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Tuesday 27 May 2014

Merry go round of firings!

Hello everyone! I would like to share good news today. So far two glaze-firings went well. Yesterday morning, the tall sculptures came out lovely!

Floral patters are new to me! : )

They shrank quite a lot. The middle one was only bisque-fired. In total about 12.50% shrinkage.

Shrinkage comparison
Storm has also come nicely. What a relief! She, 27cm high,  is the tallest one-piece figure I could fire in my kiln.  Even though I was happy with her, I thought a bit of brown would bring more depth, so I added oxides, and she is now in the kiln to be started tomorrow morning. I hope I won't regret that decision!


Surprisingly, it has taken an incredible length of time to finish work; it's about 2 1/2 months. The inspiration for her was the storms we had had over the last Christmas.

Tomorrow's firing would be the last for a week or so. I will make another set of masks for the rest of the week. And that would be it for the midsummer art fair. If you would like to have invites, please let me know. My email address is here.

The last but not the least, Mike is busy making plinths for me in the garage. They will be painted tomorrow. As I am hopeless with DIY, he is my rock! Lovely Mike took a week off. ; )

Sunday 25 May 2014

A mad firing week

It has been a hectic week with glazing and firing. I am having another working weekend. Definitely a bit of madness has crept in. Last night I worked until ten, but today, I have finished by eight. I am happy!

Bisque firing of masks went well, luckily. They came out in the morning on the 20th.

Bisque fired masks

More bisque fired masks.

Then they all went to glaze-firing on the 23rd. Glaze-firing takes about 12 hours. The kiln becomes cool enough to open after 30 hours. 

Lower shelf - ready to glaze firing

Middle shelf

Top shelf

Yesterday morning I opened the kiln. Disappointing! It was under-fired. One of underglazes blisters at high temperature, I tend to set it a bit lower when using this underglaze, but it was too low. Glazes didn't flux well, and oxides look dead.  And a few masks had too strong colours. That's a shame, because I can't remove them. In ceramics, we can only add colours. Most will have to go back for another firing

But time was too tight to lament. I prepared the another glaze firing yesterday, and started the kiln in early morning today. These have been waiting for their turns for a long time. As they are tall ones, I can't have another shelf, so I had to wait until enough tall sculptures are ready.

'Oh, it has been such a long wait! My head fell!' :D

Now the kiln is cooling down.  I can open it tomorrow morning, and I will unload it and load it up again. I will start another glaze firing back to back. I just hope there won't be any more surprises.

He changed from a girl to a boy today! 

Monday 19 May 2014

Warning: Ceramics can kill

Hello everyone. I hope you had a good weekend. It was another working weekend for me. In fact, I had worked too long and too hard. 9 hours on both Saturday and Sunday. This morning, I work up at eight, had breakfast in the bed, and slept again. I woke up again at 12:30 when Mike came back for lunch. Otherwise I would have slept longer. Poor dogs were not fed nor walked neither. They must felt something was wrong; they had been very quiet.

I am taking it easy today. The kiln started at 2am, and has just finished firing. Inside there are several masks.

Their hair becomes fragile as they dry. Then it tends to crack away from the main parts. So in order to make dry all parts evenly, I cover the thin parts with pieces of cling film. I also put them on the kiln shelves, so that I won' need to handle them again.

Empress, Forest Boy and Forest Girl 

Duchess of Macaron and Forest Boy


In the afternoon, I was painting underglaze on the last of the masks. Then I wanted to check something with one of bisque-fired  figures on a shelf above the table where I was working. When I lifted it, its head fell off! I threw the underglaze pot in air to catch the head, but I couldn't. The head landed on the table intact. How strange? Then I realised that it landed on one of my drying masks, Forest Girl, and broke it. Gutted, but nothing I could do now. So I wiped the underglaze from the surface, and recycled the clay into a bowl. It could be much worse. It could have broken all three masks on the kiln shelf and/or it could have been broken as well.  

Forest Girl

I had more work to do. So I carried on. Then about after 30 minutes, I started having stomach ache, felt cold despite it was a warm day, had gum ache, which usually means cold sores, and then a tight chest. Am I having a mini-stroke? 

Forest Girl now

Here is the problem of starting a new career in the middle age, I thought. Stress could be too much for my body. Then I thought why I can't make something else like painting or printing. I wish I could make something which doesn't break easily. But good or bad, ceramics is my path. Trying not to sound religious, but it was a gift to me.

I told Mike if he finds me dead in the studio with broken pieces, he would know what killed me.

We loaded the kiln in the early evening. I forgot to take a photo of the top shelf this time. Unusually there are three shelves in it this time.

Lower shelf

Middle shelf

 I can open the kiln tomorrow morning. I hope there won't be any surprises.

