navbar topEmail UsSite MapPhoto Tours

eStore English Homepage

Tim Rowan
American Potter



spacerReturn to Who's Who A to Z Menu

Written by Robert
Yellin, these serial stories about Sake
Drinking Vessels
first appeared
in Honoho Geijutsu
between 1997 & 2001
(# 49 thru # 68).

In 2002,
the series was
picked up by, our
 Japanese language
sister site.

Jump to Sake Shapes Guide
Sake Vessels
Shapes Guide

A photo tour of
sake cups/flasks

Yellin's gallery
sells pieces from
the kilns of Japan's
finest potters


Sake Vessels Story Menu
Back Forward TopTop Menu - Sake VesselsNext Story -- Interview with Robert YellinPrior Month

American Potter Tim Rowan
Sake Vessels Series, Story by Robert Yellin
First Published June 2003

Bizen box by Tim Rowan - sake cup inside box
 Yakishime box with sake cup inside

They come and they go. I've seen hundreds of them so far just in my provincial town. I'm referring to us "gaijin (foreigners)" -- oh, sorry not you, oh loyal Japanese reader. Even though more and more foreigners are living here now, there are always just as many that come and go. And that includes folks with all kinds of professions, including ceramic artists.

Many foreign potters look at the Japanese pottery world with the utmost respect. The few that are lucky enough to get an apprenticeship with an established Japanese ceramic artist gain an insight into a world few ever see. On top of that, the apprentice has a great responsibility to represent their teacher in a positive way when establishing their own kilns upon return to their native lands.

Yakishime box by Tim Rowan
Yakishime box by Tim Rowan
 Yakishime means high-fired unglazed stoneware

One such potter is Tim Rowan. Looking at this bold yakishime box (see above photo), one might think it's from Bizen. In a way it is and in a way it isn't. The clay, according to Tim is "a combination of standard commercial clays mixed with a raw clay from central Jersey." Yet the temperament of the box has a primordial feel, an ageless quality that is captivating, like Ko-Bizen (old Bizen).

Indeed Tim did study in Bizen with
Kakurezaki Ryuichi between 1992 and 1994 before returning to New York to establish his wood-burning kiln. Like water seeping into clay, something of Bizen's yakishime aesthetic must have crept into Tim's soul. His work is of mostly simple forms yet are deep with an energy that is like the famous Ko-Bizen vase Zangetsu (see below photo). 

Ko-Bizen vase named ZANGETSU
The famous Ko-Bizen vase named "Zangetsu"
photo courtesy of Nihon Toji Taikei
 Volume 10 - Bizen, Heibonsha, 1989

Tim's box even has very cool botomochi (botomochi are the roundels on works where a "cracker" was placed to block the flame and ash, thus creating a "rice cake" design) just like Zangetsu, possibly in reverence to the ancient masterpiece. And Tim very much respects traditions as he wrote on his web site (

    "Tradition is the natural growth of culture through time. It is not static but rather in continuous evolution. I continually look to the past with respect in my work in order to appreciate how we have developed as a society. I directly and indirectly reference work of the past that has something valuable to tell me." 

Closeup of box by Tim Rowan

Above and Below
Yakishime box by Tim Rowan

Closeup of box by Tim Rowan

Obviously Tim and Zangetsu had some serious discussions. Since the box is so strong, so earthy, so rooted in the here-and-now, I was at a loss as to what to put in the box. Nothing? My imagination? Some sake sakana? (sakana in this case means food to go with sake). No, those wouldn't work. It needed something ethereal.

I then thought of Suzuki Hideaki's colorful and detailed sakazuki. What a surprise it would be to find it sitting in Tim's clay grotto. I tried it once, twice and more, and each time I took the lid off the box I felt as if I was looking at an Egyptian amulet and not a porcelain cup; it is a magical combination that delights my senses each time. I have never tired of taking the lid off Tim's box -- each time I do so with childlike wonder discovering the beauty within.

Box by Tim Rowan; sakazuki by Suzuki Hideaki

Above and Below
Tim's box with Suzuki's sakazuki inside

Box by Tim Rowan; sakazuki by Suzuki Hideaki

Everyone who sees this box wants to take the lid off. They are all wonderfully surprised at the weight of the lid and also to discover the glow radiating from within Tim's box.

It seems to me that the mind is also like a box, holding ideas and memories in the maze-like place the mind can be. May we all find something beautiful there, just like I discovered the "clay jewel" in Tim's powerful clay box.

  • Click here to return to top menu for Sake Vessel stories



Copyright - Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery

Our Address and Contact Numbers

pot logo tiny

Home | e-Store | Who's Who | What's What | Where | Guidebook | Newsletter | About Us

Site design and maintenance by Onmark Productions