Monday, 29 September 2008

Our bus driver was napping when we got back.  I really like how everyone here is good at sleeping when there is nothing is going on.
All of the chinese stare at us.  From young to old.
A really genius way to fire tiles without using kiln space
Porcelain stools.
A whole bunch of incense.  I guess it was some kind of factory 

Rolling out a massive slab.

Yes, that is a three story vase.  Take that North America.  They only have like 2000 years on ya.

With my electrician dad I figured the wiring pictures were necessary.  Obviously the building inspector is a bit lax. 
The celadon is really amazing here

One of my favorite paintings of the day

These are not even the biggest.  UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
Yes, everything at this vase factory was THIS amazing.
The pieces thrown and attached for some really massive wear.  
The kiln for the monster pots.
A chinese worker artist attaching a planter together.  They attach these pieces bone dry with thick slip mixed with around five percent glaze so it really sticks well when firing.

Makin a real big section.
Going to this factory excited and inspired me to make some big pots.  I cant wait to try some similar methods for big pots here in Jingdezhen.

Cleanup before Yixing trip

I started off the day by bombing a language quiz.  I am a little ashamed of myself I guess.  I was so focused on firing yesterday that I did not study a lick.  I guess it did not bather me that bad since I am here to focus on making pots, but I do need to buckle down .  The biggest help would be to go out and practice on the locals which I have ventured into.  It is not necessary for me and I am going to have to make myself do it.  I am sure it will work out just fine.
Today was just a cleanup day for me.  My area has gotten pretty nasty, my parents and professor Doug Knotts will tell you that I am a messy worker.  I am going to try and develop good studio habits while I am here though.  It took me a few hours to get it really clean so I can start fresh upon return from the four day trip to Yixing.  I took two naps today which was nice, and in between we took a trip into a more primitive part of town where they make beautiful tiles, and a vase shop that was unbelievable.  This will be my last post for four days since I am going on a trip without the ole computer.  So I hope I have left you with some super sweet pictures.  I will return with some sweet stuff I am sure.     

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Burnin' #1.

My favorite pic of the day.
Yes, the glue bottle does say that on it.  Pretty sure whoever desighned this bottle needs to learn more english.  haha
Kim cookin' up some great spaghetti sauce in a wok. 
New soda kiln update.

At the end of the firing.  Someone's cracked bowl and you can see the cone down just below it.
Last firing shift.


Believe it or not this is the wood that fired that kiln.

So Much Like Home I Almost Forgot I Was In China

Today was the best day of the whole venture hands down.  I started the day at 6 am down at the kiln.  I finished in the same location except the last cone was down.  There is such a comfort I feel when I am wood firing anything I immediately associate home, food, and people I love.  I got so in the zone today that I would walk away from the kiln yard and suddenly remember I was in China.  I my mind was in such a comfortable state that I completely forgot I was in an unfamiliar location.  There is such an eerie magic to wood firing that I can not let go.  After today I know I am going to wood fire with my life.  The love I have for it is too strong to do anything else.  I am so ready to start building a kiln when I get back.  I am so excited I cant stop thinking about it.  Wood firing brings people together.  That is one of the main things I love, and when people get together there has to be good food.  I though of pound cake many times today, but this day ended just right.  Some of our ladies made spaghetti for supper tonight.  It was hard for them to find the ingredients, but it was definitely spaghetti.  I ate two large plates full, and I could not stop smiling the whole time.  I licked the plate clean when I finished.  Food like that in a place like this is something you can't put a price on.  I said a long prayer of thanksgiving before gorging myself in a chinese american feast.  The feelings I had today were home cooked and absolutely wonderful.  I have made so many life long friendships here too.  This is the best place in the world for a potter like me right now.     

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Dave the slave, the spraying master at work.
Big Brad hard at work.
Some work by Mike, one of the teachers here.
Jeff hard at work with a hand (literally in the bottom left) from his wife Donna.

Kirt's butt loading some pots into the kiln.

Pot glazing madness (from hell) and wood firing passion.

