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Thursday 31 January 2013

Sleeping dog, trotting chicken and shooting wall masks

Hello everyone. I did my apprenticeship with two ladies in the studio. They were doing reduction firing in the gas kiln, which includes lots of my work. ( Yes, I am piggy-backing). My Antelope went in, but the Harpie and Double Act didn't. If there isn't space for them in the next reduction firing, I definitely have to do by myself, otherwise, they won't be ready for my presentation in March.

We have had some sunny days this week. Dogs sleep whatever the weather, and Pumpkin the chicken is happily trotting around. Pearl looked annoyed to be disturbed when I focused on her. But she didn't move.
'She is taking a photo again!'
Pumpkin looks perkier and happier. She is pecking my jacket when I clean her house out, like she used to do. We welcome the return of her reign, Pumpkina Britannia!

Pumpkin in our potage
On bright days, I started taking photos of my ceramics. I just found that the wall masks look much better when standing up, as they were meant to be. So I have to make some easy structure to prop them up. Here is the one I did earlier this week. It is Tree spirit, a test piece for a new clay, which I made last year.
Tree spirit, a wall mask 
I also re-shot the answer was in the box. This time his head was propped up. There seem to have more depth in the image. He looks very different from different angles. He shows different emotion anytime you look at him. It's perfect attribution for the wall mask.
The answer was in the box, Midori Takaki 
Taken from the above- flat looking.


Tuesday 29 January 2013

Right-brain, another world and photo session

Hello everyone. It has been stormy here in Canterbury. Yesterday I had a very productive time, glazing in the studio. I felt so good. This month I am testing glazing techniques and glazing/finishing the work I had created before Christmas. I am also throwing little pots with porcelain clay. Some time a go, I found that I can't create figures and glaze/finish at the same time. I think it is because creation requires my right side brain, and glazing/finishing the left side brain. If I immerse myself in creation (I often do), I tend to be dysfunctional in ordinary activities, like writing essays, listening to someone and glazing/finishing. I also lose a bit of speech ability, although I mutter to myself a lot. (it sounds mad, doesn't it?) The worst is that I keep losing a track of other people's talks, especially a tutor's during classes (my eyes and ears are wide open, but my mind is completely somewhere else in my own world. Once I come back, I have no idea how long I have been absent.) There is also a negative impact on my day work, which requires constant logic and analysis.

So, my solution is this: I divide my time into two categories. The right-brain time (creation and imagination) and the left-brain time (all others, including throwing pots on a wheel). It seems to work well, so far. As I mentioned above, I have created a lot of work for three months before Christmas. Then, in January I switched to left side brain mode, to deal with glazing/finishing, day work, preparing for essays for my course and throwing pots an a wheel. (Yes, throwing pots is left-brain activity to me.) Even so, I slip into another world now and then. But I consciously return to the present, so that I won't lose those abilities attributed to the left-brain.

I mentioned in the previous post that I have taken some new photos of my work. When I had a chat with Carolyn Genders, she said that my 'Out of sorts III' looks much better in reality than in the photo. My customers and clients tell me this all of the time. Carolyn suggested that I should use a neutral background. So I did.

'Waiting for next bang' by Midori Takaki

Waiting for next bang

  I hope he looks better than before.


Sunday 27 January 2013

Paper Crown

Hello everyone. I hope you had a good weekend. We have watched the Australian Open finals both yesterday and today, and done some ceramics. Initially I wanted to spend about three hours in the studio yesterday. But the floor was painted on Friday, and I was warned it might not be dry. After lunch, Mike drove me to drop off my greenware at the studio by car. In fact, the floor was dry, and there was an undergraduate working on it happily, but the smell of paint caused both Mike and me to get a headache after just ten minutes. We quickly left to go to the High street to get some delicious organic sourbread, but we were too late. They were sold out.

