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Monday 30 July 2012

Olympics and firing

Hello everyone. Mike and I had watched Olympics on TV to the hearts' content in the weekend. We enjoyed judo and archery. By Sunday we suddenly became semi-experts on them! I started practicing Judo on Mike. He obligatory falls with a funny expression. That makes me laugh. My father gave me a half an hour Judo lesson when I was about 8. Since then, I have never done anything, but, boy, I or my body, to be exact, remembered! We don't do sports, but sports are fun and addictive. Just like music, it is in our instinct.

On Saturday, I vacuumed the lounge where we watched TV, three times; partly guilty and partly too much dog hair spotted on the floor. But Sunday, I had been completely hooked on the sports, so kept watching on TV as well as PC. But, we had planned to do glazing, so in the afternoon, we did glazing in the garage. It took me five hours to glaze everything. When we filled the kiln, it was already 10 o'clock at night, and temperature was 12C, which is 54F. Chilled and knackered. We went to bed straight away.

Commissioned work. He is travelling to US.
Today, I posted the white rabbit and a chameleon commissioned for a American lady to the post office. After that, I intended to work normally, but couldn't. I split one of two PC screens on my desk to three, and streamed judo, archery and swimming. I tried to work on the other screen. It was very difficult to concentrate. Japan had a good day on Olympics. We got our first gold, and added two silvers and three bronzes. Yeah! Team GB also did very well on gymnastics, hockey and other sports.

I only wish I could take two weeks off now, but there are so many important economic data coming up this week, and company announcements next week, I must keep up with the news. It's shame. After the closing ceremony, I will be off four weeks. I will spend on making more ceramics. From October I will be a postgraduate and would not have spare time to make for my shop. Besides, we aim to use solar energy to power the kiln, so we should do many firings during summer although English sunshine is elusive even in mid-summer.

Tomorrow morning, I will wake up a bit early, run to the garage and will open the kiln. It will be exciting! I hope everything comes out alright.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Self portrait and Tempura lunch

Hi, everyone. It was a busy day yesterday, After work, I had spent six hours glazing bisque pieces until eleven o'clock at night. Mike started the kiln early this morning for glaze firing. It's a summer day with blue sly without a hint of cloud, today. it was a perfect day for our kiln firing as it is on solar power. It is still about 200 C, so we have to wait until tomorrow morning.

This Kokeshi-like figure is a self portrait. I found an old photo of myself a couple of months ago. It was taken just after starting a postgraduate course here in Kent. This is me who done;t know what will happen in future. I decorated her body with green glazes. They resemble a pair of wings folded, and also two little leaves emerged from a seed. This is me I had forgotten for twenty years. She was fired a week ago, and has been on our bedroom window sill since then. I greet her every morning. I need to communicate with her much more before I let her go. You can see her before firing here.

We had tempura at lunch today. Mike took a day off, so we had plenty time to enjoy our lunch. We always do frying in the garden, I hate frying smell remains indoor. We have plenty of vegetables from the garden. Mike grew them with loving tender care. He is remarkable!
Harvest from the garden
This plant is called Shiso in Japan. It looks very similar to stinging nettle, but it doesn't have stings. It is delicious and very fragrant. Japanese people use it for fish, meat, pickles, sushi and all other cooking. The easiest way to eat is to use large leaves as Nori in sushi. It goes very well with anything fishy. We often use them to roll sardine.  
Shiso, Japanese herb that I grow every year.
Vegetables are cut. They are ready to be battered and fried. The secrets of crispy delicious Tempura are; 1) use flour/potato starch at 50/50, 2) icy clod water (bubbly water is better), 3)  don't stir batter too much.

Runner beans are most delicious when they were tempura-ed in my view. We found it by chance one year. Since then, I refuse to eat any runner beans unless they are tempura-ed!

How to make Tempura batter
Beat an egg lightly in a large measuring cup. Add icy cold water up to 200cc. Add a half cup flour and a half cup potato starch  into the liquid. Lightly quickly mix it. Fry them at 160C for four-six minutes. 
Everything is from the garden except for the red pepper.


Monday 23 July 2012

Little wee things I made over the weekend.

