Thursday, May 31, 2012

P is for . . . . .

Production! It's been a busy week in the studio. My Oral Communication classes don't have midterm tests, and my fellow teachers don't accept much help even when offered. I finished my lesson plans early in the week, BUT that meant studio time! 

On Monday I wedged about 10kg of reclaim clay (after sifting out chunks of eraser and sponge). It's gritty and I'm not fond of the color it bisque fires to, but I am fond of practicing as much as possible when my typically busy course load lightens up for a week. 

As you can see, I've been focusing on coffee mugs. More accurately on pulling handles. . . Now, I'm not sure you all remember, but handles are my greatest nemesis in the potter's skill set(aside from all those thousands of things I've never tried, but they're unknown quantities at this moment). I really focused on making comfortable handles that don't look like satellite ears sprouting forth from the sides of my carefully shaped pots. All too often with my pots the handles come off as an afterthought.
After my week of practice (Tuesday was a really frustrating day) I'm closer. Still far, FAR away, but I feel much closer to being more in control and able to translate my vision into a functional (somewhat visibly appealing, I hope) handle.

I also got a lot of requests for goblets back when I showed all my work at Hata Fest. So, the last bit of the reclaim clay went into a series of 6 bigger handless cups. These were really fun to make. In general this week has been great because I've been able to set clear goals each day, and work towards building muscle memory, and measurable results of practice (excluding Tuesday's misgivings). I can only imagine what leaps and bounds devoting all one's time to a trade or skill would reveal. What skills would you like to spend every day working to achieve a mastery of? 

I learn new things with every rotation of that wonderful wheel. 

Have a great weekend. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Red, black and yellow

One the best examples of the new firing's colors
from an older firing

 All of these are pieces from the last firing that went out into the wide word
post Hata Fest. (I still smile when I think about the turnout that event brought.)

This week is midterms at Susaki High, which means no classes for this guy. Unfortunately I am basically out of workable clay at the moment. This means at least two days of drying, mixing, and wedging reclaim bucket clay. I just got the order confirmation of new glazes and my 30kg of clay, so I won't be using my clay body of choice this week, but I hope to spend some hours working on coffee mugs. Photos will follow as usual on Thursday.

Have a great week folks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Back in the Swing

 This weekend required one car ride with a friend (thank you so much Miss Mia), two changes of vehicle into and after the show, a train ride, lastly a taxi to my door, and you've got the full journey of my pots this weekend. That is, the ones I can still say are in my keeping. I am happy (and oh so very greatful!) to say that I had an excellent one day show. Despite drippy rainy weather friends new and old managed to stop in for a chat and a chance to fondle some of my pots. Occaisionaly (I am guessing) the pots felt right, and where thustly given new homes. I do so hope that everyone who took home something of mine gets great pleasure from it's daily use. The picture above is of my pots all wrapped up for their return journey and the pots below are some from the last firing that are no longer in my hands.

I was actually veyr surprised by what sold
at this show. I thought that people would be
looking for cheap small things. This is why I
made so many ochokos in my last firing.

Another surprise from the show:
I am not particularly fond of
this glaze, but it was very well recieved.
 Many people picked it up and
one walked away with it.

While these three ochoko all sold, my
 biggest sellers were rice bowls and coffee mugs. I even got a few comissions for big  mugs.

All in all I sold just over 20 pots, and sent about eight to the antique shop East of Kochi City that has a little corner dedicated to my work.

I decided when I started making pots at Susaki High School that aside from buying more clay (so that I could keep making my pots) any money I made would get funneled right back into the ceramics course and improving its equipment. Thanks to the surprisingly good buisness I have ordered several new glazes for the students (who don't have access to all the glazes that I use) and some much needed new clay cutters, metal ribs, and some other asorted tools. My orriginal plan was to save up and buy something major (like a pug mill or perhaps a glaze spray comressor), but after a discussion with Tabe Sensei it seemed more realistic and imediately useful to modernize and resupply a bit. I hope the students like the new glazes.

I spent today in the studio finishing some brush work on a sculptural peice, and attempting to get back into the swing of centering and producing work. I did not succeed, today, in finding my old throwing center. Time to get back to making! Practice, practice, practice!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hata Fest NEW WORK Fun Explosions!

We're only two days away from HATA FEST (the link is in all Japanese, but I like to imagine there are half a handful of Japanese readers out there in the datosphere). The first day, Saturday, will be performances from fantastic musicians (and other fun items of interests), and Sunday will be the day that yours truly is showing his collection to any and all would be feedbackers and conversationalists (who all hopefully become overcome by the urge to give these poor lonely pots a new homes). 

