Friday, June 24, 2011

Pie Pan and Tea Pot

The pie pan has been finished. I carved and attached handles to it last night.

Here is a view from above. I didn't want just plain handles so i made a flower petal type design to make it more fun.

I cut a paper guide first before cutting the clay and attaching it to the pan. I love how it turned out and can't wait to glaze it :)

Next were my two two pots. I've carved the bodies and lids and attached the handles at the top. Both turned out well after carving, nice and light and a fun shape.

But before you can call it a teapot you must attach the spout. Originally I made three spouts so I could choose which ones I liked best. In the end I went with the left and middle spouts.

I'll go over the spout quickly since I have given a detailed explanation on this post.

First I have to decide where and at what angle I want the spout at, so I put it on a pedestal.

Next it's time to eye ball it. Arai Sensei helped me out here since I forgot the exact way. Basically you want the spout's mouth up so water won't drip out. After you find a good spot you use a marker to draw a line on the spout. This is the guideline for where to carve.

Carving is a pain and can't be rushed. Slowly bit by bit at a time I scrapped away at it to get the best fit. You can see the guidelines and where I've carved in this photo.

After its carved it went into water to soften up for a few minutes.

before placing the spout in the water I outlined its shape and cut a hole according to it's shape. I scored the edges and applied liquid clay to ensure a strong bond with the spout.

After the spouts were firmly attached I made 4 small handle holders.

I attached them to the front and back.

Here they are after being finished!

They turned out well, now time to dry and get bisque fired.

These are all made from nabe clay so they must be fired at a lower temperature. It will be awhile until they are finished.

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to carve a cup

I always talk about carving a piece but have never showed the process to how it's done. So for this post I'll show the step by step process of how to carve a cup.
I will use one of the cups I made last week as my example.

Before carving you must decide if your cup will have a handle or not, if it will make that first so while you're carving the handle can harden up and dry a little so it won't droop when attached.

The handles' design is basically up to you, round, flat square whatever. The only thing you have to watch out for is making sure it's not too thin. You will be holding your cup with it so if it's too brittle it will snap.

I decided to go with a basic coil handle for 5 of my cups. Coil handles are super easy; just roll out, cut and shape.

Although I only need 5 handles I made a bunch so I would have a lot of choices later on. I made thick/thin and long/short sizes. While carving the cups I placed them on some dry wall to help them dry faster. (Make sure to flip them every 10 min so they don't get too dry on one side)

Now it's time to start carving...
Before starting it's essential to measure the thickness of the bottom. Using two rulers I measured the outside like this.
Height was 102mm

Then I measured the inside like this.

Height was 85mm

So to get the thickness 102-85=17mm of thickness, which is quite a lot. Ideally between 5-7mm is what's desired.

Now it's time to flip over your cup and center it on the wheel. While the wheel is stopped, place the cup in the center then slowly start turning the wheel. Unless you're super lucky the cup should appear wobbly and off center. To get it to the right spot is quite tricky; while one hand slightly touches the cup the other hand gently taps the cup to bump it to the correct spot. This takes at least a year or practice to get down.

Prepare a coil long and thick enough to wrap around the base of the cup and that will reach above 2 fingers. Now you're ready to station the cup.
The coil you just made will wrap around the base like this.

While wrapping and pressing down on the coil make sure you always keep one hand slightly pressing down from the top onto the cup so your it won't move from the center.

Once finished it will look like this. Now it's time to get your tools ready.

I have 4 carving tools I like to keep handy. The one closest is the most versatile and used tool I own. The others are for special areas like corners or flat edges. I also keep a needle tool on hand for signing the piece once it's done.

Now it's time to carve

Starting from the center of the cup use the tools corner and apply slight pressure. Work your way slowly to the edge.

As you do this a curly Q of clay will start to form. Then repeat.

After a few times it's time to carve the clay sticking out on the side. This is relatively similar to above, but instead start farther out and work out to the side. You can't apply too much pressure since it will throw the cup off balance.

After a few times you can see the side getting reduced.

After a few more tries it should look like this.
Notice how the edges and top are all flat, if it's lumpy the cup will not stand up straight.

After the cup gets cleaned up a bit I like to measure it again to make sure I don't make any mistakes.
It looks much better but is still heavy, after measuring I still had about 4mm left to carve.

After measuring, centering and coiling the base again it was time to make the cups bottom rims.
I used my needle tool to draw guidelines so I would know where to stop carving. I carved the inside and outside until there was a 4mm thick rim at the base. Carving the rim is pretty simple, start from the middle and work your way to the line. Opposite for the outer layer. It's hard to give good direction at this part since everyone has their own way and technique which works best for them. But everyone will need a steady and patient hand.

