Today was a day full of activities!
Sensei had a plan for a lunch time BBQ party. A Welcome to new guests + Farewell to old ones Party.
Before that, we learnt how to make our own tools from bamboo. Sensei literally grabbed a huge cleaver, went to the bamboo forest right behind the studio and starting chopping. There is something about selecting the type of bamboo that would be easier to use to make tools. Not too young and green because it’s too laden with water to cut easily. And not too old because then it’s too dry and brittle. Whatever the case, thank goodness he was there to do most of the difficult work – chopping off a section of bamboo then cleaving it into smaller strips that we could then use to shape our tools. We were basically make measuring tools to use for throwing shapes to a particular size. You often see Japanese ceramicists use a little bamboo ‘Dragonfly’ tool which acts as a basic measure for height and width of the object to make objects to measure. The main thing though, is knowing the shrinking percentage of your clay, so that you can take that into account while creating the tools. The clay at the studio shrinks 15% so the dragonfly tools we ended up making turned out to be quite a bit bigger than the final size of the sample pieces.
And for the width, we used simple thin skewer sticks, not unlike those used for Satay back in SG. ;p
It was surprisingly tough work! Drilling a hole into the bamboo and carving it to resemble a ‘Dragonfly’.
In the end, these were the tools I used the most of though! 😉 For the three basic shapes that I was aiming to create.
BBQ time! Boy was it warm that day. Coupled with the heat from the charcoal, it felt a little like being in a sauna. 😉 But the chargrilled taste was also excellent! One memorable item on the menu we grilled was Takenoko! Or young bamboo shoots that Sensei also pulled out from the Bamboo forest. M and I helped him dig one out as well and felt like real legit farmers. >:)
For the finishing dish, ‘Seto Yakisoba’! Apparently one thing that Seto is famous for is their version of Yakisoba. Slightly sweeter perhaps with thinner noodles but for me, yakisoba is yakisoba. Hard to not have a delicious plate of it.
Of course, all served on gorgeous Kasen crockery. ❤ Such a delicious meal which was a perfect way to mark the first week staying at the studio.
In the afternoon we all smelled of BBQ smoke.
It was back to practising throwing. I started on bowls this time and finally learnt how much easier it could be using wooden tools to help shape the clay. M-san was teaching me how I could use a tool with a straight edge when throwing my straight cups. All the while I had been trying to adjust everything with the pressure from my fingers but once the tool came in, it just felt way easier.
Still a really long way to go though, especially when throwing bigger bowls.
We tried out using some underglazes for our first few bisque fired pieces. The main underglazes Sensei uses are cobalt and iron oxide. Both of which need to be mixed to good consistency each time for use. I was asking Sensei at first how thickly do we need to paint the underglazes on? Though he did mention for cobalt it didn’t need to be that thick because the Ofuke glaze over it would cause it to flow, he also said that in the end, learning how much to paint on is a process. You try once, see the outcome, then learn whether the thickness you used is enough or not. It’s always a process of trial and error. Nothing less.
Wrote in my journal that night:
“When can I progress to things like vases eh? But one step at a time. If it’s something as simple as building up my foundation for things like cups and bowls, it’s already worth it.
I can always come back for further practice if I need to? But at least I can always have the basics.”