I’ve just come off of a week of pot showing and selling, sharing space with some very fine young (and older) potters who are making crazy good work. This last week was Karatsu Yakimon Matsuri, which ran concurrently with Arita Touki-Ichi. This was the third year for the Karatsu event, and attendance jumped to 100,000, from 70,000 last year.
The theme was tableware, and there were many collaborative exhibits between potters and chefs. What a great time it was to see all of the wonderful work. Gave me a LOT of new ideas and inspiration, as well as some great feedback from customers and restaurant owners.
I had been scheduled to go to the Mungyeong Teabowl Festival, however the ferry accident resulted in most or all of the spring holiday’s festivals being cancelled or postponed.
This is the teabowl that fell into the firebox during the last firing and broke into about 12 pieces. After falling and breaking, the firing continued, and the larger shards warped a bit, making it hard to get the pieces to fit just right.
Everything went back together, but some of the spaces were 1mm wide or more, and a lot of filling was required. Not only that, but the edges of the larger pieces didn’t meet evenly, making a lot of uneven fill lines. I thought about grinding down the higher edges, but in the end decided against that, because the fill lines were already so wide in some places.
So, here is the finished piece, with the lacquer and gold brushed on over the fill lines. A pro could have made thinner, more even lines probably, but it was good practice for me. A few more days to dry completely, then it will be time to whip up some tea…
Lately I’ve been experimenting with ways to age pots more quickly, making the crackle stand out. This time I tried an old woodworking trick, and it seems to work nicely.
I soaked the pots in a strong tea bath then dried completely. After that, I applied iron acetate with a brush and let them sit a couple of days. The iron acetate reacts with tannins and turns a dark color within about 3 days. I made the iron acetate by soaking steel wool in vinegar. I may change to a weak sulfuric acid solution, since the smell of the vinegar is proving difficult to get out of the pots!
All of these pots were made with clay from the property, discovered right under where we built the kiln. It has a lot of iron, but still takes some heat, and won’t bloat at higher temps. Probably due in part to the fact that it is very open with a lot of sand and other even larger inclusions. Even vitrified, it still sweats because of the openness. With use, the sweating stops, as all the pores fill with minerals from the water and tea tannins, etc…
Lately I’ve been spending all my potting time making large stuff for the next firing. It takes forever to dry, and I need extra time to bisque it all. Yup, all of it. No more cracked pieces because I glazed them raw and effed up.
So I was at a big drinking party the other night. My neighborhood mens group gets together bi-monthly to catch up and eat good stuff. A good custom overall. Anyway, the guy who hosted the party turned out to be a sake enthusiast as well, and while everyone else was drinking shochu (a hideous drink fit only for odd, uncivilized folk… just kidding….), he broke out a bottle of the local brewery’s best, and two very nice guinomi, one wide and shallow and one deep and tall. The hira-sakazuki (low, flat one) was a beautiful blackish red uber reduced surface, and made from really nice clay that contained quite a bit of iron, was fairly fine, and which was trimmed to perfection. The taller guinomi was Bizen Karatsu style, otherwise called yakishime. Neither were signed so I have no idea who made them.
The gorgeous hira-sakazuki inspired me to get back on the wheel and start making smaller work for the next firing. I started with hira-sakazuki and finished with Karatsu style tea bowls. It was nice to be back in the saddle, and the clay, which came out of the ground near my house, was beautiful to work with now that it has aged a few months since I processed and pugged it.
I ended up spending more time than I wanted on each of these, forcing myself to slow down the wheel and throw slowly, with as little motion as possible. I wanted these simple shapes to remain simple and not look too refined. One of the buzzwords for Karatsu ware is ‘Soboku’ 素朴, which roughly translates as ‘rustic’. Too much handling and you lose that quality. Spent all of that time processing local clay, it would be a shame to waste it by over-handling it. All of these pots will get a thin to medium coat of 90%spar and 10%ash. Maybe a couple of the sake cups will get a thin coat of iron and ash.