Went for our much anticipated Marble Clay Workshop! Also called Nerikomi 練り込み, it’s the process of kneading and folding in different coloured clay into the main white clay body in a particular way to create different patterns in the clay. The Nerikomi Sensei was one of Sensei’s friends and apparently for almost all batches of students who come to Kasen, he helps to arrange a one afternoon class with the Sensei. It was a rainy afternoon the workshop was carried out in the Sensei’s garage/studio space.
Marbling of clay is really a very specialized skill. The results can be incredibly detailed, delicated and amazing but in the hands of amateurs, the colours can very easily mix and meld into one weird blob. So each step of the way, the Sensei had to guide us. I don’t remember the steps to creating any of the patterns we did that day, but the main things that stuck out from that class were:
– how different the clay was. It was a mixture of porcelain clay and white clay so it was much softer and stickier when we started using it. The longer our hands touched it and kneaded it, the harder it became.
– keeper the clay moist was important! clay that wasn’t actively being used at that point in time had to be kept under a moist cloth because once it got too dry, it couldn’t be used anymore and had to be disposed of. No recycling of marble clay possible
– the importance of really using force to slap down onto the clay in order to remove air bubbles and to compress the clay. I think we were all way too gentle. When the Sensei took over to help us, he really used tons of force to slap the clay into shape
The different coloured clays that Sensei had prepared in advance for us.
Some of our final products made using plaster moulds!
At the end of the session, I remember thinking ok, glad I tried it once. Not particularly a skill I could see myself wanting to settle into for the rest of my life though. ;p I had asked the Sensei how he’d gotten into doing Marble Clay and he said that for most of his career, he was self taught. Lots of books, videos, and he had learnt with a teacher for awhile but that teacher moved away to live somewhere near Mt Fuji, so he had to continue self study in order to improve. Lots of lots of respect for him.
Our items had come out of the bisque fire. It was fun trying to decide on glazes for all our items and what we could try out for underglazes. I remember me and M trying to paint on the cobalt and iron oxide and not being sure how much to use so we ended up painting slightly thicker lines. (We would learn out lesson the hard way ;p when things got stuck to the kiln shelves)
Wrote in my diary that night:
“Trimming plates – ugh! Figuring out the foot ring location and simply
The shape that makes the most sense… only through repeated making and trimming
And trying and failing does the knowledge come more easily…
These things really take time”