Perspectives Opening – Akira Satake Workshop

I had a wonderful opportunity to go to the opening of the OCAF Perspectives Pottery Event on opening night. Its only about an hour away from my home. I’ve never seen so much quality work in one place and from what I hear it is an event that goes unmatched, at least here in the southeast.

I picked up a few pieces, the prices were reasonable and some of them felt outright too cheap to make a living with (that is another post, pricing your work).

Two pieces from Roger Jamison on the left and the right. A gorgeously decorated and salt fired piece by Kathy Phelps in the back and a piece by Anne Ginkel in the front (I cant find much information about her, shoot me a comment or email if you know of a portfolio page and I’ll add it).

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Roger Jamison is a fantastic potter. This yunomi is a fine example of everything a yunomi should be. Its simple, functional, light, it feels right in the hand both in shape and texture. Also it’s as if the decoration of the piece takes place in layers, some seem further into the piece giving a strong feeling of depth when looking at it. I hope to talk with Roger in the near future as he runs an anagama kiln and I hope to one day run my own.

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In the end I had to just get the hell out of there because looking up and down the aisles I kept seeing things that I wanted for my collection! I’ll be going back every year!

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The next day was a 2 day workshop being done by Akira Satake. I have long admired his organic forms and beautiful yunomi, chawan, guinomi and sculptural work so I had paid for this long in advance. I was actually able to meet a friend and somewhat close potter who goes by Grype who I met through the Ceramic Arts Daily Forums. His work is fantastic and coming along nicely.

Here you can see some of Akira Satake’s work along with a few of his contemporaries. This is by no means a complete document of the show but I really had fun seeing these strikingly beautiful works in person.

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The workshop was full of information and he went over a lot of material. The main thing that I took away was that clay is clay and to let it be what it is and to help it be itself. This is expressed fully in his sculptural works that look as if they are made partly by man and partly by the earth itself.

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He also went over his technique of applying slip and getting the textural pieces that he is famous for. It is a very in depth and lengthy process which requires the right amount of drying time after the slip is applied. He spent a very long time perfecting this technique which goes to show that he is, among other things, a very patient and persistent person. With the textured slabs he built a teapot and showed us how the handles were made. Stories were told and among them were a few about potters who were teaching Akira Satake technique workshops at a very reputable pottery center and another person who took his slip recipe and started selling batches of it on eBay if I remember correctly.

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Shameful really. I’ve heard the same stories from other potters who are really the nicest and most open people but when they talk specific recipes or techniques others shamelessly use it and copy it for their own gain. The one thing about people who copy though, they are always one step behind 😉

I personally feel that you can use the technique or recipe, but, MAKE IT YOUR OWN! After all, what you create is truly a reflection of yourself. Why would you want to be anyone but yourself? Some of the techniques shown I will probably never use because they are Akira’s specifically. They are clever and technical and are good fodder for new ideas but the specifics are his. I am grateful that I was able to attend and chat with him and see a great potter at work.

Unfortunately at the end of the first day of workshop I was not feeling well at all so I had to leave and I didn’t make it back for the second day. I wanted to make a portrait of Mr. Satake as I try to do when I meet someone who influences me but it just wasn’t in the cards. He has a studio in Asheville so its not entirely out of the realm of possibility that I could meet up with him again and finally make that portrait.

Here is my memento guinomi from the workshop and meeting with Akira.

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Overall a fantastic few days and I was able to be very productive with my own work. I anticipated this in advance and booked some vacation time from work 🙂

 

Procrastination comes to an end…

Procrastination comes in a many forms – gotta wash the dishes, I’m shot from work, should do the laundry, clean the yard, relax. It’s productive procrastination sometimes. But I’ve finally got 5 glaze test going with the kiln at 700F and falling. Can’t wait to see if I’m on the right track or if more tweaking is necessary.


Moss ash, Temmoku with moss ash, my marshmallow white with moss ash, standard wood ash, a ru Celadon with some Zircopax. Up front is internally glazed with celadon and externally with moss ash. Bake until bubbly!

