Tag Archives: wood fired

Trying Out Something New

I decided to try out a new form to put in the next firing. A clam shaped dish that is a sort of Karatsu standard. They are nothing special, and pretty much everyone makes them, so there seem to be MANY ways to get from point A to point B.

Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes 古唐津 蛤向付
Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes
古唐津 蛤向付

The first thing I always do when trying out something new, is look through my collection of old Karatsu ware pictures and books, to see if I can find an example, with measurements, of what I want to make. Well, this time around it seems that although everyone seems to be making them now, there are very few examples of this form recorded in Karatsu ware related books. Or at least the ones I have in my studio.

I managed to find the same 5 piece set of old Karatsu Hamaguri dishes (clam shaped dishes) in 3  different publications (above). And, none of them show the bottom of the dish, or a closeup of the folded lip that makes the clam shape. I made a few, tried cutting the lip and overlapping, pulling the lip up and folding over, and  a few more things, but all I ended up with were forms that just didn’t click.

Whenever I get stumped, I give my mentor a call. He usually has some advice that gets me out of my hole and gets me back on track. In this case, I asked him if there was some sort of not so obvious ‘trick’ involved in getting the shape right for this particular form. As usual, Tsuruta sensei gave me some very good advice, and even sent me some close up photographs, which helped a lot.  So, here’s what I came up with:

Now, I tried doing the bending and folding at various stages of drying and I’m here to tell you that it is best done when they are still sticky wet. I suppose it depends on your clay, but for the stuff we have around here, bending and folding is like asking for fate to show up in your studio with a big baseball bat.

That said, although it folded better when wet, it had a nasty habit of  unzipping vertically down the pot 10 minutes later. That’s where the extra blob of clay came in handy. It seems that not only is it decorative, but it also keeps the pot together until it stiffens up a bit. Who knew?!

Honestly, these are my favorite discoveries: when I find a decorative element that is actually not  a decorative element at all, but rather an important part of the process cleverly disguised as decoration.


Finishing Up The Rear Chamber

Today  the second chamber was finally finished.  I’m not going to brick it in yet, since I have probably forgotten something important, and I want quick access if necessary, until the fire is actually lit. Unbricking an rebricking a door would be on my list of less than desirable ways to spend a day.

While the farther stack was packed with more vanilla type blended clay bodies, this front stack is mostly bodies composed entirely of native clay and stone. Some of it got white slip, but it all got the same clear glaze, so I don’t have to guess too much about temp in the rear chamber when I fire.

Below are some pics of brush deco, slip, and loading. I am happier with a lot of the brush work this time around, but some things still just give me fits, like trying to draw long fluid shrimp whiskers on a round pot. Gah! Need more practice…

TV Crew Visit Studio

Today I had a very nice visit from a television station who did a very nice job of filming the studio, as well as conducting an interview with me for a show segment coming up in August. They filmed the studio and kiln, me making a coil and paddle jar, me glazing a bisqued piece of  similar form, and also finished pieces which had the same glaze as the demo forms.

All in all, a very thorough job on their part, although I have no idea how they will edit everything down to fit in a 5 minute segment.

I had taken photos of the crew to put up on the blog, but apparently the station prefers not to have behind the scenes images of its projects made public, so I am leaving them out for now.

I will, however, include a few images similar to what may show up on the air in a few weeks. Also, once the show airs and the segment is viewable on the internet, I will post a link to it for all this blog’s viewers.

Bisque 素焼き

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.

Processing Clay and Ash

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.

Collected clay that has literally been sitting around for years.
Collected clay that has literally been sitting around for years.

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.

Clay washing bucket setup, and scooping tool, called choppage.
Clay washing bucket setup, and scooping tool, called choppage.

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.

After returning water back into the main bucket from the 'good stuff' bucket.
After returning water back into the main bucket from the ‘good stuff’ bucket.

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.

Pine ash bucket setup, main on bottom, fine up top.
Pine ash bucket setup, main on bottom, fine up top.

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 leftovers after the good stuff is scooped off.
The leftovers after the good stuff is scooped off.


Scooping with the choppage tool.
Scooping with the choppage tool.

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.

Dumping through sieve which is sitting on the bucket mouth.
Dumping through sieve which is sitting on the bucket mouth.

Views of a repaired teabowl

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…