2 hours later I had finished all 5 of my handle cups. They turned out well.

After scoring, applying liquid clay and smoothing out the edges the handles had been attached...
This was the last step so now the cups will dry under a towel for 7-10 days and get bisque fired...Can't wait to glaze them!

Until next time :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pie Pan and Cups

Last night was one of the most productive wheel nights I've had at pottery for a long time. In three hours I managed to make a big 15 inch pie pan and 7 cups.

It was my first time making a pie pan but I found out it's very similar to making a large plate. I needed about 4 kilos for a 16 inch pan (15 inch once its fired and glazed, it will shrink)
I needed the wooden cover for the wheel because this is such a heavy piece it has to dry overnight before being removed from the board so it will stay straight and unwarped. The pan could technically stay on the wheel overnight but other students wouldn't be able to use it and it dries better on the wood. I used nabe clay since I will be baking with it and possibly using it over a flame.
To start I needed to pound the clay out with my fist. Starting from the middle and working my way out. I left about 1 cm of clay at the base. I drew a blue chalk line on the wood board to mark the 15inch mark so I would know how far to stretch the clay out. Here's what it looks like after pounding it out. Now it's time to wet it down and start smoothing out the lumps.

I used a smooth wooden tool with slightly rounded edges to even the bottom and rim out. Arai Sensei asked me about what type of pies I would be making and advised me to keep the pan slightly thick. If the walls are too thin the pie will cook too quickly on the outside and not enough on the inside. Glad he pointed this important point out! In the end the walls are about 8mm thick but will be carved slightly afterward.

In the end it looked like this :) After smoothing I cleaned off the clay along the sides and took the wire cutter and ran it through the bottom. It will now sit for about 18 hours before being taken off and let to dry a little longer before carving.

It actually turned out better than I thought and was easier to make than I imagined. Can't wait to make some pies with this!

After the pan I had plenty of time to make some other things. Since my teapot parts were still too soft to carve I decided to make some cups. I used red shigaraki clay (high iron content) which is one of my favs. It's smooth and silky and so easy to mold on the wheel.

In the end I made 8 cups but scrapped one since it was too small.

I made all different shapes and sizes. Some I'll put handles on and others I'll leave them as is. Here they are from a side view. These will go to my teachers at work as going away presents. I made them pretty thin so I hope they won't warp.

On a side note my big vase is drying nicely. Last night Arai Sensei asked me to help him move it to the kiln room to dry more. I thought it would still be pretty heavy but it was much lighter than I expected. He placed it on top of the kiln since the heat will help evaporate the moisture. He said about three more weeks until it can be bisque fired.

So far my to do list is coming along quite nicely. I have changed it slightly, 2 teapots and a pie pan instead of a nabe pot. And I have about 1/3 of the cups I need (if they turn out well) I've also started on my chopstick holders at home. I'll try to get to pottery this weekend to work on my teapots, so let's hope it won't rain!

Until Next time!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More Teapots

It's been awhile since I've made my last teapot so I thought I'd give it a go again before I leave Japan. Teapots are a lot of work but once you get the hang of making the parts it's actually quick and easy.

My last teapot was bizen clay, but this time I used nabe clay which can be heated over a flame without breaking. So these teapots can be used for boiling water as well.

The picture above is of three spouts and 2 lids. The nabe clay is a dark maroon color and is extremely sandy. I have never seen nabe clay after bisque firing so I'm not sure what color it will turn out in the end, but I'm assuming a darker red color similar to red stone clay minus the metallic undertones.
Here are the spouts up close. They are quite thick at certain spots right now so it's hard to imagine how they will look on the teapot body.
Spouts are relatively easy to make, they just take some practice. It's similar to making a tiny vase.

Here is a drawing of what a typical spout looks like if cut in half. The red is the outline and the blue dashes are excess clay. After drying I will carve away the excess clay to make a thinner, shorter and lighter spout. I will also cut off most of the bottom to make the spout attachable to the body.

Here is one of the lids up close. (Sorry blurry pic) It looks just like a bowl at this point and the shape is just about the same only much thicker. Like I've said in past posts about teapots, the lid must be made upside down. So try to imagine the top where the thick part is.

This is a drawing of the lid and body. The blue area is what will be carved away (the thick bottom part from picture above) and the remaining part in red will be the handle.

The lid is actually quite easy to make since most of the work is done afterward when carving. The hard part is making the body. It is almost the exact same as making a tall bowl but the last step which determines it's a teapot is the most difficult. In the drawing towards the top you can see two steps sticking out, this is the step where the lid will rest.

