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Wednesday 31 October 2012

Memory and a drawing of Canterbury

Hello everyone. I have been to a peer critique this evening. It was fun to see what other students create. This evening Tony, photography student, and Simon, painting student, did presentations. Strangely, I didn't usually like landscapes, but Simon's landscapes of Kent were moving. He said he painted some of them from his memory. One of them was a pier, which doesn't exist any more. The pier was surrounded a storm, and sky and sea were indigo blue and scarlet. He told us that as a child he tried to swim to the pier. I do work from memory and pseudo memory; memory is a very important part of my life.

Last Saturday we had a workshop. We had to create something new or something we have not done before. One of the students, Imran Khan, was behind me. When I stood up to get more water for my clay, I saw him drawing zigzag quickly.  I felt the movement was so fast, definitive and beautiful. It was like performance art.  It reminds me of Japanese calligraphy. What he drew was this.
Imran Khan's drawing
The zigzag I saw was on top left. In the middle of it, you can see Canterbury cathedral. There are swans next to it. I like it.

I just started reading Art & Illusion by E.H Gombrich. I had to return it by Saturday. I am not sure if I could finish it, but I must try.

It was a long day for me. Good night, everyone.  

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Chicken heads and Mike's apple pie

Hello everyone. I hope you are all well. My friend Mimi is in San Francisco today, and she is flying to Lima, Peru. She sends me all photos via twitter. How nice!

I have done ceramics in the studio and at home almost everyday. In the studio I do glaze tests and throw pots with grey clay on a wheel. At home I make sculpture and throw pots on a wheel with porcelain clay. These two are chicken heads, which I have decorated today. A part of my ' Out of sorts' series.  Our Pumpkin started moulting. She looks depressed. She even doesn't come out from her house.  She usually dashes to her breakfast like a bullet. So she is my inspiration. I am thinking to make bodies for them.

Chicken heads
This evening I had a chat with the final year student in the studio. After introductory conversation, she asked ' You have already two degrees, and you have your own studio at home. Why do you come here?'  Aghhh, what a good question! I replied 'I wanted to pick up more on ceramics and experiment.' When I told Mike about it later, he reminded me of the glaze tests and all experiments I wanted to do. Relief. I tend to lose my track during classes and workshop. They seem to me irrelevant to ceramics. I guess I feel lost because most students and both tutors are painters (although one makes a sort of models with found objects, too) and I am only ceramics student in the course.

Mike baked an apple frangipan pie on Sunday, He used most of our own apples. He is so good at it. Look at these!
Mike's apple frangipan pie - Before

Mike's apple frangipan pie - After

I really feel joy when I see Pearl in her pyjamas in the morning. I hug her, tickle her and laugh. Mike said that the pyjamas looks ridiculous with all those hearts, but she looks so cute in it! I totally agree.
Pearl  in the morning. 

Thursday 25 October 2012

Fine art and our depressed chicken.

Hello everyone. Earlier this week I wen to see my dentist for a check-up, and I will have to go back treatment next week (How disappointing!). He insisted that I should see my GP for the condition he noticed then. So today I went to see my GP. Although it took a long time to get through to the receptionist to make an appointment in the morning, the actual time I saw him was short, and I didn't have to wait much neither before that. He gave me a referral to see a specialist. I used to be very scared of any medical places. My body used to become cold. I still don't like visiting them. But thankfully I don't have panic any more.
Another autumn carpet
People in the Fine art department are interesting. I noticed that they often say 'We are doing FINE ART!' in capital letters. I have degrees in social science from both Japanese and English universities. I have never heard anybody saying 'We are doing Sociology!' or 'Anthropology!'. Psychologically, I would label this behaviour the manifest of insecurity and inferior complex. They may have a different opinion.

My last whippet that I had made late summer is sold. I still have a small pair and a tiny one I made for myself as a brush holder. I have sent three larger ones to the kiln, and they should be bisque-fired soon.

'Out of Sorts'
This evening I made something a bit different. I titled it 'Out of sorts'. It's our Pumpkin, the chicken. She went to moult, and she looks completely lost and depressed. She stopped laying. She also eats much less, and shows little interest in food. She is usually very bossy, assertive and very hungry. Over night she changes her personality. When I finished making it, I said to Mike, ' I made something I have never made this evening'. He replied  with a grin 'It's fine art!'. He has a sense of humour!      

