All posts by KaratsuPots

I have this recurring nightmare…

before every firing of the wood kiln. Actually it is four separate recurring nightmares. In the first, I am loading pots onto normal wood shelves in a fairly standard living room, for some reason not worrying that the lot of it will burn up with the entire house. BUT, for some reason, I always remove all of the lamps and light fixtures, because they and they alone can’t handle the  high temps.

In the second, we are firing the kiln as usual, and we are into the third day, just hours before finishing and I realize that I FORGOT TO LOAD THE KILN… This one is by far the worst of the dreams. The feeling of sudden panic is positively sublime. Very happy to wake up (and realize it was just a dream) after this one…

The next is not quite as bad as the previous, but still pretty unsettling.  It starts out well enough: I have just unloaded a very successful firing and am so happy with it that I decide to fire again. Because it is a dream, I miraculously have enough glazed ware to load the kiln up again in about 2 days (Normally takes me 10). I get everything loaded, and start the fire, but about a day into the firing I realize I ONLY HAVE ONE DAY WORTH OF FIREWOOD! This one also wakes me up with that icky panicky feeling.

The third is not a nightmare per se, but a recurring dream about a kiln that doesn’t exist. It is a large single chamber, with white interior, and there are shelves on the walls and in the center of the large chamber on a sort of island. The floor, walls, and island are all white and rough with kiln wash. There is no chimney, and the kiln is connected to the fire box via an elevated brick tunnel, which goes out the rear of the chamber about 2 meters, turns 90 degrees right, stretches about 8 meters, then takes another 90 degree right turn, where extends forward and turns into the firebox. From the firebox to the kiln forms a large U shape. Even more strange, the firebox is open to the sky and steps up to the flue channel, which somehow ‘sucks’ in the heat of the fire. The firebox is probably 4 meters long/deep, and the wood used is huge: entire tree trunks shoved in and stacked in a criss cross pattern, burning.  Any one have a kiln that looks like this?

Coming up to this fall firing in Oct., I feel as though everything is under control, and no particularly strong feelings of anxiety, yet the dreams continue, including 2 nights in a row now, a dream of some of my teeth falling out. Seems quite normal in the dream at least…

Trying Out Something New

I decided to try out a new form to put in the next firing. A clam shaped dish that is a sort of Karatsu standard. They are nothing special, and pretty much everyone makes them, so there seem to be MANY ways to get from point A to point B.

Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes 古唐津 蛤向付
Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes
古唐津 蛤向付

The first thing I always do when trying out something new, is look through my collection of old Karatsu ware pictures and books, to see if I can find an example, with measurements, of what I want to make. Well, this time around it seems that although everyone seems to be making them now, there are very few examples of this form recorded in Karatsu ware related books. Or at least the ones I have in my studio.

I managed to find the same 5 piece set of old Karatsu Hamaguri dishes (clam shaped dishes) in 3  different publications (above). And, none of them show the bottom of the dish, or a closeup of the folded lip that makes the clam shape. I made a few, tried cutting the lip and overlapping, pulling the lip up and folding over, and  a few more things, but all I ended up with were forms that just didn’t click.

Whenever I get stumped, I give my mentor a call. He usually has some advice that gets me out of my hole and gets me back on track. In this case, I asked him if there was some sort of not so obvious ‘trick’ involved in getting the shape right for this particular form. As usual, Tsuruta sensei gave me some very good advice, and even sent me some close up photographs, which helped a lot.  So, here’s what I came up with:

Now, I tried doing the bending and folding at various stages of drying and I’m here to tell you that it is best done when they are still sticky wet. I suppose it depends on your clay, but for the stuff we have around here, bending and folding is like asking for fate to show up in your studio with a big baseball bat.

That said, although it folded better when wet, it had a nasty habit of  unzipping vertically down the pot 10 minutes later. That’s where the extra blob of clay came in handy. It seems that not only is it decorative, but it also keeps the pot together until it stiffens up a bit. Who knew?!

Honestly, these are my favorite discoveries: when I find a decorative element that is actually not  a decorative element at all, but rather an important part of the process cleverly disguised as decoration.