Paper Crown by Midori Takaki

We brought several pieces of fired work home. This is 'Paper crown'. (His story is here.) I am happy with how he looks, but the sack was not exactly the way I wanted; I wanted the blue band to be narrower. But as Mike said, there is nothing I could do now. I am still happy with it.

Paper crown

Last night I enjoyed dancing whilst Mike was turning his pots. Blondie, Duran Duran and Adele were my choice. I danced as if there were no tomorrow. Ah, reviving!

This morning when I woke up, Mike was already watching the Australian Open final. I soon joined him over my breakfast. As you know, Murray was beaten by Djokovic. A shame for the Scot.

It was sunny afternoon today, and I have taken photographs of my work. I will show you them another day.

This weekend seemed a bit short. I fancy a long lazy weekend, with no rain, no snow just some sun.

Thursday 24 January 2013

Guinomi, Yunomi and 'Waiting for the next bang II'

Hello everyone. There is still snow left on the ground.Yet we are expecting new snow fall tomorrow evening. I have spent cold evenings doing ceramics at home this week. My busy mind needs to be occupied, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep.

I have thrown a couple of pots with porcelain clay. I am eager to do some experimental decoration inspired by Carolyn's demonstration.


Mike made caramel puddings, one of my favourite deserts. These are his third try. He declared that he is going to try until he makes perfect ones. The first one was delicious, but the caramel was overcooked and remained in the ramekins. The second one was under-cooked. I had to re-heat them before eating. This time, some caramel still stubbornly remained in the bottom of the ramekins, but improved. Pudding itself is delicious! I am very happy with them as they are. The advice I gave him was that he should make a half of amount of caramel. (then it might not stick to the bottom; we don't have to soak it before putting it into the dish washer).

I used to make them by myself until recently. I am not perfectionist, so I am happy with what I used to make, even though sometimes caramel was bitter (over-cooked); puddings had little holes (over-heated). The only big difference between his and mine was that mine had a generous dash of homemade apricot gin in both caramel and pudding. He refuses to add my gin in them. A shame. I love boozy deserts.
Mike's caramel puddings
If you wonder what this is, it is the body part of my new sculpture. I have made a rabbit before, and wanted to make her sister. I had wondered what kind of animal I should make. I have tried with several different ears, but I can't find the right ones. Eventually I settled with rabbit ears again.

Suspicious dumplings?

Waiting for the next BANG II

Tuesday 22 January 2013

The magic of snow.

Hello everyone. Snow has half melted. A funny thing is that items suddenly appear from under the snow during the walk. There was a candy still wrapped in a pink paper, a woolie hat, a woolie glove and so on. Roads are muddy with melting snow. But our dogs are happy either way.

I would like to show you the photos I took during a walk with Pearl yesterday. Topaz had a back ache, so I left her at home (thankfully she is back to her old self today). This is the University of Kent ground. Both Mike and I graduated from it, and I have known this scenery for 20 years, and Mike 30 years. Even so, under snow, it's another world. It looks magical.  
The first field with the oak tree.
Left side

The second field
Wooded area
Pearl found a mole hill.

My favourite area with sliver birches. 

Two trees together.
We are on the way home now. This is the oak tree you saw in the first photo. Pearl was nicely tired. Topaz was jealous. But don't worry, I took her for a quick short walk afterwards.

Pearl with the oak tree.

The magic of snow is over, at least, for now.

Monday 21 January 2013


Hello everyone. Yesterday it snowed all day until late evening. Our dogs, Topaz and Pearl, were very happy. They love running around in the snow. They pulled all of the way to the University field just a minute's walk from our house.

Pull pull pull!
Another turn, we will be at our playing field!
After running, we graze frozen grass. 
But it was too much for Topaz. She is nine years old. She must have tweaked something. Both had slept and rested so well until later in the afternoon.  Pearl was keen to go out again. We let her run, but we kept Topaz on the lead. Pearl ran with a large spaniel, and also went to greet a terrier. She sniffed everywhere. She even retrieved a dog biscuit she had dropped in the morning!

