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Louise Cort
Author Profile
Louise Allison Cort

Louise Cort is Curator Emerita for Ceramics at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution. Her interests include historical and contemporary ceramics in Japan, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, Japanese baskets and textiles, and the Japanese art of tea (chanoyu). In 2012 she received the thirty-third Koyama Fujio Memorial Prize for her research on historical and contemporary Japanese ceramics, and the Smithsonian Distinguished Scholar Award. Cort can be reached at


Vase, named Ouchi Tsutsu. Chinese, Southern Song period (1127-1279) Zheijiang Province, Loquat kilns. Stoneware with celadon glaze. Photo courtesy of Nezu Institute of Fine Arts, Tokyo.
In this year when everyone seems to be talking about the millennium, it does seem meaningful to speak about a millennium-long span, between roughly the years 1000 and 2000 of our era, when woodfiring as an industry for producing wonderful pots attained its greatest development.
The lacquered outer box, the tea caddy box, the shifuku outer box, and the paper covers for tea caddy and shifuku boxes.
There are few American museums that do not have at least one, and some have dozens: the little, two- or three ­inch high, brown-glazed Japanese tea jars with ivory lids, huddled together on the shelf of a seldom opened storage case.
Incense burner with design of mountain retreat by Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) Japan, Kyoto, Edo period. Stoneware with cobalt pigment under transparent glaze; gold lacquer repairs. H. 6.1 x 8.0 cm diam. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution.
By adding words to his image, Kenzan transformed the reference of this convention­al decoration, embedding it in history and deepening its resonance.
Color - Vol. 35 No. 1, Winter 2006
Color in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Chinese imperial porcelain is a result of com­plex interactions among the requirements of ritual, the aspirations of taste, and the possibilities of technology.
Small plate, Northeastern Iran, Samanid period, 10th century, Slip-painted earthenware.
Most museums, especially older ones with large cumulative collections, ex­hibit only a fraction of their holdings at any one time. Although this fact is sometimes cited as criticism of a policy of "secrecy," in reality it is a boon to the potter since pots are more readily removed from storage cupboards than from exhibition cases.
Yagi Kazuo carrying unfired sculpture to the communal kiln.
The leading figures in this movement were a group of young Kyoto potters who looked not back - to historical models or an ideal of rustic simplicity - but outward across national traditions and boundaries.
Bottle. Satsuma ware. Edo period, 18th century. Stoneware with cobalt under colorless glaze. H. 8 in. Courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 92.26.
In short, the late nineteenth century was a time when categories of Japanese ceramics were not fixed. Japanese potters were redefining their positions. American and European pa­trons were groping toward defi­nitions of quality and trying to sort out the differences among ethnographic specimens, pieces aimed at the foreign mar­ket, and objets d'art.
Vase, Tz'u Chou ware, 13th century China.
I asked him about how he had been taught to see, and he responded with a parable: "Look at things with the heart" (kokoro de mono we miru).
The rise of handcraft in our post-industrial society is a hopeful phenomenon. In the midst of high technology, it is an affirmation of the human touch.
David Shaner, Untitled, 1984, woodfired stoneware, 12 x 15 in.
"What is it about woodfired pots that speaks so eloquently and to so few of us?"
A workshop making teapots in Shigaraki, 1872.
In the summer of 1973, I was taking a walk with two young women who were apprentices at workshops in the pottery-filled town of Shigaraki, Japan, when we came across a small shed by the side of the road...
Illustrations from the 1982 report.
If we Iisten to voices of both the past and the present as they narrate Shigaraki's history, we often hear talk about clay–talk from the people who have dug, shaped, fired, used, or admired it.
The possibility and potential of apprenticeship as a mode of training was of key interest to Gerry Williams, founding editor of Studio Potter.