I got several boxes (kiribako) in yesterday, so it was the perfect opportunity to explain how the boxes are prepared for their pots.
First of all, the pots are measured and I call the box maker, who then makes the boxes and sends them to me, looking like this after the plastic covers are removed.
It’s easiest to do them as a group, so I set them all up and break out my trusty brush, box signing ink, stamps, and stamp ink, and get to work.
Notice I’m too lazy to make my own ink by rubbing the inkstone in the well and adding water. I found this wonderful bottle of ink made for writing on wood boxes and it works better than home made. Something is added that makes it less fluid but still easy to write with, and it doesn’t have a tendency to bleed into the wood grain like straight water made ink does.
Here are all the boxes after being labeled with the type of pot contained, my name, and stamped. The stamp is the Chinese character ‘Ma’ or ‘Man’, which is the first syllable of my (Mike, or ma-i-ku) in Japanese. The character is normally written as 万 or 萬, but I looked up the ancient version and it is what you see on the boxes. If it looks like a bug to you that’s because it is, it’s a scorpion. Funny, the character ‘Man’ means ten thousand, I hope the poor bastard that first wrote that kanji didn’t encounter ten thousand scorpions for inspiration.
I like having the big red stamp on the boxes, as it draws the eye away from the severe case of PPCSD (Piss Poor Calligraphy Skill Disorder) of which I am sorely afflicted. I just repeat my mantra, “I’m a potter not a calligrapher” when I do a particularly bad run of boxes.
After all the signing is done and the brush is clean, I start preparing the paper lid cover, stamped cloth, and cord. Usually I’ve forgotten about the cloth and have cleaned and put away the stamps, so have to get the stamps and ink out again and stamp the cloth pieces. Here are the boxes with the paper, cords, and cloths all done. The whole process takes about 30 – 40 minutes per box, sometimes more if my mantra doesn’t work and I end up deciding to sand off the writing and try again.
And with their respective pots….