In even more blatant terms PLEASE COME SAY HI TO ME AND MANY OTHER ALT's and lovely people this weekend! 


Now, finally the long promised results from last weeks new firing. Behold! 

Opening this kiln load up was like discovering Santa had moved his workshop into my basement overnight. So, what did I do differently and why did I choose to do it? Well the short answer is that I sped up the rise in temperature of my firing cycle and added an extremely exaggerated cooling "down firing" to the end of it.  


The idea came from reading this article, by Steve Hill, in February's issue of Ceramics Monthly. The article focused on Steve's journey from higher temperature gas firings to his current work with electric kilns. In the article he speaks extensively on how to achieve the "magical, unpredictable surface effects that result from atmospheric firing techniques," without having an atmospheric environment to fire in. In basic terms, how to make electric oxidation firing look more like the highly sought after effects of other firing method such as: soda firingwood firingpit firing, the previously mentioned gas firing, raku firing, and countless others. The article's main thrust can be summed up by a quote from Pete Pinnell:

“In reduction firing, glazes can stratify into layers during the course of the firing. Longer firings and slower cooling cycles, along with the effects of reduction, can result in the creation of complex structures that can result in a variety of beautiful visual effects. Even seemingly opaque glazes can have enough translucency for one layer to subtly affect the next, creating variation and softness in surface color. In oxidation, shorter firing cycles, faster cooling, and an oxidizing atmosphere can result in less layering, simpler structures and less interesting visual qualities.”

Steve goes on to explain his firing process and years of trying new cycles (which I found absolutely wonderful to read, but I'll spare you the nerdy details). What is all boils down to is that by layering cone 6 glazes and exposing them to higher temperatures for a longer period of time the glazes are given more time to intermingle. This results in more blended colors, matted-finishes, and atmospheric results. No more hard lines between layered colors. This is a whole new variable in my ceramics process, and the results make me want to try new firing cycles. How long is too long? What is the optimum exposure to high heat to blend the colors, and not loose their vividness? Do all glazes react the same to the longer heat exposure (this firing seems to have severely darkened my blues and turned my green glazes into more of a dark translucent green)? 

My curiosity is endless. SO MANY QUESTIONS! But, there's plenty of time to seek those answers. For now, I'd say I've rambled on quite long enough about things I only have the most basic of understandings of. Hope you like the new work as much as I do, and hope to see you out in force at Hata Fest. 

See you next time friends. 

Monday, May 14, 2012


Today's update on the new kiln load has been postponed due to the fact that it is still cooling. . . . . .
Here's a few pictures of all my glaze tests though. That'll hold you over! RIGHT?!  Sorry folks, I was frustrated too. Never have I felt more tempted to open a giant oven burning at just over 400 C (like 700ish F) and thrust my face in just for a peek at new pots. Patience is a virtue!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Happy new work Thursday friends, and may it be a lovely one where ever you may be. Above are the pieces going into the kiln tomorrow after school. Along with some of the new textures you've already seen, I plan on trying something new with all of the work shown. Not only are the glaze combinations new, but also (after reading a few wonderfully tempting articles in new a Ceramics Monthly) some new firing methods I simply can't go without trying. I'll fill you in on all the specifics once the outcome is revealed next week. 


Now that, that little morsel has been discharged into the great wilderness of web space I want to share some photos that show what I wish I could make my glazes do. The color combinations, the cracking in the ice, the contrast of chipping thick paint and wood grain, and all the other wonderful dramatics which occur without hardly any human effort are the things I wish I could transfer onto my pots.   

Only more practice and patience will see me to this goal. More to come. Happy weekends. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


Well folks it's the end of Golden Week here in Japan, and this means the rust is shaking off from 4 days off work. I just put the 38th knotch in my 88 Temple belt. Tuesday and Thursday's post didn't happen, and for that I am most sorry. To make it up to you I want to fill your eye holes with photos!

One of my new glazes from the last firing on some yunomi.  
One of my favorite tea bowls I've produced. My mother managed to spirit it away with her back to the far flung soils of the good old U.S.A. 
Serving plate with a surprise splash of green and red. 

Some new coffee mugs  
It took two full 6 to 7 hour days of cycling to get there, but this is where I spent my 4 day holiday thinking on adventures and pots to come!

And lastly a friendly reminder to all you local fans out there that May 20th I will be at Hata Fest on Irino Beach selling my work along with many other lovely ALT artists and creators of scrumptious sweets. Come hang out at the beach, talk, and buy some pottery! Hata Fest will also be goign on on May 19th as a music only day. So, if you aren't like me and have to go to the Kochi Prefectural Sports Tournament on that Saturday, get yur buns down to the west coast and soak up some sun (fingers crossed on that one) and culture!