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Friday 28 December 2012

Lots of goodies from Japan

Yukiko's mother's handmade card

Hello everyone. We have received lots of goodies from Japan last couple of days. Yesterday Hitomi's presents arrived. She gave each of us a bag of goodies. Thanks, Hitomi.   
My bag from Hitomi

Wow, lots of things! She knows I am not very keen on sweeties, so selected something savoury and not-too-sweet sweets! : ) She also enclosed the toiletry that I can't get hold of in UK. Precious!

My bag - inside
In the mean time, Mike has devoured sweets in his bag before I had a chance to take photos. Yes, his bag was full of sweets. All his teeth are sweet kind.
Mike's bag from Hitomi
This morning, we have got three packages. Yeah! What a lovely day! One from my mother; she had sent me a big package earlier the month, but she obviously forgot to enclose some delicacy, so that has arrived.

This lovely  package is from Mr Yatsuzuka who used to be my immediate boss when I used to work in a company at Tokyo. He is architect. He loves to take a part in Japanese festivals. His website on the festivals is here.
Sweets from Mr Yatsuzuka

This is from my friend Yukiko. A long time ago, we met at Brussels while she was a student at the Conservatoire. Her mother gave us a beautiful hand-stitched card every year. We put all in show at this time of the year. They are all different and all beautiful.

From Yukiko
This Disney card is from my aunt, Shoko. It arrived before Christmas. She always sends us a cute music card. But this year's is so special! So I have to share with you. It has 16 different tunes, all Christmas related, of course, with flickering lights on the tree part! Music can be started or stopped with a click at the corner of the card. Mike was so amused, that he showed it to our parrots. They seemed mesmerised and became very quiet. Then they started head bobbing dance!

Aunt Shoko thinks I am still a child!


Thursday 27 December 2012

Walk and Mike's first creme caramel

Hello everyone. Yesterday morning was finally sunny. Mike said there would be rain in the afternoon, so we took our dogs for a relatively long walk; they had been fed up with only short walks in the rain recently. The first thing that caught my eye were these early flowering crocus in our front garden. They were battered by rain and wind, still so pretty.
Early flowering crocus
 Topaz loves drives. Her most favourite place is inside the car. Pearl used to be scared of drives due to her motion sickness, but over the years she has finally overcome, and she is finally jumping into the car (only on the way to somewhere).

Let's go!
 Where did we go? This atmospheric place with sliver birch on the hill is on the university campus. We wanted to go somewhere dry and not muddy.

On deserted campus
 Pearl was keen to find something to chase. Look at her ears. She watches with her eyes and these jumbo ears.

How rude!

Mike with our pooches.
 There was this coniferous tree with yellow flowers and seeds. Bright and pretty.

The living wall is still alive! There were Helleborus niger flowering. How timely. Their common names is, of course, Christmas rose.
The living wall in winter

In the evening, Mike made creme caramel, one of my favourite deserts. This is one of the deserts I have made since we got together. But after watching Great Britain bake off, in which Mary Berry made a wonderful creme caramel, he decided to take charge. So here are Mike's very first creme caramels.
First, caramel

Next custard 

After 30 minutes in the oven, smooth beautiful creme caramel are done.  

Very smooth and lovely!

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas from Pearl and Topaz

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you have had a lovely day today. We have had a totally relaxing day. We have stopped inviting family and friends a couple of years ago partly because our parents became too old to travel (mine are in Japan), and partly because we often get flu during the holidays. Once we had a very bad flu (swine kind); it had taken me three weeks to get rid of. That was when we made this decision, and we have never regretted it.

Merry Christmas! (Pearl)

Merry Christmas! (Topaz)
Today we have done more ceramics. Mike has thrown some bowls, and I have done some finishing work on my piece, which I have worked for a week. Then we had Christmas lunch, yes, turkey, but not roast. Mike made delicious turkey breast rolls with cheese and shiso leaves, very fragrant Japanese herb. Ah, they are so delicious. Of course, we had a bit too much. Our desert was Haagen dazs chocolate and vanilla ice cream with strong coffee, followed by whiskey truffles with stronger coffee!
Mike's turkey breast roll with cheese and shiso

The second desert course.
I didn't become hungry until late; so I had some Alaskan smoked salmon and cream cheese on slices of a baguette with a glass of wine, just before watching Downton Abbey. We had Turkish delight and tea whilst watching the program  I love pistachio and rose. By the way, I was stunned by tonight's plot. Are you?

