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Bonsai Pots

Bonsai Pots

Bonsai pots are another art form in their own right. A beautifully designed pot matched to the bonsai can be the point of difference that allows a magnificent bonsai shine to its full potential. The relationship between bonsai and pot should be subtle. Both should add to each other without distracting from the overall display.

I have a passion for pots, particularly shohin and accent size. When it comes to pot knowledge I am very much a novice, half of my collection I have no idea who produced them. But for me this is not why I collect them. I’m not interested in collecting antique pots that are so expensive I have to worry about if they get broken. My bonsai pot collecting is really about finding nice pots that resinate with me, particularly from local or developing artists. I am very interested in pots made in Australia but at this stage I have very few of these. I have compiled a list of Australian artists along with some links with more information below.

At the moment I have around 100 pots, about half with trees in them. I don’t always have to spend a fortune to find a pot I really love. Some pots just have a nice feel, almost a presence, regardless of the maker. I have even found a single pot that stands out in a batch of mass produced pots. That said, there is something about good quality handmade pots that sets them apart. Over the years I have picked up some really lovely pots. Sometimes I find myself looking for the right tree for the pot as opposed to looking for the right pot for the tree.

So here are some of my pots and some of the artists I buy from. If anyone can help me identify any of the unknown artists, I would be very grateful for the information.  Please note Matt’s Bonsai Blog intentionally has no paid advertising and I have no commercial relationship with any of the companies, products or people mentioned in this article.

 

Australian made bonsai pots

There are some really talented Australian bonsai ceramic artists making beautiful bonsai pots. Of the Australian artists I know of, they do not seem to have a large supply of pots for sale on their websites as nearly all their work is marked as sold. I’ve been told this is mostly due to the high turnover of pots makes it impractical to keep putting new photos of pots on their website. It seems some artists are selling via Facebook but probably the best way to purchase is at the larger conventions or to look out for bonsai potter’s exhibitions and sales.  I think most of the good work gets purchased pretty quickly at shows.

Here are some of my Australian made bonsai pots.

Matthew Allam – Fortytwo Mice: Matt’s an all-round nice guy who makes beautiful and unique pots. Matt uses a technique called Kurinuki, a process of carving the pot out of a single block of clay. This allows Matt to mix different coloured clays in the block resulting in colours and patterns that are not achievable with other techniques. As far as I’m aware Matt is the only one in Australia using this technique for bonsai pots.

I absolutely love this pot and would have to say it is one of my favourites. The first time I saw it I fell in love with its unique colours. It really reminds me of Sydney sandstone.

Australian Artist – Matt Allam, Fortytwo Mice, purchased 2019 – 15cm x 11.5cm x 3.5cm

Australian Artist – Matt Allam, Fortytwo Mice, purchased 2019 – 15cm x 11.5cm x 3.5cm

 

Denise Edgerton: an old friend I used to do bonsai classes with many years ago with under Megumi Bennett. Denise is making some really beautiful pots. I purchased two of Denise’s pots at the 2019 Earth and Fire Exhibition but could have bought a lot more (and probably will in the future).

Australian Artist – Denise Edgerton, purchased 2019 – 26cm x 17cm x 6cm

Australian Artist – Denise Edgerton, purchased 2019 – 26cm x 17cm x 6cm

Australian Artist – Denise Edgerton, purchased 2019 – 7cm x 7cm x 3.5cm

 

Janet Selby: Janet is a very experienced potter who makes lovely pots. I particularly like the textures and look of the pots that reflect the natural textures of tree bark. This is a beautiful Janet Selby pot that I own. It is unique and will look great paired with the right native bonsai.

Australian Artist – Janet Selby, purchased 2019 – 12cm diameter

 

Tracey Francis – Murrumbung studio ceramics: Tracey is a real talent whose work I love. These are a couple of small accent pots I have bought from Tracey. I love them but they don’t represent the true depth of Tracey’s work. More of Tracey’s work is definitely on my wish list.

