Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Post 57 Shohin Pot

Over the last month I've been working along in the background developing a couple of new models for pots. One of those is a Shohin sized pot and the other is a midsized oval. More on that one later, but for now I have some early shohins to post.

The shohin 'class' is of course bonsai that are normally less than 20 cm and it is a class that many enthusiasts specialise in. Shohin pots and pot selection for shihin bonsai pretty much follow the same conventions that apply to larger bonsai, although there may be a tendency for slightly brighter glazes.

So I was casting about for a design and was reluctant to just make a smaller version of a larger pot. I've always been attracted to neolithic pottery - ie. pre bronze age. There are some fantastic forms and decorative styles in different parts of the world. I borrowed a book from the library about the history of Chinese pottery and come across a circular bowl with a full skirt foot arrangement. It was dated from the 10th to 12th Century  BC and a beautiful piece of functional art. I didn't take a picture but did make a sketch. The rim flange had a beautiful curvature from above as well as below, a feature I wanted to capture.

I prefer oval over circular for pots and so after setting on dimensions for an oval adaption refined the proportions of the form of the sketch. It was then the usual path of positive model and casting a mould. The final finished pot length will be about 170 to 175 mm; it's 200mm wet.  Being such a small pot the whole process has been quite a bit easier but the mould drying time has been just as long and it's been sitting there for a couple of weeks.

But it's ready to use now and I've turned out the first few pots. These are all still 'hot off the press' and quite wet, as you can see.


This is the first one. Finished with nice smooth surfaces for a good glazed finish. I think I have made a pretty good replica spanning the millenium.  The lines are very 'classical', as in the original, and it could just as easily be of Greek origin.
My wife immediately ordered one - no drainage hole, fully glazed, for chocolates at Christmas!

The bottom of the pot is at the level where it necks in. I've been toying with the idea of a central front moongate type opening in the foot ring. It looks ok on photoshop so will no doubt try it out.

 This one is formed with surface that looks like it's cracked. A thin matte glaze or even simply a stain with the colour of old burnt terracotta might be good, to more closely replicate the original.

This one has an unfinished coiled surface finish.

And then just for fun a coule of real textured models. This one has a planked surface with small matching feet and the last one is shingled. I'm already planning on an antique bronze finish for the one above.

More news on the other new oval soon.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Post 56 Sunny Sunday

It can only be about 8 weeks ago that we threw a few sunflower seeds on the ground in the vege patch, it sure doesn't feel like it was any longer. They germinated in 2 days and were forming the flowers when the were 60cm high. I thought we must have had the minature ones; but they kept on going. At head height some have opened and others just keep on going.
They are SO bright they just put a smile on your face, no wonder Van Gough kept painting them.

 The bonsai have been moving fast too. This one is a Celtis that appeared in a root pruning post from back in August, with a final fan of roots about 150mm in diameter. It leapt out of the starting blocks in September and since then it's had an almost full defoliation, recovery  and yesterday another very thorough pruning. The fine branch structure is developing really well.

We have a display stand in the family room and there is always a tree in place, with a weekly rotation. I find this a very usefull way to assess what each tree may need to develop the style. You get to look at the tree critically, lots of times in the week when the only thing you have to do with it is to look at it . Having it on its own, at a particular height, without a distracting background almost always leads to some change - branch relative positioning, bulk, space, shape, movement etc etc.  The key to creating an illusion is seeing into the illusion we create.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Post 55 Pot Sales Launch

It is my pleasure to list 8 pots for sale on the Pot Sales page; for your consideration.
As a launch special the price of the first four pots purchased will be discounted 10% from the prices listed.

There are full details of each pot offered as well and payment and delivery arrangements on the page. If there are any clarifications needed or further questions I'm happy to correspond by email.

Happy Potter

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Post 54 New pots

As I said in the last post, 4 new pots are done and here to share today.

Each design and style demands its own little individual kit of shapers, formers, frames, bits and pieces. These have to be stored and labeled to get the right set for the right pot during making - I need to give them names to make sense of it all, which go beyond 'the rectangular one with the bead along the bottom' etc etc or drawing a picture on all the bits!
So also to share today are the names, inspired by the names of traditional Japanese inshore boats, I've given them to distinguish between them.

