Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Digging for Gold

After all the recent floods, frosts and snow, part of the bank to the brook that runs through our garden fell away. Devoid of vegetation it's plain to see a narrow seam of red coloured clay.

Not surprising really. We live in an area of glacial deposit, what geologists call ' Thrussington till', a red marly matrix with a suite of carboniferous and triassic erratics, the red brick houses are testament to that and just up the road a little there is an old clay pit. Now a lake, it was the site of a brick works and bricks were made commercially throughout the 1800's. Floor tiles with WWS Thrussington stamped on them sometimes turn up in the garden.
Our house dates back to at least 1790 and is built of beautiful handmade red bricks, probably the local clay on which it stands. The bricks were made in simple wooden moulds, dried in the sun, then fired in clamps. During our stay here we have found bricks with grass and leaf imprints and one with a perfectly formed dogs footprint, which we have saved.

The bricks vary from dark orange through to dark red and some which must have been in the hottest part of the fire have vitrified to a glossy plum colour in parts.

I've dug a bucket full of the red/ochre coloured clay,  made it into slurry and sieved out the debris. It is very pure with very few stones or vegetation and in it's liquid state a sort of ginger colour.

Bisque fired the slip appears a beautiful dark orange. A little like some of the bricks from the house, so we are hopeful that wood fired at cone ten it might be a little more interesting. Experiments are underway and at the end of March when I fire the kiln, all will be revealed.

Watch this space.

Monday, 7 January 2013

What's in a name?

I had an invitation recently to send an application for an International Chawan exhibition. What's surprising about this is, I don't consider myself a maker of Chawans or not that I am aware of. 
I looked up the definition just to find out exactly what a Chawan really is.

chawan (Chinese茶碗; literally "tea bowl") is a bowl used for preparing and drinking tea. There are many types of chawan used in tea ceremonies, and the choice of their use depends upon many considerations. In addition to being used for Chinese tea, it is used for matcha (powdered green tea) in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Thanks Wiki.

That's the simple definition , it gets a lot more complicated the more you delve into it. I'm afraid that not much of it was part of my growing up, so the subtleties are lost on me. Crockery was pretty basic in our house. Some of Gran's old stuff, some picked up along the way with a smattering of Hornsea Pottery, which is now sixties iconic stuff that my Mum was partial to and collected, but never seemed to be able to get enough to make a complete place setting for a family of seven kids.

Making tea bowls seems to be part of most potters repertoire and I have attempted one or two in my time. That started back in the days when I used to fire an Anagama kiln with a wood firing society. You just had to make some to join in the post firing critique to be considered 'in'.

They are fun to make, I start with a pellet of clay which I flatten and add a coil to make a foot-ring, flip it over and  then build up the walls with coils. I make two or three and I hang them over the edge of the shelf at the front of the kiln to get maximum fly ash and heat to make the glazes run. When it all comes together the results can be quite pleasing.

I don't know what my Mum would have thought of them though. 
"Why that's good mind, it's a canny bowl son, but it would not hold much soup".
Dad would have been more direct.
"Needs a handle".

Mostly I make them for my own amusement, but you have to be wary of the self appointed experts and 'Tea masters' that you meet along the way.
Evidently there should be a depression in the bottom to allow the tea sediment to collect. So next time when I have considered this and incorporated this feature the next authority fails to agree.
It should be smooth so that you can whisk the matcha and maybe it should be a bit bigger.
Foot ring is completely wrong and it's too big and heavy.

I sold one at Christmas. The lady that bought it seemed very pleased with the shape, size and design as she intended planting snowdrops in it.

Now that's an idea... an International Snowdrop bowl exhibition.

Sorry it's too early for snowdrops!