Australian Artist – Tracey Francis, purchased 2019 – 7cm x 4cm

Australian Artist – Tracey Francis, purchased 2019 – 9cm x 2.5cm

 

James Tranter – Samarkand Pottery: I have two pots from Samarkand Pottery. I love the textures in these. I’m looking forward to getting some trees in these.

Australian Artist – Samarkand pottery, purchased 2019 – 12cm x 9cm x 4cm

Australian Artist – Samarkand pottery, purchased 2019 – 172cm x 12cm x 2cm

 

I’m still trying to increase my Australian made bonsai pot collection. In doing this I found it hard to find a list of who the Australian artists are. So I have compiled the following list of peoples work I will be looking out for. Here is an alphabetical list (surname) of all the Australian ceramic bonsai pot artists I could find. I have included links to their sites when possible (please let me know if anyone is missing):

For more information about Australian potters please see my report on the Earth and Fire Exhibition 2019. Link.

 

 

Tokoname bonsai pots

Tokoname is a city in Japan with a tradition for pottery making that extends over 900 years. Tokoname is a largest area to producing bonsai pots in Japan. The name Tokoname is synonymous with high quality bonsai pots, however, I’m afraid this is sometimes used to overprice mass produced pots. Tokoname pots should be made from Tokoname clay dug from the region.

Personally I think using Tokoname clay does not alone make the pot high quality. For a Tokoname pot to be high quality and price it must also be created by a master potter from the Tokoname region. For me authenticating this is very difficult to do, particularly when buying over the internet where some people are taking advantage of the Tokoname name. There are so many signature chop stamps (Rakkan/Hanko) that a novice like myself can easily be fooled.  This is one of the reasons my personal approach to bonsai pots is more about the pleasure the pot brings me rather than collecting expensive high end pots that increase in value, something I find stressful which defeats the purpose for me.

I do have some very nice Japanese pots that I know are from great artists because I have bought them from my Japanese bonsai teacher’s nursery, Bonsai Art.

 

Tokoname – Hattori

This is a really beautiful pot that I picked up for only $50 because it was a soft reject. Its only flaw is a small black 1mm spot on the rear side. I love its colour and the fine crackling in its glaze. I plan to plant a small serissa into this pot.

Japanese Tokoname pot artist – Hattori, purchased 2018 as soft reject – 13cm x 10cm x 3cm

Japanese Tokoname pot artist – Hattori, purchased 2018 as soft reject – 13cm x 10cm x 3cm

Tokoname – Hattori

 

Tokoname – Housei Souin

I purchased this pot second hand from my teacher. A very lucky buy, these photos do not do its colouring justice. I really love the weathering on this pot.

Japanese Tokoname pot artist – Housei Souin, age unknown – 25cm x 18.5cm x 8.5cm

Japanese Tokoname pot artist – Housei Souin, age unknown – 25cm x 18.5cm x 8.5cm

Japanese Tokoname pot artist – Housei Souin, age unknown – 25cm x 18.5cm x 8.5cm

 

Japanese accent pot

My favourite pot for accent plant.  I purchased this from my teacher’s nursery in 2006. It’s very beautiful and I have used it several times for accent companion plant when exhibiting. I cannot remember the artist who made it but I will check this with my teacher soon. I’m 90% sure this is Tokoname but I need confirmation. This was by no means a cheap pot when purchased.

 Japanese accent pot, unknown artist, purchased 2006 – 13.5cm x 2cm

Japanese pot unknown artist purchased 2006 – 13.5cm x 2cm

Japanese pot unknown artist purchased 2006 – 13.5cm x 2cm

Japanese pot unknown artist purchased 2006 – 13.5cm x 2cm

 

Tokoname – Reiho

This pot is a really beautiful literati pot. I have only potted it for the first time this winter.