Sniff sniff sniff, I can smell something good!
Pearl will come back once she hears 'Biscuit!. People think she is called Biscuit!

Give me a biscuit!

Grazing again.

We, humans, did some throwing on a potter's wheel, but we both couldn't make anything much. The clay was too soft. In the evening we did some mega cleaning of our studio. It was overdue. We felt positive to reclaim space!

Everyone has their own memory of snow. Mike said when he was boy, he rushed out to play with a sledge, as soon as it was deep enough. When I was young girl, my favourite thing to do in the snow was to look up to the sky to see how snow flakes fell. It was mesmerising and infinite. I felt it was similar to see inside folded mirrors. Soon I realised that there was rhythm in their falls. But once a while, a bit of wind picked up; they suddenly change their dance. They added more twirls and swirls in their steps. It was in total silence, but if I tried so hard I could almost hear their footsteps, or were they their whispers? What is your memory of snow?      

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Carolyn Genders visits the studio

Hello Everyone. Yesterday I have had a wonderful day. Ceramic artist, Carolyn Genders visited our studio to give a talk and demonstration. Carolyn creates elegant earthenware ceramics decorated with bold colours and sharp lines of sgraffito. Carolyn is engaging, enthusiastic and funny. I think we all got a good vibe from her. The talk was very interesting and informative. Among everything, she mentioned several times 'to keep fresh'. I know how important to be able to feel fresh, and I imagine it is not so easy for someone who has done ceramics for thirty years. She said that she always adds a small test piece, new colour or new design, to the kiln, to keep her fresh and to get excited. What a good idea! I will definitely try this.

She also mentioned that she works on several pieces at the same time to avoid overworking one piece. Overworking can be a problem to almost all artists. To decide where to stop is a difficult call. I tend to have a good feel for this. I always remember a Japanese saying,  'Too much is as bad as too little', or 'Learn enough'. But once a while, I overwork because I gradually build up colours at each glaze firing and feel like adding more and more; I usually fire three times. When Mike says, 'It looks good. You should stop'. I listen to him. It is sometimes easier for other people to call it.
By Carolyn Genders (on a  postcard)

She also showed us how she decorates her work. She works very spontaneously and quickly. The rhythm she creates is almost jazz to me. She also showed us how to coil pots. I seldom coil, but after seeing her coiling, I am tempted to try more.

Each student had a chat with her in the afternoon. It was a lovely and very good day for me. The scene from the bus stop on the way home was as gloomy as this.  But my heart was bouncing. I overwhelmed Mike by telling him everything I remembered in the evening. I have learnt a lot and got excited, and I am ready to try new things. Thank you, Carolyn.

Her website: http://www.carolyngenders.co.uk/

The mound from a bus stop on a gloomy day 

Sunday 13 January 2013

Rabbit mask inspired by Warhol

Hello everyone. It has been a cold day. Mike said that he saw a bit of snow when he took dogs for short walks this afternoon. I got a chill, so I have stayed indoor all day. I have reclaimed porcelain and white stoneware clay. Reclaiming clay is a messy job. First dry clay, next re-hydtrate it, then wait until it becomes even consistency and good softness/hardness to be usable again. I threw an unusual shaped bowl on the potter's wheel with the reclaimed porcelain clay. I will turn it tomorrow.

This rabbit mask was fired before the Christmas, but I only saw it last Friday. Studio technician was off sick just before the holiday; so the kiln was only emptied last week. It looks spooky. I wanted to express vast emptiness of 1980's consumerism, but he now looks like bronze or burnt and exhausted from its materialism. Some readers might remember that this rabbit has a upheaval history. I originally wanted to make him white, but 'the white slip' I used was polluted, it became sky blue instead. It was terribly patchy and ugly too.
Inspired by Warhol's  'Diamond dusted shoes'  by Midori Takaki

Rabbit mask  by Midori Takaki
In sharing the studio, this kind of things do happen, and we just have to get on with it! So I over-paint it with chocolate brown underglaze. Mike was right. It has definitely improved.

