Tag Archives: 唐津

Clay clay clay

When I was polishing work from the fall firing yesterday, I noticed two pieces that had been glazed, fired (on shells)glazed again, and fired again (on shells). This isn’t too unusual, but in the case of these two pieces, they were literally fired side by side both times and had the same glazes applied, twice.

The only difference between the pieces is the clay body. The teabowl is clay/sandstone 50/50, and the smaller cup is clay/sandstone 10/90.

Now probably it shouldn’t, but the difference in the fired glaze surface astounds me. And all other things being equal, it must be that 40% difference in clay content that has changed that glaze.

Since the glaze is collected, I don’t have an analysis, but my guess is that the higher alumina content in the higher clay body is responsible for making that high silica glaze go clear, by adding alumina to the glaze matrix and fluxing more of the silica.

Busy busy

The first abalone dish dried successfully, so today I started making more. I also started a small run of shiboridashi teapots. These are always good sellers, because they are easy to use and clean, with no hard to reach holes or metal sieves to collect grime. 



I always carve the grooves as early as possible, because as the clay gets harder, it becomes difficult to carve without tear out. Then I put the lids on, so that they dry evenly without warping, and after trimming they will go into the kiln to be fired together, to avoid any warping. 

Loading has begun

Loading of the first chamber began this morning. 
The stack starts at the bottom from back to front. This part of the firing process is very important because it determines where the fire and heat will go during the firing. A bad stack means you will have poor circulation and you’ve doomed the firing even before you’ve lit the fire. 

The bottom of the stack is pretty much done, and the ware from 9 ware boards got stacked in there, which is about 80 pots give or take a few. 

Let them eat cake

Here is my latest pot porn for you: freshly stamp milled, slaked, and filter pressed cakes of Izumiyama porcelain. 150kg. 


Not for the faint of heart, Izumiyama is hard to work with. It is non plastic and likes to crack during drying, impossible for slab work, and deforms easily. And it costs more than twice as much as Amakusa porcelain from Kumamoto. Most porcelain artists in Arita and Imari switched to using Amakusa porcelain long ago because it’s much easier to work with, doesn’t crack, and fires whiter. 


BUT! The beauty of Izumiyama in the wood kiln is absolutely undeniable. It fires to a soft ivory white and blushes in very subtle shades of peach. The surface is deep and translucent and vitrifies as low as around 1230C. 

Tomorrow morning first thing, Peter the Pugger will be getting a major workout!


Madara (mottled) Karatsu teabowl, late 1500’s.

When I decided to learn and make Karatsu ware, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew it was several hundred years old, and the first glazed ware in Japan, but I mostly just saw some beautiful pots and thought I could reproduce. Boy, was I wrong.

I’ve been working at it for more than 10 years now, and the clay, glazes, and firings are still mostly a mystery. Trying to capture the look of the traditional ware is a continual challenge, forcing me to forget or ignore modern technology in favor of archaic, and examine 400+ year old shards, searching for clues about what the old potters and craftsmen used, and how they approached their art, which they didn’t necessarily consider to be art.


The closest I’ve come yet to a surface like the pot at the beginning of this post.

One thing I’ve learned in this time making pots is that despite the primitive technology, ancient potters had knowledge about their materials and handling of those materials that far exceeds the knowledge of most modern potters. This is what makes tradition such an important repository for us. It is the best of what has come before, proven over time and distilled for us to use. We just need to pay attention.


Chosen Karatsu teabowl, late 1500’s


Chosen Karatsu guinomi by author

Cheers,

Karatsupots

Mike @ Karatsupots
Making attractive, cool, useful stuff out of dirt since 2006.

Processing Clay

I was lucky enough to find some easily accessible clay the other day on a morning bike ride. I’ve been spending some time processing it and thought I’d share. Here’s the hill and the pictures of the bagged clay:

 

After bringing it home, I transferred it to large jars and added water, then mixed violently with a drill mixer to break it all up.  After skimming off the junk that floats up, I mix it up a few times a day for about 3 days. Once it is mostly made into a slurry I start sieving it into another container. Whatever doesn’t pass the sieve goes back in the jar to get mixed again, and it eventually (mostly) all breaks down.

Since I have no space for a large clay drying platform, I’ve decided to try these pantlegs tied off, filled, and left to hang. Seems to be working so far, and I’m hoping to get a nice uniform sausage of clay with no dry edges. I tried a few methods to close the bottom. First, I tried sandwiching the pantleg between two pieces of wood and using screws to tighten them together. This worked, but left sharp screw ends, and when I dropped one full leg, the wood snapped and it opened up, spilling the clay.  Plywood might prevent this. Being too lazy to get out the saw and cut more wood, I decided to split what I had into thinner pieces and wire them together to bind the folded over leg end. I tied them with wire and it seems to be working just dandy. Later, when I have time, I’ll try  finding some sort of non rusting clamp device that can be applied and removed easily and quickly.

Once the legs were filled, tying them off was tricky because a leg full of clay slurry is FRICKIN HEAVY!!! First I tried rolling it down over the rope and tying, which works fine but is kind of tricky and if you don’t do it tightly, it unwinds and makes a mess. I found the best way was to twist the end and bend it over a stick, then bind it with rope. This way, you can use the stick as a handle to carry the leg which is very nice, and the stick can be used to hand the bag. The rope used to bind the end can also serve as a hanger. I hung up 12 of these yesterday, and am now waiting for them to firm up. I’m curious to see how long it will take.