All posts by KaratsuPots

Box Prep

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….

Snow Day

When we awoke to white this morning I thought it would be gone by midday. Well was I ever wrong. It’s continued with blizzard like conditions all day and if anything the snow is deeper than this morning. Needless to say, I’ve spent the day indoors rather than getting out and digging the holes for the concrete pilings for my kiln shed, not that I need a really serious excuse not to dig holes in the ground, which is something we’ve gotten a lot of since building the house and making the garden areas, planting trees, etc…

Anyway it was quiet and gorgeous on our walk this morning at 6am. Turns out Raz (the dog) loves the snow and just bounded around in it for the duration.

This has been the ‘best’ snow by far since we started living here. I had to take pictures, because it might be another 6 or 7 years before it happens again.

Latest Firing

Here are a couple of things from the last firing. The two guinomi are glazed with an iron glaze and fired in saggars. The plate was fired normally. I was especially pleased with the matte surfaces of the guinomi, but the colors on the plate aren’t too shabby (in my humble opinion 😉 ) Naturally, I won’t post the crappy stuff that got hammered….

Droplets of Iron?

Time for some much needed blog catch up. Just unloaded the kiln yesterday and have a little breather time.

This last firing I put some things in saggars with charcoal and fired. Had some very interesting results, including something I’d been aiming for (for a change). Noticed one strange thing: when I polished the rough surfaces with 240 wet sandpaper, I’d get these shiny spots. I thought that water was filling small holes which were created when the sandpaper broke off the surface of tiny bubbles in the glaze. This was actually happening, but when I looked at the surface through a loupe it became apparent that the shiny objects were small droplets of iron which filled the bubbles. I was actually able to remove one by prying it out carefully. Here are some pictures below.

Beautiful foggy mornings

The last few mornings around here have been quiet and blanketed in fog, which doesn’t burn off early, rather lasting until mid morning. This is the view out the back of our house from the balcony. The line of trees is barely visible.

In other news, I just harvested our last bunch of habanero peppers and cut them open to dry. If I’ve just finished a firing, I can often use the last bit of heat in the kiln to dry the peppers out completely. Have to hold my breath when I open the kiln though. Those habanero fumes are killer. Once they’re dry I powder them in my spice mill (if you do this don’t breathe when you open the spice mill, better yet do it outside) and bottle them for future use.

Post Fire

Well, I was a bit over enthusiastic with the glaze thickness, but everything came out pretty well, all things considered. Here are some ‘after’ pics to put the previous post of pre-fire prep into context. First, the rice straw bottoms:

As you can see, many of the senbei are cemented to the cups. This is because of my being a little too liberal with the glaze. If I’d wiped the bottoms, or used more rice straw this wouldn’t have been so bad. Still, since the bottoms are concave it’s usually just the sides that are stuck and most of the senbei comes off pretty easily. The stubborn stuff comes off quickly with the green wheel. Here’s a finished bottom, looking much better.

Next, the kai-kodai, or shell bottomed stuff:

Above, they are perched on the shells, and any drips tend to just fall to the senbei without messing up the foot too much. Below, here are some of the same cups with shells removed, but not yet finished. The shells came off pretty cleanly, and left nice red flashing on the feet.

Here’s the detail of one of the feet, this actually is the same foot as the one pictured green here in a previous post.

One group of cups was glazed a bit differently in a way which allows the glaze to run more. Here’s where the advantage of shells really comes in. The cup in the pic below was placed on rice straw. Firmly cemented to the senbei and a lot of grinding required. (Actually, no grinding required, as it is now fragments in my shard pile.)

Here’s the same type of cup on shells. This cleaned up in a few seconds on the green wheel.

Last are the small plates laid on rice hulls with their corners supported with shells. Not a single plate stuck to a shelf. A rare occurence for me….