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.
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.
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.