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Tuesday 31 January 2012

New pots from a kiln

We had a bit of snow here in Canterbury this morning. But in mid afternoon, weak sunshine appeared. So I took some photos of the pots in this feeble winter light. Our windows are reflecting on the glaze, but these are the shots I can share with you today. 

Oribe bowl detail
What is really endearing about this pot to me is that it shows every detail of how it was made. I left throwing marks as usual, as you can see from the side of the pot. Glaze become thicker there, and it gives depth to the colour. The places where green oribe glaze meets cream glaze become elegant metallic grey, brown and black in such delicate patterns. They remind me of the parts where the brown parts and white parts of faun's furs meet.
Oribe bowl
The black part inside the rim is where I poured out the cream glaze. It is a bit like looking at the strata of earth. The bowl shows its own story. I dare say that is very much Japanese spirit. 

My pots are thin. So it restricts the amount of glaze bisque fired pots can absorb. As a Japanese, I reject any thick pots. We say,'there are no good thick pots'. In Japan, we handle pottery a lot. Its table manner requires you to lift your bowls, small dishes elegantly while you eat food with chopsticks. Only tableware we don't lift are serving dishes and plate. You see, in Japan, all foods are usually served individually in each dish or plate for each person. Every bowl, cup and dish have to be light weight enough for willowy Japanese ladies to be able to lift. You also have to mix the different pottery to present well. It shows seasonality and cook's aesthetic. Using matching table set, like English tableware, are not chic. I know you have seen old Japanese Imari dinner sets before. But those were only made for exports, and I am afraid to say, but not by the best craftsmen, but by their apprentice.

This is a small lady's yunomi (cups for green tea) made for our friend, Anne. Although I call it yunomi, but she is going to use it as guinomi (cups for 'sake'). Although I love this yunomi, but I will send this to re-firing. Cream glaze inside seems too thin. This is our new batch of the glaze, and we probably made it too watery.   If re-firing fails, I will make a new one for her.

Monday 30 January 2012

Oribe pots and Kiwi, the Red fronted Kakariki

Hello everyone!
It was a very cold day. Maximum temperature was 3-4 degree. They say it is getting colder.

Here are my two green pots. Left one is a new one, which I have collected today, and right one is last year's. I am happy with them! The glaze colour is so pretty, like a gem! Tommorow I will take better photographs of them and all the other pots that came out of a kiln, if there is any daylight to speak of.
My green Oribe pots taken at night
My name 'Midori' means phonetically 'green' in Japanese. And you guessed right, green is my most favourite colour. I have always loved this dark deep green.

The most beautiful green I have ever seen was on my beloved kakariki, Kiwi. He was a red fronted kakariki. He had shiny bright but deep green plumage. I had never tired of his beauty. We had taken lots of photographs, but the photos did no justice to his beauty. I loved him dearly, as much as I could ever love anyone on the Earth.

Meet Kiwi:  http://www.takaki1.freeserve.co.uk/kiwi.htm

Sunday 29 January 2012

Turning and handle making

Hello everyone! How was your weekend? Today we started a bit late, and have spent the most of the day turning the pots we threw yesterday, making handles and attaching them to the pots.
Grey ones are white stoneware and brown ones are porcelain white stoneware

I had only two, and I distorted one of them at the beginning of turning, so all I turned was one mug. I did quite quickly. Mike had five to do. So I made handles and attached them to his pots. It went smoothly for white stoneware clay, but porcelain white stoneware clay was difficult to handle (not pun intended!). It becomes either too soft or too dry. But I finally managed to make nice handles.

Our 'studio' is our dinning area, so I had to clean and wash everything very well afterwards, although our dining set was moved to the lounge during our 'studio' season. Cleaning took me about an hour or so. It became already dark.

