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New Tsubo

Here is the first of some tsubo I’d like to put in the next firing. With the gas kiln, one of these was pretty much the limit of what I could fit into one firing, but with the wood kiln, I’ll be able to put in 20 or 30. So there is a bit of work to do yet…

This jar was coiled and paddled and is about 45cm tall. The added decorative coils on the shoulder are mainly just for decoration, but I am also hoping they will add some strength during the firing.

Some may wonder why I post a lot of work before it is fired. Sometimes it is the only time it will ever be seen in one piece. So much gets lost in the firing that it is nice to have a record of  ‘whole’ pieces to look back on.

Umeboshi jars

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.

Nifty new toy

I ordered a cool new toy from Axner that came yesterday, and I am in love.
It is a Turbo Mixer, and it works wonders on lumpy glazes. A lot of my glazes contain stamped feldspars that are sold wet, in a sort of pugged clay state, or straight from the filter press. Unlike dry materials they do not just disperse into water and must be broken up by hand. I’ve gotten to where I leave the bags open and let them dry out completely, then slam them on the floor to break them up before adding them to the bucket. This really helps get them in to smaller pieces more quickly, and they tend to melt more readily but there are still many small lumps that don’t seem to melt completely no matter how much mixing I do with the regular drill mixer.

After 40 seconds of the Turbo Mixer, the Kaolin lumps in my ersatz Shino glaze were all gone, and I won’t need to screen the glaze. What a time saver!

Coffee cups

Here are some prototypes of cups that I’d like to start making. They will be given a coat of Kohiki slip, then a very thin layer of clear glaze. The clay has a lot of red iron oxide, so should bleed through the white slip, producing red, pink, and orange gradations. In theory at least….

They are made by putting a flat clay base on the kickwheel and adding a thick coil, then throwing the coil up in one or two motions with a large piece of deerskin, then a rib. The handles feel ok, but may be too big, will have to fire them to find out. The diagonal line you can see on the interior of the left cup is the remnant of the stacked coil joint.

Handled cups are a challenge because you want a handle that matches the form, otherwise it looks like it was just slapped on the side of a cup, and looks out of place. I always prefer simple handles, which, as it turns out, are easier said than done. What is very hard to find, in my opinion, is a handle size that works for most everyone’s hands. The tendency is to make something that fits my own, which is not so good as I have Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis’ stubby fingers and large palms. So, always working to channel my inner Homo Sapiens Sapiens’ long, slender fingered self.

The handles above were made intentionally a bit roomy, we’ll see how they end up. It’s a reaction I’m having to the wide strap-like handle I’ve been seeing so much lately for some reason. I always thought they look really substantial and nice, almost organic and lush. But, I got my hands on one a while back, and it was really uncomfortable to hold, the width was just too much, perhaps my fingers just don’t play nice with them. Anyway, it was quite a letdown, because I’d always wanted to learn how to make those handles and put them on my cups. I probably still will, only as lugs and knobs on larger forms.

Experimenting with soda

One of the other things that went in this last firing was a sagger filled with guinomi, charcoal, and soda ash soaked tissues and cardboard. I have a bucket full of saturated soda ash water which also has some feldspar added in. Before using it, it gets heated up to re-dissolve the soda ash crystals and mixed to agitate the feldspar.

I’ll put pots in the saggar, add charcoal, then drape the soaked cardboard and/or tissue over the pieces:

Then cover the saggar with a kiln shelf (one that I don’t mind getting nasty).  The soda really fluxes the clay and you can never be sure what you’re going to get. In many cases, I end up with a runny collapsed mess with lots of pretty green glass covering it. This time was no exception.

 All of the cups slumped one way or another except for the cup at 3 oclock, which is made of some sort of unbelievably refractory clay.

This one was worth salvaging, It has an amazing copper/gold luster that doesn’t come through in the pictures. It has not been cleaned up yet: