I’ve spent the better part of the last week working on a wedding gift order. In Japan, the guests give the marrying couple cash, and the couple gives their guests presents.
Here are the yunomi and small plates for the bride. The yunomi were altered, carved, then given a slip deco, the plates given iron brush deco ( irises with grass and birds), and they are all going in the bisque this weekend.
There is a small artist show at the house and garden of another potter here in town. I have a small space there for the next 3 days. Quite to my surprise, there were many guests on the first day, and I even made some sales, though I wasn(t really expecting to.
I traveled to the port at Nagasaki this morning to pick up my new studio helper, a Peter Pugger VPM-20. Once I got it home, it was a breeze to assemble and mount on the stand, and it was up and running in no time.
Excited to get it working, I grabbed a bucket of dry scraps and some softer clay, and started mixing. It took some time to figure out how to get what I wanted out of the machine, but I think I’ve figured things out for the most part. It really seems to need to be full to do its best work. Once I added enough material to the hopper, things really started moving along. The first pugged clay was too soft, so it got put in again with a lot of dry crushed sandstone and mixed. I just kept adding more dry sandstone until I got what I wanted.
I turned out still to be quite a light batch. After turning on the vacuum, pugging out the contents, then digging out the remainders from the hopper, I had a batch of almost 12kg. The beautiful thing was that because the whole batch had been de-aired, even the unpugged remainders were very easy to wedge by hand. In the past when I have mixed as much sandstone in as I did today, the clay has been largely unwedgeable by hand, being just too short and falling apart.
I think this machine and I are going to be great friends. It allows me to mix and process clays and other materials that were previously impossible to process just by hand. Oh, and it is very quiet, both the main motor and the vacuum pump are much quieter than I had been expecting.
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.