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Carpet of autumn leaves and loyal pooch, Topaz.

Hello everyone.We had a glimpse of sunshine today. It made such a difference. I took dogs for longer walks, enjoyed autumn colours, and felt happier. Topaz, my loyal pooch, accompanied to the post office. We had an important mission to post a ceramic to a lady. She seemed to know that there was 'work'. She led me to post office. We crossed the green to take a short cut as usual, and I soon regretted. Grass was soggy, and it  made my shoes wet. Topaz seemed happy to walk on soft grass. There are lots of smells on the damp ground. Her nose was on the ground tracking one scent to another.   

Autumn in Canterbury
 On the way back, we walked on pavement. Then I found this autumn carpet. How lovely is that!

Carpet of autumn leaves
Topaz on autumn carpet

Canterbury has lots of old houses. As old as 16th century or some even older. I enjoy Looking at them. I like old bricks and roof tiles. Their irregularities have warmth. This old garden wall has interesting pattern.

But when the house was refurbished, the pattern was not restored on the house wall. What a shame!

Refurbished wall lost X marks. 
 When we came home, Mike was already back for lunch. Topaz was nicely tired after a long walk. Pearl was anxious waiting for us.

We are back!

Ah, tired!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Memories, art of wrapping and my friend's wise words.

Hello everyone. It has been a miserable day. It was rainy and dark. But it's October in England. What else do we expect?  I keep myself busy with decorating the goat mask, which became an antelope mask now! I also made a monkey head this afternoon, but it became too realistic, and I just didn't like it. So three hours' hand-building went to a recycling pile of clay. It happens often.

I have finished reading 'The Hare with Amber Eyes'. Once the WWI starts, the story became more interesting. It was more so to me because the fate of the family reminds me of my mother's family. They used to be wealthy and a part of ruling class in Japan before the WWII. But after the war, they had declined. The story intertwined with my mother's family in my head, and evoked my deep emotion. There is also the description of Tokyo soon after the war. I just remember all things my parents told me when I was child. It brought me lots of memories.    

Mike is still in a poor state. A couple months ago, I 'met' a lady who has just lost her beloved husband from a long battle of illness, on Internet. She said 'Cherish every moment with Mike.' I felt her acute pain of loss. I promised her I will. So I thanked the opportunity to be given to look after him while he is ill. It is so nice to be able to feel like this. I thank her for it. I also told Mike that I am so happy to take care of him when he needs my help. My words brightened up his face. It is so important to thank your closest person while you can.

Wrapping is a Japanese art. If you have ever been to Japan, you know what I mean. They wrap everything beautifully. Kimono itself is a kind of wrapping. So I pride myself to wrap everything well. Because what I wrap is ceramics, so I also have to wrap them securely. This gives me a challenge when I have to send a delicate piece of work by post. A couple of weeks ago, I sent Goat bishop by post. It took me about one hour to pack him and another piece together. While I was packing him I took a couple of photographs because he suddenly looked comical.
Curlers on his hair. 
 His ears and horns were wrapped separately before I wrapped his head. He reminds me of  ladies whom I used to see when I was a child. They used to wear curlers just like these!

Pearl, the whippet comes up to my office every day, and insists she will sleep on my chair. Before too long, she occupies a whole chair, and I have to perch on the edge. This happens every winter. (No, I can't move her from the chair. She looks too cute!)

A good place to sleep. 

Friday 19 October 2012

Goat mask and winter berries

Hello everyone. I was finally back to work this morning. I did everything a bit slow, I must admit, still I call it progress. Mike was still not well, but he went to the office and did some work in the morning. He had worked from home in the afternoon. This reminded me of the fact that I run fever more often, and take longer to recover than other people. I am jealous of  healthy people. I have friends who seldom have any health problems even though they lead less healthy lives that I do. Ugh, I sigh. It must be to do with genetics. None of my mother's side are robust.

This afternoon was supposed to be my ceramic studio time. I have stayed at home, and made this, instead.

My goat wall mask

I like it. Some time ago, I made a little goat mask as a sample. I had to refire it several times to get its colours right on that. But I finally got it right. So, with that experience, I hope I will make the glaze of this mask right within three firings!