Summer arrived here in Canterbury today. Blue sky, half sleeves and straw hats. Ah, bliss!

I had a busy weekend making lots of little things to be bisque fired this morning. If the clay is not dry, the chance of it exploding inside the kiln increases. We don't want that. So, we make sure they are bone dry before firing. So, what I made over the weekend are small and/or thin-walled ones for quick drying. 

More of chopstick rests - chameleons, rabbits and sun fish

A bigger hound.
Last week, I also made more chameleons and other creatures, although I forgot to take photos of them. I also spent long hours developing a new line - a funny container. I hope they will come out alright. We will open the kiln tomorrow morning. I feel already excited!

After a week of ceramics, I returned to my day work this morning. I was able to catch up with all news by five. Doing ceramics caused me back ache, which was mostly eased after a day on the office chair. It's pity that my first day back to office is the beginning of summer. But, I have lots to digest this week. After work, I will do glazing in the evenings. We will have another hectic week. 


Thursday 19 July 2012

Olympic torch came to Canterbury.

Hello, everyone! I have lots of photos to share with you today, the torch came to Canterbury. I walked up to the city centre, and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was absolutely fantastic! Lots of foreign kids, I guess school trips from France, language school students, tourists and locals were there to witness a once in a lifetime moment. These photos tell all.

First, police patrol the street. The cathedral is in the background.

Colourful people marched down the street before the torch.

She is one of relay runners. 

People in grey are security. Can you see a red thing on top of the building on the right side? That's a baby lifted by a parent.

A man in white is a torch bearer.

He is walking.

Green balloons are from Lloyds TSB.  

Here he comes!


Just after here, he started running. 

That's it. 

There were street performers here

and there,.


Wednesday 18 July 2012

A new chameleon commissioned - before firing

Hello everyone. Mike and I went to the Clay Cellar this morning to buy pottery materials. The Clay Cellar is about 70 minutes drive from our house. It was a nice, clean and tidy shop with very helpful Lindsey answering all our questions. She told us that she makes tools, and yes! there are lots of them. We will definitely go back to get her special hand tools when we need one or two. There I found a small poster about Singing Soul Art gallery in Cranbrook. We have never gone to Cranbrook, and Lindsey told us it would be only 15-20 minutes drive. So we went. First, we had a lunch, panini and coffee, at an Italian cafe. Mike had cooked ham and Taleggio, and I had Parma ham and artichoke. Bread was tasty ciabata. We enjoyed our lunch. After that we popped in Singing Soul Art. There were about 10 people having a lunch. But we were able to look inside. The gallery was run by Marie Prett, who makes interesting circus themed ceramic sculpture. There was a large black English bull terrier, who must be a model for Marie's work.
Pearl sleeping 
After than we bought a large macaroon at a bakery and had it with tea in a flask. We headed back home. We have been out for five hours. We were worried about Pearl who had accidents several times in past, but she was patient this time. Phew.

After that, I started ceramics. I cleaned up the commissioned work for Josie. It is a chameleon. I am slowly drying him inside a partly sealed plastic bag to avoid any cracks appear. I am hoping that I can bisque fire him on Sunday. After an early dinner, I start making chopstick rests. Finally I was able to use the rabbit mould I made several days ago. There was a small trouble to start with, but after I adjusted the mould, I was able to make three from it this evening. I will show you them later.
New chameleon for Josie

New chameleon - side view

What a tiring day! But I am contented. We have done a lot of things. (Oh! I forgot it but we shampooed Pearl, and washed her bedding too!) Mike was very tired, and I think he is already asleep. I will join him soon. Good night, everyone.   

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Whippet knife rest, Fish Man and Chameleon paper weight

Hello, everyone. The last time I updated, I told you that I got a cold, and we were going to a ceramics material shop in the weekend. Well, my cold got worse, and we had to cancel the trip to the shop. I had to stay indoor to stay warm (it was a cold day although we are in July!). So, I sat on a hot water bottle, and made a small whippet knife rest and a rabbit chopstick rest.
Whippet knife rest - before firing
It took me a long time to make this piece, so I can't imagine my making a set of six. But if we find the way to make a mould from it, we might try 3D mould, which is an unknown territory to us. I might use it as a paint brush rest, if we can't make a mould from it.

