Today was the day of the first glaze firing. I was so excited watching M-san load the items in to the kiln. Rather than loading, it was more of stacking the items up to eventually be pushing into the large kiln because it was a front loading type of kiln. I am pretty sure some part of me had always imagined that kilns came with ready made shelves that you just had to stick your pieces in…almost like displaying things on a cabinet shelf. Not one bit. Instead, each level has to be built by hand. M-san explained a little bit of the physics of loading the kiln to me. The initial base layer needs to be stable. You’d need to put in items that wouldn’t jiggle easily since all other layers come after it. That said, how high the layers are also affects the flower of air into it. You don’t want too much differences in air flow because one portion of the kiln gets heated up much more than the other.
All in all, a very very complex science. It’s exciting to think that perhaps one day I’ll learn enough to load my own kiln but as she said, it’s also something that comes with practice, failure, and more practice.
It was a special afternoon for me, because I ended up going for Ikebana lesson with one of my teachers at her teacher’s house. 😉 It was such a great coincidence that her hometown was also in Aichi prefecture and she happened to be back for just over a week. She picked me up from Kanayama station, about 40 min away from Seto on the local train line and from there we went to her teacher’s house. Her teacher happened to be her mum’s friend from school so it was a cosy reunion of sorts for them.
Amazingly, her teacher, C-san’s husband, happens to be an Urasenke tea ceremony teacher. What are the odds. To me, that’s probably the most amazing husband and wife combination. Tea Ceremony Teacher and Ikebana Teacher. A house always filled with fresh flowers, superb flower arrangements and ever ready to greet guests with a bowl of tea. Which was precisely what they provided us with. We were served wagashi and a bowl of matcha prepared by the teacher’s husband in his tea room. Such a great sight, being able to see my first Summer Tea Ceremony up close.
Apart from being able to try out two new styles of flower arrangement this time, it was equally interesting for me to see how my teacher learnt from her teacher. Since they were learning a specific arrangement that was very advanced, they referred initially to the textbook and my teacher would take notes in her notebook about the points to take note of. The most mind blowing thing was that all the flowers had been prepared by the florist specifically for the Ikebana class/the form that the student was to learn. For example, if it was for the Inclining Form（傾け形）, they had prepared flowers specifically for that – 3 types. For one form which was the One Row Form (並ぶ形）, they prepared a spread of 5 types of flowers. All fresh, all seasonal, and all superbly gorgeous.
The inclining form, created with lots of guidance by the Ikebana teacher’s husband! ^^ He was so nice; probably took pity on me because the Ikebana Sensei was busy teaching my teacher a more complex form. So as I was arranging he was standing behind me giving tips and teaching me things like… how to cut the stems of the flowers while still submerged in water/how to dip the tips of the roses into a nutrient solution so they would last longer/most importantly, the importance of LOOKING at the flowers carefully before arranging them. Whenever it seemed like I was too quick to put the flower onto the metal Kenzan, he would say almost like an order, “花向け！”. Look at the flower. Which direction does it look best in? How can we best arrange it to show it off in its best light? The tiniest of details that result in a measured, well thought out outcome. Just like in Tea 😉
I loved the colours of this arrangement. Especially the vivid blue of the Delphinium. Haven’t been amidst such gorgeous flowers like these. When I commented to the Sensei’s husband that it was so great how he knew Ikebana as well, he said that well, having seen her teach Ikebana for so many years, he knew ‘a little about it’.
This last photo was of my teacher’s floral arrangement. A special style in which the two main upright lines of the arrangement were meant to cross over. It’s called Hanakanade （花奏）which is hard to translate literally but evokes the sense of the flowers playing and intertwining… as strains of music would in a instrumental piece. I loved the movement and strength of the branches used. I could see too how difficult those arrangements were because it was down to the spatial arrangement of the tiniest sprigs of flowers.
I only wished I had better command of the Japanese language so that I could communicate to them my appreciation of the whole experience. One step at a time though. This experience was already such a blessing.
On the way back, I stopped by the stationary store at Sakae station, one of the bigger stations down the local line from Seto. Couldn’t resist getting some adorable letter writing sets and marveling at the cuteness of the stickers they had on sale. Missed the 7pm bus when I reached back to Seto so decided to try the Taiwanese restaurant at the station for dinner. Surprisingly tasty dinner set of stir fried egg and veggie along with spring rolls. I had really missed the unique spiciness of the gravy which probably came from some Sichuan style pepper corns.
Wrote in my journal that night:
“Finally starting to get the hang of bowls
And the concept of the base
Amazing technique of stacking the kiln by M-san. She said it is actually lots of learning involved for her too.
Can’t wait to see it again next time”