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Had the neighborhood men’s group (called ‘Sanyamachi’)over for boy’s night out and decided to do it in the studio so I wouldn’t have to clean the house, and tell people they couldn’t smoke. Worked out well except I had a lot of cleaning to do in the studio to make enough space. Anyway, here it is clean, with pictures as evidence. My cousin-in-law got me a nice section of bamboo, which I made into a tool and tonbo holder, and hung it next to the electric wheel. The big tree trunk standing there is not actually load bearing yet. I’ve just got it standing there to dry. When it does dry, I’ll use it in that place under the beam to support the 2nd story floor above. It’s some sort of ungodly heavy hardwood related to oak. Once it’s in, I’ll be able to remove the tension rod suspending the 2nd floor from the roof beam, and the space upstairs will be completely open.

Shell Source

Where people get their shells has come up in email conversations a few times, and I just thought I’d share my new favorite place to get shells. It’s in Kashima, Saga, on the edge of the Ariake Sea. Nearly the whole pile is ‘akagai’ shells, which I think are called cockles in English. I’m able to get them ranging in size from 1cm all the way up to about 10cm across.
You can see in the pictures here how unbelievably huge this pile is. I heard that they sell them bulk for people who crush them and use them in various ways. I drove up, and there were 3 workmen taking it easy over their lunch break. I asked them if this was the place I could by shells, and they said ‘How many?’ I said, ‘Oh, about one or two container’s worth (a container being a plastic orange container about the size of a 21″ computer monitor)’. They said, ‘Oh, just take what you want. No charge.’ Great! I’ll have to take them something in the way of thanks next time I pass that way.
Notice the size of the hill. That’s a 2 story building next to it, and a suspension bridge in the distance. Must be at least 4 stories high.

Footring Polisher

This is the diamond fiber pad I’ve been talking about. It’s about 3cm thick and fairly rigid, with just a little bit of spring. The machine is an off brand knife sharpener with the guide and water trough removed. At first I removed the stone and tried to put the fiber pad in its place, but realized it would just be easier to fit the pad over the stone. Much easier for switching back and forth.

I decided I needed something like this after I bought the pad and used it attached to my elec. wheel. Lots of dust in the studio, so I started hauling my wheel outside after every firing, which got old real fast.

They have machines here made specifically for polishing feet and butts which start at just over $700. They are essentially what you see here except with a steel cover, and probably a more powerful motor. The polishing media is the same. I spent about $50 for the sharpener, and about $50 for the fiber pad.

The Fired Guinomi

Here are some of the guinomi from the same firing. These are the guinomi you’ve seen in the previous recent posts. The hand dug, hand processed clays came out really wonderfully, interacting with the glazes in ways I had not expected. I had worried a little that they might bloat or sag in the firing, but they handled the heat well. I should not have worried, since the Sari area of Saga where this clay came from is the same area as the oldest Karatsu kilns. Here are a couple of the Sari clay cups glazed in Chosen Garatsu style. The lighter one has some ball clay mixed in to make it more workable. The redder one had some ‘store bought’ Karatsu Red mixed in. Both really turned out to have some nice texture for the glaze to run over. Notice all of the little ‘ishihaze’ where the chunks of silica ruptured the surface of the clay.

Next is a cup glazed in just Madara glaze which is usually white. It reacted very differently over this clay. I suspect the large amount of clay slip (since I threw very soft) I left on the surface after throwing the cups melted together with my ash based Madara glaze to produce a different glaze altogether. I really like this look because it reminds me of the old undecorated Karatsu ware. The clay in this cup is 100% Sari clay, and you can see it in the rough bottom.

Chosen Garatsu Firing Finished

Well, the firing is finished and everything’s been ground and polished. I packed the kiln tighter than I’ve ever done before, which turned out to be a mistake. Not enough heat circulation. Much too hot at the top, and my madara glaze went clear. Bottom half of the kiln turned out really nice though, and since that’s where I had most of my sakazuki/guinomi and chawan, everything is right with the world.
It took 18 hours to drop the cones this firing, and it usually takes 14 or 15 hours if I keep things slow and even. When the bottom cones finally went down, the top was way too hot. Since I had mostly thick plates up top, it wasn’t too much of a problem, but I will still have lots of shelf grinding to do. In one case my green oribe glaze ate right through the clay bisquit I had down to protect the shelf.
The chosen garatsu came out really nice for the most part as you can see from the chawan above. The madara came out really mottled (see the round plate above) which is something I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time. The thick, textured plates came out nice, but would have been nicer at about 1/2 to 1 cone lower temp.

Comparison View of 3 Clays

Well it seems to be feast or famine with me and this blog. Haven’t posted for months, but it just so happens that now I’ve got a bunch of pictures, so naturally I’m going to post them, whether anyone else is interested or not.

Here are some closeups of the clays used for the cups in the previous post alongside a purely ‘bought’ clay with just some feldspar sand (yuseki) mixed in for texture.

Generally speaking, Seto/Mino clays are quite plastic in comparison with Saga clays. This has resulted in different production methods and tools between the two areas. Just for perspective, I ordered some clay from a company in Shigaraki a few months back that was described as a good clay for Shino and Oribe, very rough and toothy, and lacking plasticity. I got it expecting to have some trouble with it, but it turned out to be absolutely butter smooth and plastic compared to the Karatsu Aka (Karatsu Red Clay)I normally use. It was much more forgiving than I am used to, and I had a great time with it. The Sari clay is the other end of the spectrum, making the Karatsu Aka seem feel like ball clay in comparison. If I applied too much pressure bringing up the wall of even a tiny cup, the whole wall tore away from the hump looking much like an orange peel coming off of an orange, then the torn piece would drop to the wheel head but not before crumbling into several pieces first. Frustrating sometimes, but really fun to work with, and excellent practice.