Here is one of two bodies I made. You can see the top has a step for the lid. After making the body you must measure this opening and make the lid the same width so they will fit together.

I messed up on my first try making the step...It's extremely difficult bringing clay back down without it flopping over. Arai Sensei helped me a lot with this part.

So for now these parts will dry and I will carve them next week. I made an extra spout and extra lid just in case one doesn't turn out well so I have a back up.

Until Next time!

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's hip to be a Square

Morning all, My last 5 weeks at pottery is flying by quickly as I scramble to do all the projects I've wanted before times up. My official last day is July 26th so I have about 6 weeks total. Which seems like a lot of time but actually isn't much considering pieces have to dry for about 2-4 weeks depending how big they are. So in order to get everything I want done I'm making things like a mad woman since I only have about 10 days before I can't make anything anymore.

My to do list is as follows

teapot (body's been made, will make spout and top this weekend)
bunch of cups for presents, maybe 20-25 (I can hold of on this until last since they don't take long to dry)
2 large dinner plates (wheel or hand built, whichever I have time for)
Hot pot (nabe in Japanese, must be done in the next 5 days)
large bizen clay vase (I have some leeway with this one since I plan on putting it in the fall norborigama without a glaze so as long as I finish it by July 26th it will have plenty of time to dry but it'll take 20-25 hours to build so I still have to hussle)
small hand built hors d'Ĺ“uvre plates (I hope to use all my left over bits of clay and make a mix, these should be done in the next 3 weeks)
chopstick holders and napkin rings (20-25, good for presents)

Rushing is somewhat ruining my creativity at this point, since I'm trying to get so much done in a short time I cannot think too much about making a cool design or nitpicking on making it exactly how I want. But I think it'll be fine in the end, sometimes thinking too much about design or nitpicking about shape is a waste of time.

Anyways here's what I've been up to lately...

Like I mentioned above I made a teapot body. This is a special clay that can be put over fire for cooking. It's called nabe nendou in Japanese. It's very sandy and a maroon purple color. This is the most challenging clay I've had to work with since starting ceramics. It's easy to center which is great, but if you don't make your piece quickly the sediment starts to melt away...Since I'm no professional it took me about 30 mins to get this shape after one fail. The longer I took the softer the clay got and the harder it was to form the clay.

I was originally going for a more round shaped body but since the clay got so soft it would sink down (the first fail) so Arai Sensei brought it back to a bowl shape and I decided to make it have a large lid instead. Making the lid resting spot is the hardest part. You can see in this picture what it looks like afterward. The whole process is basically bringing the rim down inside the body while using your middle finger to support the underside. I've done it a few times and have gotten slightly better but it's still a challenge.

In the meantime this will await carving as I make the lid and spout.

I've been working on a smaller rectangle shape vase for the past few days as well. I used red stone clay and plan on using B glaze

First I drew a sketch of what I wanted, figured out height and width, rolled the clay out to 5mm thick and cut the pieces out to fit my measurements. I placed the pieces between drywall to help absorb the moisture, but it wasn't enough to make them rigid enough for building that day.

So I put them in plastic sheeting and into a styrofoam box for a few days so they would harden up.

After about four days they were perfect for building. It was time to start putting all my cut pieces together. Here is the base part with 3 walls attached.

As with all attachment projects you need liquid clay and scoring to ensure a good bond. To add to the strength I also smooth soft clay over the bonded areas to make it extra strong.

Fourth wall is put up.

For my design I wanted a multi rectangle layered vase, which is a challenge since clay tends to sink when put horizontally, and even more so when you put weight on top of it. So after consulting with Arai Sensei he advised me to make clay beams in the inside to support the weight and prevent sinkage.

Here is a drawing of what I did. The top is the lid that will go on top of the vase, The blue is the next rectangle outline that will fit on top. (See drawing below, the black colored part has yet to be put on)

The rectangle below is an aerial view of the base. The red lines are the beams I added on the inside for support. I placed them at the most vulnerable spots, and once the top was put on you could not see them.

I was so absorbed in the project I forgot to take pictures of the beams, but here is the after picture. It turned out very well and hopefully won't sink.

Originally I was only going to do a two story vase but I decided to add one more small rectangle at the top.

Here's a pic of the last small rectangle being assembled. Notice the scoring and liquid clay to ensure a strong bond. (I also added beams below this one)

And voila! Done! I really love the shape and can't wait to see the final product. Next time I'll smooth out the rough edges and do the final quality control check.

Making this vase I learned how important it is to measure accurately and keep back up pieces in case I cut incorrectly. Planning in key for something calculated like this.

It's hip to be a square!...emmm rectangle :)

Until next time!!!