The first is the traditional style you will have seen before, the 'Tenmasen' style. It is quite formal in design and has a more masculine posture so the darker tones suit it well.
Pot 33. Finish is satin. Final dimensions are:  380 x 278 x 86

This one is the smaller rectangular pot you will have seen before but a little shorter. This particular one has a small internal rim flange. The simplicity of this design is quite appealing to many people, with the feet integrated into the pot walls and the 1in 5 inclination; the 'Sabani' pot.
Pot 29. Finish is satin. Final dimensions: 335 x 238 x 68
I've started making this one with a rim flange lately too and these are still coming through the 'pipeline'.

This is the one with the patinated antique look I mentioned in the last post. Quite a simple rectangular pot without detail ornamentation; the 'Kaisen' style. The glaze is nicely differntiated and quite matte, contributing to a weathered appearance of age.
Pot 32. Final dimensions:365 x 260 x 70

And the final one for this firing is  a blue/green oval 'Wasen' pot. This one has a rounded rim flange with grooved walls. The glaze breaks on changes in surface and glaze thickness, green where thinner and blue where thicker.
Pot 31. Finish is satin matte, final dimensions:406 x 297 x 83
I've made a couple of these recently with a squared rim flange as on the Tenmasen, which makes an interesting point of difference - coming soon.

Over coming days I will place these 4 pots and a few others on the sale page, for anyone who may be interested.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Post 53 Fire in the Hole

Well not exactly.  Certainly hot but not explosive.

 It's ok with the naked eye to look into the kiln when it's running at >1300C (2370F) but the camera didn't want to do it. Its hard to stay away when its happening, knowing what is going on in there! And its SO hot but you can stand right next to it.

The insulating capacity of the firebricks is amazing. Here I am holding the vent plug, just withdrawn. As you see the end of it is running at the kiln temperature but the part in my hand is only just warm. The secret is non conductive refractory materials with lots of air, making a very light material. It's actually quite soft too and can be cut and shaped with blunt knife.

Life and other demands have taken more than their fair share of my time in the last 2 weeks and I'm running behind where I'd like to be. It's been a challenge to find the 12 consecutive hours I need to be here during a firing.

But it is done now and I have 4 new pots cooling down. Through the just open door it looks like some great results. More glaze recipes not previously used on pots, with good differential  colouring. One looks like an ancient patinated surface which will be a great result. I just have to be patient and let them cool.

Tomorrow with luck I'll get the camera into action and will then have some pictures to post. With these four pots it's looking like I will have enough to open the shop and I'm looking forward to populating the Sale page with some pots for sale. Very close now and just in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Post 52 Bisque, moonrock and defoliation

I had a good firing on Sunday.

 The good news is no displaced feet so the extra effort of recent times to make sure the bond is a good one has paid off. Now on to glazing, the real fun.

In one of my idle monments lately, or perhaps the idle moment, I threw a little clay into making another root over rock, rock. This one is going to have to be called a moon rock after all the mini craters over the surface. I guess this makes it look a bit volcanic too. I'm going to glaze this one with a very matte glaze, when I can get some kiln space freed up, with a mix of colouration for better natural simulation.

 The same positioning issue arises here as with a bonsai - just which is the front. I think this is and the next shot is from the 'side'.

My bonsai starting and propagation has slowed right down over the last couple of years so I've had no stock to call on.  This season a friend gave me some cuttings of a Port Jackson fig and also a South African variety and so I've set them up growing in tubes. With the warmer weather they have got a wriggle on so I might be able to set them up next growing season. No rush to get this rock finished.

On the bonsai front the trees are running well. My focus this season has been to get some vigour and mass into the lower branches of some of my deciduous trees. To do that I've tried to progressively suppress the apical dominance which puts the energy into the top and tends to want to leave everything else behind.

This Chinese Elm is a good example.

At the top of the tree I've fully defoliated and pruned the branches and after 10 days or so I now have two or three fresh shoots on all the secondry branches. This will give fine branches to dome out the top with more and hence smaller leaves.
Further down the tree where I've just wanted it to hold its position I've just pruned. The tree's usual response to this is to shoot at only the single outermost bud. As this happens they are tipped.
And then finally further down the tree some of the spring growth has been allowed to grow, to develop more mass in the lower branches. They have a little further to go before coming off. It's time now to do a little wiring of these new branches, but making sure to keep the terminals pointing upwards.
Next step after a little more growth and  the new shoots harden off will be a complete prune and defoliation.

Now I have to go and select some glazes:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Post 51 Bisque load

Pot drying has gone well and a final touchup for the next 5 done; now ready and loaded for a bisque firing.

