt. He actually used gosu, an impure naturally occurring cobalt, which gave a soft blue. He used it mostly as an underglaze for pieces he made in Okinawa; of the Mashiko pots, I am only aware that he used cobalt for salt-glazed pieces. Again, Shinsaku would know for sure.
  5. The brushwork seems a bit ‘wimpy’ to me. In fact, to me the piece just doesn’t feel right; this is a totally subjective assessment, but this form and pattern are easy to copy and were, in fact, widely copied.
  6. The glaze flaws on the side seem a bit severe. Some ‘defects’ were intended; this does not look like one of them. Shimaoka would have smashed a piece like this, and I suspect Hamada would have, too. The bamboo groves around Hamada’s kilns, when I was a student next door, were piled deep with smashed pots - of course, most of these shards have ‘walked off’ over time and the topography has changed - so these shard heaps are probably all gone.

One final observation is that both Hamada and Shimaoka traveled widely, and both gave demonstrations/workshops abroad. There are a few Hamada pieces that he made at such workshops - I recently saw pieces for sale from the Archie Bray collection that looked like Hamada’s throwing, trimming and decoration although none of the materials appeared to be from Mashiko - given the provenance of the pieces, I would accept them as authentic. Karen Karnes once owned a faceted tenmoku teapot that Hamada had made while visiting Black Mountain. Shimaoka often brought pieces home with him and would indicate where he had made them when signing the boxes. Shinsaku generally accompanied his father on these trips and again, I believe he is the only person who could absolutely authenticate them. These pieces are very rare, but they do exist."

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