This last wood kiln firing was a real disaster. All of my large pieces cracked or collapsed completely, and all of the smaller work ended up under-fired badly. The upside to this is that they can all be refired, and I just finished the 2nd of 3 refire loads in the gas kiln this morning.
From the first refire load, my favorite pot is a porcelain teabowl glazed with rice straw ash glaze. I don’t normally work in porcelain, but in my search for bodies that vitrify a little better than the local clays, I’ve started using partly or mostly porcelain in some of my work. This particular bowl is porcelain with as much feldspar sandstone mixed in as I could manage, and still have it wedge-able.
In the wood firing it was in a spot that got a lot of fly ash, and in fact a lot of flaky ash collected inside the bowl. Making sure not to dump this, I saved it for the gas kiln and fired it to cone 11 flat. All of that ash melted really nicely, mixing with the rice straw ash glaze for some nice color.
There are several bloats on the interior, but none really fragile or severe. These bloats and the blues and greens on the interior really remind me of some the old Karatsu bowls with their warty bloated surfaces and subtle coloring of fly ash on rice straw ash glaze. Another nice thing about this pot: the fire color from the wood kiln was not lost in the gas firing. There is a nice gold luster on the melted surface of the bare porcelain body.
This just made me sad when I saw it this morning. We had a LOT of rain over ten last 36 hours, and I think the footers sank a bit, tilting the stack forward, then dumping it. This will take some time to clean up.
** Just one quick amendment to this post: on re-reading the post and comments, I realized that I may have mislead people to believe that the stack (chimney) went over. Not so, thankfully. Just the stack of wood. No damage to the kiln other than a few scratches to the insulating top coat, and about 5 unlucky shelves that had been sitting right where the wood struck.
During the fourth and fifth days of the Workshop in Taku 2012: The Simple Teabowl, we were treated to pottery demonstrations by Okamoto Sakurei. He made a variety of items for us using a variety of techniques. On the afternoon of day four, we visited his studio and showroom and he honored us by allowing us to view some of the older pots in his personal collection. Breathtaking Korean bowls, and a couple of Japanese bowls. They were just amazing to hold (and maybe a little bit of fondling happened too, but mum’s the word).
Well, all lot of little things have happened over the last month or so, but nothing really blogworthy all by itself, so I thought I might do an umbrella post for May/June.
First, and what I posted about before, was the Workshop in Taku, 2012: The Simple Teabowl workshop, with Kawakami Mako, Tsuruta Yoshihisa, Okamoto Sakurei, and Maruta Munehiko. We started with a wonderful tea ceremony demonstration and talk, then we moved outside to prepare tea ourselves. The second and third day, Tsuruta sensei demonstrated his pottery making techniques, fourth and fifth day Okamoto sensei demonstrated, and on the sixth day we watched Maruta sensei at his studio. The last evening we had a very nice banquet at Hisago, and Kawakami sensei joined us again for that.
After the workshop I needed to decompress for a couple of days, then found out I’d be needing to go back to the US for the summer, so I moved up my kiln firing schedule to the end of June. Got into the studio to start making work again, and also found some time to bid on a Furo being auctioned off on Yahoo Auctions. A Furo is used to heat water for tea ceremony. Next, after years of looking for a suitable garden hose storage device, I broke down and decided to just make a few which I am pretty happy with, we’ll see how they look after the firing. Several friends came over last weekend and spent much of the day playing on my wheels. They ended up with about 20 pots which will go into the next firing. I wedged up some clay and played too, some guinomi and chawan for the rear chamber. Lastly, I spent yesterday morning gathering wood from the local mill, who sold me three K truck (a very light little flatbed type of truck that is used a lot in the country areas of Japan) loads of mill ends for about $30, a real bargain, so I donated some coffee mugs to their mill office. Hopefully they will get some use out of them.