There was not much time for anything else. Oh, we both enjoy watching tennis, but we both don't like Djokovic. I am a fan of Nadal, but hate to see him losing. So after watching a bit, we decided not to watch the Australian men's final, which is unusual for us. As you probably know, Rafa was beaten in five sets. Poor Rafa.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Still reading and some throwing

Hello everyone! I chilled out today. I spent morning reading Haruki Murakami's The winding-bird chronicle. I reached to the middle of book2. What is fascinating about this book is that everything is written in detail, yet it is so detached. I know the location and the era in this story. I was there at Tokyo in 1984. Yet, all things seem to be in a somewhere unspecific but familiar place in a dream. It seemed so ordinary daily life twined with so extraordinary characters and their unbelievable stories. Mike said I am like a drug addict, keep reading for hours on end. I don't want to stop reading.
Thrown pots

In the afternoon, we threw some pots. Mike was not in the mood...again, so I did first with ordinary white stoneware clay, which doesn't become white after firing! It becomes very light beige. Mike threw with the clay as well as porcelain white stoneware clay that I bought last year. Our test piece hasn't come yet because a kiln didn't get to the temperature. It should be bisque fired, and we should be able to run a glaze test next week.
Topaz guards while Mike throws.
A lovely friendly lady who bought my piece that I sent to California last week, informed me of its safe arrival. Phew! I felt a great relief! She is very happy with my piece. That is also very nice to hear. It is such a joy to hear from customers. I can sleep well tonight.           

Friday 27 January 2012

Spring flowers and Haruki Murakami

Now I am reading Haruki Murakami's Wind-up bird chronicle, in English. I wanted to read 1Q84 in Japanese. I have checked on Kindle before Christmas. But, alas, the one I can buy at Amazon UK has no application for Japanese language. Shame. Then I found Wind-up bird chronicle in the library last Sunday, so I took it out.

Unexpectedly, I had no problem with translated version. Perhaps, the translator is really good, or Murakami's style goes fine with English rhythm, or both. After dinner, I settle in a sofa, and read until either Mike or Pearl comes to ask me 'Are you going up, yet?' To Mike, I say,'Just until the end of chapter', and I kept reading another two chapters or so. I just couldn't stop. But when Pearl came, touched my hand with her wet cold nose, and stared at me with those doe eyes two nights ago, 'Just a minute' I said, and finished the chapter quickly, and up we went. There is something about dog's silent demand.
Cyclamen coum-I love hardy cyclamens.

A bee on honeysuckle bush. Lovely scent!
It is marvellous day today. A bit chilly, but very sunny. The presence of early spring is in our garden, even though we are supposed to have a cold snap this weekend. I can see them! Even bell flowers opened in the tiny cracks of stones.
Bell flowers in January!

Wednesday 25 January 2012

New cups from kiln - our collaboration

The face cup that I decorated for Mike's cup came up. Umm, iron oxide was too thin. The underglaze, the red and blue, was also burnt out a bit, and lost details. I should have painted much thicker. Next time, I will make one with white earthenware, so colours will not get burnt. I painted cobalt oxide at the handle.
Here is the Mike's cup with my handle from the same firing. This is our new batch of cream glaze, which I thought it was too watery before using. Usually this cream makes warmer hue than this. But, Mike is happy with this cool beauty.

It is an elegant cup. It would be a great pleasure to use. We have made more cups with these glaze combination. I hope they also come up beautifully.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Warming gifts from Etsuko

I finally slept well last night. But I feel still sleepy! I need a couple of more good night sleep to get over the tiredness.

Earlier this month, Etsuko, my Japanese friend who used to live near here, sent me a really warming gift. 

Uniqro heat tech, disposal heat pads, and my favourite, green tea leaves. Because of the radiation following the Tsunami in the northern east of Japan, she chose green tea produced in the southern west part of Japan. Thank you, Etsuko.

She has a son whose name includes a kanji(Chinese character) meaning 'fly'. The character consists of 'sheep' and 'wing'. So I had made this little sheep head for her in late 2010. Unfortunately, it was broken after bisque firing. I would love to try to make the sheep with wings again with the new porcelain paper clay.

Friday 20 January 2012


Imagination? (Canterbury)
Phew, finally a weekend came. Today I finished my work in mid morning. It was a quiet day in the market. Mike took an afternoon off. We went to the post office, a bank and a super in a big hurry at a lunch time. I posted my sale item to USA. I hope it will arrive safely in one piece. I have never experienced any damages in post, despite I have sent a dozen pieces of ceramics overseas in the past. I pack really well. Still, it can be a worrying until it gets there.
Imagination! (Reculver)

I start imagining what if somebody treads on it....! From childhood, my imagination has been strong. Once I start thinking, I start visualising a scene in detail and in motion. So I try not to worry about this type of things until it happens, because it may not happen at all.


