This is one of my favorite water jars, not just from the Karatsu tradition, but from all water jars the world over.
I like the way it looks more like an old burlap sack than a pot, partly due to the way it was made, and partly from the firing.
Here are two I made as a sort of practice. If I can come close to the original, I’ll be thrilled, but just getting the practice is the main goal here.
Whoever made the original really really knew what they were doing. It is coil and paddled, and about three mm thick throughout.
These last two summers in Korea got me interested in some variations on coil and paddle techniques. The Korean onggi coil and paddle is very good for quickly making large jars. The south west region of Joellanamdo has a variation on this which uses slabs rather than coils. The slabs are slapped out on the floor in a very even thickness, then added to the pot and paddled. One of the demonstrators of this technique said that if you could slap out an even slab of clay, that was 90% of the battle.
One thing they don’t tell you is the importance of a suitable clay, and the hardness of the clay. It’s hard. Like slap it down on the floor and it doesn’t stick hard. Stretching it out requires a pretty plastic clay, which is somewhat hard to come by in my neck of the woods. However, when I was cleaning out the studio a couple of days back I uncovered some white clay from Seto that I had ordered a few years back for making Oribe ware. I mixed that 50/50 with some Karatsu clay and got something that while not ideal, is somewhat suitable for onggi work.
In the pictures below I slapped out 3 slabs and made a tall jar. If you make all of the slabs first, the construction process goes fairly quickly. It took me about 40 minutes to make the jar. The craftsmen I saw in Korea could make the same jar in 10-15 minutes. This jar is about 50cm tall.
Sometimes it is nice to change the pace a little, and kick the dust off of the woodworking tools. Usually, this involves making lids for pots.
Some of the nice lacquerware lids you see out there can be quite expensive, especially the ones that are custom made to fit a piece. In my price strata, that usually results in my work doubling in price, because the lid costs so much in relation to the price of the pot. This makes it tough to sell them. For a big name potter, that same lid may be only 1/20th the price of the pot, so it doesn’t influence the selling price all that much.
As a way around the lacquer lids, I started doing things in natural wood on my lathe at home. As a sub for ivory tea caddy lids, I use small pieces of exotic hardwood, or sometimes tagua nut, which is an ethical ivory substitute.
Here are some simple lids I made for the upcoming show. They are fairly ‘quick and simple’, in that I don’t want to spend more than an hour on any one of them, to keep my costs down. I want to have something that looks nice on the pot without contributing to the price. People looking at them can get an impression of how the finished/lidded pot looks, and they may like the lid, or replace it with a lacquer lid later on.
I am not a very good lathe worker, and still end up scraping most of that waste off, rather than a skilled lathe artist who would slice it off, thus avoiding a lot of sanding later. I do it this way because by scraping it is much less likely that there will be a catch, ruining the piece. After finishing the shaping and sanding, the cedar lids get burned and brushed, then oiled. Other hardware lids just get oiled after sanding.
Here they are (remember, clicking on a small image brings up the big image):