Here are some pictures from the first pottery demo conducted during the Workshop in Taku, 2012: The Simple Teabowl. Tsuruta Sensei’s demonstration was conducted over the course of two mornings. He did all of his work on a small kickwheel, focusing on handbuilding techniques for teabowls, cups, flasks, and water jars.
The first day he demonstrated coil built bowls, cups, and a flask. The second day he trimmed the first day’s pieces, and demonstrated the coil and paddle water jar.
Thank you Kim and Minna for all of your great photos!
Well, I am sitting here now in the quiet aftermath of what turned out to be a fantastic week long pottery workshop, here in Taku, Japan. As I sit here, looking at the prospect of going back to my normal schedule on Monday, I realize what an amazing experience the whole thing was, and am now looking forward to going through the hours of video of pottery and tea demonstrations.
We started the week with a tea ceremony demonstration by Kawakami Mako Sensei. She had prepared an informative talk on the roots of modern tea ceremony, and some of the key concepts such as Wa Kei Sei Jaku and Ichi-go Ichi-e. She prepared Koicha (thick tea) followed by Usucha (thin tea), and then we all went outside near a waterfall in the park and tried preparing a bowl of tea by ourselves.
Sunday and Monday mornings, Tsuruta Yoshihisa Sensei demonstrated his handbuilt teabowl forming techniques and coil and paddle techniques for larger forms. It is always amazing watching him work. In the afternoons, we visited a few ceramics galleries and a tea ceremony supply in Karatsu. We also made a very interesting trip to the workshop and kiln of Nakazato Shigetoshi Sensei, second son of the late Nakazato Muan, 12th gen. potter of the Nakazato family and Living National Treasure. He was kind enough to show us his small personal museum of shards and special work, as well as a tour of his kilns and showroom.
Sunday evening was pizza party at my house and studio, and we baked pizza in the wood fired oven, yum. One of the Japanese guests, Housui san, is a calligraphy artist, and he treated us to an impromptu performance, first on regular paper sheets, then with a large brush on a tatami mat (I’ll post pictures of that later). We also did our first collaborative piece when he wrote a poem in iron deco one of my large plates. It will be fired in the next wood kiln firing.
Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, Okamoto Sakurei demonstrated his pottery making skills making larger forms, thrown, hand built and coil/paddled. We visited Sakureigama studio and kiln in the afternoon, and Okamoto Sensei was kind enough to bring out a few of his antique teabowls. He brought out two old Karatsu teabowls and two Ri period Korean bowls which were my favorites. I was even accused of ‘fondling’ them. I probably was. Wed. afternoon we visited the Nagoya Castle ruins in Chinzei. This was the castle from which Hideyoshi staged his campaigns into Korea. It is a huge complex, quite amazing when you imagine what it must have been like at the time. There is a tea room there, Kaigetsu, which we visited for tea, and the hostess showed us the separate tea house set in the far end of the garden. My father in law, who helped drive for the group, said it was the first time he has ever visited a tea room and the first time he ever had matcha, which he enjoyed thoroughly.
Thursday we visited the studio and showroom of Maruta Munehiko and he demonstrated throwing teabowls on his kickwheel, as well as trimming. After his demonstration we visited his showroom, where everyone ogled the work and a couple of people bought two of his beautiful Kuro Oribe guinomi. I couldn’t resist buying an E-Karatsu yunomi. Thursday evening we visited the tool store, before going to dinner at Hisago on Nishi Arita. Maeda san, the chef at Hisago, prepares Kaiseki meals in dishes he has personally collected over the years. The whole meal is a feast for all the senses. He keeps records of what he has prepared for his customers, and never serves the same thing twice.
Friday we took it easy and shared all of the photos and video we had taken over the last 6 days. Everyone packed up and I took them to the train station, to head back to their own countries. It was an amazing group of people and everyone got along, making for a remarkably smooth workshop with a minimum of drama. I hope everyone will come back for the Workshop in Taku 2014: The Undecided Theme.