Friday, August 9, 2013

Brushing and Pouring

Image via Artnet Galleries.
First off, I'm going to apologize for the way this post may be written. I've had a stressful day, and my husband took one look at the wild look in my eye and the shortness of breath and gave me half a Xanax to take the edge.

I feel better, but my thought processes may be a bit on the "stream of conciousness" side, rather than more organized. Whatever. I don't feel like screaming, anymore, and that's what's important, right? ;)

So, onward!
Image via the Pucker Gallery.
I'm in the process of glazing some pieces. There are a bunch of ways to glaze, a bunch of different temperatures to fire the glazes, some of which involve holding certain temperatures for specific period of time. There are bunch of different effects you can get in oxidation or reduction firings. (Oxidation is introducing oxygen in the firing chamber-or it is already there, as in the electric kiln's environment-reduction is reducing the oxygen in the firing chamber.  Oversimplification, but there you have it.) You can brush glaze onto bisque ware, dip it, pour it, trail it. All sorts of techniques are used to different effect.

Brushing and trailing are two techniques that, when executed properly, really make a piece stand out. One of the masters of these techniques was Shoji Hamada. 
Image via the Asian Art website.
What 's really amazing to me as a potter and a student, is how simple his pieces are and how deceptively easy his technique looked. When you see video of Hamada working, you notice that none of his pieces are without a little wobble in them while he's making them. As he works, his hands show a seemingly effortless economy of movement. He doesn't sweat or strain. It's obvious to those with a discerning eye that this is a man who has thrown many bowls, plates, bottles and cups, and he knows what he's doing.

His glazing technique is no different. Effortless, almost careless. A subtle turn of the wrist that looks unimportant and easy. A flow that is closer to dance than to glazing a plate. It becomes quickly obvious to others in the craft that this man is a master, even if they've never heard of him before.

You think, "Wow. That looks easy!" Yeah, right. Try it, sometime, and see what kind of monstrosity you come up with. It is SO. Not. Easy. The trailing/pouring technique, alone, has me in knots, though I suppose that after forty or fifty years, I'll have it down!

Now, it's obvious to clay artisans that firing in a wood-burning kiln had a certain amount of influence on his results, and that's absolutely so! Wood ash does some pretty cool things to pottery. (Of course, a smaller version is on my list of things to have after my big Lotto win!)
If I'm not mistaken, Hamada's kiln (pictured above) had five chambers.
Image via Jack is Not Dull photo blog.
Sadly, the 2011 earthquake destroyed or severely damaged many of the kilns in Mashiko, where Hamada had his kiln. To add a short side-rant, the Japanese government decided to take a tidy chunk of relief money and spend it on their whaling-oh, excuse me, "research"- operations in the Southern Ocean, rather than using it for the victims and businesses suffering from the destruction. (Gotta love government!) Hopefully, some of the potteries in Mashiko have been able to get back on their feet and get the fires going again.

For a video on Hamada and long-time peer, friend and master potter, Bernard Leach, including footage of Hamada working in his studio, click here.

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