Neriage (pronounced nair-ee-ah-gee)is the Japanese word for the technique of combining different colored clays.
Neriage, according to ceramic artist Thomas Hoadley, comes from “neri…a root word meaning ‘to mix’ and age…a root word meaning to ‘pull up.’ This refers to the pulling up action in throwing clay on a wheel, hence neriage refers to wheel work with colored clays.”
I created these bowls by layering brown and white clay, and then throwing the combined clay. I glazed the insides in matte white and the outsides in glossy clear. Stripes give way to swirls and, since I wanted to maintain the clays’ natural patterns and didn’t smooth the insides completely, you can feel some of the throwing lines.
Neither had I and, although I’d combined different clays in the past, it wasn’t until this spring that I learned what it was called. Peter Syak, one of my amazing instructors, had finished Nerikomi hand-built mugs and coordinating dishes and, as ones does in ceramics, I wanted to try to create the same. Peter glazed the insides and edges of his pieces with GB Blue and I used Sky. More posts to come on this very cool technique.
Nerikomi defined by Robin Hopper, author of Making Marks:
In Japan, the words ‘neriage,’ ‘nerikomi,’ and ‘zougan’ are all used for specific colored clay processes and there is some confusion as to which is which. In England they are often referred to as ‘agateware;’ in Italy they’re often referred to as “millefiori,” from a decorative glass-forming process meaning “a thousand flowers.”
In Japan the words neriage (pronounced nair-ee-ah-gee), nerikomi and zougan refer to different ways the colored clays are used. Always interested in why things are called what they are and the confusion surrounding names, I asked Thomas Hoadley, a long-time artist working with colored clays, about the Japanese names.
Hoadley told me, ‘When I became aware that colored clay work would be my primary life’s work, I figured I should get to the bottom of the nerikomi/neriage question. I had been told that even in Japan the terms are mixed up. I spoke to a Japanese woman who lives here, and she explained that neri is a root word meaning ‘to mix’ and age is a root word meaning to ‘pull up.’
This refers to the pulling up action in throwing clay on a wheel, hence neriage refers to wheel work with colored clays. Komi means ‘to press into,’ as in pressing clay slabs into a mold. Nerikomi thus means hand-building with colored clay, which in Japan I guess usually meant mold work. It has been expanded to include other methods of hand-building.”
Neriage and nerikomi both use either naturally occurring colored clays or light-colored clays that are specifically stained to satisfy the artist’s color requirement. Neriage, or agateware, is done by laminating different colored clays together and throwing them on a wheel to develop a swirling and spiraling blend of the clays. Cutting across the grain…will expose an infinite variety of random patterns.
Hon, just like my manuscripts, some ceramics are practice pieces, some get thrown away, and some will be polished and glazed another time. But, I’m happy with these small vases and bowls. I especially like the carving on the vases and the throwing lines on one of the bowls.
Wishing me–and you–places to go in our minds, practice and work where creativity keeps us in the moment and allows anxiety and self-doubt to disappear into the background.
I had no idea that a tea set project would take two years!
Wheel throwing a tea set was a challenging project for many reasons. Who knew that centering and opening a ball of clay that could fit in the palm of your hands would be so hard?! In my attempt to create tea cups, it looks weeks to get six, relatively similar sizes. Some were too thin and some were too lopsided–so many throw-aways!
Then there was the teapot itself. This proved so challenging that almost all of us students needed hands-on help from our instructor (Shout out to Beatrice!) She patiently taught us how to form a vessel and spout, a lid and, much harder than it looks, a handle.
After the tea cups and tea pot were made, what about a tray? My first attempt cracked in the kiln, and that’s where the project stalled. I didn’t want to glaze the pieces until I’d made them all so, discouraged, I put the them away. I waited and waited until I was ready to hand-build another tray. Two years later, this summer, I did.
The tea pot set saga is a metaphor for my writing, though working through the disappointments and successes of pottery feels completely different. In Ceramics, I’m more interested in the process than the product. When working on a manuscript, I enjoy the process, but have a specific goal in mind–to bring my characters and stories to life.
Whereas, the clay ignites my imagination…my imagination ignites the stories.
Hon, happy creating and imagining and working and persevering.
Wheel throwing, hand building, trimming, carving, sanding and glazing force me to be in the moment. This summer, due to Covid-19, one of my Ceramics teachers offered a limited-spot, mask-wearing class. One of the wonderful things about learning from and working with Peter Syak is ending class with an always-dramatic Raku firing. My favorites pieces from the class are a desk caddy and lamp bases (my first ever lamps!). We used an Extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh tool, to make unique bowls. I carved them and added feet, but won’t know they turn out until I Raku fire them this Fall.
I’m hoping to have as much fun tonight as I did last year manning a table of my ceramics at Oheb Shalom is South Orange, NJ’s One Stop Shop Fall Shopping Event from 6 – 9pm. I’ve made textured dishes, great for jewelry, watches, candy, soap, candles, soy sauce, olive oil, salts or anything else that needs a pretty place to rest. I’m also selling bowls, small vases and trivets. New this year–adorable jars.
At the Visual Arts Center, I finally got a chance to try the Extruder mounted on the wall of the Ceramics Studio! My classmates threw a bunch of different colored clay into the metal body and our teacher (shout out to Melissa) worked it like a giant Play-Doh toy, squishing the clay down through the metal tube. We “caught” the clay as it came out in interesting tubular shapes.
I added bottoms, holes for design interest, and sanded before swirling a glaze color called “Dark Stormy Night” inside the vases. Glazing with clear on the outside highlighted the marble effect of combining different colors of clay. So cool!
I also made my first small wheel-thrown jars (shout out to Jessica for the demos), adding objects to the top of two of the jars while the third has a built-in knob. Guess what I used to secure the glass bead and petrified wood knobs? According to Melissa, it’s “astronaut glue!” Those knobs may outlast the jars!
When my daughter and I shopped for her new apartment in LA, we searched for cute, little, multi-use bowls and couldn’t find any. Hon, you know what a ceramicist says when she can’t find what she’s looking for? You guessed it…”I can make that!” Combine that with wanting to try a new glazing technique and voilà-shaving cream marbleized ceramic bowls!
I’m definitely going to try this glazing technique again. Now I have to throw some more bowls…
I’m selling my work tonight, Thursday, November 29 at Oheb Shalom is South Orange, NJ’s One Stop Shop Fall Shopping Event from 7 – 9pm. I’ve made textured dishes, great for jewelry, watches, candy, soap, candles, soy sauce, olive oil, salts or anything else that needs a pretty place to rest. I’m also selling bowls, small vases and trivets. A variety of vendors will also be there so, hon, I might come home with more than I make!