A couple of collaborative pieces

Here are a couple of pieces that Nakayama san and I did together. They’re both incense burners with fumed silver lids. The smaller lid is in 2 pieces, the main dome and the frame which holds it. Made like pieces hundreds of years ago, but not so much now. Cheaper to make it in one piece, but easier to repair if you have it in two, apparently. Not being a metalsmith I don’t know the details.

The larger lid is made similarly, but with a free spinning hollow knob, another thing you don’t see much of these days. Usually they are molded together with the lid, and the knob is a solid or single piece of metal. This one is two cast and handcarved sheets hammered to shape and placed together, with a pin through them to hold them to the dome.

More vases and some yunomi

Here are some more of the chabana vases, this time with twisty lugs, like the original Ko-Karatsu vase.

Also, my yunomi have been selling slowly over the past year, and I’d not really made any new ones. Realized you can’t have a show without yunomi… Here they are just thrown and still wet.
They are just very basic cylinders that will be medium and small yunomi. Not very many yet, but it’s a start…

Last are some guinomi that I made the other day with some cool sand mixed into the clay. After pounding some sandstone that I collected near Imari last year, I added A LOT to the clay body and it really got interesting. Rather than becoming short and un-throwable, it kept much of it’s plasticity, and had a very interesting surface when trimmed. I think it retained it’s plasticity because the pounded sandstone has a full range of particle size, from fine dust upward, unlike adding a specific mesh size of grog or sand.

All except one of the feet are carved with dull tools. The one in the middle of the bottom pic wasn’t trimmed, but rather paddled to create a raised ridge to act as a foot. I kind of like this method but think it’s likely to look better with smooth clays. Having a good toothy clay and not abusing it in some way with dull tools seems like a waste of potential ‘gnarliness’. One thing to note: since the cups will be glazed with a heavy white rice straw ash glaze, the comb marks which look so overdone, will be covered up to a great degree. It’s necessary to make fairly strong markings with this glaze, because weaker marks and lines just disappear under the glaze.

Upcoming Show

Have locked in the date for a show in late June, in Karatsu. I’ll be doing a show with Nakayama Tomosuke, a silversmith and jewelery maker. Actually he works in all sorts of metals, making alloys and fuming them to reproduce specific colors.  Here are some pictures of his work, as well as one of the boxes I make for him, in which he delivers his wedding band sets. A definite step up from the throwaway clamshell felt box. Last pic down is the preliminary postcard mailer for the show, if anyone has any recommendations on how to improve it, I’m open to them.

Chabana Vases

It’s been a while since I’d tried doing some coil and paddle vases, mostly because the last couple of times have been pretty disastrous with regards to design. For some reason the balance in vases gives me fits. Sometimes one really clicks but it seems to be more of a fluke than anything else.

One thing that helps with vases and other vessels with lugs is if I think of the lugs as arms, such as the arms hanging off of humans, giving various expressions with their varied positions. The Japanese word for these is ‘mimi’ or ears. That doesn’t do it for me, or maybe I’ve just not met enough people with unique and expressive ears.

I started with a couple of taller forms, the first more formal, and squared off, resembles one of my teacher’s pieces. For the second one, I flipped through an old Nakazato Shigetoshi exhibition catalog, and tried mimicking one of his. He makes the most wonderful vases, very rounded and soft, and wilted looking (in a good way). I wasn’t thrilled with the arms on this one (the left), somehow it looks like it’s scolding the viewer, not to mention being a little too ‘muscular’. The glaze usually soften things up quite a bit, it’ll be interesting to see how this one changes.

It occurred to me that these two were a little tall, so I tried a few more like the one on the left, except with the middle section removed, and without the bottom treatment.

I was much happier with these, there seems to be a sort of cute stubbiness to them. Turning over and rolling the rim gives it a soft look, and collaring it in resulted in the undulations that don’t end up looking as contrived as they do when I alter the rim by hand as I usually do. Tried the arms in three positions, perhaps the center is my favorite. All of these are about 23cm tall. The first two are probably closer to 35cm.

Ramen Bowls

For some reason the last couple of days, I’ve been thinking about ramen bowls a lot. They’re another thing like the rice bowls that I thought might be good to have for the exhibition next month. They are a very basic bowl, with a tall foot and no fancy rim treatment. Wet, they are 22cm across at the rim, 9.5cm deep, and the footring is about 9cm x 2cm.

I like this style of ramen bowl, more upright and deeper. Many ramen bowl designs are wider and shallower, sometimes with no curve to the wall, just a straight shot from foot to rim. For these, I’d prefer some sort of treatment at the rim to accentuate it, but everything I tried changed the feeling of the shape too much. Something to ponder for the next batch… I’ll snag a few of these for house use, perhaps slurping up some ramen in them will help with having a ‘rim treatment epiphany’.

Rice bowls

Since I have an exhibition coming up in mid June, I’ve started working on various everyday things to sell at a lower price range. These are some rice bowls. Oddly enough, I’ve never really made rice bowls before. I think there are about 30 here, that seems to be what a run of pots usually comes to, 30 to 40.

I took a rice bowl that I like from my kitchen and measured it, added about 17%, and made my measuring stick (tonbo) for the pot’s width and depth. Even with a gauge such as this to keep every pot within a certain width and height, I always marvel at the profile variation you get within these two parameters, even when using a fairly precise tool like the cows tongue rib. I’m having less trouble these days getting a more uniform profile among pieces, but what still gives me fits is trying to make a light pot that is strong visually. Especially with rice bowls, you want a strong foot and rim because they’ll be used heavily, but because people spend so much time holding them, you don’t want them to be heavy overall, or unbalanced with a heavy foot and light upper half.

One of the reasons my teacher’s bowls are such a pleasure to hold, I realized one day, was that they are well balanced. Even with the tall foot of the Ido shape, his bowls turn in the hands nicely, without the foot trying to sink in your grip. This is one of those things that most people aren’t aware of, but notice unconsciously in mature well made pots. One other characteristic of his pots that I aspire to is not visible in the finished product, but one notices as a potter when they are being made, and that is: he has very very few trimmings even from a large run of pots. The shape has been well planned and executed on the wheel, so that almost no trimming is necessary, and the bulk of the trimmings come from inside the footrings of the pots. Very little waste.

Nothing to do but practice…

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