Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teaching the Teachers

It was a great Friday night at Sara Yama Studios. 16 teachers, parents and kids came in from one of the elementary schools I teach at for a pottery lesson. I never turn down a chance to be at the studio so I volunteered my time and limited knowledge to help out :)

First Arai Sensei gave a demonstration on how to make a simple cup, bowl and plate on the wheel. He made it look so easy! He was literally finished in 2 mins tops.

Since there are only 6 wheels not everyone could make something at once, so each person got a piece of clay, which they split in two. (One for the wheel, one for hand building something) Actually they clay split in half was just enough to make a medium sized tea cup on the wheel, I mean JUST enough. I wasn't really used to using such a small amount of clay on the wheel, especially one with lots of sand in it. (Everyone used shiro shigaraki aka white shigaraki) So my skin got pretty beat up on the wheel. The small amount of sandy clay with stainless steel wasn't a good combo, especially since I was trying to teach 3-4 people at once.

But everyone (including myself) really enjoyed it! I had a great time getting to know my teachers better and actually teach them something :) (They're always teaching me hehe)

The best part was teaching the kids. They had a good time and were actually better than the adults! The only difficult part was teaching them in Japanese! My brain was pretty tired afterwards. But each one will take home a nice handmade cup and plate :)

Here is one of the younger kids. He really wanted me to take his picture with his pieces. He was really wonderful on the wheel, it was his first time but he was a natural! I told him he should think about studying pottery in the future hehe.

Overall it was a great experience. I had the chance to see what it would be like teaching pottery and I must admit I would not mind doing this as a job! It's very tiring but very fun and rewarding :) Sadly the teachers only do this once a year >< But I'm trying to convince my other 2 schools to do it as well ;)

Until next time, with love from Sara Yama!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tons O Cups and Such

Here it is, the new lid, freshly made last night! Since my last lid ended up being a dud, I had a chance to make something even better. This time instead of making the lid flat, I curved it slightly to flow better with the teapot. It's hard to see in this picture but there is a slight curve. I also aligned the inside rim better as well. Before, it was too small and clanked around, so I'm hoping this time it'll be a better fit. The only thing is, the teapot body is slightly dry already, so it's a little difficult to accurately make a lid from fresh clay for something that may have shrunk slightly while drying....fingers crossed they fit!! Until I finish this lid, the teapot remains as is...

Here is the lid before I took it off the wheel. Like I said before, you make the lid upside down.

So while you make it on the wheel, you have to envision it like this. I had this in front of me while I was forming the lid on the wheel, just to remind me of what I was doing. (This is the dud lid)

Also, I finished putting the broken glass onto the last square plate. It's hard to see in this picture but it's green glass. I was going for a flowing leaf design.

Now that all three plates are ready, they'll go into OF firing next week. Can't wait to see how they turn out!


After making the lid and putting glass on the plate I had 2 hours of time to kill, so I made cups! (perfect time killer haha)

In March many of my fav teachers from work will be transferred, and it is custom in Japan to give a gift to the departing transferees. So I thought I'd start early and make everyone a coffee cup, since teachers drink tons o coffee everyday.

I went with a new shape today, long and lean with a wider mouth. Each teacher likes a different sized cup, so I just eyeballed it and voila, three cups.

I plan to put handles on them after I've shaved the bottoms. I tend to always make the mistake of not making them big enough (since they do shrink 30%) So I consciously tried to make them larger this time around so I wouldn't end up with espresso grade sizes.

I had another 45 mins so after finishing the top three I made some more. This time I made one giant one that can be used as a pitcher. Maybe for sake, mixed drinks, tea, coffee, juice, whatever. It'll be great for summer :) and then two regular sized cups. Same design as above, slim bottom, wide top.

Here are all six pieces together. (I used bizen clay)

More to come soon!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Break from the TP

I decided to take a break from the TP aka teapot tonight, refresh my mind and work on something else. I had a lot of pieces piling up that were ready for blazing so I did that for the whole evening. Total of 5 coffee/tea cups, 2 small bowls, 3 large square plates and one round small plate. Which isn't all that much in a three hour period but I did almost every piece in a different glaze so cleaning and mixing each glaze took up most of the time.

Time for the run down...

I'll start with the cups. Far right (top picture) I did K glaze RF firing for two cups (dark gray, bizen clay) To the left is one cup that is half T and S (OF, bizen clay). The bowl next to that is S and the last bowl (far left) is R. (Bowls will all be RF firing, both are white stone shigaraki clay )

On the last two cups I made a design under the glaze. A metallic like red with glaze I, which I don't have a color sample for but it's a bluish white color. Their is a tiny cup between them and that is glaze I (RF) but mind you it's with white shigaraki clay and this is bizen clay so it'll turn out slightly different.