Monday 12 May 2014

A prince

First of all, I like to thank you for all people who came to like and to comment my brand new Facebook page. It means a lot to me! I still don't understand lots of things there. For example, how I could find people's  business 'Page' from their personal page? Should I request friend or not? What are Facebook etiquette? Why I could follow some people, but not others, etc. It'a maze. Twitter is simpler. You either follow or not! Funny thing is that Facebook keeps asking me 'Did you go to the secondary school?' After Ignored its prompt, it said 'You didn't go to the secondary school'. Or it nagged me when I tried to 'unlike' my page after I 'liked ' it from my website as test; something like you shouldn't unlike your own page while others liked yours. It's a bit comical.

I tried to 'like' or 'follow' all people who 'liked' mine, but a half of them are invisible. So if you are one of those invisible, although I don't know who you are, but my gratitude is here. Thank you!


I caught another bug again. This weather is not helping me. Yet, I managed to load the kiln on Friday. And I had worked through the weekend. But too much was too much. This morning, I finally couldn't get up. I had headache and all aches all over. What's worse, Mike caught it, too. But I had three works to post, so after lunch, I packed them and posted them. They are a rabbit, a chicken and Amelie. They all went to very nice people. I am so happy!

I only checked the kiln early this evening. It's a mixture of success and not so good. Nothing is disastrous, luckily. Test pieces will need at least another glaze-firing. Oxides were too weak, and they were burnt out. I also forgot to glaze the eyes of one figure! How stupid is that? That's what happens when I overwork.

Others were successfully fired. What a relief! I started feeling the pressure, as time is ticking.  Now I have got six new works I could take to the art fair.  If you would like to receive invites, please let me know by direct mail or email which is in the contact page in my website. (www.MidoriTakaki.co.uk)

This is the one fired earlier. He was a boat. But his expression is not for a boat. He wanted to become a royal. So I gave him a crown and now he is a prince. I like the gradation on his body. I got the idea from the Paul Klee exhibition at Tate. It looks so natural and pretty. I liked it so much that I am using this for some other pieces. Once a while, one glaze firing is enough for a change.

A prince

he has an unusual expression. 


Wednesday 7 May 2014

My Facebook ceramic page and anteaters in ceramic and fur

I have good news! I finally launched my ceramic page, MidoriTakaki.Sculpture on Facebook. It is a bit like I don't know how to swim yet, but lots of waves are coming. All I could do is to jump when they come, so I will float. So if you find me doing silly things there, please be patient. I'm learning very slowly how to navigate there.

 The reason why I started Facebook page is that I wanted something between Twitter and blog. I like Twitter because it is easy to use, and I can tweet several times a day. I also appreciated feedback from people. It's vital. Besides, thanks to Retweet, The post can be spread like a wild fire, which is nice. But the 140 letter limit is often too short to tell stories. One photo per post limits to posts going into depth.

I like the blog because I can tell you why I made certain works; it is very important to me. But due to time constraint, I can only blog about twice a week. And audiences are somewhat limited as they have to find here.

On FB, I have learned that I can post with multiple photos, without letter restriction, and it is quicker to post than the blog. So I am hoping that my FB page will bridge between twitter and the blog. Do come to my page and say hi to me, if you are on FB. I would be delighted to meet you there! I added my FB badge on the right hand column. 

For the last couple of days, I have been glued to the desk, and haven't done anything much in Studio. All figures including these boys came out fine after bisque-firing. I will start glazing them tomorrow.

Three boys have geometric patterns on their garments.

These two have floral patterns.

I am aiming at coarse Thai silk like fabric

This little fellow was also bisque-fired. He is an anteater. I took him out from the kiln Monday morning, and Mike and I visited the zoo to see real ones in the afternoon. It was crowded. Did you know that they are quite playful? We didn't. When we got there they were trying to settle for afternoon nap. I guess a larger one is the mother and smaller one is her offspring. The small one decided not to go to bed. He kept poking mother with the long nose and big toes. Mother woke up and a kind of said 'Stop that, now! I am sleepy!' in her gesture and then put her very large tail over her head like a blanket! We had watched them until the child also became sleepy. What a treat! People were overjoyed to find them, too. They were stars!
Don't sleep yet! Let's play!

No, you go away. I am sleepy! ( see the leg of the left anteater)

Another great animals to watch were the lemurs in the walk-in enclosure. They licked nectar from apple trees just above our heads. Their dog like face doesn't show much expression. They strange eyes don't show anything but focus. They are strange primates.

They were just above our heads.

After about three hours, we came home. I became too tired to stay awake. I went to bed to have a nap, but ended up sleeping for about three hours until eight at night. A good nap is one of pleasures of life, but too long a nap hinders a good nights sleep. That was the consequence!

Sunday 4 May 2014

Out of sorts revisited, angels and Butchery Lane in Canterbury

Here in UK, we are having May Day Bank holiday weekend. Today, the second day of a long weekend, warmth has finally returned, thankfully. While I was in Japan, bank holidays could be on any day of a week.