Hawthorn berries
I am reading ' The hare with amber eyes.' again. I had forgot about e-book that I borrowed for a while, now I have one day to finish it. I only got through half so far. There are so many small details, which seem to be unnecessary to the Netsuke, which is his main subject, but they may become relevant as I read more. Interestingly, the character of the author, his book and the ceramic work he makes are very similar. All of them focus on too much detail, in my view. But if details lead to the big picture, that would be fantastic. I am yet to see.

Elder berries

I took these photographs on a sunny day in early October. Once Mike and I made a ceramic winter box. Mike made a box, and I decorated it with winter plants and a robin. It looked very good at bisque stage, but it was over-fired at glaze fire. I fancy making it gain. I love making something seasonal. Something special for the moment. So before all leaves turn colours and fall, I quickly recorded their beauty.


Wednesday 17 October 2012

The answer was in the box

Hello everyone. Mike took a sick leave, and I also sent apologies to the class meeting. Poor Mike had high fever and he had slept during day despite incessant Fifi, the Patagonian conure's screeches. I felt better than yesterday, still not able to think or to read anything.  A sentence looked to me a line of meaningless characters.

I suffered from a tight head, but when I felt a bit better, I continued with the wall mask I started yesterday. I wanted to finish it while I was unwell. I was curious what I would make when I am ill.

The wall mask I made when I was unwell.
First this head had rabbit ears. But the head rejected them. So I cut them off from the head. Then it had dog's ears. They didn't work neither. So, I tried to put a pair of horns. He rejected them again. In the end. he wanted to have human's ears. Ask and it is given. He was given a pair of Mike's. He looked contented. I was wondering why I made this head, which reminds me of Matt Lucas, with Mike's ears. It was puzzling me until I went upstairs and opened the polystyrene box which contains all things to be taken to be bisque-fired.

Ah! I picked the monkey's head and held next to the head. I instantly knew that both were a pair. I discovered that I made the head to be a partner of the monkey. It was my 'DoGoo' moment, if I can use the word like that.

An Item 

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Requiem for the beautiful fox

Hello everyone. I hope you are well and chirpy. Mike is running fever and he is already in a bed. My fever comes in waves.

Last night at one time I couldn't stop coughing. Suddenly I thought the eyes of the monkey should be close together. So that's what I did when I woke up before a breakfast. I feel he looks right now.

Between waves of fever, I tried to make something when I felt better. I sat on a hot water bottle and wore four layers of clothes. When I am feverish, I usually have strange dreams. Today I realised that when I am feverish, I make a strange thing. It was something I have never made. Mike saw it and said it reminds him of something from SF. I don't think I will keep it.

Last Friday just before I went to a class, I saw three students suddenly stopped and looked down into a bush along the footpath close to a main road. A girl looked back at me, as if she wanted to say something. I was taking Pearl for a quick walk. When we passed the point, I found a large dead fox. She was so beautiful. I couldn't see any injuries. I know if I looked at her longer, I would be overwhelmed by sadness, so I left. This beautiful fox ended her life just here. Thinking about it wells my eyes. We used to see a fox coming to the street twice or three times a week. One night, it was making terrible calls, and kept looking back to the green near us. On the day earlier, we saw a dead small fox apparently killed at traffic accident. I wondered this fox was calling her dead cub. We haven't seen a fox recently. The dead one could be the one used to be around here. I just want to pray for her rest in peace.  

How tough wild animals' lives must be! When we lose these beautiful animals once commonly seen, our world is getting closer to the end.  

Monday 15 October 2012

Japanese macaque mask

Hello everyone. I am from a sick bed today. It's just a cold, but still not well. Mike is also suffering from similar one although he said he got a stomach cramp as well. So I skipped my ceramic studio time. Instead I made a mask at home in the warmth.

While I was making the rabbit mask the other day, an image appeared in my head. A set of three masks of animals. I was not sure which animals I wanted to create for other two, but soon one became clear. It was a monkey. It's not just any monkey. It's a Japanese macaque, which are famous for soaking themselves in hot springs and washing sweet potatoes in sea before eating them. They are well-loved iconic animals in Japan.

