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Thursday 28 March 2013

The last studio day before Easter

Hello everyone. It was the last day before Easter in the studio. The Canterbury Christ Church university closed at one o'clock. I arrived there about 10:30. There were already two hard working final year undergraduates. This week I have been sharing the freezing studio with them every day.
Navy is decorating a box
Claire with her ceramic pieces with glass and resin on top 
In the afternoon, We met up in the University of Kent, at the other side of the city. Clair wanted to pick a few branches for her graduation show in May. Navy came with her. She is having great fun!

Navy on a nice chair
The University is going to build an extension next to the Library so most of trees were cut down. There are huge logs. She selects some of smaller pieces very carefully.

Selecting smaller cut-offs

Navy kept finding fun bits to play. 

After that, with Navy's request, we went to the Labyrinth. Navy is making a maze for her show. She had to walk through to contemplate it.  You can see the Canterbury Cathedral behind.

The labyrinth
Oh yes, they also found a bunny. There are hundreds of bunnies on campus  There is a colony under the library building. The one we saw was a cute small one with large black eyes. While they were excitedly taking photos of it, a male student observed them with curious look. One of the most common things on campus is bunnies. So he was wondering what the fuss was about, I guess.

After that, I trotted down to home; it was such fun, but way too cold for me! The girls went off to wander more. The campus is large, and there are lots of places to look at. We will collect the branches by car tomorrow. I hope Claire could use them for the show in May.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Harriet Gifford and the memory of my dead cats

Hello everyone. Since last week a new pattern in my daily routine has emerged. First in the morning, I pack the ceramics sold overnight and post them before lunch. I'm busy packing and sending your orders. All purchases made till the end of 28th will be shipped with current shipping price.

Last two days I went to the studio. It was cold; heater was not working, and we were freezing. (outside is only 2-3C, and the studio is only a glorified garage!)  I was throwing a bit, but soon my hands became too cold to do more. I had four layers and a hat inside! This evening Mike drove me to the studio to take an electric fan heater with me. I put it on for the girls who are still working. I will use it tomorrow.

Do you remember this rabbit mask? It went to my artist classmate and friend, Harriet Gifford. I was very thrilled. She makes films since last summer, but she is accomplished multi-talented artist. In the latest presentation, she showed us lots of images which are two different images layered. Her theme is memory. You can see them in her website.
Diamond dusted shoes

They all look beautiful and nostalgic, but one of them I liked most was the image of the woods reflected against a man's head. I was drawn into the woods. He reminded me of a faun I know, but I have never met. The other one I liked was scenery reflected on a tea pot. What is this special feeling about tea pots? There is something sweet, gentle and nice about them. After her presentation, I thought about memory. I am usually very much forward looking. But one after another lots of memory about the animals I had lived with came back. I have lost lots of beloved animals in my life. Some were old, but others had tragic ends. Sadly none of my cats died from old age. One died from a traffic accident, and the last one died of cat Aids. It was 23 years ago. The memory is still raw. I have tried to keep the lid on it until that day.

Next time I touched clay, I made cat's heads. I started making my cats' memory in ceramics. I imagined myself to be my cats, and started thinking 'I used to cross the field under bushes in the evening, and looked at the moon. There was a road where lost of cars passed. They looked like staring eyes at nights. There was a sweet girl who always stroked me.' So I incised their memory onto my work. It was bisque-fired now.

I wanted to look at it yesterday, but I couldn't do when there were other people. I was not able to hear the cats' mind. I am waiting for the time I am alone with my cats. They will tell me what they used to do, where they used to go and how they felt. And probably how they ended.

Love your animals. One day you will not be together. But once you love them so much, you can still feel their presence, even after 23 years.

I will not have another cat. I will listen to what my dead cats would tell me. I am making ceramic sculpture of the memory my cats had.


Sunday 24 March 2013

Red riding hood, wolf and snow

Hello everyone. What a cold March here in England! They say it's the coldest in 50 years. We had snow yesterday. Maximum temperature is 1-4 C, just above freezing. This weather will continue to this week. We may have White Easter!

It's the start of one month break from the University. I am planning to go to the studio as often as I can during the holiday. This weekend I have had a great fun creating my little world. I started with Peter, then Red riding hood and the wolf.  
Red riding hood
 She has a little rabbit button I made in summer.

The wolf. 
Topaz reluctantly posed for me when I made this wolf. She seemed to say "Why Pearl models for a pretty whippet, and I for the wolf?" But when I gave her extra cookies for the work, she seemed convinced that it's not as bad as she thought.

