Monday, February 27, 2012

Little Creature

Monday's here, and Kochi feels warmer by the day. I've got a time table filled with final exams to write and grade all week so, unfortunately, studio time will take a hit. The vase above was named by Yuka Tabe (the ceramics instructor at Susaki High School). She is my fellow adventurer in the ways of muddy creations. When this little fellow came out of the kiln last spring she excitedly exclaimed, "KAWAII!" (cute! in Japanese).  When asked why she said, "It's like little creature. I think, very very cute" So it came  to be called Little Creature.


We'll see you on Thursday with the opening of the kiln, and who can say what else. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012


It seems Thursday has officially come and gone before I could get my post up, but we'll press onward never the less. Tuesday and Wednesday this week were consumed by copious levels of humidity and constant rain. This made drying work quite interesting. I am convinced the ceramics studio holds moisture more than any other room in the school. 


Despite the moisture, this week saw the coming of many new and wonderful things in the studio. Monday and Tuesday were fantastic days of throwing. I am finally comfortable enough with my bowls and cups that I am willing to be more adventurous with my forms. Specifically, I want to work on vases, containers with lids, and tea pots. However, this jump to more difficult forms comes with a much higher level of challenges. Thankfully, Monday was one of those rare days in the studio where I seemed to have what one could only describe as magic hands. My imagination and my hands were almost in sync (this is so rare I can't even begin to articulate how pleased I was!). The forms were flying off the wheel. 

Vase forms were especially problematic and frustrating for me during my formal education (as minimal as it was). So one can only guess how large my grin was when the above pictured beauty was lifted from the wheel. 

 I hope that this will become my potter's mark. I find signing my work to always appear clunky and a bit like a drunk 5-year-old got hold of my leather hard green ware. I've never made a stamp before, but the fingers are crossed in hopes that it works out well.

Tomorrow I'll load the kiln with 23 new pieces, and come Monday I'll hopefully have lots of new work to test my four new glazes on. Assuming my bisque firing goes well, and no work is lost, this will be the most satisfying collection of pots in my year and a half in Japan. Thanks for being a part of the journey. Stay tuned for Monday's slides of older work.

May your weekend be filled with sun, smiles, and satisfaction. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Blues

Not many words today. Just some old slides of my blues, 
and the knowledge that today was a fantastic day in the studio. 
Looking forward to Thursday's post. Hope you all had wonderful Mondays. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cold Hands

It's early evening here in Susaki and I can see my breath in my apartment. If I'm honest they still haven't warmed up from trying to throw today, but we'll get to what was worked on today in a little bit. I pulled this form (I like envision bourbon filling it) last Friday. I've been trying to get this shape for sometime now, and I'm very happy with the way this one turned out. I hope my hands recall how to replicate it in the weeks ahead.


This serving bowl is from some time ago, but I felt bad only posting the single piece of glaze work this week. I wish I could remember the exact combination that yielded that off-white (ever so slightly purple
) effect on the inside of the bowl, but I've not been able to reproduce it. In truth glazing is is both one of my favorite and least favorite parts of my ceramics process. Every time I open up a firing something new turns out.


And finally these are what I spent most of my week working on. I'm quite happy with the forms, and even more pleased by the fun I had playing with textures. I have always been a bit hesitant when it comes to reworking the smooth lines of a freshly thrown piece with hands that have been especially unhappy with living in cold slip and water. Despite the cold, I feel very creatively charged by having this blog. Having a mini deadline for new work each Thursday is pushing me to make more hours for studio time, and I love it. My hands and throwing skills are, thus far, much sharper and more focused on Mondays and Tuesdays. This has worked out very nicely so far because I can let work dry and then trim the pots on thursday before the post. I hope you're all enjoying as much as I am. I'm off to clean the kitchen and have a cup of tea. May your weekends be warm and wonderful.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Only one this week. I'd hate to spoil you. 
See you on Thursday with new work!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Practice, practice, practice, &*#$%ing practice.

The coffee mugs above are the first attempt at getting a certain shape I happen to love, which is proving significantly more difficult to produce than I had initially thought. I should also take this time to mention that the fastest way to get me agitated in the studio is put pulling handles (or rather, more specifically, attaching said handles to the bodies of the mugs) on my to do list. The only way to improve is to practice, but that doesn't mean it is always fun, sun, and dancing bears. 

In other news I finished trimming and shaping the bowls from last week. I'm really pleased with them. They're safely bone dry and awaiting a bisque firing. 

