Posts Tagged ‘clay’

Making rulers.

May 6, 2010

Today was the first day in the studio in about a year. Having finished my kiln it is time to make some things to fill it.

I made shrinkage gauges for the 4 types of clay I will be firing. I only use unprocessed clay that I run through a crusher and a non-deairing pug. I am going to fire with two main types of clay and two experimental types.

The first clay and the one I have the most of is a mixture of two types of gendo, 原土. I guess ‘native clay’ although in my case it isn’t native to this area but comes from Minakuchi and Awaji Island. Minakuchi is great for Nanban but very weak, it splits and slumps if you look at it sideways.

The second is a mixture of Minakuchi clay and Jo Shigaraki clay, 上信楽. Jo Shigaraki is a cheap clay from Shigaraki, strong and has a high temperature tolerance.

The third is a mixture of Minakuchi and a clay called “Red #4”, 赤#四 from Shigaraki.

The fourth is a mixture of Minakuchi and a clay that is a mixture of a type of gendo from Kyoto and porcelain from Amakusa. I have a several hundred kilos of this Kyoto/Amakusa mixture and would like to use it if possible. I only made twenty kilos or so for testing.

I made pieces of clay that I marked every 5 cm. When I have fired them I will calculate the shrinkage and make a bamboo ruler that I will use for making work to the size I want.

Making clay, catching birds.

May 2, 2010

Well, getting the bird out of my house. He flew in after he hit his head against our window. Poor guy. Of all the airspace in these mountains.

I am almost ready to head into the studio to make things. I have been out for a full year. There is a fear of the white piece of paper for the writer, the empty canvas for the painter. I have some of this. I have a fair few things I want to make but it has been so long since I have put hands to the wheel.

I have about 1120 kgs. of clay in the first pictures. Set on a platform that has support for about 1/2 the weight. I hope it doesn’t come crashing down. I am finishing an additional 480 kilos and will be ready to go.

Making clay.

April 19, 2010

Here is what everyone else is doing in my village.

Here is what I am doing.

When I finished my kiln I was so excited to get back to making things I went in to my studio and set it up to make large pots. I finished that and then realized I didn’t have any clay.

I use clay straight from the pit. I have about 30 tons of it stored in two locations. The pictures show a mix I will use for flat ware.  It has a type of clay from a place called Ishibe that splits very easily. In the photo I have about 360 kilos. For one kiln load I need about 1.3 tons.

The pug I bought new. Now, Japanese customer service is generally good. I bought the pug, used it for about 3 months and the motor burned out. It is a 600,000 yen machine with a guarantee. What kind of guarantee I will never know. I called the company up and they were offended I had broken their machine. They told me they had never had a motor burn out in the history of the company and they had been in business since the Edo period.  They then sent someone out to fix it and then presented me with a bill, telling me how lucky I was as I only had to pay half the actual cost. I was a little miffed and asked them exactly what good their guarantee was. I then got a call a couple of months later from a guy who apprenticed with the same guy I did. He wanted to buy the same kind of machine from the company, what was my opinion. I gave him the unvarnished story. I then got a call about a week later from the company asking me why I had bad mouthed the company. Yes, Japanese customer service.

Japanese antiques 4-4-10

April 5, 2010

Today was very interesting.

The first piece is a Momoyama period Bizen mizusashi. It has an identifiable kamajirushi on the bottom. Kamajirushi are “signatures” used to identify individual potters firing together in a community kiln. There are also kamajirushi that identify a single individual potter but I would think they would be more appropriately called signatures. It also seems to me to be a mis-labeling to use the word kamajirushi. Kama = kiln + shirushi, jirushi = seal or sign because as I understand the ancient kilns kamajirushi were used to identify work in the huge kilns. A number of production houses would band together and put all the work into one kiln as the kilns were 50-100 meters long. The signature would actually not be for the kiln but for the production house, each kiln load would have a number of kamajirushi in each firing.

The next set of photos are from a book which I didn’t get the name of. They are kamajirushi starting in the Kamakura period running up through the Momoyama period. Interesting.

The next piece is a sake cup made in Japan for a Dutch order. It was probably exported and seems to have been modeled on a Seto piece or design.

The next piece is a Momoyama period Oribe Shino incense holder. The design motif is of the warabi plant.  The link is to warabi mochi, not the plant.

The last piece is an Edo period tea ceremony box. It is a medium sized box. This would have held all the utensils for a tea ceremony under the cherry blossoms. The really nice boxes would have had everything including a small kama for heating the tea water. This particular box has a fantastic patina. The weaving of the box inspires respect for the level of craft in Japan.

The writing on the box lid is in old Japanese. The first photo shows “Ekaratsu” or Karatsu with an image, i.e., underglazed iron pigment.

The next photo shows “Oribe Karatsu ko” which means Oribe Karatsu is the type of ceramic ware, ko means, in this case, an incense holder.

The last photo of writing says “nijuni go”. It is a cataloging reference and probably was used by the owner to signify that the piece was #22 in his collection. Nijuni = 22, go = a counter meaning #

Echizen, Tamba, Bizen and Tokoname shapes.

March 31, 2010

The pictures show a wide difference in roughly the same type of jar. The question I have is why such different shapes would evolve. The pictures are of roughly the same eras even though the time line ranges from the beginning of the 1200s. through the middle of the 1300s. There are minor differences in size but these are the closest comparisons I could find.  The “obvious” reason would seem to be differences in what they were used for. Another “obvious” reason would be the type of clay and the type of firing. The fuel would have been wood. I don’t believe coal was used or is a reasonable candidate.

Looking at the pictures the right side of the photo shows the profile of the thickness of the wall, the left side of the photo the outside profile. Bizen seems to have the finest clay with Echizen coming in as the roughest.

As I have been looking through the set of books I bought recently I have discovered the period from the late 11oos, the Heian period up through the middle 15o0s, the end of the Muromachi period is my favorite time frame for Japanese ceramics. The bigwigs in the early 20th. century were reproducing those works.