Here's the cups after they were dipped in glaze I. I haven't used I glaze yet so I hope these turn out well :)

Last were my plates, which had to be glazed in a special way: air gun. These were the plates that I carved designs onto. (Bubbles, leaves and a flower) Since I wanted to put melted glass in the grooves I couldn't just dip the plates like everything else today, they had to be sprayed to get a very thin glaze so the craved out areas won't fill up with too much glaze during firing.

Obviously using an air gun is messy business so I had to take it outside. It's pitch black in the middle of a dark park in the mountains so I lugged a big light outside and set up camp. Few stools, some buckets with water, sponge and ladle. Oh and of course air gun.

After a few sprays each plate was finished.

Starting from the front: Bubble plate, bizen clay with U glaze.
Middle leaf plate, bizen clay U glaze. Top plate, flower plate white stone shigaraki with U and J glaze (green color)

After cleaning up it was time to put the glaze inside the grooves on each plate. Since the grooves were so small I had to smash glass pieces almost to dust and put the pieces in with a tweezers. (Yes, another tedious job haha) If I put too much glass in one spot it will overflow and turn out ugly so putting the right amount of glass is important.

Here is a close up, this is the flower plate with brown glass shards. When the glass melts it should spread out and fill in the grooves. But this is all an experiment so I'm not entirely sure how they'll turn out. Fingers crossed it's well! If not I'll have some plates to use with my demented tea cups :D

Here is the bubble plate. Dark blue glass shards. I didn't have time for the leaf plate. (that'll be this Thurs)

More to come soon!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Teapot

The teapot was ready and waiting for me at Sara Yama Studio. I knew I would spend most of my three hours in headache inducing work so I had my i-pod ready at hand.

It was time to attach the spout to the teapot body, the most time consuming and "technical" part of the whole process. Since this was only my second time doing this type of work Arai Sensei guided me through the whole process which I will explain in detail below. (Pictures included! yay!)

1. Aligning the teapot body and spout is very important, if the degree the spout is attached to the body doesn't coincide with the top opening the water could dribble out. Here Arai Sensei is showing me how to eye up the correct positioning. It isn't too technical, more eyeballing it. Looking at the teapot at eye level Arai Sensei placed the spout at the correct angle. While keeping it at that same spot he then looked at the spout from above to make sure it was straight. My spout was slightly shifted to the left so he shifted it slightly to the left to adjust my mistake. He then took a marker and roughly outlined the silhouette onto the spout and drew a line on the top of the spout running to the teapot body. He did this so we could easily see where we aligned it later on. This process is one of the most important since you decide how you want the spout to look on your teapot. Best to make sure you like the placement before you move on!

2. Time to start carving the spout! Starting with the base Arai Sensei started the hole for me. We used a carving tool which has a similar blade as a box cutter, but double edged and with a wooden handle.

3. Here you can see the lines he drew from step one. The base has been carved out so it is time to carve away below the curved line.

4. Slowly but surely more and more and the spout is disappearing. Keep carving!

5. The whole point of carving the spout in this manner is to coincide the body's curve with the spout to ensure a tight fit when they are finally attached to each other. Here you can see I still have a long way to go before they fit correctly.

6. Keep carving...As you can see, the closer I get to the line the thinner the clay wall is, so I had to be careful to put push too hard and break then entire spout.

7. Just about there... It is important to carve away inside the spout as well. It will insure a good tight fit and make the spout lighter, which is also a plus. No one wants a super heavy teapot!

8. Have to make sure the sides are even as well. Mind you, while I was doing this I kept checking how the spout fit at the same spot the line was made on the teapot body. The last carving is always the most difficult, very tedious. If you scrape away too much on one side you have to adjust the whole thing again, which means the spout gets shorter and shorter. Best to carve it slowly and carefully.

9. IMPORTANT STEP After about an hour of carving the spout (Yes, an hour!) It was time to draw the hole onto the teapot body. While aligning the spout with the line drawn from step one, and making sure the position of the spout looks even on all sides, it was time to outline the spout onto the teapot body. A marker works just fine, and not to worry about the lines, they'll burn off during bisque firing. After the outline is drawn another line about 1 cm smaller parallel is drawn inside. The inside of this oval is what is to be carved out. The reason is the spout thickness has to be taken into account, if I carved all the way to the spout outline the spout wouldn't fit onto the body, the hole would be too big. 1 cm leeway can be too much at certain spots so I carefully carved slightly more off while making sure the spout still fit correctly.

