Sunday, 30 June 2013

Post 103 More pots

Ok the last couple of pots from the last firing.

This one is a sweet little oval about 262mm x 208mm x 57mm, Pot 67. It is glazed in a red/brown I've used before and will again without doubt.  This pot has been ordered for a juniper.

The next one, Pot 69, is just a little larger at 285mm x 217mm x 58mm, glazed in a deep blue and set to house a nice Chinese Elm; should go well.

And then finally a tanuki that I made and posted some time ago has finally made it into the kiln and been fired to maturity, finishing up at about 300mm high. Having been persuaded to part with it I had to make sure it found a place at last.

The new owner has discussed mating it up with a Pyracantha, and I look forward to seeing how that goes. A decent rate of growth should see it bond and reach a level of maturity reasonably quickly.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Post 102 Another firing

My Chinese copy pot came through really well, glazed with a glossy blue glaze. I slab built this one with clay that I'd rolled flat and then only moved the slabs by flipping rather than peeling them off a surface. I allowed them to air dry and go cheddar cheese hard before making the pot.  So in the end it felt more like I was making it out of pieces of ply than sheets of clay. Getting the joints right is the trick when the clay is so dry and for me that means abrading the surface, applying the slip and then rubbing the surfaces together to weld them together, forcing the slip out of the joint.
 Final dimensions of the pot are 216mm square at the top and 213mm high. I made this to fit a 200mm black plastic pot for either orchids in flower or an indoor plant, for my wife, so can't see it getting a cascade bonsi put in it in this lilfetime.

 The next one is a very contemporary design for a bonsai pot.

 This is the front.  The pot is a small one about 160mm x 125mm x 60mm

 And this from the left hand side.

The pot is made with upper and lower 3D curved surfaces joined around the edges. The upper and lower surfaces meet at the drainage hole. The concept is to create a surface that is like a thick curved slab with the tree planted on a mound resting on, rather than in the pot, something like the picture below.

It is quite a departure in design but I'm pleased with the outcome and will no doubt now go on and make a larger one.

 The next couple of pots were experiments in being a little less fastidious in the build than I would normally be. The approach was to build the base and thick vertical walls first then cut the walls with an old bandsaw blade to finish with a little shaping of the wall profile. The only thing templated is the oval base and after that the faster build provides some nice irregularity and asymmetry.
The break of the glaze on this one from cream to red brown goes really well with the texture. This one is another shohin at 190mm x 155mm x 53mm.

This last one was made the same way with a different profile and darker glaze. Pot size is 168mm x 130mm x 47mm.

I liked the outcome and made three more yesterday using the last of the 'Toast' clay that I was trialling.  There were a couple more pots in the last firing and they'll be on the next post.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Post 101 Work in progress

I've hit a bit of a forced potting hiatus lately with the supplier of the clay I like to use stocking out in South East Queensland; can't get it anywhere. Its never a good move to run out - your customers might just go off and find a better alternative.

The last couple of pots I made with the RGH are these, a pair of small ovals, slightly ddifferent sizes, getting close to completey dry and ready to bisque.

 And thie next one is a pot commissioned by my wife after she saw a beautiful 1000 year old chinese pot in San Francisco. You can see that pot in Post 92 and see how close I got in design. The glaze will be the trick and it will be interesting to see how the shape holds up. I slab built this one with very firm dried flat slabs so I'm keen to see the final outcome.

Here is the pot from the museum.

And what can you do when you've run out of the clay you like to use - well one thing is find a white stoneware clay and make tanukis. Here is the latest version. This picture is taken with it in the horizontal position. When its been fired I'll post the 360 views.

My clay supplier suggested I try something called 'toast', a very sticky manganese coloured clay with lots of grog; sticky and gritty. Not easy to use but would make a fine unglazed surface depending on the final colour. I made 2 pots to a new shape I think of as compound oval, where the sides and ends are both oval sections joined with long radius bends. These ones have quite vertical walls with the feet set in line with the pot wall; different sizes as you can see.

Getting desperate to pot I did some research and then drove a long way for a couple of bags of Walkers Special Stoneware. It is just offwhite and fires a similar colour I understand, perhaps just a little lighter than I would like. I have a commission pot to make and need to get on with it so worked in a little RIO and here is the pot half made. Its a big oval, aiming for a final 575mm long and 55 high. At this stage it's about 13% bigger than that and at the very limit of what I can fit in the kiln, and even then on an angle.

The Walkers Special has a beautiful feel to it and works really well; I might have found the answer, but let's see how it goes through the whole cycle. I've made shrinkage and deformation test pieces of this one and the Toast to see how they compare in those vital characteristics compared to RHG at vitrification.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Post 100 Sargent Juniper

Coming back from Canberra recently I called in to Leong's nursery in Sydney and bought three sargent junipers, one larger and two smaller.

There's nothing like being immersed in bonsai for a few days for inspiration. I must admit to have been quite taken by all the juniper species in the US while there too. Every time I go to a nursery here there are many varieties  of garden junipers available and perhaps it's time to give some of them a chance. While the shimpaku is without doubt out a beautiful thing getting to a significant size is more than a lifetime's work. So let's begin with a few sargents.

It was a difficult choice when I bought them. I'd hate to have to make a quick styling decision. As I've looked at them for a little while now the direction is becoming a little clearer. I had a number of objectives when I bought them; one was to look for opportunities to attach ceramic tanuki, another to air layer off a few unneeded long branches for some highly flexed starter styling and perhaps eventually also some shimpaku grafting. 

Let's start with the larger one:

Underneath all that foliage there is a quite straight trunk with a little reverse taper and scar as well as three principal branches, each quite straight and rigid without early secondry branches.

After clearing out the weak smaller branches from inside the tree I selected a smaller branch which joins the trunk on the face towards the camera, the front, as the new leader. You can see the other three main primary branches, the lower one to the left, one at the back and the other at upper right. The selection I've made for a new leader will take time to develop but will avoid the compromises you might otherwise make in the interests of early bulk and will present less of the straight section of the trunk.

To make the future direction clearer here is the trunk and leader more clearly. There is a branch to the right which may be retained but can stay for the moment.

Each of the three primary branches are good candidates for independent development and I will air layer off the left and right branches in the spring. The one at the back might be useful for a bit longer as a sacrafice branch to develop some more trunk bulk. Here are some shots of those branches with the rest of the tree blurred out. At their thickest these are all close to 20mm.


In addition all the material cut off in the cleanup has been put down as cuttings about 15 of them.  Root hormone, very sandy mix and wrapped in a clear plastic bag is a very successful technique at this time of year in Brisbane. All up by this time next year I hope to have perhaps 20 plants of various size from this one.

The final picture is the tanuki opportunity for this tree, taking the trunk from about 40mm to closer to 120mm. This would be a lot of fun to make but quite a challenge given the 13% shrinkage from wet clay to fired, but anything's possible with a few measurements.