Friday, 17 January 2014

Post 140 Three new pots

My latest firing has been a very interesting one, with a couple of new experiments.

The first one was with Pot No 102. This is quite a large pot coming in at 452 x 352 x 82.

The glaze is a layering of two different glazes, which can produce some unexpected results. The base glaze is a favourite of mine that I have used often. It is the cream beige that breaks brown/red where thin, as on Pot 87. Over that glaze I've applied one of a differrent composition which has an antique, thoroughly offwhite colour that is a bit hard to describe., last used on Pot 91. Both of these were in a firing that featured on Post 124.

The base glaze is a Custer Potash glaze and the upper one is made on Nephylene Syenite. In the melting process the lower glaze generates gases which bubble when they get trapped by the over glaze, until they break out leaving an indentation. The glaze is fairly immobile so this causes some interesting surface movement without flowing.
Here is a detail shot which shows some the the results of that interaction between the glazes, leaving a very interesting colouring and surface. This one is a keeper.

I've talked about the different shapes of pots before. It is hard to tell what they are with the low angle side shot. Pot 102 is one of my compound ovals.  In Post 123 I showed a picture of a few bisque pots, some compounds and a couple of ovals.

Here is a three quarters view which best shows off the pot.  The reason I mention shape is because today's last pot is of a slightly different shape; but we'll come to that.

 The next pot, Pot No 103 finished at 433 x 344 x 92 is another compound oval. This is one of my unglazed simulator glazes which I've used a bit recently, last time on Pot 98 posted in December.    It can produce a variety of colours depending on how thick and uniformly the glaze is applied.

 So that brings us to the last one for this firing, Pot No 104 at 389 x 280 x 76, just a little smaller than the other two.

First off let's have a top down look to show the difference in shape from Pot 102. Might just be just me but there is a difference, less bowing in the front and back walls and tighter radius corners, to make it a bowed wall rectangular pot.

The full frontal view shows another 'first use on a pot' glaze which I will add to my unglazed simulators; hence the application on the feet as well. It is a dark brown, just as expected with a nice little differentiation through the application.

 And the end view.

And a three quarters view again to emphasize the different shape; makes an attractive pot.

And finally a detail shot of the glaze.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Post 139 Bonsai exhibition display height

We've been through the exhibition 'season' here in SE Queensland over the last 3 months. I've displayed trees in two club events and visited a couple of others. They have all been faultless in all but the height of the tables used to display the trees.

It's a bit of a soapbox of mine, a short one at that, but we just aren't getting the best out of our trees in the eyes of the visitors to our exhibitions who come for a look. We all know what it's like as we spend most of our time with our hands on our knees to get down to the right viewing height. Clubs are somewhat hostage to the venues they use and the equipment those venues make available. Inevitably the tables are the standard general purpose collapsable tables that stand about  700mm high; about thigh high. They are of course designed for people to sit at and we have a different purpose for them, which they are not so good for.

 But it's not just us. Here's a picture from Japan. It shows the typical pose we all have to adopt to really appreciate displayed trees, and it shows that we need to look horizontally at about the middle third of the tree height, to look up into the canopy and down to the nebari; reflecting the way we take in a tree in the natural world.
So we either have to lift the tree up higher or bend down.  In this picture we see that a bonsai table has been used to lift the tree to a better height and although it is a reasonable height bonsai table, it's still not tall enough.
It's even worse the smaller the tree of course and with so many shohins we just get to look at the canopy because it's too far to bend down.

Here is a tree displayed on a long legged table and immediately you get a sense of being able to stand tall and appreciate a beautiful composition. Bonsai tables round out a composition but that can be done as easily with a decorative mat on the tabletop. Their real value comes in the option they offer to elevate the tree to a better viewing height. But not everyone has 400mm high tables and I think clubs and societies need to address the infrastructure to improve our exhibitions.

Unfortunalely if everyone gets on the bandwagon of tall bonsai tables to compensate it starts to get a bit hard to see the trees for the forest, of table legs. In this picture from Reggio Emilia you can see immediately the improvement that comes with a higher display position and how relatively low the standard table-top is.

As you see I went looking online to find any evidence of enlightened associations that have recognised and bitten this bullet. I found plenty of low tables like this one.

Here is Ryan Neil trying to eyeball a box tree in the US with the standard general purpose tables, so they hadn't got it, although the table right over at the back seems higher?.

Then I found Bjorn Bjorholm offering a critique and although he's a big guy, for this tall tree the geometry is getting better in mid America.

The Noelanders offered a ray of light. These tables are getting close to waist height, perhaps 850mm to 900mm. Note the height of the audience's heads relative to the tops of the trees. Another 200mm might just about be enough do you think. There are a few bent backs in the audience but mostly people are upright.

But then the folks in New Haven Connecticut look like they stepped up to at least waist height - around 1000mm, in 2011. Well done but not quite there yet I think, just a little more.

And then I found Peter Tea in Milwaukee. Please note the proximity of Peter's elbow to the top of the table. This would make it about 1100mm high.

Here's another shot from the same critique video. He's hanging onto his soft drink and could almost be leaning on a bar, eyeballs lined up at almost dead centre of the tree. With this table height even a shohin on a 150mm to 200mm bonsai table is going to be displayed at a height where it can be fairly appreciated.

 But there was always going to be someone to bracket the game, test the limits and go even higher. NI stands for Northern Ireland.

The NIBS got serious about their tables and I included this shot to show how they go together. As you can see they are still demountable. But how high?

The final two pictures might help. Between elbow and shoulder would put the table top at about 1200 to 1250mm high. Personally I think this is the best viewing height for an adult male but for the rest of the viewing audience it is probably one step too far.
So I think Milwaukee wins the competition at about 1100mm; congratulations on your insight and resolve to break out from the pack and get it right. But it is a great pleasure to find a number of examples of groups who have determined to do something to improve the display of their trees and step up from the standard 700mm table height.

As they have shown the problem is not insurmountable. Even in those places where only the stock standard folding tables are on offer we have to adapt. The two options are to either lift the table by sitting it on a 400mm support or make a simple 400mm high trestle table with new table top to sit on top of the folding table. Neither is easy but when ever was the best and right thing the easiest?

Bonsai societies of Australia if not the world we have to lift our exhibition game by lifting our display tables. Let's set a 2014 exhibition season goal of adopting 1100mm as a new national, well why not international, general exhibition table-top height display standard; with shohins displayed at 1200mm. Can you make it happen in your club/society? Feedback appreciated.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Post 138 A meeting with old friends

There is one part of being a potter that I'm still coming to grips with. When you sell a pot and hand it over to a happy customer it moves out of your world and into someone else's. It's not as if they are with me for long or that they take an inordinate effort to produce, but there is a connection none the less. Inanimate that they are, in crafting a pot from a lump of wet clay you are giving it a life that is very likely to see it pass through many hands and outlive many of those enthusiasts and certainly the potter. If that doesn't offer the story of a life I don't know what does. That said I've not yet gone through the separation anxiety of parting with a treasured tree and don't look forward to that at all.

You don't expect to reconnect with the pots you've created and sometimes when you do it can be quite a suprise and a pleasure. Like an old friendship you get to reconnect and catchup on what has happened in the intervening period.

I was looking at the record of the October 2013 exhibition of the Canberra Bonsai Society on their website and saw a pot that struck a chord, and then another. Good to see a couple of old friends supporting a couple of powerfully attractive trees.

This is a Coastal Tea Tree in Pot No 22, from Post 46.

This a Desert Ash in Pot No 34, from Post 59.

The pots were sold at the Canberra Arboretum in May during the 2013 national conference.