We made a mould from the rabbit. I would love to show you, but the mould is still wet. (we have had cool rainy days). So, once it has become dry, I will make samples. Then I will share photos with you. It should be ultra sweet!
Chameleon paper weight SOLD
On Sunday, when I woke up, my head ache was all gone, What's better, I found lovely Sandra purchased another chameleon from my Etsy shop. How nice to start the day! Thank you very much, Sandra! I made him as a paper weight to hold papers for customers' details at my little show last autumn. People noticed him when they wrote down their details, and they seemed to love him. I have kept him in my cupboard after that. I am so pleased that he will soon join Griffin and Graham in US. I like him a lot. He has got a cute smile on the lip!

I have got lots of my pieces in my cupboard. Strange to say, I get so attached to them, I need some time with them (alone!) before I put them for sale. It is sentimental, but I guess the time is so important to me.

We also put several of our items on ebay. Longer than two months have past since we listed our ceramics last time. The wall mask and a natural ash glazed Guinomi (Japanese Sake cup) were sold. Since I have never shown the mask anywhere else, I will share him here.

He is Fish man. SOLD 
He is one of my imaginary being. His story goes like this; 'Fish man is a half man and a half fish. He lives alone in wild deep ocean. He doesn't like humans or ships. He adores mermaids, but they never come closer to him. He likes swimming in the woods of silky seaweed. He could talk with turtles. They exchange stories once a while. Turtles know a lot of things happening in the ocean. He has a secret treasure hidden at the bottom of the ocean. Nobody knows except for him what it is and where it is.'   

Friday 13 July 2012

New flock from the kiln! But they are not finished yet.

Hello, everyone. I woke up 1:30 in the morning because my feet were tight. I remember my friend, Mimi, who does Flamenco, told me that her dance teacher said that tight strings in the calf is related to shortage of liquid. So, I went down to kitchen to get some water. Soon after I returned to the bed, Mike got up. I tentatively suggested 'Shall we go to the garage to see if the kiln had cooled down?' 'Now?!?' was his reply. Despite his tone, he was ready to go, but then I thought about it again, and told him that we would wait until morning. We might trip over something.'

I woke up earlier than usual and quickly dressed, and went to the garage with Mike, who promised me he would wait until I wake up. My heart started beating a bit quicker. Everyone was safe. I had dreams that one lost an ear, and another lost his head etc. So, I was so glad to see them all alive! 

My favourite one.

With this flock, I have experimented with the relationship between texture and glaze.  I left natural cracks which appeared while forming shapes. So I glazed them thinly. But the cracks really didn't show up much. I need to do more experiments on this. 

Mary's little lamb
His bottom

This little lamb is sweetest. He is Mike's favourite. He said he likes his tuft and bottom. His body had attractive cracks, but again they were not visible. I wiped off the glaze from his nose. He will have enamel eyes.  

He is a goofy boy.
His face has right thickness of glaze.  He also has also natural cracks, but they were lost under the glaze.

The little one with a tail
This is a little one. He reminds me of Shaun. I wiped glaze from his tail to show the texture.

Tallest one with heart. He will be re-glazed and re-fired.

He is the tallest one. I carved his body to make texture. I probably scraped a bit too much glaze. He will be re-glaze and re-fired.  He will be back again!

We are going to a ceramics material shop to buy some ingredients for glazes this weekend. I caught a cold. So I will go to bed early tonight. Nigh night!

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Sheep dip

Hi, everyone. There have been so many different things I had to deal with in recent months. I am finally on top of it. Such a nice feeling! Come to think of it, since March I have been buried in paper works, enquiries and all other administrative works that I was not quite able to finish. None of them was a fun, but important. They were not stressful but tedious. Now I can focus on my work and ceramics. That's much nicer! 