Japanese Tokoname pot, artist – Reiho, purchased 2017 – 30cm x 4.5cm

Japanese Tokoname pot, artist – Reiho, purchased 2017 – 30cm x 4.5cm

Tokoname – Reiho

 

Fionna Burgess – How I make Bonsai Pots – New Zealand. https://howimakebonsaipots.blogspot.com/

Fionna Burgess is a New Zealand artist who makes beautiful bonsai pots. Fiona’s website says she couldn’t buy any bonsai pots for her trees, so she learnt how to make her own. Fionna writes that she is basically self-taught. For me this adds to the appeal of Fiona’s art. I have to say I really have a weak spot for Fionna’s pots. At this stage I have half a dozen of Fionna’s pots with a few more in the post. I’m sure this collection will continue to grow. I really love the crackle that Fionna is able to achieve.

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 20.5cm x 4.5cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 13cm x 5.25cm

 Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 8.5cm x 3.5cm

 Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 10.5cm x 5cm

 Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 10.5cm x 5cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 13cm x 5.25cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 12cm x 4cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2018 – 18.5cm x 4.25cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2019 – 5.5cm x 3cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2019 – 5.5cm x 3cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2019 – 7cm x 3.5cm

Artist – Fionna Burgess, New Zealand, purchased 2019 – 7cm x 3.5cm

 

Ashley Keller – Ashley Keller Art – Canada – https://ashleykellerpottery.com/

Ashley Keller is a Canadian clay artist specializing in handmade ceramic pottery containers for bonsai trees, accent plants and orchids. Every piece is a completely original, unique work of art. I have only purchased one pot from Ashley (so far). Ashley very kindly wrote me a note saying because I was the first person in our state (NSW Australia) to purchase from her she had included a tiny accent pot as a gift. The Ashley Keller pots I have are beautiful quality, as is her branding and packaging. I really lovely Ashley’s accent and orchid pots. I don’t grow orchids but Ashley’s orchid pots tempt me.

Artist – Ashley Keller, Canada, purchased 2018 – 10cm x 3.5cm

Artist – Ashley Keller, Canada, purchased 2018 – 10cm x 3.5cm

Artist – Ashley Keller, Canada, purchased 2018 – 10cm x 3.5cm

Artist – Ashley Keller, Canada, purchased 2018 – 5.5cm x 3cm

Artist – Ashley Keller, Canada, purchased 2018 – 5.5cm x 3cm

Pots from unknown artists

I also have many pots that I have no idea where they were made. Some handmade pots I have picked up second hand, others are mass produced but one pot has stood out to me.  Here are a few from my collection.

 

Japanese pot – Unknown artist

I’ve had this pot for ten years and I can’t remember the details about it other than it was a reasonably good quality pot purchased from my teacher’s nursery. I’m sure there is more to this pot that I will attempt to clarify.

Japanese pot, unknown artist, purchased 2009 – 34cm x 6cm

Unknown Artist

Japanese pot, unknown artist, purchased 2009 – 34cm x 6cm Image taken 2019 

 

Artist and origin unknown

This is a really nice little pot that has a really nice feel about it. I think its Japanese but I’m not 100% sure.

Japanese pot, artist unknown – 15cm x 3cm

Japanese pot unknown artist – 15cm x 3cm

 

Japanese pot – Unknown artist

A good example of a pot I picked up cheaply at a club sale. Had a made in Japan sticker but no stamp or signature so probably a cheap pot. Even though it’s not an expensive pot I really love it. Nice colouring and size.

Japanese pot unknown artist – 16cm x 10cm x 5cm

 

Artist and origin unknown

This is an interesting pot that I picked up at a used pot club sale. I have no clue on the origin of this one but it seems to be a handmade as it is signed. It’s got a raw earthy feel to it. It sat unused in my collection for about ten years until last year when I potted this small literati Shimpaku Juniper into it. They seem a perfect match. Tree height 43cm.