Here is the list for anyone interested in the recipes (ru is incomplete, I’ll update full recipe later)


My workspace is in complete disarray  but the shelves are up and I now have a space to mix and glaze and some spare room to house greenware. There are three bags of recyclables being collected for another art project for a friend and you don’t want to see the rest of the place! (There’s a Christmas tree out of frame! Etc…)

Tomorrow I’m meeting up with a few fellow potters to do the math on the new Anagama kiln which hopefully will be built and operational before this time next year. Something similar to this.


Single chamber, smallish but perfectly workable. I mostly do smaller pottery, yunomi a and chawan and the such, so no problems there! We’ll be able to stack high and deep. In fact Jay has no intention of fully relying on this kiln as his livelihood comes from the controlled firings he gets in his gas kiln. But man what fun to see what the fire brings to the collaboration! All 3 of us work within our own styles and that is a kind of symbiotic / synergetic thing! I love that I can get ideas and input from various sources and filter it through my own sense of taste.  We might already have 1000 bricks so it shouldn’t be too much more expensive to get the rest of the materials.

Myself, I have a cone 8 electric kiln which I really have no desire to peruse firing in that manner except for bisque and the ocasional glaze test. I’m prepared for the inevitable frustration of having a priced piece of work come out different from what I envision. Along with that should come some happy accidents and having my physical input into the process is something that I highly desire. Kind of like shooting film and thendeveloping it yourself. It’s a beginning to end process. It is a collaboration after all.

Back to being excited and motivated thanks to getting my diet and supplements in order. Some medications just take it all out of you. So goes life.

I’m also working on a list of decoration techniques (other than form based). Mostly to just solidify different techniques in my brain so I can compliment the forms I make. Probably hundreds more of these to come, just getting started.


So my day pretty much looks like this when I’m able to focus on ceramics. Being a potter with a 45 hour a week side gig at a fortune 100 company is sometimes full of challenges, both logistically and motivationally.


So there you have it! My Fourth of July update. No red white and blue pots, but some gold motivation to keep on pushing. It just takes time to get any better and you got to put in the work. Same goes for anything. Life itself. You get out of it what you put in!

Speaking of Nuka

Speaking of Nuka. I got some great information from my friend Lance​ who is continually learning things about the beauty of the world and he creates videos to educate on his findings. He talks about “the living fossil” : Equisetum, which was around in the days of the dinosaurs. It is edible and has medicinal properties but what struck me was that it is very high in silica.

Since rice husk ash is used to create the beautiful nuka glaze. Its color is not easily describable but it has shades and hues of blue, green, white and grey. Every nuka glazed pot is different. I think that the somewhat random nature of the glaze is one of its greatest characteristics.

Look at this beautiful square bottle by Shoji Hamada Sensei using nuka over black glaze. Exquisite!

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Image from Pucker Gallery

 

I have a theory about my own work: that it needs to have an element of control (shaping the clay) and an element of relinquishment (letting the fire do its thing). And since my shapes are so simple, the two need a perfect balance.

Miranda Forrest published a book called Natural Glazes: Collecting and Making in which she describes the glaze using horsetail:

“The first test with horsetail ash alone produced a melted, creamy, greenish glaze with an optical blue in the centre, perhaps the most interesting single land-vegetation result to date. It also mixes well with other ashes and rock dusts. One of the other interesting effects associated with horsetail is carbon trapping during the firing, which gives a dark smoky colour to the glaze in places.”

Very very interesting! I’m all about local materials and making work that is harmonious with nature. After all, nature gives us what we need to live, to thrive and to create. Working with clay is a very primal type of creation for me.

I read somewhere that Shoji Hamada Sensia made nuka using the following

1/3 rice husk ash
1/3 wood ash
1/3 terayama stone ( a high silica bearing feldspathoid)

The highly respected Michael Coffee uses the following:

Custer Feldspar    36.00
Quartz   30.00
Whiting   22.00
OM-4   6.00
Wood Ash (unwashed)   3.00
Talc   2.00
Bone Ash   2.00

Another potter, Steve Mill uses

Silica  40
Rice Straw Ash  50
Feldspar  60

I plan to start somewhere along the lines of the simpler one and work from there. Now… Horseail grows in very wet conditions. It favors clay (how appropriate!) It’s summer. It should be around somewhere. I just have to find it 🙂 (then burn it, then wash it, then test it, etc…)