Yesterday evening and this evening, I glazed my bisque in the garage (it was chilly today). This time, I have several sheep to glaze. Sheep? You might wonder. If you know my ceramics, I have made all sort of animals but not sheep. 
They are some of the sheep I glazed today. 
There are three reasons for this. First, I want to make a Sheep woman. There is a model for this idea. A lady and her friend were always next to each other in ceramics course. They chatted all of the time of ceramics course for 10 weeks. When one does something the other followed and they did same thing. I was lightly amused by them. Last summer when I happened to see her in a supermarket, I got a vision. Sheep woman. After that, I frequently took our dogs to a small field of sheep. I have digested images over the winter, and made several of them as practice this spring. I have experimented the texture of clay to express fleece. But, I haven't found how to glaze it with the effect. I sent my first one to firing. But its glaze was a bit too thick. So, this time, I varied the thickness of glaze for each sheep to see which would look best. My ceramics are always experimental. 

Sheep are so British to me, and they are everywhere in UK. I feel it is good subject for me to observe and express them. That is the second reason. The third reason is that I have a friend whose son has a kanji  , that is Japanese character, which means to fly, in his name. The composition of this kanji is interesting. It has sheep on the left and wing on the right. This also inspired me.      

For these reasons, you might see more sheep on my blog. I am also very keen to glaze the other chameleons I made. But, alas, the Oribe green glaze ran out. We will head out to the a ceramics supply shop this weekend to get all material we will need to make more of it.  

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Close up on my new rabbit who had a previous life

Hello, everyone. I have made lots of rabbits last year, but one of them was burnt alive during re-firing. There was tiny hole in the glaze, so I sent him to be re-fired. he came back like a volcanic rock. I regretted so much. It might sound funny to you, but it really saddened me, as if he had actually suffered. I could almost hear him crying 'It was so hottttttt!'. My too much imagination sometimes troubles me. I couldn't throw him away for months because I felt it would be too sad for him.

But, one day, I was able to detach myself from him. I didn't hear his voice any longer. In my grief, he became some spiritual being and he came out of the physical body, if I force myself to interpret how I felt at that time. I grabbed the spirit of the burnt rabbit, and made a new one. This is him.

He is peaceful, gentle and sweet. He will be with you when you are sad or happy. All of my rabbits are looking up because they are intended to be placed on your desk. So when you work or study, he will be watching you anytime you look down at him.

He has thick beautiful glaze, which looks like sugar. After the incident in his previous life, he deserves the beautiful coat.   

Monday 2 July 2012

New chameleons, sheep and rabbit from kiln

Hello, everyone. Yesterday morning, we woke up a bit early, because we were excited. We were going to run a glaze firing in our kiln for the first time. If you remember how you felt in the morning of your first school trip, our feeling was very similar to that. We packed the kiln the night before. I double checked all bottom parts of the pieces were clean. Otherwise they would get stuck on the kiln shelves.
Inside the kiln at 1198c.

Kiln controller
Switch on! We kept going to the garage to see how hot the kiln went up. It has to heat up slowly. Anytime I went there, I was listening if there were any bomb! sounds, but nothing. The kiln reached target temperature at 1240C about lunch time. We still went back t the garage to check how cool the temperature came down, in turn, or together. We were just like two excited children laughing and running between the garage and the house in light rain!

It didn't become cool enough last night to open it. So we waited until this morning. Yes, we woke up a bit early again this morning. Ta-da! Everyone was safe. Kiln shelves were also safe. Here are some photos I took this morning.

a snap shot of sheep and rabbit
It was our test run for our glazes. We fired a few new pieces and re-firing pieces. It went well. The white glaze above was a bit thicker than usual. So some of details were buried. I textured the middle sheep, and decorated him with iron oxide. They look like sugar coated. I will take photo individually tomorrow.


My new chameleon, no name yet!
Oribe glaze was low, and slightly thick, I wanted to see how it would fired. You can see he looks stunning!
He is a character!
I love him!
I also run a test on my new chameleon chopstick rests. It was success! They look so cute! I want one for myself, too! Bigger ones are for adults, and little ones for kids.
'Mimi, do you like them?'
They are doing synchronised swimming!
They look like this before firing. They look Japanese traditional sugar deserts!
Chameleons and sunfish chopstick rests

So we have had a happy day. There are much more to glaze and decorate. Next sunny day will be our second glaze firing day!

How about a long walk on the beach instead?