Monkey who refused to be spooky
Strangely or frustratingly, I wanted to make it in a same spirit as in the rabbit's. But this monkey preferred to be cuter. Whatever I did he didn't become spooky. I gave in. His will was stronger than mine. I am wondering which animal is the third one. I know suddenly Ah-ha! moment comes. I am waiting for it.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Apple frangipane tart, thought on school fee and calming whippet

Hello everyone. I hope you are all well. Mike and I caught a cold last week. It's the time of the year when students come back and all sorts of infection go around. Apparently sitting out for six hours in the clod studio to do workshop course yesterday didn't help. I had a heat pad, four layers for top, two layers of socks, and a pair of boots. Even with these layers, I felt unwell. Frankly speaking, my body is not made for this type of cold for such a long time.

Mike is as nice as usual, of course. He baked an apple tart with frangipane from Pumpkin's eggs and our own apples from the garden for me. My favourite apple desert. It is very delicious. We have already finished a half. : )

Can you see a slice? I stopped him serving it because I wanted to take this photo!
Today I recalled my days at Kent University. I took MA in social anthropology about 20 years ago. There were about a dozen of us, and academic staff were twice as many as us, including researchers. They were from Oxbridge and University of London.

My current art course has also a dozen students; two thirds are part time. There are two staff to look after us. Ummm. What a difference! After yesterday, I became a bit suspicious how I would be able to get value out of this course. Degree itself sounds good, but it won't make my art better. Every month they charge me about £315. So imagine I joined a club with £315 monthly fee. Practically I am paying £10 a day, including weekends. I would expect a lot from the club with this fee. My guess is that I will lose on this. In order to reduce a loss, I will make sure I would go to the ceramic studio whenever I can, and use their equipment and materials, which I don't have access at home. I will buy clay at a cheaper price from them. I will borrow books from the library (and read them!). I will find a hair salon with student discount!  Mondays are usually my studio day, but not tomorrow. I will rest at home and try to get better soon.

I made this whippet last night. I was stressed from the course (cold, long and not time-efficient) and felt miserable with a cold. I tried to calm myself by making this whippet. I was trying to be positive. It usually works, but not last night. Nonetheless, I liked her. When I saw her this morning after a restless nigh with sneeze, sore throat and blocked nose, I felt better. Her calm posture made me settled. I used a sample porcelain white stoneware grogged clay. It wasn't suitable for making this particular shape, so I struggled a bit, but I could manage in the end.  At this moment, I am thinking to use their white crackle glaze or my own clear crackle glaze.

My new whippet
It was a tiring weekend. Now I know why lots of people don't like the end of the weekends. I hope Mike and I can get better sleep tonight. Take care, everyone! Don't catch a cold!

Thursday 11 October 2012

The rabbit mask inspired by Warhol and an emotionless man

Hello everyone. It has been an eventful week for me, so far. There were unexpected matters to be dealt with. But, I kept doing ceramics every night. Yesterday I read our course material on art theory. It was comparison between Van Gogh's a pair of peasant shoes and Any Warhol's Diamond dusted shoes, by Fredric Jameson. This seems to be a well known piece for art theory students.

After looking at several Warhol' shoes, I realised how he grasped the air of the age, 1980's. Consumerism, financial bubble, shallowness in the society are all there in his shoes. I was the child of 1980's. I had enjoyed all economic booms at the best place in the world at that time, Tokyo. It was so dynamic. It was the time a book titled 'Japan as No.1' was a bestseller. I remember that Warhol was even in a TV advert in Japan. The Japanese appeared to have too much money to use. It was the time of speculation and inflation. It was thought that if it was expensive, it must be good.  

After dinner, I sat at my studio table. I decided from the night before I was going to make a wall mask. I was thinking to make a mask similar to what I made before; a man who lives at the bottom of the ocean alone. But, my hands had a different idea. They kept making spooky faces. They were devoid of emotion. Then I realised that I was influenced by Warhol's shoes. So I gave up struggling and let my hands make what they liked to make. This is one.

A rabbit wall mask
I knew this face. It reminded me of someone. There is a retired man who doesn't seem to have emotion in our neighbourhood. He talks without any expression. His face has no wrinkles or lines which naturally form as people get older. He does't have much hair, neither. So he looks a bit like a boiled egg. Mike and I have thought he was a bit like an android. So Warhol's shoes and the emotionless man were connected in my head, and they became inspiration for this rabbit. A funny thing happens in my studio!
Mike said it looks spooky. When he is scared of my work, it is usually a good one! I like it, so I will make more masks. Probably with smooth white clay. Perhaps a monkey, a rabbit and another animal I have not  decided yet.          