Finishing Up The Rear Chamber

Today  the second chamber was finally finished.  I’m not going to brick it in yet, since I have probably forgotten something important, and I want quick access if necessary, until the fire is actually lit. Unbricking an rebricking a door would be on my list of less than desirable ways to spend a day.

While the farther stack was packed with more vanilla type blended clay bodies, this front stack is mostly bodies composed entirely of native clay and stone. Some of it got white slip, but it all got the same clear glaze, so I don’t have to guess too much about temp in the rear chamber when I fire.

Below are some pics of brush deco, slip, and loading. I am happier with a lot of the brush work this time around, but some things still just give me fits, like trying to draw long fluid shrimp whiskers on a round pot. Gah! Need more practice…

Kickwheel Conversion and Other Progress

wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
wheel head assembly oiled and ready.
Large keyaki wood wheel head made to fit over steel wheel head.
Large keyaki wood wheel head made to fit over steel wheel head.

Remember this? This large banding wheel came into the studio last year, and I decided to try making a kickwheel out of it. I asked friend to weld some arms onto the neck that would act as a frame for a flywheel. This is what came back into the studio yesterday, and I must say I am very excited. After all, welding didn’t work out, but my friend was able to fashion a sleeve to fit around the neck and bolted arms to the sleeve. 2 set screws hold the sleeve in place. This arrangement can actually be disassembled for easy transport!



IMG01865All I have left to do is to bolt a wooden flywheel to the steel frame, and I’ll be turning and paddling pots to my little heart’s content.  The large wheel head and higher momentum of this wheel will allow me to make larger work with greater ease than my low momentum Karatsu style kickwheel.

Here are a few of the other things that have been happening this last two days:

Kutsu gata food dishes. White Karatsu clay + feldspar, sand.
Kutsu gata food dishes. White Karatsu clay + feldspar, sand.
Oval food dish, Karatsu white clay + feldspar, sand.
Oval food dish, Karatsu white clay + feldspar, sand.
Ido style bowl, and it's little brother. Local Taku clay + Jiyugaoka clay, sand, feldspar grit.
Ido style bowl, and it’s little brother. Local Taku clay + Jiyugaoka clay, sand, feldspar grit.
Foot view of the same
Foot view of the same

Being Productive

Today was an unusually productive studio day for me. Usually I get sidetracked with something, but today I was in the zone baby!

Started out at 5 am, finishing up brush decoration on a few pots before breaking out the glaze and getting dirty. Rarely are all the pots in the queue getting the same glaze, but today they were, so one bucket instead of 5 to wade around, a simple setup and a simple cleanup.  From 6 to 9am I got the glaze prepped and glazing station set up, about 170 pots glazed, and everything cleaned up again. That freed me up to spend the rest of the day loading the kiln.

From 9 to 10am I had breakfast/lunch, then got busy breaking out the kiln loading kit and cat proofing the kiln doorways. Nothing worse than a cat walking around on all of your freshly loaded green glazed pots.  From about 12 to 5 pm I loaded 150 pots, finishing one of the two stacks that fit in the rear chamber.

Now that the pots are loaded I have about 15 ware boards freed up for making more pots, then those will get decorated and glazed, and the second stack loaded into the rear chamber. Cat doors in place, the chamber should be safe until I have the next batch of pots ready to load.

Going out this evening with family and friends to a restaurant the next town over. Beer is going to taste good tonight!


TV Crew Visit Studio

Today I had a very nice visit from a television station who did a very nice job of filming the studio, as well as conducting an interview with me for a show segment coming up in August. They filmed the studio and kiln, me making a coil and paddle jar, me glazing a bisqued piece of  similar form, and also finished pieces which had the same glaze as the demo forms.

All in all, a very thorough job on their part, although I have no idea how they will edit everything down to fit in a 5 minute segment.

I had taken photos of the crew to put up on the blog, but apparently the station prefers not to have behind the scenes images of its projects made public, so I am leaving them out for now.

I will, however, include a few images similar to what may show up on the air in a few weeks. Also, once the show airs and the segment is viewable on the internet, I will post a link to it for all this blog’s viewers.