Our favourite Turkish delight

Monday 24 December 2012

Little helpers, the tree and lots of sweets

Hello everyone. Mike, I and our dogs, Topaz and Pearl went to the post office to send the final post from my Etsy shop before Christmas. It is nice to have Mike and Pearl to walk with; I usually only take Topaz with me. The last post was a beautiful milky white whippet. I hope it will travel safely and get to the nice lady in Devon before the New Years Day.
Midori's little helpers. Pearl, Mike and topaz from left.

Me too! (Pumpkin the chicken) 
 Mike was excited to find his childhood favourite film, Lady and the tramp, is on TV this evening. We sat comfortably on the sofa and watched it. I cried at the end. Then we watched The snowman and the snowdog. It was nicely made, and we both cried a lot at the end. There are lots of good films for children during the holidays. I love children's films. It is my prime TV watching season!
A bumble bee in a Christmas rose

Our tree is lit up, thanks to Mike. We have been tidying up and cleaning the last two days. I have done a couple of hours of ceramics.
Our tree is lit up.
Mike has baked a pear tart before I woke up yesterday. It was so delicious with almond essence in it. We have already finished it! We have lots of sweets given and bought as well. I told my mother in Japan that we are a bit like Hansel and Gretel!  Mike has bought lots of ingredients for more baking.  I am a lucky one!

Mike's rich pear tart
Megumi sent us a box of sweets from Spain. They are 'Bombones' but not like bonbons we knew. They are truffles with raspberry, pistachio, chocolate and vanilla flavours. Delicate and delicious. Thanks Megumi!
Sweets from Spain

Friday 21 December 2012

Rabbit wall mask

Hello everyone. I caught a cold on Wednesday, and I have been in bed all day yesterday. I read a couple of books I borrowed from CCC library whilst in bed. Lucie Rie & Hans Coper (Coatts, Ed, 1977). I like Coper 's works. They are evocative. Then I started reading Ceramics and the human figures, (Garcia, 2012) but soon aborted it. I didn't like what I saw, to start with. I can't connect with those figures. Coper's pots feel closer to me than a group of contemporary figurative works. Interesting.

I remembered to take photos of my rabbit wall mask when it was bright this afternoon. I like it, but I may enamel the eyes later. I wanted to have intense coloured eyes, but copper green looks washed out.
Wall mask detail

Rabbit wall mask by Midori Takaki
I used white crackle glaze, and it worked well with this rabbit. I like rabbits and make lots of them of all shapes and sizes. Rabbits mean a lot to me. I probably see myself in a white rabbit. I also made a goat mask at the same time, but I sent it for re-firing. Ceramics technician was off sick last Wednesday, so I couldn't see it before the holidays. I hope it looks nice!
Rabbit wall mask

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Handmade cards

Hello everyone. Today was meant to be the last day in the studio before the holidays, but I didn't go. The technician who was supposed to be there sent me email this morning; she is down with flu. So my holiday started one day early, unexpectedly. That might be as well. I feel I am catching a cold, too. It was a dark, cold, damp miserable day here in Canterbury. I planned to do tidying up and cleaning. I did a bit, but a little bit. : ) Instead, I wrote a long email to a friend in U.S., read some blogs, twitters and news. One lovely news was that the whippet has arrived safely to a lovely whippet lover's home in Canada. Bravo!
This whippet crossed the ocean safely! 
I also delivered Christmas cards to neighbours, with the dogs, Topaz and Pearl. One of them are a retired graphic designer couple. The husband bought two of my chameleons for himself and a large one for his grandson. They have given me good advice on branding, which I really appreciate. For them, I made another chameleon card. (Last Thursday I made several chameleon cards for my family and friends in Japan because I misplaced Christmas cards (since then I found them in Mike's desk!). This is one of the first ones I made. I have improved the design since, but you can see what they are like. I found making cards fun!
My chameleon card
Handmade card for a friend. 
I also have a couple of ceramics fired and need to be taken photos of. This is one of my new rabbit bowls, but cobalt oxide ran under the clear glaze. It needs a bit of adjustment.

the clear glaze fluxed too much. 

Monday 17 December 2012

First crocus, 'Out of Sorts III' and artisan bread

Hello everyone. How are you? Today I saw our early flowering crocus, Prince Klaus, opened! They are so early and so pretty! I walked to the studio with spring in my footstep!
Prince Klaus

Prince Klaus
Our last class for this year finished last Wednesday evening. My day work has been quite light. So I have been doing ceramics, mainly glazing and finishing, a lot lately. I have had productive yet relaxing time in the studio. This combination is rare. 'Out of sorts III' was fired. I wanted to layer colours. So I sent her for a second firing. She would be more colourful and dramatic!