Each of these pots are quite different. The one in the middle is a new shape; a super short version of my big tub oval, and second from the bottom is one of the classic ovals with a heavily horizontally textured drum section.

The other pieces you can see are various bibs and bobs, tools, templates, test sections and some props.

I need to be around all day - 12 hrs for the firing and it's looking like Saturday will be the next opportunity. Better get the kiln god ready!
If you don't know about them they are worth a quick Google. What happens after you close the door and hit the switch are in the hands of the gods so a little recognition can't hurt, or so the story goes. Sounds like one of those things that if you start then you can never stop!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Post 50 Garden Visitors

We've had a couple of visitors to the garden recently that I though I'd share.

The first was a nice llittle carpet python that cruised along looking in the windows. It's mating season for them at the moment and there have be lots of sightings around in broad daylight. This one was about 2.5 meters long and in beautiful condition -  a beautiful creature, showing off its carpet pattern well. The cat was inside the glass looking out at the time and has gone very twitchy ever since.

The other visitor is a member of a community we hear more often that see. They usually sleep all day and you wouldn't know they are up there in the trees looking down. At night time, at this time of year, they tear around the trees at night with the males calling for and generally in hot pursuit of a mate.

They are amazing climbers and the trees they prefer are 'scribbly' bark eucalypts which have a very smooth bark. An insect gets under the bark and leaves a scribbly mark - hence the name.
We've got some pretty big ones at our place and they've all got Koala scratches on them - evidence of their climbing.

This tree is about 800mm diameter at 1 meter off the ground. If you zoom in you will see both the scribbly marks and the Koala scratches. Imagine how they have to hug these things to climb and not a crack or crevice in sight - gives a whole new meaning to free climbing.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Post 49 Another day another pot

I've had some time on my hands recently and have used it to punch out a few pots. I'm not yet attempting to make more than one a day; after all I'm not looking for another full time job! Where does the time go. I'm getting quicker but there's no compromise on quality.

The routine for mould made pots takes up to an hour to prep the clay and get it in the mould with the inside surface completed. I like to finish the inside surface so that it is smooth, blemish free and nicely curved. That done then there is work done to make the feet. I make these separately and attach later. This gives flexibility to modify the design and use different geometry. I did find also early on that with the feet integrated into the mould it was difficult to get a good result.

It takes about 6 hours before the pot is released by the mould and ready for post mould alteration or shaping. In the mean time there are other things to be done with other drying pots which has turned my mind to the 'production system' or the 'pipeline'. More on that later.

Post mould shaping, conditioning and feet attachment takes up to another hour and then it is set aside to dry for up to three weeks. Half way through that time when the clay is leather hard it is a final opportunity to correct anything that needs it. Sometime I use a small wood plane to make more than cosmetic adjustments to the style. It's a good time to do these things when the clay is more timber like in texture and less sensitive to contact damage. Finally when bone dry is when the preparation for bisque firing is done. This may involve a little sanding or scraping to get flat surfaces flat, curves without flat spots and radiused edges where they may be needed, like on the rim. At this point it demands some care in handling. So overall preconditioning for bisque firing takes perhaps another hour.

After bisque firing the pot can still be sanded reasonably easily and is a good time to make sure all four feet touch the ground. There is generally almost no movement in the clay during bisque firing. And then it is a matter of mix the glaze, wash the pot, mask surfaces to remain unglazed and apply the glaze. There goes another hour.

That's about 4 hours direct hands on the pot, not to mention working on basic common infrastructure, materials, kiln loading / unloading, housekeeping etc etc. The reason I've been thinking more about this is to work out the size of the pipeline. Now if I want to make 100 pots a year, two or three a week, that's going to take a little time each week. Then what about space. If they need to dry for three weeks, then to make 100 a year, means I will always have 6 or 7 or 8 pots drying, and the same number bisqued waiting to glaze.

With that thought and drying pots sitting on all sorts of horisontal surfaces, I set about for a tidy up and shelf build. The kids stuff in boxes got moved to the departure lounge (I hope) - ie the shed out the back.
The shelves -nothing fancy but just something adequate. Here you can see the result of my work, and 6 drying bagged pots, not to mention a couple of moulds. That esky is next in my sights!

The other shelf has a sliding door drying cupboard, storage space for bisqued and finished pots, glaze materials, scales etc etc. I don't know why my wife suggests I'm taking over the garage.

So yes where was I; more pots. Last one made yesterday was No 37 and last one glazed and posted here was No 26. The pipeline is full and there will be a few pots for sale soon.