Ah? Peter? I forgot to take a photo of him!

Yesterday morning, we, fab four (Mike, Midori, Topaz and Pearl) ventured to walk to the post office in the snow. I am so glad that lots of people have taken the advantage of the current cheap shipping. I have been to the post office everyday last week to ship orders. After Easter, shipping will increase due to the Royal Mail price increase. So if you have something in mind, this week is the last chance to get them from my Etsy shop with the current shipping fees. 

Church next to the post office
No sign of cherry blossom.

Good night from the eternal winter of Canterbury.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Posting trip, enthronement and celebration dinner

Hello everyone. We had an action packed day today. First in the morning, Mike, I and our dogs walked to the post office for posting an order. It was a brisk walk. When we came home, dogs were very tired and went to sleep.

Post office trip - spring flowers I could find were closed crocus! (Mike, Topaz and Pearl)

Pumpkin is fluffed up, too.

Then after reading on the Budget, (yesterday our Chancellor announced the budget) and news on Cyprus, we went to the town. Tomorrow will be our 18th wedding anniversary; Mike wanted to get chocolates and a bouquet. Because the enthronement of the Archbishop of Canterbury was going to be held at the Cathedral, I went with him to have a peek. Prince Charles, Prime minister and other dignitaries among 2000 guests attend this ceremony. We went to the main gate; we saw lots of bishops entering the Cathedral.
Crowd at the gate of Canterbury Cathedral

Back home, we watched the live program on TV, to see what's going on inside the Cathedral. Mike soon spotted our neighbour holding the pastoral staff for the new Archbishop. He wore a white ceremonial frock, and looks very different from the man we saw with his spaniel in wellington boots!
The details of the gate (the white dog is the ancestor of Pearl? )

The head on the wooden gate - Nose job. 
Then I worked a bit more on the 'apple bread' sculpture. Before too long, we went out for our anniversary dinner at Michael Caines at Abode.  Tomorrow night I will have to attend art theory class, so we decided to celebrate one day early. We had very delicious meal; I had crab cannelloni, pork belly, and raspberry eclair with lovely Kentish white wine 'Dry Flint'. The restaurant was crowded with those who attended the enthronement ceremony as well as locals. Michael Caines' service is always superb, and the taste is very good and stylish.

When we came home, I found another sale on my shop, so I have just packed it. What a nice way to end the day!

But don't be jealous. We are still in winter; maximum temperature is still 4-7C. This is very cold even for England for March! One of my friends in Japan just told me that they had 28C! One good thing of this cold March is that we can eat a lot, but we don't get fat! Ah, I miss bright sunshine!


Wednesday 20 March 2013

What I have been making.

Hello everyone. I have been working with clay at home from morning to night this week. Busy, but relaxing. I could take a long rest if I want to. But I don't, except for dog walks. Working with clay is such joy that I keep forgetting that I have to wait until the clay becomes certain hardness. It must be not too hard, not too soft.

The one I made yesterday
This side is bottom. 
These are not pumpkins. They are going to be parts of my sculpture. I am stretching the clay to see how large I could make.

The one I made today 
This side up
I threw cylinders and formed them with hands. I am leaving cracks and dents, as they are. There are horizontal marks left from throwing.

They remind me of sweet apple bread I used to have when I was a child in Japan. Mike said they are like gourds!


Tuesday 19 March 2013

The witch with no name

Hello everyone. We are trapped in winter. Maximum temperature is 6-7 C. Did Canterbury become Narnia?

Some time ago, I promised to show you one of the pieces I took to my presentation. This is the one. It is an experimental piece in lots of ways. I used two types of clay; grey and white stoneware, and, two types of firing; oxidation and reduction. I used a plaster mould to form the body part; I usually handbuild everything.

I made three supports to fire it in a standing position, but after bisque firing they didn't fit, so I glaze only the back side, and reduction-fired on the front, which I painted some manganese oxide. Then I was given suggestion that the barium glaze might not stick very much on the shelf, so I glazed the front body and re-fired it. But the glaze became black, unexpectedly. I made ceramic tail, but it didn't look right, so I used our parrot's beautiful feathers. I made a plinth for it, but instead of matt black with silvery dots as on the test piece, it fired olive green! So I gave up on it. For the presentation, Mike quickly made this pine mount for me. Wow, so many things had happened to it. I guess I did lots of experiments at one go!



