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What's a Yunomi?

Updated: Mar 5

Pass the salt

Looking back and looking forward


MAR 5, 2024

Salt glazed yunomi, chrome/cobalt glaze - mid-1980s

By chance, the Facebook group New Zealand Studio Pottery is having a showcase on salt glaze.

By coincidence, we’ve been spending a lot of time immersed in salt water lately.

Last night my darling wife asked me to write something learned about yunomi.

How do you combine all these in one post?

To start at the top, most people associate salt glaze with some sort of orange peel effect. It can be very beautiful, but in some ways, it’s become a bit of a macho trendy thing, where the ruggedness of the surface becomes more important than the beauty of the pot itself.

I did a lot of salt glazing in the 1980s and found that, although I loved the salt texture, there was just as much satisfaction in the way that the salt modified otherwise less-inspiring glazes, hence the yunomi at the top of this post. You can see the slight speckle of the salt glaze on the foot of that pot.

The pot was in an exhibition called Mainland Mud at Albany Village Pottery (with Royce McGlashen, Steve Fullmer and Christine Boswijk) sometime in the 1980s. It still has the sticker on the bottom with the price - $12.

It was bought by Howard Williams, long-time editor of NZ Potter magazine.

During a visit with Howard a couple of years ago, he sadly produced it.

Oh oh

Sadly, the pot had fallen on hard times - or at least a hard floor.

I took it home with me to Nelson, not knowing that it would serve as inspiration for another generation of yunomi. I hadn’t made pot for 30 years, little was I to know that within months I’d start again.

The 2024 version - 1200C in an electric kiln.

So what is it about the yunomi?

Here’s some text from a very interesting website, the Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall.

“The yunomi is a style of Japanese teacup for daily tea drinking. It has a long tradition, evolving into a variety of styles and shapes that are usually cylindrical with a turned foot. Without a handle, yunomi are ideal for cradling in your hands to savour the warmth and aroma of your drink.

“The yunomi has become an important form for potters outside Japan - particularly those in the West, who use its deceptive simplicity to explore their skills and creativity. In the West, the yunomi is seen as a playful drinking vessel for anything from water to wine. Yet the yunomi still embodies its original noble function as a piece of pottery that is used, and loved, every day.”

(Advertising alert) I should point out that we have loads of them on our online shop - accessed from the website.

As for the third reference to salt, our regular immersion, we’ve been doing a lot of swimming lately. It’s starting to take its toll of all the other useful things we could be doing (like making pots), so we’ll be glad when the season ends, which for us is soon.

Tomorrow we fly to Auckland to see friends and family and swim the 3.2km stretch across Auckland Harbour from the suburb of Bayswater to the Viaduct Basin.

In just over two weeks we’re taking a group of 30 or so swimmers on a four-day adventure in the Queen Charlotte Sound, when we’ll swim close to 40km.  As camp father and mother, Cathie and I won’t do every stage, but we’ll do enough to feel good.

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