Whenever I make lidded jars of whatever shape, inevitably someone will comment that they want to use it for umeboshi, those sour and salty pickled plums. So rather than having someone request to use an expensive tea ceremony water jar for their umeboshi, I thought it was time to make some jars specifically for the task.
Lately, I’ve been trying to do as much as possible on the kick wheel, playing with different techniques that reduce effort on the low momentum Karatsu/Korean style wheel. I saw this way of building small pots last summer in Korea at an onggi workshop, and really liked it for it’s simplicity and speed. Plus, I just like ‘collecting’ coil building methods because there are so many variations that work better or worse for certain sizes of vessels.
This one starts with a flat pancake paddled out on the wheel head. In order to facilitate easy removal of the piece later, sprinkle out some dry material (many potters use ash or dry clay, I prefer potato or corn starch because it doesn’t contribute to silicosis) to a diameter a bit larger than what you are making, then ring it with water, by applying a brush to the wheel head. Lay down the pancake, and paddle it out to compress it and stick it down to the ring of water. Score the pancake to roughly the diameter vessel you want (optional)
Next, roll out a coil between your hands and stick it down to the base, as you stack over the lower part of the coil, squish down the inside and outside or the upper coil so that, there is as much surface area contact as possible. You can go pretty much as fat or thin as you want depending on how high you want the vessel. In this case I used about a 1/2 inch coil. It could have been and inch and only one level high, whatever is easiest. Tear off the extra and smooth a bit.
Next, take a nice large deer skin (7″ long or so) and wet it, then use it to compress the coils to the base and each other, then throw them up in one or two pulls (if you take too long with it you kind of lose the nice undulating rim), create your gallery for the lid by splitting the rim. Leave enough at the top for this step. Trim away the excess at the base. When you do this, the part of the base stuck to the bat will be removed and the pot will come up fairly easily if you bump it, so be careful. The body is done.
All that’s left is to make a lid from another pancake, same way as you did for the base of the jar.
With this method, you can build things quickly, easily, and without the exertion required to center and throw a wide based vessel on a low momentum kickwheel. These jars are only about 6 inches wide, and 5 inches tall, but you could go much bigger or smaller just as easily. After some setting time to firm up the rims, these pots can be removed from the bats fairly easily. Don’t forget to turn them over and press in the bases a bit, creating a concavity, because as the lips dry, the bases will tend to bulge downward, becoming convex, and your pot will wobble.