KJ loves hut stones so I have tried to collect a few of them for her.  Today’s post speaks to three of them and I’m curious what you think of these three suiseki stones, or are they?

Kuzuya-ishi, or thatched hut stones, are relatively rare as natural stones.  Many of these stones are manufactured for that very reason so as a buyer one has to be quite careful in determining if it is natural or man-made.  This article doesn’t care to dive into the subject of man-made versus natural stones, this is addressed much better in other blogs, but I do want to point out that paying top dollar for a hut stone to determine that it has been manufactured can be both saddening and maddening.

Many of the very best hut stones only slightly resemble a thatched hut so one of the hints in determining if yours has been manufactured is “does it look to real?”

Hut Stone #1 - 12cm x 10cm x 6cm (w,h,d)

Hut Stone #1 - 12cm x 10cm x 6cm (w,h,d)

This hut stone was purchased from a reputable dealer in Japan and he has indicated as a condition of purchase that this stone has not been modified.  What do you think?  Upon receiving it and carefully studying it, we think there is a 50/50 chance it has not been.  However, there are some questionable things such as the roof line of the hut which looks like it may have been modified but it is very difficult to tell without using magnifying optics of which I currently do not have in my possession.  The shape of the stone is good, but is it too perfect?

The jury is out in my opinion but we do love this stone and we have not grown tired of viewing it and imagining it in a field next to a grove of maple trees.

Hut Stone 2 - 7cm x 5cm x 2cm (w,d,h)

Hut Stone #2 - 7cm x 5cm x 2cm (w,d,h)

Hut stone #2 was purchased in the US and it was from a Japanese collection.  It is a small stone but quite lovely in shape and color.  This stone we believe has a 99% chance of being natural.  There are very few marks on the stone, the base is very small (not typical of manufactured hut stones), and the shape isn’t too perfect.

This stone needs to be handled to create a patina so the stone either was not handled much or it is a newly found stone.  Unfortunately, since we have not been able to speak to the original collector it is difficult to tell.

Hut Stone #3 - 10.5cm x 6cm x 6cm (w,h,d)

Hut Stone #3 - 10.5cm x 6cm x 6cm (w,h,d)

Hut Stone #3 was purchased in the US but it came from Kunio Kobayashi’s shop.  KJ likes this stone and its color which is good but this is clearly a manufactured stone.  Notice the base it is clearly a cut stone and to create the top of the hut someone has ground away the stone to form this much too uniform roof line.

Does this devalue the stone well yes and no.  From a collector’s point of view and from my view of the monetary value of the stone – yes it absolutely does.  However, if my wife enjoys looking at this stone does it have value – yes it does.  However, I would never represent this stone as suiseki rather it is a viewing stone.  Some will vehemently disagree that it is even a viewing stone since it clearly is manufactured.  However, my view point (mine alone) is that if you cut a stone then it is manufactured.  We can argue that a cut stone can refine the suiseki whereas multiple modifications turns it into a manufactured stone.  I leave it up to you where you align yourself in that argument.

I believe a collector should collect what they like and frankly it shouldn’t matter what others think.  If you plan on exhibiting a stone though then there has to be a collective agreement about what kind of modifications can be made before a stone is allowed to be shown.  Our club the San Francisco Suiseki Kai allows a bottom cut but virtually nothing else.  Is this a good rule?  I don’t care if it is good because it is a club rule and the majority (or teacher) should make this call.

Hut stones have a special place in our heart, so our search continues to find other beautiful Kuzuya-ishi.  Write us and let us know what you think.