10. Once the perfect fit is found, it's time to attach them to together. I needed to score each piece to ensure a good bond. You can see the scratches in the photo.

11. A ready made clay paste is the best sealant for green ware. Get the brush nice and full of the clay paste and paint around the spout edge.

12. Softly attached them together, aligning the line from step one.

13. Check from above, below, side etc to make sure it looks good. Then push the spout and body tightly using two hands to ensure they are fully sealed together.

14. I like to paint the sealed area on the outside with the clay paste and then smooth the rough edges out. The moisture from the paste is the perfect consistency to get a great finish.

15. After the outside is smoothed out, it's time to smooth the inside of the teapot. This can be difficult, esp. if the top hole is too small to allow your hand or fingers inside. Mine was barely big enough so I could smooth the edges out very well. I also painted inside with the clay paste and added a little more wet clay to get a nice smooth inside spout. You'll be thankful later for doing this since cleaning old tea leaves or stains out later could prove to be difficult.

16. Next it was time to move on to the lid. As you can see above, the lid was too wide for the teapot so I decided it needed to be trimmed down.

17. Looking at it from above I drew a dot to show how far in I wanted it taken in. Time to move to the potter's wheel.

18. Since the lid was carved the previous time, it was too thin and delicate to carve normally. So Arai Sensei showed me how to get around this problem. Make a ring of clay in the middle to fit with the groove on the underside of the lid. After the ring is centered on the wheel the lid can easily be placed on top.

19. After centering the lid, I lightly pushed down on it to hopefully get it to stay in the same spot. While turning the wheel, I took the marker and drew a circle coinciding with the spot I drew from step 17. I want to carve up to this line. After carving up to the line I placed it on the teapot and decided to needed to take more off, it was still too straight. Carving with the ring of clay was extremely difficult. There is no clay around the edge so when I push on one side it moves the entire lid making it off balance. I had to very very gently carve away at it, and it did move at least 10 times before I finished. When it moved I had to stop, realign it and start again.

20. Last a small steam hole is made on the top. Looks good right? Nice fitting lid :)

21. WRONG! I made the mistake of not checking the SIDE of the lid while carving...I ended up carving too much on the side leaving a slight gap...darn! (You can slightly see it in this picture) Bad news is I have to make a new lid if I want it to fit correctly. Good news: I wanted a more round lid so making a new one is probably a better idea anyways.

Next time I will carve the spout and add rings for a handle to be attached after glazing. I'm up to 7 hours of time on the teapot, and it's not even close to being finished.

On a side note I have finished the small globe lantern. I punched holes in an interesting design and left a larger hole for a lightbulb cord. It's currently drying and will soon be bisque fired :) I'm excited to see if I can really make a lamp out of this :)

Until next time!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tea pot Contd.

The teapot is coming along quite nicely. Last Tuesday I spent most of my three hour time slot shaving the teapot and lid. I forgot just how much time a teapot takes to make! So far I've raked up 5 hours.

Here are all the pieces I worked on. Far left is the teapot body and lid. The lid is just about finished, but as you can see it's still sticking out pretty far so I need to trim it down to size next time I'm in the studio. Middle long piece is the spout, which I didn't have time to work on, thus it looks the same as before. Lastly is the lanturn which is officially shaved and ready for carving.

Since the teapot body is super round I had to use a vase shaped holder to place it in while shaving it on the wheel. The roundness of the body made it impossible to shave it without the device since it will just roll around and be unstable. Using the vase makes it a lot easier BUT is extremely time consuming. Below is a picture of the vase type thing. (Sorry I don't know the technical name!)

First you have to soak the vase (its made of clay) to get it wet, then you have to center it on the wheel, after which you base it with a coil of clay. Then the teapot is placed on the top which also has to be centered and leveled horizontally and vertically. (My teacher had to help me with this, I can't do it yet) After all this you need one more long coil to wrap around the teapot body to make sure it won't shift while shaving. The whole setup process takes about 10-15mins, which is a lot compared to the usual 3-4 min it takes for pieces that don't need the clay vase as a stabilizer. After all this shave away!

This is the shelf where all the different shaped stabilizing pots are kept. As you can see there are many different shapes and sizes. The wide ones are for round pieces like my teapot body while the long and skinny ones are for narrow pieces like a vase. Arai Sensei hand made all of these many years back, and they're still in good condition today.

For now the teapot pieces will go into a styrofoam box to stay moist. Until next time!

Studio Shots

lanturns someone made, they remind me of x-mas trees :)

My teacher with an ornamental owl someone made, it looks kinda like him, esp. since they both have cute mustaches! hehe