Saturday 12 January 2013

Ready to fire.

Hello everyone. How are you today? It has been cold here in Canterbury. We have spent three hours glazing in the studio. Mike popped out to get some sweeties, which we shared with other girls working in the studio. After a couple of hours' concentration, we all needed sugar!

Even so, I spilled my oxide, and broke a part off one of my pieces. I realised that it was time for lunch!

Here are some of the glazed pieces. You might wonder what on earth the black thing is. It is a head. Although it looks like wearing a mud face mask, it should fire to brown. (I hope!)  Paper Crown appears a bit prim. I am finally happy with his face, but had to re-work on the sack he is in. 
On the glaze oxidation firing shelf
On the shelf for reduction firing, you can see my replacement for the broken body. I used my own pine ash glaze, which was made from the pine branches I burnt a couple of winters ago.  I also crowded the shelf with shino pots (pink one is not mine). I don' know all would be able to fit into the next reduction firing. They can wait.

On the glaze reduction firing shelf
 Back home, Mike made a late lunch, pasta with pine nuts and bacon in olive oil, for us. We enjoyed it with our last bottle of The Black cottage, our favourite NZ wine. We then watched BBC program about Delphi. It was interesting. Next was David Attenborough's  program about the Indian sloth bear. We both like history and nature. Although I have frequented Greece in '90's, I have not been to Delphi. I promised Mike that we would visit it together, once our animal family is a bit more manageable.

Friday 11 January 2013

The scent of Honey suckle and Sidney Cooper gallery

Hello everyone. It has been dark, misty drizzly and frosty recently. It's typical winter weather for Kent. Nonetheless, not everything is gloomy; the perfume from our winter flowering honey suckle is so beautiful that we almost forget we are in the middle of winter.We planted it near the front door.  It has stronger perfume in evenings.

Winter flowering honey suckle
Yesterday evening we went to a private view for 'From Grimm to reality' at Sidney Cooper gallery, which is owned by Christ Church Canterbury University. My classmate, Harriet works there. There are lots of etchings by David Hockney. I like many of his ones. But the one I like most is a series called 'Misfortunes of a sardine' by Ana Maria Pacheco. This reminds me of fish faced human figures by Bosch. It has a medieval feel about it. Mike was very interested in the stuffed chicken wearing real rabbit hat (ears intact) and rabbit leg warmers. It is very bizarre but strangely sweet.    

Are you interested? more details are here.

The etching by Ana Maria Pacheco

I went to the studio late afternoon today. It was the first time this week. All bisque firing went well. No cracks and chips. Phew! The Paper Crown looked better, but I am going to send him to another firing. I have glazed two little rabbits, and started glazing pots. Reduction firing will be on the 24th. So I have lots to do before that.

The vase I threw last weekend

Monday 7 January 2013

Galette des rois, the Golden Compass and bargain dog toys.

Hello everyone. Canterbury has been drizzly and miserable lately. Despite the weather, Topaz and I went to the post office for posting this morning. The bowl with a rabbit was sold. It was a lovely one. Topaz loves walking to the post office. She is always tempted to walk into the green, but the ground has been so soggy that I stopped going there in autumn. But she still tries.

Yesterday Mike baked La galette des rois, a French pie traditionally eaten on the Twelfth night. He baked it last year as well. It was Raymond Blanc's recipe. It takes time, but it is easy to make (Mike's words).

