A Ceramics Day

Sorry if I haven’t written much lately, Fortunately, lack of time is not the only reason! With the end of the school semester I have started a few baito, or part time jobs (a few more than I planned, actually), and so this past month I mostly studied and worked. And ate, too. I could come up with a top ten of my workplace-related mistakes, or talk about school, but not now. Today’s topic is a bit more artistic: ceramics.

One of the things I like the most about Japan - and Kyoto in particular - is how different the art you can find is from ours. When I stroll past the shop of a traditional umbrella maker (there are only two left), when I see the fans, the kimono, the lacquerware… I am dazzled. Everything, at first, seemed either too plain or too ornate, as if it couldn’t find a middle ground!

The same held true for ceramics: if a bowl was painted black I didn’t pay attention to it, feeling as if it was a waste; I was always looking for colorful, flashier stuff.

Living in Kyoto, I began understanding how every detail has its importance: colors, nuances, forms.

I tried my hand at ceramics for the first time, and I understood how much care and work goes behind it.

A lady I met back in October took me there. We sometimes have lunch together and, last time I went to visit her in Kobe, she showed me a painted cup she had made herself. I immediately wanted to try it, so she took me to the home of her teacher, where we spent the afternoon making pots (mine were mostly crooked!).

I made one ‘free hand’: it had to be thick edged so to be held comfortably in one hand. Then, assisted by the teacher, I made some with the wheel. Here are the results:

Shapes are made and, after a short spell of drying, they are baked at 800 degrees for about 8 hours. This is the first stage of baking, suyaki 素焼き. Then, they are cooled and coated in lacquer, yūyaku 釉薬. Then they’re baked again, at 1300 degrees for 13 hours.

Each pot has a different shape according to use.

This flower pot was made for my by the teacher, and I have to put some flowers from the Kamo riverbed in there. I am anxiously waiting for hanami to complete my mission!

What would you put inside this blue cup? I though it should hold earring, but… it’s actually for sake!

This one instead is for tea! Do you like the color? I wasn’t sure at first but, according to my Japanese friends, it’s very good looking!

Leaving the pottery teacher’s house (close to the Kiyomizudera) I went to Gion to wait out the afternoon… or, rather, to catch the metro to my baito!