I do like the glaze, so I would use it in future. I will probably not use plaster moulds. I love forming clay with my hand from inside. That's the fun part for me. Using moulds eliminates the joy. 

I called her Harpie, but she has never talked to me, so I really don't know her name. Could it be she who keeps Canterbury winter so long? The witch with no name. 

Monday 18 March 2013

Cat, little sweetie and another biscotti

Hello everyone. The weekend has passed so quickly. On Saturday, I didn't go to the workshop due to tight head, which has been troubling me for a week now. Instead I have made lots of test pieces over the weekend. The cat head is not attached to the pot below. The cat head looked very sad on the table, so I placed it on the pot.

My new cat head on top of memory pot. 
This is my test piece for smoke firing. First I made a just plain bean shaped test piece. But I couldn't help adding a face. Why not? Test pieces can be really sweet. I also made a tiny pet for him. They went to a large kiln this evening.    
Test piece for smoke firing

I woke up early this morning. At six! By seven thirty I had breakfast in the bed (thanks, Mike!). By eight, still in the bed, I finished reading business news. So I spent doing ceramics for the rest of the day. Throwing, shaping, and making until night.

Mike baked another batch of 600g almond biscotti yesterday. This time, it has no cinnamon.  Mike said American recipe has cinnamon, and also said that American people add cinnamon in coffee, too! Really? Do you, American people, add cinnamon in coffee? I have heard cinnamon tea, but not cinnamon coffee.

Mike's almond biscotti 600g

Friday 15 March 2013


Hello everyone It was a busy week for me. I have just come back from art theory class. My presentation on Wednesday went well. Nothing was broken during transit. We also enjoyed another student, Harriet's presentation very much in the evening. She is a film maker.  Her subject was memory. What a emotive word it is! One of the images she showed us gave me inspiration for the next work.

I was finally able to take some photos of my own work this afternoon. This is Angel.

Angel by Midori Takaki

Angel, different angle 

I am happy with her. She calms me when I look at her. 

Tuesday 12 March 2013

The cat and the whippet who sits on my chair

Hello everyone. It has been very cold here in Kent. There has been a freezing dry wind blowing. The wind reminds me of that in Tokyo in the winter. Tokyo winter is often sunny, but it is bitterly cold due to the Siberian wind.

I have been busy preparing for tomorrow evening's presentation lately. I am almost ready. Tomorrow I will pack all my sculptural works. I hope nothing will break during transit! Although I wanted to take photos of assembled works, as I mentioned earlier, I was not able to because it was too dark, and because I haven't got a set up for a larger work ( I just found!). Mike offered to help me tomorrow afternoon when he will be off work.

So all I could show is the cat. It is now complete. I like him! He reminds me of the last cat I had in Japan a long time ago.
The middle part is going to be reduction fired, and others are oxidation. That's a plan.

When outside is like this...

Yesterday morning
The best thing is to snuggle up with a warm whippet! Pearl comes up to my office every afternoon to share my chair. It was ok when she was smaller. Now I have to perch at the edge of my chair, still being pushed out gradually.

She always puts her tongue out when I take photos. She seems to feel a camera pointed is threatening, even though I do my best baby talk to make her relax!

Sunday 10 March 2013

Cat with a bell and Mike's almond biscotti

Hello everyone. Winter is back. We even had a bit of snow falling this afternoon. I hope it won't get too bad tomorrow. I have finally finished assembling and making temporary mounts for my ceramic sculptures. I would be able to carry and display them safely for my presentation on Wednesday. I really wanted to show you some photos, but it was too dark to take good photographs today. Shame! I may have to wait for a couple days until proper daylight comes back. Forecast for Monday and Tuesday is for snow. : (

I have worked more on the head. It is not finished yet. Flash made him look a bit spookier.


Oh, I have to share these with you instead! Mike baked almond biscotti yesterday.

Mike's almond biscotti

I love them with dark coffee.

He bakes them twice. 
600g of almond biscotti.

He added 50% more almonds. I love almonds! 

Friday 8 March 2013

Progress on the head

Hello everyone. Two lovely ladies in U.S.A. gave me nice feedback at Etsy overnight. I now know that the two rabbits have traveled safely over the big pond. Thank you so much!

I have spent this evening preparing for my presentation. I need to assemble the parts together as I made/fired them separately for the first time. I was working with wood, strings, feathers and putty. What a strange combination! I am not good at wood work, so Mike helped me with that. I will take photos of finished pieces and share them with you here. It's blog preview!

