Keiseki Hirotsu

Cliff Johnson

Cliff Johnson is one of the most passionate suiseki artists I have had the pleasure of knowing. For over 30 years he has spent almost every weekend of the collecting season either in Northern California, or in the deserts of the southwest.


It's in the deserts that Cliff, with his friend Bob Watson, made suiseki history. They were the first to discover the suiseki possibilities of desert material. His desert stones have been exported throughout the world.

Cliff has definite ideas about what suiseki are and aren't. He dislikes being told what he should call suiseki if they are cut or not cut. His iconoclastic posture has won him the reputation of being a totally committed suiseki artist who has definite ideas about his beloved art.

Cliff's suiseki style may be best captured by the photograph I made of him with his new stone cutter. He doesn't hesitate to cut stones to create properly shaped and balanced suiseki, and, he doesn't hesitate to cut very large stones.

Cliff copied a drag saw photo he saw in an Alaskan mining magazine of the 1970s. He was able to create the machinery from the photo. He's shown cutting one of my stones in the photo above. Although Cliff has many small suiseki, he prefers large and very large stones. Many of his magnificent collection include suiseki as large as 36" (91cm) wide or wider! His style is bold, unique and constantly pushing the limits of the art by both the wide variety of material he's willing to collect and the innovative manner of cutting and displaying his work. Cliff's daiza are works of art unto themselves and he's kept very busy creating daiza for others.