My Blog June 2015
Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin?), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō?), the other two being suffering (苦 ku?) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 kū?).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
My friend Debbie in Michigan wants a starfish. I have contemplated the way I would make it. I think the best way is by the pinch pot method.
I will start with a ball of clay and pinch it into a small vessel, the center of the star fish. Next will be 5 fat coils which I will pinch into long vessels for each leg. These I will attach to the center vessel, creating the entire bady and legs of the creature.
For the detail work, I will make some thick slip and use one of my needles to place the bumps on the surface.
This will be my first attempt, on friday. I will report the success or failure by the weekend.
- Load the kiln evenly to avoid hot or cool spots.
- Load the shelves by alternating height (short, then tall.)
- Don’t place shelves even with kilnsetter cone and keep one inch from elements.
- Kiln posts should placed on top of each other on each shelf.
- Each shelf needs three posts to hold it up. This is the most stable.
- Two or more posts can be stackedon top of each other to get height you need.
- Clay balls rolled in alumina oxide can be used to even out wobbles when stacking shelves.
- When placing a shelf, try not bump the kilnsetter cone,kiln elements or the kiln's brick wall.
- Half shelves can alternate, use large pieces of broken shelves for extra layers.
- There needs to be at least a 1/2 inch between pots and shelf above it, for better and even heating.
- When loading greenware check dryness of pots before loading (feel for moisture against cheek, look at color, check the thickness) and only load dry pots.
- Keep pots at least an inch away from the elements.
- For a bisque firing pots of similar size can be placed rim to rim or foot to foot.
- Also in a bisque firing smaller pots may be placed inside larger pots, but no more then 3-4, depending on weight. But avoid placing pots inside each other that could lead to breakage or trapping of pots due to shrinkage.
- Flat objects and tiles may be placed on top of each other.
- Avoid uneven weight distribution when nesting pots (i.e.do not place heavy pots on thin or lightweight pots.)
- Always fire lids on the pots in the bisque.
- Work over ½ inch thick may need a slower firing as one would fire a sculpture.
- Large plates, pots, and sculpture can be placed on a bed of sand or grog (which is ground up bisqueware.)
- When loading a glaze firing glazed pieces can not touch each other, the furniture or the kiln wall.
- Do not load wet or freshly glazed pieces.
- Make sure thre is no glaze on the bottom of piece.
- Do not place pots or furniture on top of a glaze drip.In fact the shelf should be cleaned and rewashed wtih kiln wash before use.
Wedging is under-rated. Good and lengthy wedging gives you success when throwing. It prepares the clay to accept the spinning action of the wheel.
Many schools teach their students to just throw the wad of clay on a board or plaster slab. This only compresses the clay and does little to remove air, which are not the goals of wedging.
The goals of wedging are to create a swirling structure in the ball of clay; discovering air pockets in the clay and form the wad of clay into a much more managable spherical shape.
When I was an apprentice to a potter in my early years, I often would wedge the majority of an 8 hour work day, preparing the balls of clay for Sally ( my "master") to use for the day.
Always wedge your clay for same day use. Never wedge for the next day, it does not work! I have tried. Good wedging is very strenuous. The only way to develop muscles for wedging is by wedging. Plan your day to wedge early in the morning, allowing for rest between that and the actual throwing.
Any air bubbles found are best treated by poking with a needle tool and pressing the bubble to force out the air. Only then proceed with your wedging.
If you don't know how to wedge, find an experienced potter in your area and ask for lessons. It's that important and I can't teach you to wedge in print alone. The above are only pointers.
I walked into my new (to me) studio space today. My new studio is a community studio in Eugene, OR called the Clay Space. For those who are curious, you can see the Space on their website,
What joy to have my hands in clay after 7 years away from a studio. With so many options, I decided to build a toad house using the coil method. Very intimate interaction with the clay, almost meditative.
I started with a smallish ball of clay. To make a slab without rolling pin or slab roller, you throw ball of clay forcefully in a sideways manner, slowly turning the resultant slab to yield a round slab. This was the floor of the toad house.
Finding a bat and short banding wheel, placing the slab thereon, I started rolling coils of a consistant size in length and diameter. I would call them snakes for the chilren I taught! Then placing a coil around the circumference of the slab, I began to build the walls.
Make sure you achieve a good seal to each resulting lower coil by tapping with the side of your hand all along the length of the coil. Next, to insure the seal, smooth the inner edge of each coil as it is placed into the lower coil. This is resulting in a log cabin outer wall effect, resulting in a smooth inner wall.
I only placed enough coils to build 2/3 of the house, taking my time, making sure I trapped no air in walls. Air bubbles in clay will cause any structure to explode during firing in kiln!
I stopped there today, having worked on it for 2 hours. Finding a nice piece of plastic, I placed a damp sponge beside the toad house, not touching it. Then I wrapped plastic loosely but tightly sealing my structure. Not knowing how dry the studio is, the damp sponge insred the house woujd be perfectly damp for working on again.
I was pleased with my progress and when I return I will have some vinegar with me to make slip to repair cracks. The only clay I do not use a vinegar slip with is porcelain. I use a water based slip for pocelain.
I left tired but content.