Sunday 15 July 2007

Batten the Hatches!

Typhoon! It's working its way up the Japanese archipeligo and should be here in a few hours. The winds were at 90km/hr this morning but have risen to 126km/hr. There are 3 people confirmed dead, 1 still missing and 73 injured. Houses washed away, wide areas flooded, thousands evacuated.

I have closed up the weather shutters to ride out the storm. We are fairly sheltered here, on high ground a long way from the sea, so we will be fine. It is not a day to be out and about.

Thursday 12 July 2007

A Mugs Life

Beauty does not cease to be beautiful merely because were are inured to it.

I know that to many people who live "important" lives that my career as a potter is nothing more than a glorified hobby, and that the things which I make and do are trivial and mundane. Well, maybe they're right, maybe I could have done "so much more" with my life.

But maybe they're wrong.

Maybe the important thing about being human is to bear witness to the beauty of nature, to revel in the wonder of life, to give expression to that joy in our everyday lives, every day. I do not wish to change the world, I only wish to draw attention to it.
There is something marvelous about a bowl of fresh vegetables, something miraculous about a delicious meal, something moving about a simple days work. The pattern of light and dark that the rising and setting of the sun leaves upon the tapestry of our lives is ever changing and wondrous. No two mornings are the same, no two evenings, and every day is a precious gem embroidered on our soul.

Every pot, every coffee mug that I make is a moment of my life, a piece of my spirit. No two are the same, like the leaves of a tree, and like a tree I make them so that I can grow. They are not copies of nature, but new expressions of the beauty of nature. When they are finished they will find new life in the hands of others, enriching other peoples everyday lives, carrying the joy that I feel in being alive into the lives of others for years, perhaps centuries, potentially millenia to come. If I only have one life to live, then I will live and love life everyday until all my days are done, and simple though they may be, I will not regret one of them.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

New Teabowls!

I unpacked a kiln load of pots the other day, after they had cooled from firing. I was very pleased with the results. Many people have been waiting for rice bowls for a long time, so I finally managed to get some done. I make two traditional sizes, 11.5cm diameter small and 13cm diameter large. It is important to find a size that fits you hand.

The name of a rice bowl in Japanese is "Gohan Chawan" which literally means "Rice Teabowl". It was traditional to serve tea in the bowl after the rice was finished at the end of a meal. Particularly in lean times this ensured that you made the most of every skerrick of nutrition.

Of course among the wide variety of "Chawan" is the powdered green tea bowl, the
"Machawan". Used in the tea ceremony for making and drinking the powdered tea, its use and therefore shape are very specific. Different shapes, proportions and colours are dependant on the type of tea, the season, the place the tea ceremony is to be performed.

Out of this firing came a new series of "Machawan" to be used for the outdoor tea ceremony. They are smaller than a normal teabowl, only 10cm diameter and 7cm high, as they are to be carried with a portable tea ceremony set. These are often taken on mountain or forest walks, and when a suitably beautiful place is found the tea can be enjoyed in the open air. Rather like a picnic.

What is very important with a Machawan is the inside. This is the space where the tea exists, and the surface, the colour and the shape must all work to enhance the green tea. The black glaze works very well to lift the colour and is very smooth and easy to whisk the tea.

The orange colour of the woodfired flashing also brings out the best of the green tea, and with its soft natural tones is beautiful in an open environment. The indentation in the centre of the bowl is called a "Chadome" and is a space where the residue can run when the tea had been enjoyed.

Of course the face of the teabowl is important as well, as this is what you show to your guest when you pass them the bowl. Like any functional pot, they need to be understood in context.

Sunday 8 July 2007

In a Pickle

Sometimes you can get too much of a good thing, and when cucumbers are in season it's hard to use them all. So I did what Mum used to.

Pickle them into jars for later.

Wash the cucumbers and slice them into three 450ml sterile jars. Boil 1 cup of rice vinegar and 2cups of sugar, together with some whole cloves and whole black peppers and a piece of cinnamon stick, until all of the sugar is melted. Pour the vinegar over the cucumber till the jars are full. Seal the jars and they are ready for eating the next day. Unopened they should last for months.

Thursday 5 July 2007


Mika cooked lunch today with fresh vegetables that the neighbours brought over. Vine ripened tomatoes, aubergine, celery, onion.

I came in from the studio to the rich fragrance of the simmering sauce. Tuna, spiced salt, slowly reducing over a low flame.

Steamed rice, grown on mika's parents farm, glossy and fragrant.

I helped by adding "Shiso" from our own garden to finish as a garnish.
"Ratatouille." she said, rolling the word luxuriously round her mouth. Simply delicious.

Monday 2 July 2007

Protecting Daddy

Somebody must protect the family while daddy is busy firing the kiln, and Sean is ready, net in hand, to catch any miscreants should they stray in his path. Dragonflies and frogs beware! Two whole years on planet earth has prepared him for any danger!

Ahah! This kitten is behaving suspiciously. We'll snare him just to be on the safe side. The world is now a safer place, thanks to you, Super Toddler!