Saturday 10 May 2008

Lovely Lips

It is only two weeks until my exhibition at Ebiya Gallery in tokyo, and I'm into my last spurt of making. For the last few years I have been doing a collaborative dinner at the same time as the exhibition, but this year we have decided to do the dinner in a different season. I am therefore able to focus more on some pieces which are not related to a specific meal but which I just like to make.

I enjoy making jugs, for example, and don't make them as often as I'd like. They are not used so much in Japan, and most of the Japanese purchasers would use them as vases, but I make them to be functional. One of the points is of course the spout. I feel that a pulled spout pours well and is very beautiful.

The rim must be left slightly thicker than other forms. This thicker rim is then thinned out by first wetting it and then pinching and smoothing a section of the rim into a raised flange. Timing is important, as the pot fresh from the wheel may be too soft and the pot can distort or collapse. If the clay is too hard it will be hard to thin and manipulate and is prone to cracking. I usually wait until the sheen has left the pots, which is usally about 4 or 5 hours depending on the humidity. Ideally I would make the bodies in the morning and then spout them in the afternoon or evening. Yesterday I didn't finish the bodies till late afternoon and they were still too soft before bedtime, so I got to them first thing this morning (before the kids got up!).

Once the flange is raised, smooth the edge with a piece of soft leather, then support the outside on either side of the spout with your off hand and gentle push the spout out with the finger of your other hand. After the spouts are pulled leave the pots to dry, trim, handle and finish as normal.

There has always been debate about the ideal angle of a spout. I have found that a smooth upward curve pours well and doesn't usually dribble. Other believe that a spout should curve right over past the horizontal so that the last drip hangs on the edge without running back. I have found those spouts too prominent are prone to spreading the flow instead of focussing it and susceptible to chipping.

The Japanese phrase for something that is easy is "Asa meshi mae" which means "before breakfast". I managed to get all of them and some turning done before breakfast, which probably only means it's easier to get work done while the kids are still in bed. We enjoyed our famous Craig Dropscones with delicious Acacia honey direct from an apiarist in Nikko. 100% pure, it is clear enough to see your vegemite through.

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