Friday, January 28, 2011

Dragon of the East Sea part I.

Dragons in mythology of Europe are different from dragons of Asia. Dragons of Asia are related to element of water and live under water compare to dragons of Europe with their fires and caves. Even more, dragons here in Europe are connected to the evil but on Far East there are for protection. Dragon brings rain and clouds. Dragon is important for agriculture -for rice, for vegetable, for tea.

When I have visited Korea for the first time the dragon has been given to me.

It is both symbolic and wonderful companion during my more ceremonial tea sections. It is related to agriculture and water. That is what is tea about, don't you think?

   It was very plesant gift from potter and tea master Oh Soon-Teak. Even among Korean potters I met he is extraordinary for me. I had an opportunity to be a part of his tea serving for several times and there was all. He was just preparing the tea for us.

And I was wondering: Is his tea ware so well done because he masterly goes on the way of tea or he understands to tea so well because he masterly goes on the way of tea ware ? 

Those of you who have already hold some nice Korean tea ware know, that there is something what we can call "Korean feeling“. Simplicity and softness. But in works of ....we can see also childlike happiness on details with sophisticated and deeply heartwarming impressions from each piece.

So next time when you will see the dragon on my blog - don't worry, it is here to protect the tea.

Monday, January 24, 2011

After fire...

I work in clay for more then twelve years now but every firing and every unloading is still exiting time. New things are born, new mistakes to learn from show up...and it was the same this time.

So how was the first firing of the year? And what the teapot which I have shows you? 

The ash glaze really supriced me...but in good way

Although this time there were more unexpected damages the teapot was blessed...
There were two ash glazed teapots and in the midle you can see celadon one...

When I put it on one of the Mirka's small tea boats I find that it fits there quite naturally...

The boat is also from porcelain, with thin shino glaze on the bowl and fine, almost white celadon on the stand.
I like the uneven colors, pinky where the ash glaze was thin and yellow green on the top where the glaze was thick. The thin porcelain body moved in the fire and the lid does not fit as good as I wish...
For now I am still not sure which kind of tea will initiate this little one...any guesses?

What make us happy are new experiments with charcoal...colors and surfaces which are very warm and pleasant. Here are some pictures..

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ash glazed

In one of my previous post I have promised to share with you continuing process of creating a teapot. The teapot was neaten and then bisque fired in electric kiln to 1000°C

So what is next?  First we have to prepare the glaze... 

For this I decided to take a risk and use untried-on natural ash glaze. We use ash glazes, but each ash is different and we have never try this ash combination before. Combination of meadow hay and wheat straw burned together... I got both from neighbor farmer who storage it for his horses. When he heard from me about using ashes for glazing he was so excited and curious to see the results that he has generously given me several bales of those materials. Hopefully he has enough for long winter and horses are not going to miss it.

The ash comes from this countryside....I hope that some magic of it will show up on my works. 

When we burn wood, plant, and weed - we basically release water and carbon. In ash then stay all minerals from which the plant was build. But our burning is not perfect. Also the hay as well as strew are not clean from soil, sand or another dirt and the careful sieving is necessary.

Ash...fascinating, isn't it? Gray leftover from burning and so many possibilities how to use it and so many possibilities how to think about it...    

It is like washing gold, but our gold is not on the sieve. Our gold are those smallest particles on the bottom of the bucket we sieve into. 

During the washing of the ash we have to use much more water then will be needed in the "glaze". So it rests and settles during the night. In the morning it is ready to remove water from the top and check it out... 

At the end we have around two liters of ash glaze - we needed around forty kilograms of hay and straw for it
Glazing by ash glaze is not the easiest one but I like the look and character of the material...
Our experiences say that this can be "running" glaze so tread the lid by wadding is necessary. Also wadding under teapot can protect it in case that ash will run down.

We fire the kiln with this teapot yesterday and as I am writing this post it slowly cold down. Are you curios how it will turn out? Then be sure - It makes two of us :)
We have again landed up part of the kiln by charcoal...  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter tea in winter cup

As cold days are not something what I am probably going to get use to, especially when our new studio is still without comfortable heating, a cup of tea keeps me company since morning to evening. The company, which cheers me up.


What is my winter tea? What is my cup for cold, chilly morning?

I have realized that there is not simple answer. Each morning is different.  I usually have several kinds of tea, which tell me "I can be the one for freeze morning, I can help you out".  But not always there is the right energy to choose with deliberation, in chilly air - there is time for intuition. Surprisingly for myself, I quite often choose KouCha - Japanese black tea. So I decided to share it with you. 

This one I got like a generous gift from my friend (thank you again, Antonio) and it is from menu of one of the best supplier of Japanese teas I know - TeaMountain. On webpage they say: „Rarity made from Kousun cultivar on farm of Mr.Katahiry in Nunusowa village on Shizuoka. June 2010. The tea was made directly for us as our own special commission."  And good reputation of those people says that it is not only nice story.

Very promising is even smell of dry leaves- citrus or lime fragrances with slight, cinnamon like spices in it. Light roast. Maybe this dry leaves talk to me in the morning.

.The liquor is dark but bright. The dominant character is uncommon combination of lime and some salty "Japanese" in it. It is tasty.

If the first look at dry leaves tells us that it is "dark dark" tea the look at wet leaves shows combination of dark green, light brown as well as dark brown leaves. I usually make three full-valued infusions.
 The woodfired shiboridahsi pictured below helps me enjoy the tea even in cold morning while I light fire in the fireside. 
My "work" shiboridashi - slightly broken but  I like the touch of the fire, running ash, color...

  I am usually not big fan experiments like this. But in this case there is originality and it doesn't try to look like something else. 

The winter cup in front of our "bamboo forest"
 The cup I have fallen for this winter and which I like to use for darker tea was made by Mirka - my girlfriend and colleague. Although it was originally created in series like sake cup or shot (as there is not many sake drinkers in Czech Rep.) most of them have been picked by tea fans as winter cups.

As in my tea caddy there is too litlle left of this tea I hope the spring is going to be here soon....

Monday, January 3, 2011

The last clay of the year - the first teapot of the year

A process of creating teapot - may be you have seen it before, may be not.
I decided to show you birth of the teapot in the last days of the 2010 as it will fully come to live by fire in 2011. Remember - until the first tea is pouring from the teapot it is still only clay...

I work with different clays - in this case I choosed porcelain, which we got from one Czech porcelain factory. Work with this porcelain is not easy, but it is worth it. White, translucent body on which glazes are clear and unglazed parts turn in the fire to salmon with apricot orange flashes.

After the body of teapot dries a bit I make hollow place in area, where sieve is going to be. From my experiences it helps to keep holes in sieve clean and they don’t clog so easy.

I like this stage of the process. If the clay is right (leather hard) and everything is prepared there is time for creativity…

I usually make this kind of “tongue” on the top of the spout. If it is made right, the tea will not drop…
Sometime I am not sure about the handle until this moment. Is it going to be “kyusu”, reed handle or ordinary back handle? The back one in this case…  
The lid is very important for final design and impressions from the teapot.
Now I will let it dry. I will make final finishing before bisque firing - neaten the surface, sieve inside, lid, spout…and then the pot will wait for the fire and maybe tea...