陶芸

Plates & Sake cups

Four plates

At the ceramics studio this winter, I have been focusing on a set of plates, commissioned by my Japanese aunt, and small sake cups (ぐい飲み). For the plates, I am experimenting with circular patterns and using a white glaze on black clay. It’s hard to make the plates, and several have cracked during the first firing.

The small sake cups I brought to San Francisco to give to friends. I tried various techniques for carving and pattern-making with something that looks like cheese cloth. The idea was to create texture to steady your hand as you drink. I also made some necklaces and brooches for my relatives in NYC using cookie cutters and stamps to create flower patterns.

Guinomi, or small sake cups

You can see I tried a few different color combinations.

Guinomi, or small sake cups

I like how the seam is visible.

Guinomi, or small sake cups

Students’ ceramics show

Students' ceramic show

Last week was the students’ ceramics show in Nishi-Ogikubo. Fourteen students plus the in-law teachers exhibited their work in a cozy two-story gallery. After just two months of ceramics lessons, it seemed a little early for me. All credit is due to my excellent teachers.

I showed almost twenty flower pots, and put flowering plants in six of them and pre-refrigerated bulbs in several more. I was very surprised to sell seven flower pots– four to my aunt K, and one each to ceramics student S, our friend K from Yokohama, and generous W from Peru and Chiba.

Here’s two other views, an overview of floor 1 and another image of my pots, including the giant one which will soon hold my lemon tree.

Students' ceramic show

I missed it, but I heard that the 11-month-old S who comes to the studio with his mom climbed into the giant pot below.

Students' ceramic show`

More flower pots

More flower pots; glazed

I am working extra hard at the ceramics studio to get ready for the student show on November 21. Above are the finished pots that I blogged on Oct 20.

Below are five more that have been glazed but not final-baked. I am experimenting with geometric designs.

More flower pots; glazed but pre-baked

Finally, I am still experimenting with different shapes. Round with a straight side is the most practical for commercially-bought plants. I’ve also tried square, and below you can see triangular and oval (before biscuit frying).

More flower pots, triangle and oval

I’ll be in the studio a lot over the next weeks.

I’ve been invited to join student show next month

The in-law senseis have invited me to participate in next month’s student ceramic show in Nishi-Ogikubo. I am excited and chotto nervous since I’ve just started. I now have nine flower pots in different stages of production.

Here’s three small pots after applying the glaze on Sunday. Once they are fired a second time, the brown clay will turn black, and the blue-white glaze will be shiny. (See Stage 1 and Stage 2).

Here’s the pre-glaze application that keeps parts of the pots unglazed. I did the designs and used a paint brush to apply the pink solution.

And finally, after three days of careful work, the large flower pot is now formed. It’s 30 centimeters in diameter and 36 centimeters in height. Even after shrinking by 15% in “biscuit firing,” it will be a good-sized pot for my lemon tree.

I am really enjoying learning about ceramics, the comraderie of the studio, and the patience of the in-law senseis!

Saipan lemon tree

It’s fall in Tokyo: occasional rain, ginko fruit on the ground (and nuts eaten as bar food), appearance of fall fashion (woolens, baby leg warmers, lots of red-and-black), desserts with chestnuts. And I got this great deal on a Saipan lemon tree with three ripe green lemons (about $12).

I haven’t found much information online about Saipan lemons. I do know that the fruit stays green on the branches (might turn slightly yellow after harvesting), and that it comes from a tiny island owned by the United States that is vying with Guam for Japanese golf tourists.

The friendly plant guy who sold me the Saipan lemon tree urged me to up-pot it as soon as possible. After checking out what’s commercially available, I’ve decided to make my largest flower pot yet at the ceramic studio. Here it is after the first day of shaping: 30 centimeter in diameter, 10 centimeter in height after Day 1. I’ll work on the shape for 3 to 4 days, and it should reach 30 to 40 centimeters tall. (30 centimeters = 1 foot). Large pots are much more difficult to make. Thanks, senseis for your help!

Completed flower pot

Here’s the completed flower pot, on our deck on a rainy fall morning. Yesterday at the studio, my ceramic teachers surprised me with the glazed and finished pot. It’s about 13 cm x 13 cm. Below is the signature on the bottom of the pot, and you can see the contrast between the black clay and the blue-white glaze.

Finally, here’s an image of otoosan sensei showing off the tong used to remove the pots from the kiln. Nice tool!

Making a flower pot

Feeling a little down this week, I decided that I’d restart my ceramics study at Shiho with the wonderfully gracious in-laws. My first project is a flower pot for the new apartment. I am going with something fairly simple, a straight cyclinder with 3 feet. Okaasan suggested a white glaze on top of black clay.

I’ll try to document the 6 stages on the blog. The first is Form, which involves creating a flat base, and then adding about eight rope-shapes one-by-one, and smoothing everything together. Mine was a bit uneven (see above), but otoosan sensei straightened it up!

Six stages for simple pottery

1. 成形 Form (“seikei”)

2. 削る Sharpen (“kezuru”)

3. 乾燥   Drying (“kansou”)

4. 素焼き Biscuit frying (“suyaki”)

5. 釉がけ Glazing (“yuugake”)

6. 窯焚き Firing (“kamataki”)