Today has been the most frustrating hard day so far.  I have never been or seen people as bummed and cranky as they were today.  We are glazing green and it is really tough with this clay because it really saturates when water is introduced even if it is bone dry, and the stuff is so brittle it is just ridiculous.  I started off with a dipping mindset after doing some glaze shopping ( I was planning on dipping my pots in glaze).  I could do the cups fine because I can do them fast enough to avoid the clay soaking up and crumbling, but the bigger pots just crumbled in hand.  I had one teapot I was planning to put in as well as the lightest, best formed vase crumble from my hands into pieces into the bucket of glaze.  I was so frustrated I could not talk to anyone about it.  This place is so far from any type of pottery I am used to that it seems like the other side of the world (and it is).  After breaking the two best pots of my load I made up my mind to spray it all on.  And guessed it....the sprayer blew out.  Dave did all of his pots in an hour or so and it overheated and quit running.  I guess you can imagine the questions in my mind then.  I did all the mugs quicky and easily, and the sprayer started working sparingly.  It would overheat easily and shut off for hours at a time.  I brushed some glaze on, and was fortunate enough to have about a quarter of my pieces sprayed.  This firing is like one big test, and full of pots I am not proud of so I guess I should not care so much.  Everyone was having similar problems except the ones teaching.  There were many pass byes that went without hellos today.  We started loading after around four and plan on starting around twelve, but I am going with the morning shift because I am still suffering from this cough and need my rest tonight.  While loading I can feel the wood firing passion shaking my bones.  I am in love with burnin a load of pots with wooden fuel.  Something about that crackle and even the look of freshly glazed pots just makes my blood start pumping with adrenaline.  Loading at night tonight reminded me of back home spending late nights loading the fresh alkaline glazed pots.  Setting them carefully back into the cavelike groundhog tunnel kilns we have back on the other side of the world.  Back in Catawba valley.  I am reminded every time I say the words turn, burn, or dig (referring to building a kiln) just how North Carolinian folk I was brought into this world of artists.  To be honest I did not think I was that bad until I got here and really hear myself refer to things a certain way.  I am here to broaden the perspective though, and it is not done easily.  Lot of pots have ben messed up along the way.  It is funny how I can be as far from home as possible yet have one of the most familiar, comfortable feelings from doing something I love like firing up a wood kiln.  (It also helps that it is not filled completely with my pots, it would be much more stressful if it were.) 

Friday, 26 September 2008

a teapot form I finished today.  
Some bigger shapes.
I figured since this blog has been a bit boring and meaningless to those people that arent potters I would try to post some older pics from Shanghai. These are big bronze bells made by the Chinese people.  I suppose they are pretty old.
Evidently these were weapons used by chinese soldiers.

Sweet bonsai tree in Shanghai.

Turnin and soon Burnin

We have been making pots as fast as we can, but sadly throwing away more than half of them because this clay is so bad.  I am really starting to get the hang of this stuff though.  My pots are not perfect by any means, but they are getting there.  We are glazing and maybe loading the wood kiln tomorrow which means alot of working and creative thinking for me in the next little bit.  Glazing is one of my weaker sides so I am going to have to work hard to learn and get better at it.  I have not done far outside of the catawba Valley NC style of glazing, and I am looking forwarding to broadening my view.  I hope to be able to find some real ash somewhere so I can put some good ole traditional recipe stuff (and tweak it a bit) on my pots.  I also hope to do some glass work on there as well.  Today consisted of alot of grinding off kiln shelves and mixing up glazes for some, but I was able to get a days work in (not much considering the clay).  Jeff showed me how to make a functioning coffee pot today that I cant wait to make.  I really think people will like them because they are so functional.  We are going to Yixing next week for a few days because it is Chinese holiday here and all the professors are taking off.  I am very excited about that because I really enjoy teapots and hope to pick up some good tips and tools while I am there.  It was a bit cooler today than it has been and I think everyone worked a little harder because of it.  Glazing and firing is on everyones mind right now, and I am very excited to see what all of these people put in and take out of this kiln.  

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Kiln building progress

This is some of the awesome work the glaze guy did.  Turn your head slant right and it works a bit better.  

Yes, I did make a porcelain face jug, and I am from North Carolina!!!

First face jug.  I think it is a little crowded, but it is a good start I suppose.
We unloaded a gas kiln today.  A little bit of student work.  Two pieces I did in B and w.  They turned out a bit light.  Overall I was not that pleased
A few of the pots I have been making
My shelf with 5 new shapes I will trim up a bit tomorrow.  The weight factor is getting better though.

Glaze demonstrator.
The hi-lights of today were the first porcelain face jug in my carrer, and trying to do laundry.  People really enjoyed watching me make the face jug this morning I just hope it stays together.  I have a fear it wont because this porcelain is so sensitive.  Today I took my laundry to the little laundry mat close by and the lady was fairly hard to work with.  She spoke no english (which is normal) and just seemed to have no patience with me.  I am also pretty sure she overcharged me.   I got my stuff back with a pair of Bobs shorts in with it.  Bob had troubles with her today as well and I think he is going to do something about it.
I do believe I am getting a handle on how to throw this clay.  I am not ready to switch clay bodies yet.  I actually made some nice shapes on purpose today.  It is the little things that help like the amount of water and the number of pulls.  My cough is still here, but it does not get in the way too bad. I talked to my parents today on skype, and saw my sister.  That was a good part of the day as well. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

yesterday pics.

This was something going on around the antique market.  Pretty cool packaging huh?
A few of the students posing for a picture with the master.
Some sweet badminton action from the window.
One of the blue on whites I did quickly with no sketches at the end.  I feel like I do better when I do things faster without thinking sometimes.  Just quick muscle memory strokes.

Two, very loose for my style, teapots and a birdhouse with a tall lid.