Sunday 7 October 2012

My favourite bench in autumn sunshine

Hello everyone. I had a fun day in the studio yesterday. There were only two of us, and another student was in a different room, so I monopolised the large space and made a good progress. I made two glazes, and started on a medium sized whippet sculpture. This one is going to be much more detailed one than what I have made. In fact, I created a maquette for it last night. I also borrowed two books on the reading list from the library. I am a fast reader in Japanese, but not in English. So two books are enough for me to handle right now. I started 'The Hare with Amber eyes' a week ago. My plan is to finish the Hare, then tackle the other two.

Talking about reading, I used to be an avid reader until I got married. I used to read two different books; one for commuting, and another for bed time. Since I came to Canterbury, commuting time disappeared  So that's gone. Mike goes to a bed very early. He likes to sleep about 10. So I lost the other reading time, too.

This morning, we had a beautiful willow warbler in the garden. Willow warblers are similar to chiffchaffs, but they have yellow belly, whereas chiffchaffs are white. What a delight he was! He caught a large flying insect, seemingly a Daddy long leg, above our garden patch, which was netted all over. He was trying to manoeuvre the wings of the insect, but in the middle of the action, he dropped it through the net to the vegetable plot! He cocked his head and looked at it throught the net for several seconds. Then hopped about 10cm, and again looked at it. But soon he gave up and started searching for another insect. This time of the year, wild birds are coming back to the garden. What a joy they will bring to our small garden!    

This afternoon, we went to town for errands. It was a lovely day. Roads was quiet (What a contrast to yesterday!), and the High street was also quiet, but not deserted. I went to an optician to get my glasses fixed. There was no waiting, it was done instantly. I bought my 'school kits' at a stationer; this was quick too. We bough some favourite snacks here and there. In one hour, all were done.

We parked the car near Dane John park. Autumn sunshine was soft and warm. There are very nice benches in the park.  

The bench in Dane John park 
The trees alongside the footpath were so beautiful. It is a lovely place anytime, but it looked more so this afternoon.

Park has a path

We met this little dog on the High street. He is a Pomeranian cross. The sight of happy dogs always give me pleasure. I think I naturally smile when I see happy animals.    

Seen on the High street.


Friday 5 October 2012

My first day at art school

Hello everyone. I have just attended the first meeting of my MA course this evening. It was about mandate, schedules and guidelines etc, but the characters of some people came through, even on such a presumably boring occasion. Our course leaders are really funny. Mind you, they are really nice, polite and friendly people. But they are a bit like a double act. : ) Apparently they don't intend to be. I have already got an inspiration from them.

When I went into a room, there were about 15 orange and brown plastic chairs in circle. There was a very friendly young student called Darius there. So I asked him if the stains of these chairs are not sticky. He said they weren't. I said 'I have never seen so many dirty chairs together.' He smiled. (He is polite and lovely person.) But I was hesitant to sit on it. So I tore one of the sheets from my notebook, and placed it on the chair before sitting on it.

Blue and white theme

Sparse with white accents

Rock'n roll 
My chair - there is calmness in dirt
Another thing caught my eyes was this filthy mattress  I wanted to ask if it has been used for a model. 'Who on earth would lie on this?' was my next question.  

I have always felt unease about Lucien Freud's old filthy sofa where lots of his models lie naked. But this one looks worse in some ways.
Filthiest mattress I have ever seen.

So there were lots of amusing details in the room. To art students, I guess these are a norm, but to me, they are discovery.

Even more discovery was when I was taking the photo of my chair, I noticed there was a writing on the floor. What's that? I looked at it closely. 'Please do not touch.' Wow! This is almost like Alice in Wonderland experience.

A writing on the floor under me. 

The meeting finished  a bit early. So I rang Mike to pick me up. While I was waiting for him to appear, I noticed our new theatre looks pretty in the rain.

