All posts by KaratsuPots

Busy busy

The first abalone dish dried successfully, so today I started making more. I also started a small run of shiboridashi teapots. These are always good sellers, because they are easy to use and clean, with no hard to reach holes or metal sieves to collect grime. 



I always carve the grooves as early as possible, because as the clay gets harder, it becomes difficult to carve without tear out. Then I put the lids on, so that they dry evenly without warping, and after trimming they will go into the kiln to be fired together, to avoid any warping. 

Plaster Caster

This abalone shell sat under a bush next to the pool at my grandparents house for as long as I can remember. My grandfather used to take abalone off the California coast, they were so plentiful you could pry them off the boulders at low tide. This was back decades ago before they were scarce. 
After my grandparents passed, I took this shell as a reminder of family, fun times, and good food. 


As it turns out, it was perfect for making a plaster mold for abalone dishes. This is just the first, many more to come.

Soft Porcelain Slabs

I started playing with soft slabs this week (no not that, you with the dirty mind) and made some paddled forms for sweets and food. They will go into the fall kiln once they are glazed. Here is a finished piece:


They are really simple to make, just cut a slab like a piece of cloth for a sewing project, paddle it to compress and add texture, and fold up/ join the edges. Like this:


Because they are compressed by paddling, and maybe because of the way they are assembled, there are no problems with warping when they dry, which is a very big plus. 
Cheers,
Karatsupots

Loading has begun

Loading of the first chamber began this morning. 
The stack starts at the bottom from back to front. This part of the firing process is very important because it determines where the fire and heat will go during the firing. A bad stack means you will have poor circulation and you’ve doomed the firing even before you’ve lit the fire. 

The bottom of the stack is pretty much done, and the ware from 9 ware boards got stacked in there, which is about 80 pots give or take a few. 

Let them eat cake

Here is my latest pot porn for you: freshly stamp milled, slaked, and filter pressed cakes of Izumiyama porcelain. 150kg. 


Not for the faint of heart, Izumiyama is hard to work with. It is non plastic and likes to crack during drying, impossible for slab work, and deforms easily. And it costs more than twice as much as Amakusa porcelain from Kumamoto. Most porcelain artists in Arita and Imari switched to using Amakusa porcelain long ago because it’s much easier to work with, doesn’t crack, and fires whiter. 


BUT! The beauty of Izumiyama in the wood kiln is absolutely undeniable. It fires to a soft ivory white and blushes in very subtle shades of peach. The surface is deep and translucent and vitrifies as low as around 1230C. 

Tomorrow morning first thing, Peter the Pugger will be getting a major workout!


Madara (mottled) Karatsu teabowl, late 1500’s.

When I decided to learn and make Karatsu ware, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew it was several hundred years old, and the first glazed ware in Japan, but I mostly just saw some beautiful pots and thought I could reproduce. Boy, was I wrong.

I’ve been working at it for more than 10 years now, and the clay, glazes, and firings are still mostly a mystery. Trying to capture the look of the traditional ware is a continual challenge, forcing me to forget or ignore modern technology in favor of archaic, and examine 400+ year old shards, searching for clues about what the old potters and craftsmen used, and how they approached their art, which they didn’t necessarily consider to be art.


The closest I’ve come yet to a surface like the pot at the beginning of this post.

One thing I’ve learned in this time making pots is that despite the primitive technology, ancient potters had knowledge about their materials and handling of those materials that far exceeds the knowledge of most modern potters. This is what makes tradition such an important repository for us. It is the best of what has come before, proven over time and distilled for us to use. We just need to pay attention.


Chosen Karatsu teabowl, late 1500’s


Chosen Karatsu guinomi by author

Cheers,

Karatsupots

Mike @ Karatsupots
Making attractive, cool, useful stuff out of dirt since 2006.