Because of my imagination, I don't watch horror or thriller films. The monsters or killers in the film start moving on their own in my head, and they will run amok for a couple of weeks. Hmmm, difficult life, you might think. Yes and no to that.

I can entertain myself with my imagination for days on end. I giggle suddenly (because I was 'watching' somebody, say, a funny faced rabbit starts walking in a funny gait in my head), out of blue, start singing (because the rabbit finds wild flowers, sniffed them, and starts humming, so I will join him), or suddenly start talking (because he talked to me and asked questions). I usually don't imagine when people are around (luckily!). So nobody even my parents or close friends know I do this, except for Mike. I sometimes lapse in front of him. He has seemed puzzled. So one day, I asked him if he has had such experience. His reply was 'No'. I was perplexed because I thought everyone has these things moving in their heads. I became curious, so I asked other people. All replies were 'No'!?! One of them thought I was a bit nuts! I am not. Hahaha!

What do you think? (Beaper)
I am happy spending time 'there', but I can't get there whenever I want to go. I need to be in a right kind of frame of mind. If I stay there for a long time, I struggle to switch off. Over there, I meet people, animals and all others between the two categories. I bring them into this world by creating them with clay. It's fun!

Give me water!(Scooter)


Thursday 19 January 2012

A bad day at office and happiness at the end of the day.

I couldn't sleep well last night again. Three nights without good sleep. So I intended to cut my working hours short today as there would be only a few company updates. But typical of such a day, I found the share price of one of the companies I have wanted to add, started going down. I opened up trade, quote and trading account page to check the movement of the price.

Indoor aviary for sale
I transferred money from a couple of saving accounts into a current account, and paid the fund into my trading account. Then telephone rang. It was from an elderly lady who wanted to know how much the delivery cost would be for the indoor aviary we were selling, to Brighton. I had no idea, because we expected somebody local come to collect it. I told her this, but I also said that it is large, so it could cost a lot. Understandably she didn't want it then.

I went back to my account. I saw a confirmation email of paying was in my inbox. So I went to my trading account to buy the stock. AH-OH. There was no fund available. Usually the fund will be available immediately. I tried several times, and found nothing. I went down to make tea, to give the system time to work through, and tried again. Nothing. I started writing email to enquire about my missing fund. When I finished writing, the fund suddenly appeared.

Quickly, I checked the streaming, and it was getting lower still. After some wait, it reached the price I was happy with. I accepted the offer. Happiness lasted for a very short time. I saw the execution notice. I did a fat finger!!! Instead of 161 shares, I bought only 15 shares. AGHHHHHHH.

While I was AGHHHH, I tweaked my neck, and it clicked. Something was trapped somewhere in my neck. Insult to injury. How appropriate an expression this is! AND that was the lowest price of the day, well actually the lowest since last August. It went up afterwards.

Tears? No. I can't even have tears... mine were dried up.

This is the second fat finger I have done in whole 6 years of my investing. The first one was in Lehman Brothers aftermath, and I was under stress with other things. At that time, I had skipped some nights' sleep. Luckily there were not serious financial damages done in neither occasions. Just very SILLY...

I draw a conclusion. I shouldn't trade at all when I was deprived of sleep.


Just when I was going to sleep, I had checked my email right now. I found a notice from Etsy, my online shop. I had the first customer. I am very delighted indeed. Good night!       

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Nightmare and bargains

Mochachino, our youngest owl finch, on Mike's head
I had bad sleep two nights continuously. Last night I also had a nightmare, in which Mochachino, out last surviving owl finch whom I helped hatching by cracking his egg after his parents abandoned the egg, became ill in my hand. I was so upset. When I woke up I had to go to check on him. He was ok, but I found him on the cage bottom. Older birds often do that because they become weaker.
Late Couscous and late Coco, our first babies on my head.
Thanet Earth
Mike's trip to Sainsbury's at the weekend brought some good buys. First Tomatoes. They are from local Thanet Earth, and surprisingly they are sweet. Really sweet. We haven't had bought tomatoes this sweet during this winter. £2.50 for 2 was a bargain.

