Monday, November 25, 2013

Gems number nineteen and twenty

Some of you maybe already know, we had two firings in a row this month. Turn of October/November was busy with glazing, concentrated on the right finish of almost two months job. We like autumnal firings. Yes, everything around get grey, wet and colder. But also calmer. And suddenly, lighting the kiln feels somehow right. Here is one shot, taken at that night when the first of those two kilns was light up...

Gems number nineteen and twenty. It means that we already make one round. There are no pots in my collection from The First Ten. Gems nine and ten are going to meet their new (patient) owners. The Straw in the Grass chawan is already with my dear Norman tea friend. And The Blue Jasper teapot is ready to fly to sunny California (with first snow behind my window, I wish to fly with it...). Say goodbye to those pieces, I love them both.

  Gem number nineteen is (again) teapot. Stoneware, unglazed inside, with few splashes of shino glaze on outside. I usually try to define why I choose a particular piece for my collection. Here is was not just because it is nice. There is more. When you hold in your hands it feels right. You really want to put some leafs in and make some tea. To use it. And that is first sign of the good teapot, isn't it?
   Gem number twenty is small shiboridashi set. I like the magic blue of this ash glaze. We use this glaze all the time (you can also see it on Blue Jasper above). The clay makes the trick. I used here one of the natural clays I was talking about here. Yes, the black one. This set stays with me also as reminder of this wonderful clay and of my pledge to work with it much more in the future.

For more pictures of those new pieces please visit this page. If The Ten Gems of Ten Kilns project is new for you, then please read this post first

Gem number nineteen:  Desert night, mountain morning

Gem number twenty: Summer swim

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two natural clays

 When talking with a teaware enthusiastic, I can be pretty sure, some variation of this question is going to pop up: "How natural are your clays"? I can replay that clays are natural by nature. But this answer would not go to the point, would it? Clays can be mixed together and grinded to desired characteristic. Clays can be also enrich by natural as well as more or less artificial additives: river sand, quartz, grog, feldspar, iron scales, saw dust, oxides of different metals or other colorants and so on... the list can be quite long. Clay companies usually creates recipe of new clay by mixing  several clays from several mines/deposits, then grind them to fine, seamless clay, add grog of certain grain size as bones of the clay and other additives, if needed. All is mixed again and "pug-milled" to plactic bags. Such bags are then waiting for potters as we are, ready to use. Or, in order to create our own recipe with special quality we are looking for, can be mixed and adjust again.

This practice have quite a few obvious benefits and most of our clays come to our studio this way (we pay attention to companies we buy from - clay have to be simple, without any artificial colorants or additions). Getting clays this way means less of the hard work, stable clay body and pretty wide range of different clays to work with. But there is few things missing and that is why we keep searching for really natural clays.

1) Clays, which you dig directly from nature are unique and you want that for special pieces. Even from the same deposit clay will vary, if you use clay from different spot or depth.

2) When one use natural clay then it is usually just sieved from too coarse particles. Such clay is not grinded, which means that there are grains of different materials in different sizes, the whole spectrum compare with uniformly grinded manufactured clay with added grog.

3) Using natural clays brings new live to potters life. Getting know a countryside, where clays are resting for thousands years, being close and familiar with material we work with - it all helps to give enegry to final pieces.

During the summer I was happy to meet two new clays, both clean and natural. One was given to me by friendly colleague, second one I found thanks to coincidence, when having a trip with friends, looking for summer swimming.

The yellow clay is more rough, my friend probably have not sieved it at all. The black one is more plastic, greasy like. When I started to make first pieces from those clays I already have a rough idea how they are going to look like. I have seen one piece from the yellow one (fire by my friend) and I make few test cones from the black one.

Both clays are very nice to work with, so nice that I decided to brake my plan. Instead few test cups, I end up with teapots, cups, yunomies and yes, a couple of jars.

You can see even after bisque fire (first firing to 1000°C), the black color disappeared. The original black
color was of organic origin and it burn out.
black clay after 1000°C

Thanks to these two new clays, the kiln opening last week was even more surprising then usually. Both clays work in whole range of temperatures which you can find in our woodkiln. The black one likes rather hotter parts and takes easily nice flame effects there. Some pieces were unglazed, on some of them I tried nuka and shino glazes. Take a look at pictures and you will know: We are already working on two trips to visit two interesting places of Czech countryside. Some barels, hoes and shovels are going to go with us...

yellow clay, shino glaze

black clay, nuka glaze

yellow clay with tenmoku glaze

black clay with white slip and white crackel glaze
rough yellow clay teapot...

bisque fired yellow clay teapot...

...and fired to around 1280°C in charcoal part of our woodkiln

rough black clay

black clay after 1000°C

...and fired to around 1280°C in charcoal part of our woodkiln

Thank you for reading!