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Kiln furniture and stuck pots

In the past few years since I moved to Taku, I’ve been around to some of the various kiln ruins in Taku, Arita, and Takeo. I’ve collected various shards that have been laying on the ground or falling down a slope after a good rain. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up along the way.

Since there were no Advancer shelves around 400 years ago, everything sat perched on these pieces of furniture, or perched on each other. Remember, the split bamboo noborigama didn’t have a very high ceiling.

The capital I shaped things are called ‘tochin’ down here, though I think they may have a different name in other areas of Japan. But, you know what they say: ‘ A tochin by any other name…’ The squat, fat thing is called a ‘hama’. This one has a really beautiful white/light blue opalescence , especially when it’s wet, but unfortunately it doesn’t come through in the photo all that well. It has a big old bowl foot attached to it, porcelain from Arita, and as my mentor says, is ‘fairly young, maybe 300 years old or so’.

The two tochin both came from kilns in Taku, as did the inverted cup sitting on the tall one. By inverted I mean it is right side up the way you see it, but it turned nearly inside out in the firing. I thought it was too cool, so I found a tochin of the size it originally sat on to display it. It is Kurogaratsu (black Karatsu), a semi matt black glaze there are many recipes for, though I have found one type of stone on top of the mountain behind my house that makes a beautiful kurogaratsu glaze all by itself, and I’m probably not the only one to have figured that out.

The bottom 3 pieces are my sentimental favorites. They are pieces of the first kiln (a waridakeshiki nobori) built in Japan, by Ri Sanpei, the Korean potter credited with discovering porcelain in Japan, and responsible for the subsequent boom in Arita. He first came to Taku and built 2 kilns here. These wall chunks came from the Tojinkoba Gama ruin, which was excavated and cataloged several years ago. Now, it’s difficult to tell there was anything there in the first place, but some of these crusty old pieces still can be found laying around. The ruin is a few hundred yards from my house. When we built this house we found LOTS of shards of various styles laying around under the rice field. A couple of weeks ago I found a porcelain shard with a basic gosu underglaze design, stuck firmly to another piece of porcelain, and both with lots of sand and chunks stuck to the base. It really gets me to thinking. Here is a piece that is an obvious throw away, no one ever used it. Yet, the excavation at Tojinkoba showed no evidence that porcelain was fired there. I doubt that Ri Sanpei picked up his house and moved to Arita when he found white clay, without testing first. I believe that this piece was a test piece done before he moved to Arita. I spoke recently with the curator of the Taku city historical museum, and he hinted that they believe they haven’t discovered all the kilns that Ri built, and that the area around our house was the center of activity 400+years ago. This makes me wonder if maybe there was another kiln closer to our site (there is a river nearby) that the test was done in. Unfortunately I can’t show the test piece because it disappeared from in front of my workshop, with 8 neighborhood kids running around that seems to happen frequently.

Plates and Dishes

Here are some other stuff that’s gotten fired before and during the wedding cupfest.
I made quite a few of the leaf shaped Chosengaratsu glazed plates. They are small (about 7-8 inches long), and I envisioned them being used for sweets in tea ceremony, or as sashimi dishes. They are about 14mm thick, and I made them that way intentionally because I wanted a heavy form that would be stable in spite of it’s size and lack of feet. Also I felt that it would work with the heavily applied glaze. So far, nearly everyone has said they are just too heavy looking. Argh…

The Madaragaratsu (white straw ash glaze) mukozuke were done in the last firing. They were bisque that had been sitting around quite a while, and I needed something to fill the load. I decorated under the glaze with a dark grey clay slip that I get from a layer of strata running pretty much through most of Saga prefecture. The Madara-yu breaks nicely over it, without running all over the place like it does over Ame-yu or iron oxide. I managed to get 3 sets of 5 out of the batch and I’ve ordered boxes so I can make gifts of them. First set to the Mama-san of a local tavern who used her connections to procure a HUGE orange pumpkin for us this Halloween. We’ve had a real hard time finding orange pumpkins for halloween here. Costco in Fukuoka had some…FOR 75 FRIGGIN DOLLARS!!!!! Just couldn’t bring myself to pay $75 for a pumpkin, go figure.

Shino Test Cups

Here are 2 sets of 3 cups with Neph Sye/Kaolin ‘shino’ glaze tests. I tried varying between thick and thin application, and the two center faceted cups have a dark clay slip applied under the ‘shino’ glaze on the unfaceted parts of the cups.
The only difference between the two sets is the type of kaolin present. The whiter group is K-1 and the more translucent group is korean kaolin. I prefer the look of the korean kaolin, though it is somewhat grey. I did a couple more tests with iron oxide brush work under the glaze in the last firing, but have not taken pics yet. Well update blog with those soon…

Boxes with Labels

Here are the boxes everything went into, including the labels we printed.
Boxes were about 180 yen each, which I thought was a hell of a deal. My wife did the label design for me, she’s good at that sort of thing.

The kanji at the right indicate the style of pottery (Madara Karatsu), the middle indicates the type of pot (Fude arai), and the left is my name. I then stamp the label with my smaller stamp to finish it.

Brush Stands

These were the other things ordered with the cups. They are brush rinsing basins for the groom and his friends in the same profession. I don’t know the name for it in English, but they create forms for teeth as well as false teeth by mixing various concoctions. One of the processes they use involves a little tub of some sort of resin powder they apply with a wet brush. Both a reservoir of clean water as well as a rinsing space for the dirty brush is required so he requested a split basin with indentations for placing the brush when not in use.

I made them by coiling up a round wall, cutting it free at the base, reshaping into a split basin, and re-attaching to the base slab. It’s glazed with rice straw ash glaze and a dark clay slip is applied just to the lip under the white glaze. They were fired on a bed of rice straw ash to give the bottoms some interest.

After cleaning, ready for boxes

Here are the same cups, all ready for boxing. Shown also are the second load. This time the Ame-yu was too thin which prevented nice white glaze runs. Argh! Oh well, practice makes perfect?

My neighbor came over yesterday and said that the cups all laid out like that looked delicious, good enough to eat. She’s now my favorite person, for obvious reasons.

When all was said and done (including a disturbing amount of hammering), I had 97 sets of 2 cups each (large and small), plus 24 extra short cups, which the customer decided to buy in addition to the original order. Yes!