Making Tokkuri

For drinking sake, I’ve always preferred the Katakuchi form (just a bowl with a spout off of one side). Easier to fill from a large sake bottle, and just as easy to serve from as a tokkuri. Where tokkuri excel is that their shape allows for them to be easily submerged in hot water in order to heat sake. Thing is, these days the best sake is made to be served chilled, or room temp. No need for heating as it will in fact ruin the nuances of the sake.

That said, I still have to make them now and then, because not everyone shares my affinity for katakuchi, and because tokkuri are often used as flower vases rather than drinking vessels. I sat down the last couple of days and decided to try to make some Fujinokawachi style pinch and coil tokkuri. Fujinokawachi is one of the more famous kiln ruins from the Old Karatsu tradition. It’s famous in particular for it’s coil and pinch/paddled ware such as fresh water jars and tokkuri forms with madara (rice straw ash mottled white) glazes, and Chosen Karatsu (rice straw ash white cascading down over brown iron ash glaze).

Coil and pinch/paddle is called板起し ‘ita-okoshi’ (to build with coils from a flat base) and 叩き’tataki’ (paddling) in Japanese. It is shown in this sequence of photos from a previous post:

These tokkuri are built in the same way, except that they are not paddled since they are a bit small to get a hand into. Building this way is not as fast as throwing on the wheel, but I like the softness of the forms and the fact that I can get a thinner, lighter pot. I’ll build the pot up to the shoulder, then start tapering and continue building up. Then I’ll lightly water the neck section and throw once to extend it and finish the lip. Last, I go back and finish the neck profile. If you do the spout/lip section last, the neck will collapse. It takes me about 30 minutes to finish one tokkuri.

Here are the finished forms. I had fun playing with the proportions, still always amazed at on small change will do to the overall look of the form.

I put a matchbox in for scale to give an idea of size. Except for the tallest, they all weighed in at 350 – 400 grams, still wet. The tall one was just over 450 grams wet. I’d say the average height is about 20cm. In case you didn’t notice, or wanted a closer look, here’s a close up picture of my cute little winged beast, which was given to me by it’s creator Eva Funderburgh, who makes all manner of wonderful beasts. You can see more of her stuff here.

Last, here are a couple of pics of the one that didn’t make it. Stupid mistake. I finished the whole thing up, then got a little over zealous trimming it off of the wheelhead and under cut it too much, which made one side of the very bottom so thin that it collapsed. I was half finished smashing it, and decided instead to slice it down the side to see how the inside looked. I’d never done that before with tokkuri. Ends up the rim was a bit too thin, but the rest of the neck and body were a fairly uniform 2.5 – 3mm thick.