Out of sorts II is ready for the second firing.

Out of sorts III, side
While I was busy doing ceramics in the studio last Saturday, Mike walked to the High street and bought two loaves of bread from his favorite bread maker, Wild Bread.  The baker, James specializes in artisan sourdough. It takes 72 hours to rise. It is delicious with soft cheese. We can't recommend his bread enough! His wife comes once a month to Canterbury artisan market to sell, so Mike buys two each time. He found that they do a weekly delivery, so we will ask for it from next year, if they can deliver in Canterbury. 
Country bread from Wild Bread 

Tuesday 11 December 2012

The last rabbit went to the good home of Mouseblossom.

Hello everyone. I have had a relaxing day today. One of the nice things of working for myself is that when there is no need to work, I can take time off instantly.

The last rabbit of the litter of four went to a lovely friendly lady in the Netherlands.  He has arrived safely today. Although I pack my critters very well, I tend to get worried until I hear that they have traveled safely because of the fragility of ceramics and distance they travel. So I record every order in my calendar and start worrying if I don't hear any news after expected delivery dates. It might sound a bit neurotic, perhaps. But my work is unique and there is no replacement. I don't want my lovely customers to be disappointed. I want them to be happy. I imagine all artists and craft people feel more or less similar. So far, there were no accidents. Touch wood!

The last rabbit of a litter of four.
Yvonne, the Dutch lady is a graphic designer with an urbane chic taste, which I admire. Her brand name is Mouseblossom. She has a cool shop on Etsy. Her handmade 'Kitteh' earrings are hit products there. (They are kitten face shaped earrings) She also has a trendy blog, which I regularly peek.

I am thinking to make another litter of these rabbits over the holidays. I love them. They have got such character!  Actually I start giggling as soon as I make their faces. They seem to start talking to me, 'Why are you giggling? Where is my carrot? '


Monday 10 December 2012

A productive afternoon in the studio

Hello everyone. Topaz and I have posted the last Christmas order to North America this morning. I hope it will get there in time! It was a nice walk although quite cold. In the afternoon, I went to the studio to do more glazing. My brain has changed to a glazing mode; so I stopped making now. I can't do both well at the same time. Glazing requires different types of brain activity: planning, organizing and thinking. Whereas making figures requires imagination and absorption. I need to see a different world.

I have wondered for some time why the legs of 'Double act' are so rough. Did I overlook them when I made? Unlikely. I usually check all over before drying. It had been a mystery to me. It was revealed that all four legs were broken before bisque firing! It was an accident, and all were repaired without my knowledge. I was most surprised! It is now waiting for a reduction firing on Thursday. Once it was done, I might smooth them out with my new Dremel tool.

Headless is waiting for reduction firing
Goat is in a kiln right now 

Out of Sorts III got a treatment today. Front

Just when I was going to come home, I saw James' pots. How nice!  He is the second year undergraduate. He is as tall as a tree and passionate about ceramics. His website is here. (www.Jamesduck.com) 

James Duck

James Duck


Sunday 9 December 2012

Waiting for Next Bang and winter walks

Hello everyone. We have been busy listing our ceramics today. Taking photos and listing take a long time. Today's would be the last listing before New year, I think.

Here is the photo of the 'Waiting for the next bang'. I like him. It was an experiment, and I think that all those paintings done by my students friends in our course have influenced me. He is quite tall for my work; 24 cm. 

Waiting for next bang
During the morning walk, Pearl thought she saw a cat. Well,  in fact, it was a large leaf being blown in the wind. She became over-excited. So when we came back she was given some time to cool down in the garden. She is telling me that she wants to go back to a warm room with these eyes.  

'Mummmmmy, can I go? My white whiskers will get frozen.'
We went to the campus for afternoon walk. There is a large mulberry tree in the courtyard where Mike's office building is. I love these branches; lots of character.

Mulberry tree

Tomorrow will be busy, Topaz and I will take a small packet to the post office first in the morning. The whippet sculpture I listed last night had been already purchased by a lovely whippet loving lady in Canada when I woke up this morning. Tomorrow is Royal Mail official deadline for Christmas delivery to Canada, USA and Eastern Europe. So if there are any more orders from these regions, I will go back to post office over and over again tomorrow. If there are not any more, I will go to the studio to continue glazing.