And now back to the notion of practice making perfect. Some days (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week) I find it just damn difficult to really get into the swing of the studio. This usually means my work goes a little off center and I get frustrated and then (if it's bad enough) scrap the jerk to be wedged and reworked when I am more centered myself. I am always worried about the little details of my work, and remember from my single ceramics class that you can learn a lot from cutting practice work in half to see if your interior walls are even, or if there is a huge honk'n base hiding behind that nice shape your brain tricks you into thinking you've just pulled. So, the off center work from my afternoon was drawn and quartered in the name of ceramic science, and better future generations of tea bowls and whiskey glasses. 

Frustrations aside, any and all practice is good. Repetition is how we learn. Every day is a fresh chance to improve upon the last. Have a great weekend folks. See you on Monday with some more old work. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Families 1

Happy monday everyone. Here's some more of the older work. One of the ways I try to practice my throwing is through attempted repetition of shape and glazing effects. At the moment I would say I can only create a series of pieces that at best share similar traits. A bit like echoes of the original form or concept. While I like that each piece has a unique personality, I really crave the dexterity, muscle memory, and steadiness of hand that comes with years of throwing.

Well that's it for Monday. Have a great week and we'll see you on Thursday with some shots of what's going on in the studio this week.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A treat

I rarely post back to back posts, but the reactions thus far have been wonderful to hear. Starting next week I plan on posting on Mondays and Thursdays. One of those days will include and update on my current projects (though some will be kept secret, you can't just put everything out there!), and other than that I plan on posting one, two, or (if you're lucky) three photos of my collection of work thus far. The two  coffee mugs and juice glass below are all from my first real firing at Susaki High School.

This one has a little story now:

The former vice principal of my high school was an incredible man. Kind, enthusiastic, interested in conversing with the big goofy English teacher, and passionate about teaching. After my arrival in Japan he frequently went to lunch with me to talk and make sure I was adjusting well. Unfortunately he no longer works at my high school, but today he had to come back to Susaki on business. He asked to see how my ceramics were going, and upon seeing my collection he declared that this mug was still his favorite. After all the kindness he showed me in my first year here, I couldn't resist the opportunity. It went home in his suit pocket, and he promised to enjoy drinking coffee from it after his dinner tonight and every day. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I have been creating pottery in Japan for just a little over a year and a half now, and shown virtually none of my work. I hesitated to publish or post any of my pieces because I kept telling myself I was working towards some type of major unveiling. The problem with that is that I get virtually no feedback on my work (other than my own opinions), and as a young, completely unknown, foreign artist (who's Japanese is, let's face it, worse than infantile) I am not the most desirable addition to any local galleries. SO, in an effort to finally get feed back and get my work out there, I am starting this web space dedicated to my ceramics.

Just to fill in some gaps left by my brief artist statement, My name is Andrew (Bear) Sartorius and I have a ceramics problem. . . It started a long time ago. I was raised in the wild parentage of two wonderful people who met at a craft fair. My father, the fine wooden spoon carver, and my mother, now an ex-stained glass artist, filled our home with objects of wood, metal, and earth that had been shaped and molded into these wonderful forms. Of these fine crafts I found the ceramics aways caught my eye the most. However I studied English literature in college and didn't take my first ceramics class until the fall semester of 2009. A friend of the family happened to be the ceramics professor at Marietta College, and I signed up for a continuing education course, after graduating from The College of Wooster, with him. Once I started I couldn't stop. It just feels right for me to have my hands working in the clay. There are only two other things that have felt as right in my life - mentoring kids as a summer camp counselor and cooking. Shortly after my ceramics class ended I discovered I had been accepted as a participant in the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program. So, I picked up and relocated to Susaki City in Kochi Prefecture, Japan. Fortunately for my newfound addiction, the high school I was placed in has a beautiful (but simple) ceramics studio. 

And that's the story. Every chance I get I sneak down to the studio I lucked into having at my disposal. I am out to learn through doing, and improve my skills and creative abilities. I hope this blog will give others a chance to see my work and tell me what they think is successful and what isn't. Perhaps some day this will turn into more than a digital gallery of my work and creative process, but for now enjoy!

New bowls fresh off the wheel this Monday.
I am not a fan of this clay body, it's quite rough, and the glazes I have tend to come out a bit dull on top of it. These 7 mark the end of it.

My first vase form in Japan. Made last March.

A tea bowl from this Autumn's firing, and my first adventure in reglazing. 

One of my first pieces to come off the wheel in Japan.

This is one of the few pots no longer in my possession. It now assist's a recent addition to the 30 and up age bracket with his morning rituals. Hope it's treating you well Colin!