Artist and origin unknown – 20cm x 3cm

Artist signature – is it at PK? I could only hope (wishful thinking)

 

Artist and origin unknown

Another pot I picked up at a used club sale about ten years ago. Again I have no clue on this one but it seems to be a handmade pot. It’s got the feel of something more than a mass produced pot but it has no signature. Nice shape and colour. One I would like to know more about. Tree height 9cm.

Artist and origin unknown – 10cm x 4cm

 

Some of my cheap mass produced pots that I love

I have no idea about this one. It’s a beautiful pot that I had a ficus in for ten years before moving it to a Fionna Burgess pot. No signature – 15cm x 11cm x 6cm

 

A mass produced drum pot – 13cm x 3cm

A mass produced pot that I love – 14cm x 11cm x 5cm

Not practical but super cute! – 5cm x 1.5cm

 

Weathering

Weathering is an interesting part of a pots life that can improve a pot. There is something about a well weathered, but looked after, pot that can add to its charm and feel. It’s almost as if the pot continues to age like a good wine. I’m always mindful of this when cleaning aged pots. I don’t want to scrub the pot so much that the subtle influence of the weathering process is lost. You will see that many of my pots have some green growth on them. This generally stays until its build up considerable or they are being shown. When showing my bonsai, I will wash the pot, maybe a little bit of a clean with a soft toothbrush. Then I will lightly rub the pot down with linseed oil.

 

So that’s just some of my collection. None of these pots are worth thousands of dollars but I love them all for different reasons. I will add to this article over time, as I find more information about these pots and with some of the more interesting pots I pick up along my collecting journey.

Please let me know if you have any interesting information about any of these pots, I would love to know.

Cheers

Matt

 

Pot Gallery

 

Resources and links

Bonsai Potters in Australia – https://www.ausbonsai.com.au/wiki/index.php?title=Bonsai_Potters_in_Australia

 Identifying Australian Pottery 1960’s to date –   https://www.flickr.com/groups/austpots/

Australian Pottery at Bemboka –  http://www.australianpotteryatbemboka.com.au/

What does Fired to Cone 10 Mean? – Bonsai Ceramics

Japanese Bonsai Pots – https://japanesebonsaipots.net/  (Great information on Japanese pots)

Bonsai Pot signatures –   http://bonsaipotplaza.com/

Tokoname Bonsai Pot Makers – http://www.tokoname.or.jp/bonsai/maker-e.htm

Japanese Bonsai Pot Chop and Signature Resource – https://japanesebonsaipots.net/chop-and-signature-resource/

Tokoname Bonsai Pots – http://tokonamebonsaipots.com/about_the_clay.html

Tokoname Bonsai Pots – Why Are They So Revered: https://www.bonsaidojo.net/tokoname-bonsai-pots/

Wikipedia Tokoname ware:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokoname_ware

Bonsai Pots – Aesthetic considerations for Bonsai pots https://www.bonsaiempire.com/blog/bonsai-pot

Bonsai pots – Choosing a Bonsai pot to suit your tree: https://www.bonsaiempire.com/basics/bonsai-care/advanced/choosing-pots

Guide to Pots: http://www.bonsaiisland.net/pots-2/

Bonsai Potters from Europe –  https://www.bonsaiempire.com/locations/potters/bonsai-potters-europe

Bonsai Potters from America – https://www.bonsaiempire.com/locations/potters/bonsai-potters-america

 

Disclaimer: The content contained within Matt’s Bonsai Blog has been provided in good faith and should be considered a general source of information only. This is not a commercial website, Matt’s Bonsai Blog has no paid advertising and there is no commercial relationship with any of the companies, products or people mentioned. Positive recommendations for businesses and/or products are based on personal opinion and a genuine belief in the products or services offered by those mentioned. The information provided does not express the opinion of others or any manufacturers mentioned. All due care is taken when compiling this information, however, Matt’s Bonsai Blog does not warrant that this information is accurate, free from omissions or up-to-date including any recent changes. The content does not take into consideration your personal circumstancesYou should make your own independent assessment of the information provided and you should not rely solely on this information when making decisions.