Here in UK, all bank holidays are on Monday, except for Christmas. Even the Queen's birthday is moved to the nearest Monday, for the convenience. It is called the Queen's official birthday. To me, it should be celebrated on the day she was born. But I think peculiar British rationalization and unique logic of convenience rule here. So if they have moved Her majesty's birthday so that they could have a longer weekend, it was just the most natural thing for them to move May Day to the nearest Monday.

After I left Japan, the then Japanese government made an unspecific holiday to make a long holiday from late April to early May. Bank holidays used to be the 29th of April (the Late Emperor's birthday),  the 3rd (Constitution memorial Day) and the 5th of May (Children's festival). Now the 4th of May is also a bank holiday. Unlike here, in Japan, sadly workers still find it difficult to take a long holiday because of social pressure, so this was the a bit of a solution from the then government. Two countries and two solutions to make longer holidays.

Although I am not under such pressure, I seldom take a break from ceramics. If I do, I tend to get bored. I have to find something else to occupy my mind. Last night, I loaded the kiln and started bisque firing after finishing this chicken totem! I did some sgraffito on her body.

Out of sorts (2012). Sold  
About 18 months ago, I made this chicken, Out of sorts. An art tutor purchased her on the first day of installation of the MA show last September. Since then I have had requests for her from a couple of galleries. I had enjoyed making them, and I would like to expand on this series more.

My latest Out of sorts
I do a mock-up of loading, and take photos before taking them to the kiln in the cold garage so that we wouldn't have to spend unnecessary time there. When I did for this shelf, they reminded me of terracotta army! :D Mine are all hand-built from a scratch; everyone has his own character. They are angels.

Five angels and three chickens
This is as tight as I could load in this kiln. There is also a lower shelf with porcelain wreaths and a few wings. The tallest boy only had less than 2 cm above his head to the lid; mine is a top-loading kiln. Having said that I was amazed that this small kiln actually can fire as many as these.

It's full! 


Late this morning, we popped into Ecco to buy me a new pair of walking shoes. I have worn some Reebok's nubuck walking shoes for several years. But they are discontinued now, I had to venture to find a replacement. Well, I had to thank Reebok. Ecco has my size, 3.5, as a standard, and the pair I bought are very comfortable, light and soft. What else could I want? My dog walks would be much easier on them. (Our dogs pull a lot!)

Here are some photos of the city centre this morning. There were lots of European tourists, especially French. First, we decided to have some cakes before shopping. We found this new Turkish cafe.

Turkish coffee house with Turkish deserts. 
 From the window seats, you have a glimpse of the Cathedral.

******Edited 21/07/2014
We bought 4 baklava to take out. We were charged £9. We will never go again!

£9 for these! 

It is on Butchery lane. It is a narrow lane with several independent shops and cafes.

The sign from the past is still here. 

Some shops still uses old signs. Charming! 
There is also Roman museum. You can see the excavated Roman mosaic in here. Canterbury used to be one of the important cities since the Roman period.  

Canterbury Cathedral gate is just there. This place used to be a cattle market. Tourists were queuing this morning. 

Cathedral gate
 On the way to Ecco, we saw these peculiar Morris Dancers. They are all in black and covering faces!

Next to them, ordinary Morris dancers were waiting for their turn. I love their cheerful costumes! 

We had fun today. I hope you had good weekend!

Thursday 1 May 2014

Chickens have returned, and a little bird called Ruth.

Today, I have finished my studio work before 7:30! That's early for me. I have wanted to update the blog for days, but when I worked until 9, I just couldn't have time or energy to do blog. My creativity peaks in early evening; obviously I work with that in mind. I do my other work, all administrative work related to ceramic business, packing and shipping in the mornings. So I could gear up for my creative time later.

I have made lots of 'people' this week despite strangely I have had two nightmares (too scarily to tell you here!)  and the return of the virus infection, which finally cleared two days ago.

Chicken is back!

I made a chicken similar to these, and showed her in MA show last year, but no general visitors had a chance to buy her because one of art tutors snatched her up during the installation. Since then I have been asked if I had more. So here they are!

'Do you think it's going to rain today?'  'We might need brollies.'
And these three boys are drying. I have made two more, so there will be five angels. They are relatively smaller size. I like their faces!


While I struggle with time management, there is a lady who is so good at it. I have wanted to tell you about a lady called Ruth. We met on Twitter and my pair of owls now live with her. She has a demanding a full time job, yet she runs her two Etsy shops very successfully. She also tweets funny things a lot, which I giggle, and blogs regularly! She even started decorating ceramic! How could she manage all? According to her blog, she has a routine for certain tasks. Amazing! She has sweet birds prints in one of her very popular Etsy shops. It is full of sweet birds and animals!I have enjoyed reading her blog. Her straight talking yet humorous writing is refreshing. We all know that it is not easy to keep focused on more than one thing. If you have Etsy shop and another work, her blog would be very inspiring how she copes or, in fact, thrives on both.

This Is How We Know About Life - Birds - The Original Garden Birds illustration Art Print 29x10cm
Ruth's bird print