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Guinomi From the Gendo

Here are some photos of some of the guinomi that I made from the clay processed in the previous post. Gendo means ‘original clay dug out of the ground without and stuff added to make it more workable’.

Here are pics of the wet guinomi. The pinker ones are the gendo, and the brownish ones are about 65% gendo with some red karatsu clay and some feldspar chunks mixed in.

Next are the pics of the cups after the feet have been trimmed. You can see the tearing in some of the rims because of the nature of the clay. The trimmed parts came out very nicely torn and textured with the characteristic ‘chirimejiwa’ or crepe wrinkling effect that Karatsu ware often exhibits.

Found a Clay Seam

I found a clay seam about 40 min drive from my house in a place called Sari. It has 2 distinct kinds of clay, one in a thick strata which seems to have quite a bit of
iron, and another in a thin seam that seems to have less iron. In fact, in appearance it looks like wet decomposed granite with the spots of white, black, yellow, etc.

The pictures below are of the larger strata of high iron clay. For Karatsu potters finding a good place for your own raw clay is a great thing. It’s really the only way to reproduce the look of the older Karatsu pieces, and a great way to make some very interesting things with a lot of character. In fact it is almost unbelievable how much of a difference a nasty, lumpy, badly processed, unplastic clay makes in the overall ‘feel’ of your work.

Anyway, here are the pictures of the clay as I worked it over, in the next blog entry I’ll show the cups that I made from it. The first are the raw chunks in the bag.

Next is the clay dried and broken up into smaller pieces with a wooden mallet. It needs to be in smaller pieces to go into the usu (mortar)I use to pound it into powder. Big chunks don’t move in the usu, but smaller chunks circulate as you pound, going from the bottom, up the sides, then tumbling back down into the center, to get pounded again.

Next we have the stamper, looking fairly stamped himself. I have to stand there and pound the clay with that long wooden post. It’s good for the arms, shoulders, and heart, or so I tell myself.

After the clay is finished (rough translation: when I’m too pooped out to keep lifting that *&&^%$# post), I scoop it out and put it in a bin where I add a lot of water to it and use a drill mixer to thrash it about, then I let it settle out. I repeat that a few times over the next day or two, then I pour off the excess water and dump the clay into plaster basins for quick drying.

Finally I get to wedge the clay. It’s still very soft at this point so wedging requires very little effort. First I do a rough wedging, then follow with spiral wedging. With this clay the spiral wedging is very difficult because the clay has no plasticity and doesn’t want to be formed into a hump for throwing. Here, the humps I’ve formed are just dry enough to hold their shape on the wheel, no dryer. If you were to grab either of these humps and pull sideways, they wouldn’t bend at all, rather they would just tear apart. When centering and throwing this clay, if you apply very much pressure at all, it just breaks off in your hands. Frustrating at first. With this clay I wasn’t able to make anything much larger than guinomi/yunomi. I’ll make that the subject of the next blog entry.
Have a great day!

New ‘Millrack’


Here’s the new ‘millrack'(mfgr’s name for it), a cheap alternative to a full size ball mill (called a potmill here). The cheapest ball mill I could find was about $700, but this little millrack was about $250. I thought 250 was a bit much, but after it arrived and I got to see the workmanship I was pretty impressed. Very high quality materials and parts, with replacement bands for the friction wheel, and tools necessary for assembly included, and I don’t mean one of those cheap thin stamped metal wrenches one sees so often. There was one nice wrench and two stainless hex wrenches included.

I plan to do some milling of my problematic iron pigment with it, as well as mill down some feldspar I brought back from the mountain a while back. It’s been run through a roll mill, but is still too chunky for use.

The mill rack assembly was very simple and you can see how it fits on the wheel, sorry I don’t have it running, I still have a hump I need to finish. I think you can see how it would work from the picture though. When not in use it folds back behind the wheel, and I can cover it with cloth or plastic to prevent it from getting dirty.

I’m planning a homemade stampmill (single stamp), but though I have a good idea how to build the frame and stamp, then mount it above the mortar, I really have no clue how to hook up a motor to turn the wheel which would lift and drop the stamp arm. Any thoughts/illustrations would be greatly appreciated.

The third pic is of my nifty new height adjustable faux harley seat stool. I got it at Costco for about $100 and it is worth every penny. It adjusts from very low to very high so I can use it at the electric wheel or the kick wheel, or just wheel it around to the tables in the shop to work. It keeps the hips tilted forward and at the right height so I haven’t had any lower back or knee pain since I started using it.

The few keepers 1

Here are some of the keepers, few as they are. They are the ones that have little or no iron decoration. The kairagi glaze, though crawly, is very silky smooth to the touch. There is a warmth to it that is lacking in the madara and ame glazes, I guess because they melt so completely.

The tokkuri is about 17″ tall. The yunomi form was one I experimented with for the first time, and I really like it. I think it could really look good with a little more tweaking. The inside of the yunomi is glazed with ame yu underneath, with kairagi yu over the top. Creates what is called ‘jakatsu’ (snake skin). Because the ame yu melts well even at cone6, the kairagi layed down and melded with it nicely, even though it had peeled most severely over the ame yu to begin with.

Carnage Part 3

The previous post as well as this post show the smaller work with equal disastrous results. On the smaller pieces, the kairagi glaze was applied correctly, but anywhere it went over brushwork, it just peeled back.

I’ve gone back and applied the kairagi glaze again to a few pieces to test refiring them. Because the clay body is fired, there is much less crawling after application of the kairagi glaze. My expectation is that after the refire, the pieces will look more like E-Shino work, and will be smooth enough to be used as they were intended.

My iron pigment was collected from the side of a dam. The iron bearing water left a deposit of iron on the concrete about 1cm thick. I scraped it off, bisqued to get rid of the algae, slime, and vermin, and worked it in a mortar to smooth it out. Not enough though, or so it would seem.

My ball mill came in today. I ordered one to process my iron pigment, smooth it out so that I never have this experience again. I also added a bit of ball clay to the pigment. It’s not a true ball mill per se, but a frame with a wheel that can be mounted to most shimpo wheels, to turn the wheel into a ball mill drive. I have my kickwheel to use, so milling some of my found materials won’t make my work ‘grind’ to a halt. : ) I really want a stamp mill, and am in the process of designing one. I’ll post pics of the shimpo driven ball mill later, once it’s installed.