Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kimono Lace Tea Set

Having figured out how to actually make cylindrical forms using slabs with my yarn bowls, I got, well, I got pretty excited! A whole new world had opened up for me, where I could make vessels using my slab roller rather than the wheel or extruder. (I love my high-capacity extruder but the dies generate pretty thick clay sections, thicker than I really wanted for the sorts of vessels I wanted to make.)

Another format that had been a big, as-yet-unmet, challenge was that of a tray - the trays I had made previously had all warped horribly. My friend Juliet Smith helped me out with this one, sharing some of her experiences on Facebook, forcing me to realize I had to develop some serious patience and let these pieces dry out really slowly. Armed with my new-found knowledge and experience, I set out to combine them into a Japanese-inspired tea set.

I liked the idea of using the lace texture for these pieces, as I had with the yarn bowls, as they really reminded me of the brocades used in the obis for Japanese kimono. I used exactly the same technique for the cups as I had for the yarn bowls. After rolling out the clay slab, I blocked out the size piece for the cups. I wanted them to be modestly-sized, so their eventual contents wouldn't cool off before their users were finished. (I felt slightly smaller cups requiring slightly more frequent refills would be more conducive to keeping tea hot.) I rolled the lace onto the clay slab and cut it to size, bevelled the bottom edge to make the bottom of a box, rolled the cylinder up and folded up the bevelled bottom and attached it to a small plain square slab, making sure the surfaces were well scored and slipped. I have found that an offset frosting or icing knife is perfect for smoothing the surface inside the bottom of the cup to make sure the join is secure; I also check and make sure the corners are well sealed (it wouldn't serve to have a leaky teacup!) I also use the frosting knife to smooth the inside of the seam, which is helped along by applying clay rosettes from the same lace pattern on the outside, not only sealing the seam but further enhancing the overall design.

Detail of cup
I was a bit more trepidatious about the tray design. My past experiences had been less than salubrious and I had been deeply disappointed with them. I decided to keep the design as simple as possible and try to let them dry as slowly as possible.

For the tray, I rolled out a clay slab and rolled an oblong piece of lace into the surface. Cutting it to size - two inches longer and wider than the desired flat portion of the tray - I then marked off a one-inch square at each corner, cutting a section of clay from the inside point of the square to a point one-half-inch from the square's outside point. Removing the resulting small diamond-shaped piece of clay, I used a paint stirrer (any really flat "thing" will work), I turned up the tray's four resulting edges and scored and slipped then together, creating a bevelled lip making it easier to carry the tray and harder for things to slip off of it. I put the tray on a kiln shelf, covered lightly with plastic, and put it high up on my shelves where I wouldn't see it. Checking the tray the next day, it seemed to be drying fairly flat. Once it was more than leather hard, I removed the plastic, still allowing it to continue drying in the ambient studio conditions. Long story short, it dried perfectly flat!

Once all of the pieces were dry, I lightly sanded them with synthetic steel wool to make sure they would be pleasant to handle, then bisque fired to Cone 06. Before glazing, I lightly rinsed the pieces to make sure there was no remaining clay dust and then waxed the bottoms of the cups and tray. I dipped the cups about two thirds horizontally in Amaco's Potter's Choice Temmoku about two thirds; then I dipped each one two thirds from the other direction (so there was an overlap of glazes) using Indigo Float, Lustrous Jade, Vert Lustre or Textured Turquoise. (I dipped them all so the lace rosettes sealing the seam were at the center of the non-Temmoku side just for the sake of symmetry.)

Detail of tray
The tray was more challenging because, although I still wanted to overlap the glaze, there was no way I could dip the piece as I wanted, as I wanted the glaze to run parallel to the tray's longer axis. (It didn't help that I was running really low on both glazes by this time, so even if I had been OK with dipping the other direction, I really couldn't!) I opted to try to pour the Temmoku on half the tray and the Indigo Float on the other half. Although the demarcation between the two "zones" isn't quite as "clear" as I would like, I think it works with the cups.

This tea set actually sold recently on my Etsy site (www.etsy.com/shop/TheBlackCatPottery) but I plan to make another, this time with five cups, more in keeping with a traditional Japanese tea set.

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