Marlowe theatre

Then I suddenly noticed that there was a cat on a fence. I was going to snap it. Out of blue, a child ran into the puddle, enjoying splashing muddy water around. So in this photo, there is no cat, but a blurry image of child with an umbrella and pair of rain boots. But this concludes my funny experience of the evening well, I thought.
A child running in the rain

Wednesday 3 October 2012

My strange dream and our dinner from the garden

Hello everyone. We had very strong rain overnight. Mike said it was between two and three in the morning. The rain was hitting the window so hard, we both woke up with the noise. This reminded me of Japanese Typhoons. There were so many nights we woke up because of thunder and heavy rain. It was not just heavy. It was violent.

Here are four of yesterday's rabbits. See? They are much prettier! Initially I intended to make chopstick rests (Japanese soft spot!) from them, but after second thought half of them will be brooches. They are from a plaster mould I made. First, I made a whole rabbit. It was so cute that I wanted to make chopstick rests from it. So I cut the rabbit into two and made the mould from a half. Then I decorated them with oxide and clear glaze, and glaze-fired them. Yesterday I decorated with enamel. So I am following the method Imari have been made for four centuries. Bright colours like red and yellow will not survive glaze-firing temperature, which 1260C, or higher. So first, Imari porcelain is only decorated with cobalt blue based oxide and glaze-fired, then they were decorated with red. Then fired at a lower temperature to fix them. Kutani uses a similar method, but they will fire a same plate six times or more because they use so many different colours.  

My rabbit brooches.
I have had some strange dreams recently. One was that Mike and I were in Afghanistan. Mike bought four bags of something from an old tanned man with a turban. I paid him about £20. Next time I noticed, we were in a station, waiting for a train to Turkey. Then suddenly a pilot appeared from a door, so I realised that we were in an airport. I told Mike that Turkish customs might become suspicious with those bags. He went to another room to throw them away. Out of blue, I saw a glaze bucket in front of me. Muted yellow coloured glaze was in it. I started stirring it frantically. I somehow knew I had to glaze some bisque. Then the dream finished. When I told Mike about this, he laughed and said that I had been doing too much glazing recently. He is right.

Mike is harvesting runner beans

Some of tomatoes
Our vegetables from the garden are coming to an end. Still we can make one or two more meals out of them. Today, Mike cooked pasta with bacon and runner beans in tomato sauce, Tomatoes and beans were from the garden (well, tomatoes were from the greenhouse). We have eaten so many tomatoes this year. They are good raw or cooked.

Making tomato sauce - easy peasy way

Our apples are falling. Mike is going to make an apple cake tomorrow! I can hardly wait!

Our little apple tree


Tuesday 2 October 2012

Little rabbits and garden visitors-a shield bug and a squirrel

Hello everyone! I am almost 100% fit again. Mike is similar. This rain and cold weather are not helping, but boy, I have so many layers and make sure that I will recover soon.

I had fun decorating my little rabbits and other ceramic pieces this afternoon. These are some of them. This photo was taken at night. The colours are more vivid and much prettier! I like to make some of them to brooches. My navy coat has a nice lapel, which is perfect for one of them.

Taken at night- colours are more vivid and pretty!

At lunch time, Mike opened the back door and said 'I found a nice runner bean, but then noticed there was something wrong with it. When I looked at it carefully, it turned out to be a shield bug!' The shield bug returned. I actually started liking him a lot (of course, I don't know whether he is the same individual who landed on the window the other day). A couple of years ago, shield bugs hatched in the garden. We had tiny but perfectly formed baby shield bugs everywhere. I wonder if I could make a ceramic shield bug.
In Japan they are called turtle bugs.

A boy at my primary school told us that they will 'fart' when disturbed. I'm not sure if it is true. 

Talking of garden visitors, yesterday morning, a squirrel visited our garden again. He was busy burying our hazel nuts here and there. This time, he ran on our garden wall and fence to close to our window. Ummm? What is he doing? Mike quietly opened the window (he is so tame that he didn't bother to run away), and took some photos.
Is he eating Cotoneaster berries?

He stretched and grabbed a rose hip!

He is eating a rose hip!
We didn't know squirrels eat rose hips. But they say rose hips are full of vitamin C, so I guess he knows it is good for him. Luckily our dogs were in deep sleep, so they didn't notice any of it. We don't need any drama on a Monday morning.