Today is the first load of bisque aimed at the fall firing of the wood kiln. About 28 ware boards worth of pots, I really tried to get as much packed in as possible, to maximize the gas used.
I don’t pack glaze firings very tight because I want the calories getting around to everything, but for bisque I’m not too picky.
700C – 750C is my usual peak temp, I like the ware to be very absorbent for glazing, however the resulting ware is quite fragile and needs careful handling.
This time around there are quite a few slab plates of various shapes and sizes, which I am a bit worried will crack. These are stacked on spacers, then more spacers between stacked plates, because I don’t want to take any chances with cracking. The rest of everything is pretty safe, so packed and stacked without too much thought other than to get as much in as possible.
In a recent massive cleaning around and in the studio, I changed things around to utilize some of the outside space more efficiently. One of the most important things is that I now, again, have a setup for processing clay and ash that I have collected and burned.
I had been getting close to finishing off my stores of collected clay that I processed some years back, time to start doing it again. I think I have a better system this time, and I have an inexhaustible supply of pine ash for now, too.
I have buckets, bags, and jars full of old collected clay and dry trimmings that need recycling. It should take some months to get it all blunged and pugged.
The Choppage ‘cho’ ‘pah’ gay’, is a traditional Korean tool for scooping off clay and other materials without disturbing everything underneath. It works much better than a ladle. I couldn’t find anyone who made them anymore, but my mentor still had one which is kindly letting me borrow.
I just agitate the material in the bottom bucket, wait, and scoop off the stuff that settles last.
Then, later after it settles in the upper bucket, I siphon the water back down into the main bucket. When enough of the upper bucket fills with material, I dump it into cloth lined basket or plaster to get out the excess water.
With the ash, the process is the same, but after I get out the good fine ash I transfer it into another bucket and wash it some more to get out the nasties. The nasties cause problems with glazing sometimes and I don’t like them. I do save the water containing the nasties for other uses.
The leftover rough ash stuff seems like a waste to just throw away, so I am thinking about ball milling it to see if it can be useful in some other way. We’ll see…
The sieve is 120 mesh, because I lucked into a cheap recycled sieve. I would usually use 100 mesh, so it is not much of a difference.
This is the teabowl that fell into the firebox during the last firing and broke into about 12 pieces. After falling and breaking, the firing continued, and the larger shards warped a bit, making it hard to get the pieces to fit just right.
Everything went back together, but some of the spaces were 1mm wide or more, and a lot of filling was required. Not only that, but the edges of the larger pieces didn’t meet evenly, making a lot of uneven fill lines. I thought about grinding down the higher edges, but in the end decided against that, because the fill lines were already so wide in some places.
So, here is the finished piece, with the lacquer and gold brushed on over the fill lines. A pro could have made thinner, more even lines probably, but it was good practice for me. A few more days to dry completely, then it will be time to whip up some tea…
All of these pots were made with clay from the property, discovered right under where we built the kiln. It has a lot of iron, but still takes some heat, and won’t bloat at higher temps. Probably due in part to the fact that it is very open with a lot of sand and other even larger inclusions. Even vitrified, it still sweats because of the openness. With use, the sweating stops, as all the pores fill with minerals from the water and tea tannins, etc…
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.