Tag Archives: wood fired

Clay clay clay

When I was polishing work from the fall firing yesterday, I noticed two pieces that had been glazed, fired (on shells)glazed again, and fired again (on shells). This isn’t too unusual, but in the case of these two pieces, they were literally fired side by side both times and had the same glazes applied, twice.

The only difference between the pieces is the clay body. The teabowl is clay/sandstone 50/50, and the smaller cup is clay/sandstone 10/90.

Now probably it shouldn’t, but the difference in the fired glaze surface astounds me. And all other things being equal, it must be that 40% difference in clay content that has changed that glaze.

Since the glaze is collected, I don’t have an analysis, but my guess is that the higher alumina content in the higher clay body is responsible for making that high silica glaze go clear, by adding alumina to the glaze matrix and fluxing more of the silica.

Busy busy

The first abalone dish dried successfully, so today I started making more. I also started a small run of shiboridashi teapots. These are always good sellers, because they are easy to use and clean, with no hard to reach holes or metal sieves to collect grime. 

I always carve the grooves as early as possible, because as the clay gets harder, it becomes difficult to carve without tear out. Then I put the lids on, so that they dry evenly without warping, and after trimming they will go into the kiln to be fired together, to avoid any warping. 

Loading has begun

Loading of the first chamber began this morning. 
The stack starts at the bottom from back to front. This part of the firing process is very important because it determines where the fire and heat will go during the firing. A bad stack means you will have poor circulation and you’ve doomed the firing even before you’ve lit the fire. 

The bottom of the stack is pretty much done, and the ware from 9 ware boards got stacked in there, which is about 80 pots give or take a few. 

Let them eat cake

Here is my latest pot porn for you: freshly stamp milled, slaked, and filter pressed cakes of Izumiyama porcelain. 150kg. 

Not for the faint of heart, Izumiyama is hard to work with. It is non plastic and likes to crack during drying, impossible for slab work, and deforms easily. And it costs more than twice as much as Amakusa porcelain from Kumamoto. Most porcelain artists in Arita and Imari switched to using Amakusa porcelain long ago because it’s much easier to work with, doesn’t crack, and fires whiter. 

BUT! The beauty of Izumiyama in the wood kiln is absolutely undeniable. It fires to a soft ivory white and blushes in very subtle shades of peach. The surface is deep and translucent and vitrifies as low as around 1230C. 

Tomorrow morning first thing, Peter the Pugger will be getting a major workout!

Hunting white clay (not elephants)

There is an old story around here about Nakazato Muan (12th Generation Nakazato Tarouemon, Living National Treasure) finding a really great white clay seam in the Azambaru area of Taku.  Here it is in Japanese for those of you who can read it:


For those of you whose Japanese is a bit rusty, it goes like this:

In the year Showa 21 (1946), the Nakazato kiln was converted from a coal burning kiln to a wood burning kiln, and it was fired until Showa 25 (1950). During this time, Muan mostly used a white clay from the Azanbaru area of Taku.  There is a story, told by his son Shigetoshi, from the day they discovered this clay seam (Nakazato Shigetoshi passed away in 2015, at the age of 85, so he was probably around 16 years old at the time of this story).
So they have all this clay loaded onto a cart, which Shigetoshi is pulling and his father Muan is pushing, to Taku train station.
On the way, they reach a downward slope, and without noticing, Muan keeps pushing  down the slope, and they almost run into a car speeding down the road. Shigetoshi ends up diving to avoid the car, the car ends up in a rice field, and their cart ends up broken.  When Shigetoshi gets angry and starts yelling, Muan says “I was so busy thinking about what I was going to make with this clay, I didn’t notice the slope.”,  apologizing to Shigetoshi.
“That was the first time my father ever apologized to me.”, Shigetoshi commented.

So why, you say, are you telling me all of this? Well, the fabled white clay seam has been looked for now by other potters for decades with no luck, but due to a fortuitous event a few months ago (and several years of looking), I believe I have found it again. Here are some pictures from our excursion out to dig some sample material for testing.

This looks promising, with the moss scraped away.
This looks promising, with the moss scraped away.


Making some progress, this small hole yielded over 100kg of clay.
Making some progress, this small hole yielded over 100kg of clay.


Two partners today, one is my mentor, in the foreground, the other a friend and fellow artist.
Two partners today, one is my mentor, in the foreground, the other a friend and fellow artist.


Under better lighting. Isn't it gorgeous?
Under better lighting. Isn’t it gorgeous?


Oh, and lastly, here’s a picture of one of Nakazato Muan’s coil and paddle built jars. This one is made from white clay from the clay seam pictured above. My firing tests have almost the same color as the unglazed bottom section of this jar (although it is hard to see from this dark picture).


Fall 2015

has been busy.

I’ve gotten pretty far behind keeping up with the blog, falling into the bad habit of making small posts to Facebook. One of my areas of increased effort over the next year will be to work more on maintaining the blog, and getting it more integrated with other forms of social media. Trying to keep track of them all is like trying to herd cats.
I had made one promise to show before/after pictures for a couple of pieces, the first of which is the slab/paddle built sake chiller w/ feet and lugs:

raw unglazed
Fired piece, Chosen Karatsu style glaze. Matchbook for scale.
Underside detail. Fired on shells, feet not touching the shelf.
Glaze detail


The other thing I’ve been working on since early this year is getting a usable kohiki/clear glaze combination, because for some reason a lot of customers have been requesting white work. They have also been requesting black, so I’ve been working on getting a reliable semi matte black glaze. Mission not quite accomplished, but I feel I’m most of the way there. Here is the kohiki I’ve come up with and I am happy with it:

Kohiki cups. Cup on the left is unused. Middle has been used a bit, and right has been used a lot. The patina is beautiful in my opinion, and the fineness of the crackle is something I’ve been wanting for a long time in my work.
Various guinomi from 2015, mostly from the fall firing. Guinomi make great gyokuro drinking cups.
Various guinomi from 2015, mostly from the fall firing. Guinomi make great gyokuro drinking cups.
Seabirds on white.
Seabirds on white.
The other thing I have started doing is Japanese kana inspired brushwork
The other thing I have started doing is Japanese kana inspired brushwork, except with English. This cup is decorated with vertical English writing, a Goethe quote I like: “Whatever you can do, or think you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” One of the other said: “Don’t be a dick.” These were more popular than I had anticipated and are currently sold out. Definitely making more!

Here are some of the pieces with the new black glaze. It seems to look best thin, and as with most glazes looks nicer over interesting wild clays rather than processed clays.

Type 1 semi matte black Katakuchi with black lacquer repairs.
Type 1 semi matte black Katakuchi with black lacquer repairs.
Type 1 semi matte black dish.
Type 1 semi matte black dish.
Semi mmatte type 2: two black glazes layered
matte type 2: two black glazes layered, makes a fatter glaze surface.