It was a slow night at Sara Yama Studio. I had no new bisque fired pieces to glaze and only two bowls to finished shaving. I also had one bowl/cup from last week that I attached a handle to. (far right) All three pieces turned out well, they are currently drying and awaiting bisque firing. I used black stone clay, most likely I'll put these in the nobori and use kohagi glaze. Other than these bowls it was a night for catching up on things and organizing my clay.
Making things on the wheel and shaving pieces down leaves you with odd amounts of clay here and there. So the best (and most fun) thing to do is mix all the old bits of clay together to create a workable amount of clay. And that is exactly what I did last night. I had about 1 kilo leftover from these plates ( mix of bizen, black stone, red stone and possibly a tad of white shigaraki) a few scraps of red shigaraki, and a half kilos worth of red stone shigaraki mixed with bizen. All these different clay scraps were at different moisture levels so it was hard to knead them together. Instead I kneaded them separately, and smooshed them together afterward. I then placed the 2-3 kilo mass into a plastic bag and misted it with water. Letting it sit for a few days will help the moisture even out and make the mass easier to knead next time.
The only bummer about this batch of mixed clay is since I added red shigaraki (which has a high iron content, making it easy to explode) I shouldn't put it in the noborigama. There is still a possibility I could add it, but I would have to knead the clay very well to make sure its distributed evenly making the risk of cracking low. I still have to discuss the details with Arai Sensei, since it is a small amount maybe I'm worrying too much.
After finally getting rid of all those small pieces of clay I finally got to open a new bag of clay I bought over 2 months ago. Jo shigaraki 上信楽, or snow white shigaraki as I like to call it. I have seen other students use this clay before, once it is fired it turns a pure white color and has an extremely smooth texture. (Pictures of fired pieces to come next time) I had always wanted to try this clay but always missed my chance when Arai Sensei made his order, last time I was on top of my game and finally got my hands on 6 kilos.
I had been waiting for a slow night to give this new clay a go. I took about 2.5 kilos from the mass, started kneading and IMMEDIATELY noticed a huge difference from other clays. It was like kneading melted butter! Effortless, easy and smooth. I could even use my (still) injured wrist like normal without pain. It was love at first touch :)
After a few minutes of kneading, the clay turned a light gray color and was ready for the wheel. The wheel was even more luxurious than I thought it would be. Compared to all the other clays I've worked with, this felt like silk running through my hands and fingers. No numbness from stones or gritty sand. No cuts and scratches. No arm pain from trying to center the clay.
There had to be a catch, I stopped the wheel and went to console with Arai Sensei. He warned me that since this clay is so smooth is topples very easily and is not as stable as other clays with more sand and stones.
"Is that it? No other catch?"
"Nope, that's about it, the clay is strong like all other clays when fired so you can make anything you like." he said.
So I went back to the wheel and discovered another downside...Jo Shigaraki clay is easy to get air bubbles...Although kneading was a breeze, I didn't know until I started making a cup that there were tons of air bubbles in the clay. At first I thought it was just a fluke but the next cup had the same problem...I managed to pop most of them but it left me worried that there were bubbles I missed. If there are air bubbles in a piece, they will end up exploding in the kiln. Sometimes severely (The whole thing breaking) and sometimes not so much. (just some cracks) Of course this wasn't the clays fault, it was my kneading technique (which I am still not a master of) So next time I knead Jo Shigaraki I will have to be extra cautious. I scrapped the cups and called it a night.
I'll be back to the studio again tonight to try at it again :) Until next post!
From Sara Yama