Mystery of a head
The head I started yesterday became like the photo above. I also designed the body part tonight. The test piece looked nice, so I will make the real one tomorrow evening. And I am very pleased to tell you that I had a good night sleep last night. It always works for me. ( I am under a spell of sleep disorder!)

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday 7 March 2013

A nice surprise and the start of my creation period

Hello everyone. It has been a busy week for me, so far. We had two spring days. But I spent them in a meeting, and in the office, and they were gone. But I took a photo. Only one. It's an iris. They usually start flowering in December, but this year they are really late. We have had a dark cold winter. We will go back to a cold spell, but I hope spring is not very far away.
Algerian Iris
Last night, we had Simon's presentation in our art critique class. It was his second presentation. I like his paintings. They became more dynamic and powerful. He raised a bar for the rest of us.

So I was tired when I came home about 9:15 last night; I replied to lovely comments in this blog, and went straight to the bed. This morning I have checked them more in detail, and found that my banner is on Mrs Black's This n That! Imagine my surprise! Her blog has the atmosphere of a little pretty antique shop, and I think she runs one in reality. The images of fairy and old stories in her blog always tickle my heart.

I finally started making something new this evening. My sleep disorder became too bad so I had to do it. (my sleep disorder is only cured if I make some figures in the evenings - it's a spell!) I just started without plan. I take a bit of time until I remember everything, such as how soft clay should be for certain parts, how to move fingers and hands smoothly. I became a bit rusty. So it was a trial and error, but I am looking forward to seeing what this head is going to be.

What's this? I don't know yet! 



Sunday 3 March 2013

Life drawing - clay models

Hello everyone. How was your weekend? I went to a life drawing class yesterday. It was my second time. (the first time is here)  I relaxed and just enjoyed the session. I make small clay models, while my painter course-mates draw with charcoals. I started with something awkward, but progressed to more sensual and articulate pieces. Today, I picked the best six out of 9, and hollowed them out, except for the foot. I will do a reduction-firing on them again. I can't wait! (the previous models I made)

Clay models - life drawing

I asked the tutor for a male model for the next session. I have done two young female models, and would love to try male muscly body. My models are the parts of the body mainly because I was only able to see one side of the model, but also each pose is too short to make a whole body, so I focus on the parts I like.

Today, we did some reglazing of porcelain pots. Tomorrow we will fire them. I will have my presentation next Wednesday. I had already finished one draft, but I decided that I would change it a lot. So I must prepare for it this week. This time, which is my second one and the last one for this academic year, I will take all my finished pieces, about 25 pieces, with me, So I will have to think about packing, too.

Notice: Due to Royal Mail postage increase, all shipping fees in my Etsy shop will be increased from April. The last date for current shipping fees is the 28th March. 

Friday 1 March 2013

Topaz the dog who ate Mike's lunch and Bizen pottery.

Hello everyone. I had a busy day today. After a busy morning with my work, I took a long lunch break, and went to the studio where I had some finishing to do before Monday. I had been there for a couple of hours. Once at home I had worked until five, then quickly had a dinner, and went to the art theory class. Phew. I 'm just back from it. I know I am lucky because I don't have long commuting time (working from home and about 15 to 20 minutes to the studio). I just wonder how other part time students cope with their busy lives.

Oh, there is one happy dog here. While Mike drove me to the studio at lunch time, Topaz the dog ate Mike's lunch that I prepared for him! A piece of brie, nice ham and artisan sour bread (rye and ordinary). She scoffed them down except for a slice of rye bread. (Ummm, interesting).  Poor Mike only had two choc chip cookies and coffee, instead. Topaz also stole some of Pearl's breakfast. No wonder Topaz didn't touch her dinner today.

'I stole everyone's food today.' 
My last pieces from reduction firing to show you here are these whippet and greyhound figures. The first one got a bit of celadon glaze around an eye from a neighbouring pot, so I ground the part, and re-fired it. I used ash glaze here and there.

 This one is more like greyhound-like. He has no glaze, still I think very attractive. I love the colour of reduction fired clay. It is similar to Japanese Bizen ceramics, which I love. Bizen is the old name for an area in Okayama prefecture. Bizen pottery is one of old Japanese pottery. When Mike and I visited the area, we bought a nice vase. My mother also has a Bizen vase. Bizen is often used for Ikebana and tea ceremony. If you visit Japan, I highly recommend to visit Bizen artists. Here is a bit of information about Bizen pottery.