Serve it warm.
It goes well with various drinks. My favouirte companion is desert wine, but we didn't have it, so had it with black coffee. Delicious almond cream is filled to the edge. We could eat the whole desert at one go, but we left a token slice for my treat for the next day. (We could not eat a full dinner after that)

While enjoying the galette. We watched The Golden Compass on TV. I caught a part of it last week, but wanted to watch it from the beginning  We both have enjoyed it. I would love to read the trilogy when I find time to read for pleasure, probably in the summer. In their world, humans have their daemons as animal shapes. The daemons are always at their humans' sides. So we imagined what animal would be our daemons. I said my mother's would be one of her many toy dogs, who circles around about 50 times whilst barking hysterically when he expects feeding time. Mike said mine would be our Scooter. African Timneh Grey parrot, sweet, strong willed and very talkative. I am convinced. I said Mike's would be Topaz. He fell into silence. I guess he was convinced but he didn't want to admit it!

Last Friday I walked to the studio after I got tired of waiting for the bus which didn't seem to come. On the High Street, I bought toys for our girls. They were £1.99 each. Bargains! Topaz is very happy with her red monster. But Pearl has ignored hers. She usually disembowels any toy within 10 minutes. But not this one. She gave it a glance and walked away. Mike said that Pearl likes furry ones; she often licks furry ones after shaking it. We imagine that she is making the skin soft by licking it so she could tear it open! It is a chilling sight.

Mine is a cute red monster. Topaz, Mike's daemon. 

Ughh, what does she think I am? Bee eater or honey bear? ( Pearl would be dish washer's daemon)

A very  unloved bee toy. 

Thursday 3 January 2013

Goat mask, 'Out of sorts III' and pots fresh from the kiln

Hello everyone. Mike went back to work. I started my work at 8:30 as usual. The holiday is over, back to business. I have been reading Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia. The book has 672 pages and it is on 'three day loan'. I have renewed it once, but I can't help wondering how many times I have to renew it before I finish it. The content is interesting, and it's something I have done in sociology a long time ago at Tokyo. I would like to read her latest book, Glittering images, but I am not likely to find it easily even though I have access to two libraries from two universities.

Here are some photos of my latest work from the kilns. Mike liked this goat mask. So do I. It is as big as a young child't head. Bisque and before firing.

Goat wall mask
Next is 'Out of sorts III'. It is rare for me to use so many colours on one figure. I did it in the flow of the 'Waiting for the next bang'. I am satisfied. I am still vaguely contemplating how to finish 'Out of sorts I' and 'Out of sorts II'. The inspiration will come, one day.

Out of sorts III

Out of sorts III
This time, I have some pots to show you, too. This is my little sample dish. Like lots of my sample dishes, it became gorgeous! lol  I used my own pine ash glaze and shino from a forgotten miserable bucket in the studio. It was too thick ( like mayonnaise). I diluted it with water first, and then used my finger to wipe the thick glaze on the dish. I am going to use this forgotten shino for several pots Mike and I made. I just hope they will come out as good as this!

Shino and pine ash glaze - reduction

This bowl is our collaboration. Mike threw it and I designed and painted the rabbit. I have made this rabbit motif before . It is one of my most favourite ones. This time, the rabbit is a bit slimmer than the one on the cup below.
A rabbit bowl - semi porcelain
A chubby rabbit cup

Wednesday 2 January 2013

The Harpie and Jane, the shaman in acrid smoke

Hello everyone. Mike and I drove to the studio to drop our work to be bisque fired (we had three boxes of works) and have collected some of the fired pieces ( I will show you them tomorrow) . I have remade the headless body that had been broken. This went to a kiln directly with the piece in the photos below. This is the one I have worked during the holiday. She hasn't got a name yet. But I have called her the Harpie.

The nameless figure I made. 
The other side

Undergraduate students are not allowed to use the studio during the holiday. So there was nobody else but Jane. She was working on her raku firing. She was rocking a piece by a piece to make crackles with the the big raku tongs. That reminds me of the Greek Orthodox church with incense. In this photo, she looks to be in a trance in the acrid smoke or a shaman!

Jane is swinging her babies. 
After that, we finally went to sales. Actually Mike once went, but because of the bad weather he came back with only boxes of chocolates and cheese sticks, which I love. Today, I forced him to buy his fleece (on sale) and my moth trap (at a full price). We aren't very good sale hunters, are we?