Lettuce bag
This is the bag for lettuce. I like it! It is a strong, simple and good design. 

Our chicken casserole, Rachel and Enzos' bread
 He also got a bargain for a pack of chicken thighs and drumsticks, three of each for £2.00! I cooked casserole with those. They are really tender and lovely. Mike bought a chunk of artisan Italian bread from Rachel at the University at lunch time.
This wine was so delicious. very fruity with a green note. Majestic wine
I recommend this wine. It is fruity taste with a green note, but not too light. We got a couple of them from Majestic Wine. It went very well with the casserole, but also fine as aperitif.

Monday 16 January 2012

Ceramics course

Hello. It was our ceramics day today. I collected bisque fired works. These are three of them. I will decorate them in the evenings this week.

Everyone was there. Bev showed me her porcelain buttons, holly and flower shapes. She cut them out with cookie cutters. They were splashed with chromium and cobalt oxide. Clair had a hard week last week and kept telling me that she was sleepy. I hope she drove back safely.

They are ready to be decorated.
I also glazed the face cup. The clear glaze I wanted to use was rock solid and a mixer can't reach its solid bottom, so I used another one. I hope it goes well. I prepared four glaze tests. Mike also glazed his mug the handle I made, and made two glaze samples.

I cut my finger at glaze room, so I couldn't do anyhthing with clay after that.

According to papers, today is the most depressing day because Christmas finished, it is still cold and dark, and bills from Christmas shopping spree land at the doorsteps. Today I felt a bit tired after the busy weekend, but I have recharged myself while I was glazing pots. To me, doing something really helps to forget gloomy feeling.

Good night!

Sunday 15 January 2012

Busy weekend and the memory of rubbery beef in Moscow

My pork stew
Hello. How was your weekend? Ours passed quickly. I cooked pork stew for six servings and chicken soup for two servings, cabbage salad for six servings and pickled turnips. Mike baked his bread, and cooked my Pacific salmon and his breaded (unknown white!) fish for two servings each. You may think they are enough for whole week for us. Alas non! Mikes comes home at lunch time. So we often have proper meals twice a day. So it only lasts to Wednesday lunch time, I guess.

From right, Pearl's blizzard coat, Pearl's winter coat, Pearls raincoat and her teddy's jumper!  
We also did two laundry. One for dogs and one for humans.

Yesterday I trained dogs to walk together twice. Topaz had to wear a muzzle, as she has bitten Pearl when they found a cat and overexcited.

I also tidied up two drawers of my filing cabinet and found 7 expired credit/shop cards!! I also scanned my last year's planner. Mike contributed some vacuuming.  

We went a department store to collect an Iron ordered on Internet this afternoon. Delivery person seemed to have smashed previous order, which was a French skillet, (it looked like eclipsed moon!)  so we decided to collect it this time.

Mike also did grocery in Saturday morning. Well, I offered to do it in Friday afternoon, as I had spare time. But he insisted he would go. The reason? He said 'You would not buy things I like to buy!'. I said, 'Oh common, I usually grit teeth, and live with what you have bought.' But I had the second thought, and declared, 'As far as you buy, cook, and wash up, I will not complain.' Status quo was restored. It is a cheap price to pay, huh?

Topaz has new ears!
We also did several throwing. I like to make glazing sample with new clay, porcelain white stoneware. I bought 10KG bag, But, Geee, I found it difficult to throw. It is a bit like rubber. This clay reminds me of beef served in Moscow in 1980's. It was soooo tough that I could not chew it properly. How many times ever I chewed, my teethe never met. In the end, I gave up and classified as an 'inedible object'. There was also a small roundish green thing was served. I thought it was a kind of plum, but at close inspection, I recognised as an apple. Very tiny green one with no hint of redness. I often lament that apples in UK are so small, but no apples in UK are as small as that one. I felt depressed, and decided to skip this one too. I had a small chunk hard dry bread and tea. That was my dinner on that night, and thought about Russian people. It was years before The Wall fell.

So, getting back to the clay, I throw a thin tea cup, and waited until it became dry enough to turn it. But when I tried to turn, I crashed the lip of the cup... tears... I was dispirited. I invited Miked to try. He threw a small bowl that is going to be finally a glaze sample. Phew.

I am expecting this week will be less busy than last week. I guess I overdid this weekend. Now I need a day to recover from the weekend activities. See you!

Saturday 14 January 2012

Topaz ver.3 with curvy chest and apple tart.

Hi Everyone, Gotten rid of cold, and having busy working week with adrenalin rushing high, I have got lots of energy. I just can't stop doing things. I feel reborn! Well, I exaggerated a bit. Nonetheless, bouncy bouncy!

Here is the photo of another version of 'Topaz'. And this is not the latest one! You can see her tummy was tucked. So her chest line is more curvy. I created flaps at the join between hip and thighs. I also shorten muzzle as well. After this photo taken, I also changed her ears, and took photos of her, but the battery of the camera went flat. Ah-oh.

New version. 'Topaz'

I will show you her new ears tomorrow.

Close up of the head part.
Mike was busy baking (again!) This time, it is an apple tart with frangipane. The recipe of frangipane (almond cream) is from Raymond Blanc. It is very easy and delicious. If you love almond, you should try! I helped him with peeling, cutting and decorating apples.


Friday 13 January 2012

Remake of Topaz

I had a hectic day at office yesterday. I glued myself to my trading screens for several hours. Tesco issued a profit warning and its share price fell 16%. I haven't seen such a large fall in FTSE 100 for a while. So it was a kind of a shock to the system. I made a buy on a competitor that fell together.

So, when I had a busy day at office, I usually do two things. First I drink wine at dinner although I drink wine quite often anyway. LOL Second, I do modelling; I make my DoGoo. It is the winding down process to give me a good night sleep.

After dinner, I tweaked 'Topaz', the dog. Hibiki gave me a comment saying that it would be a shame to recycle her. I knew that the head is too large for the body. So I made her neck narrower, and head smaller. So here she is. My new Topaz.

First head was severed.
New small head with thinner neck

Topaz and Pearl
Ummm, she seems to have a more curved chest in this photo. I also forgot to add flaps at the joints between hind tighs and the body. Oh well. I will correct these parts tomorrow.  

To be continued.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

My new face cup

Hello everyone! There is new development in my life. It is moving very fast. So I am preoccupied with it since early this month. But, to relax a bit, I decorated the coffee cup Mike threw late last year. His intention was he would have decided how to decorate and done it over the holiday, and would have taken to class for firing on Monday, but decoration is not his strength, and of course he had this stubborn cold. So this cup remained blank until the weekend. So, I took over it, and painted like this!

Face cup
Side view
I love it! I haven't decided what to do with its handle part yet. Hair? Ear? Solid colour?

The Monday was the first day for ceramics course in this term. Louise who started last term, is our tutor. She was busy teaching pinching and coiling new comers. I had a chat with Bev and Helen; both are so friendly and good throwers. I am excited to be in the class again.  

Sunday 8 January 2012

My clay works during holiday

I usually get low between October and December. It is a seasonal thing, so I know it coming. Every year I try to prevent it. In some years it is successful. In other years not so. Important things for me is to keep doing something, so I won't sink into a deep cold dark bottom. This yeas was 50% success. I didn't fall into abyss, but I didn't stay float neither.   

So, over the holiday, I did some clay works. I wanted to test several types of sample clay I obtained during summer. I wanted to compare plasticity and smoothness as well as suitability for my modelling.

Porcelain white stoneware grog

Started on the 23rd of December
How about bob cut?
Finished yesterday.

I made this as a test. I have got inspiration from ladies in 1930's.

I also made Topaz. Not quite right with balance.... probably this will go back to recycling
I also threw several pots. This yunomi is for Anne. I have got an order from her before Christmas. She said she is going to drink sake in it.

On the third of January, before going back to work, Mike took decoration down whilst I was watching Narnia film, Prince Caspian. Despite I don't like this film because the story is so much changed, I still managed to cry three times....

Oh yes, we have watched lots of children's films on TV. Narnia, Ice ages, Shrek, Harry Potter etc. I am very much still child at heart, or actually I reverted to childhood after marrying wonderful Mike.

But the most interesting programme I saw on TV was Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures by Prof. Bruce Hood. He has talked on brains for three nights. I would love to read his new book, too.