Show-n-Tell Ceramics, Nerikomi Mugs and Plates

Mugs and coordinating plates. Insides and edges glazed with Sky.

Hon, have you heard of Nerikomi?

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.

Robin Hopper, author of Making Marks, for Ceramic Arts Network Daily, April 21, 2021

Raku Extruded Bowls

Pieces glow orange when they’ve been Raku fired to about 1,700-1,800 degrees F.

One of my favorite things is to Raku fire with my teacher and potter extraordinaire Peter Syak. In a (small, masked and socially distanced) ceramic class this summer, Peter introduced the extruder, which is like a giant Play-Doh machine, but for clay.

I made seven bowls: three small ones without feet and four large ones with feet. My carving needs a ton of practice, but I like how some of the pieces came out.

Though Raku pottery is generally not food-safe, it’s safe with “dry” food such as candy, nuts, and pretzels.

The Copper Blue Luster glaze is beautiful, and I always like the crackles that show up when using Clear Glaze.

Happy creating, hon!

 

A Week of Positives: Ceramics

1,750 degrees F! That’s the temperature the Raku kiln must reach before Peter removes pottery and then sets them in a bed of sawdust where they burst into flames!

Pottery is therapy!

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.

Want to know more about Raku firing? Check out Raku Intensive.

Lamp base, unglazed.

Lamp base, unglazed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unloading the Raku kiln.

Lamp bases, glazed.

Desk caddy.

 

Raku Intensive

As promised in my post Show and Tell:  Doing Dishes–ta da–here are my finished Raku pics. I’m happy with the wiggle wire circular boxes and Japanese lantern boxes. Either shells or stones will be attached to the top of the lantern boxes. Some jewelry dishes turned out bright, but some weren’t as pretty as I’d hoped. Those will get a coat of acrylic paint and varnish.

A shout out goes to Peter Syak, Uber-Instructor, Intensive-Scheduler, Person-With-the-Most-Patience, and Master-of-Fire (it feels like mwahaha should follow Master-of-Fire.) The Raku firing process is so exciting!

Check out the show-stopping, 1750 degree F clay as the kiln top is lifted.

Sawdust burst into flames as soon as the pieces came in contact with it.

At the end of the day, we smelled like chimneys!

Related posts: Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workshop Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Raku Workshop Part 2)

Cool Results from Hot Pots (Raku Workshop Part 3)

Playing With Fire, Raku 2015

Ceramic vase and tea box.
Ceramic vase and tea box.

Playing With Clay

This summer, I took a Raku class taught by master ceramicist, excellent teacher, and all-around wonderful guy, Peter SyakNot only did the hours fly by, the women I took the class with were great company. I was inspired by them, and by the talented students I take ceramics class with year-round. We learn from each other.

Pottery has given me a way to turn off stress, even if it’s just for a few hours a week.  And I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.

Since I took this class last summer and know how beautiful the glazes are, this spring I threw a bunch of clay pots with Raku clay at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey.

Do you know what we potters call ourselves? ADDICTED!  I’m pretty sure someone in our class wears a T-shirt that reads, “I’m a POT-head.”

To find out more about the Raku process, click on these links:

Red Hot Raku (Part 1)

Raku Reaction (Part 2)

Cool Results From Hot Pots (Part 3)

Hon, what do you do to turn off stress?

Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.
Raku Kiln. Our pieces were fired at about 1,750 degrees F.

Lace-patterned ceramic vase.
Lace-patterned ceramic vase.

Shallow bowl and darted dish.
Shallow bowl and darted dish.

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

Small wiggle-wire dishes.
Wiggle-wire dishes.

Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.
Small bowls with appliques and a tea light vessel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

________________________________________________________________________

Three different pots.
Three different pots.

Cool Results from Hot Pots (Raku Workshop Part 3)

Sparks fly as sawdust is tossed on a hot pot. The heat of the fire reacts with the clay and glaze to create a crackling effect.
Sparks fly as sawdust is tossed on a hot pot. The heat of the fire reacts with the clay minerals and metal elements of the glaze to create a crackling effect.

Raku Crew:  Mary, Sharon, Judy, Peter, Maxine (and me).
Raku Crew: Mary, Sharon, Judy, Peter, Maxine (and me).

Raku firing is exciting!  

There’s an extremely hot kiln, orange-glowing earthenware, combustible sawdust and straw and surprise results.  The process is illustrated in my two previous posts, Red Hot Raku and Raku Reaction.

Peter Syak, our amazing instructor, mixes his own glazes.  He knows how much exposure to air–or not, how much sawdust to add–or not, and how long to keep pots covered–or not, is required to get the amount of crackling, luster and intense color desired.  Still, oxygen, heat, or a pause in placement of buckets all contribute to the outcome.

The earthenware’s temperature drops as it sits under the metal buckets.  The reaction process stops when each piece is quenched in a trashcan filled with water.  Soot is scrubbed off, pieces are cleaned, and we “ooh and ahh” at the results.

Have you heard of Horse-Hair Raku?  I hadn’t either.  Instead of placing a red-hot pot in a reduction chamber (ie. metal buckets with combustible material), its decorated by touching horse hairs to the the 1800 degree clay surface. The hair ignites, creating dark grey lines and smudges.  Similarly, sugar sprinkled on the burning surface reacts with the clay.  Take a look!

Maxine touching individual horse hairs to her burning hot pot.
Maxine touching individual horse hairs to her burning hot pot.

Sugar sprinkled on the pot creates texture and unexpected spots.
Sugar sprinkled on the pot creates texture and unexpected spots.

Three of my pieces.
Three of my pieces.

Maxine's wheel-thown vases.  Isn't the crackling cool?
Maxine’s wheel-thown vases. Isn’t the crackling cool?

My "button vase" with a happy goat and flower stamps as "buttons."
My “button vase” with a happy goat and flower stamps as “buttons.”

Judy's tea box with a piece of driftwood that she'll attach to the top.
Judy’s tea box with a piece of driftwood that she’ll attach to the top.

Lovely!
Lovely!

Hon, have you every tried raku?  What did you create?

 

 

 

Raku Reaction (Raku Workshop Part 2)

Fire and smoke.
Fire and smoke.

In my previous post, Red Hot Raku (Raku Workshop, Part 1), the kiln was king.  You can bet we listened carefully when our amazing instructor, Peter Syak, guided us through the reduction process!  Even so, when we were on “bucket brigade” and handled our pieces just transferred from the kiln, the heat seeped right through our extra-thick, fire-retardent gloves.  I had to rip the gloves off and fan my fingers!

Guess what happens when ANYTHING touches a surface that’s 1800 degrees F?  It bursts into flames!

Here are some pictures of the process.  Hon, stand back from the fire…unless you’re on “bucket brigade.”

Beds are prepped and waiting for our red hot hand built and wheel thrown pieces.
Beds are prepped and waiting for our hand-built and wheel-thrown pieces.

Peter calls lifting the kiln lid "a dance!"
Peter calls lifting the kiln lid “a dance!”

 

 

 

 

 

Peter removes our red hot pieces and QUICKLY and CAREFULLY places each piece in a spot on the sawdust bed.
Peter uses long, metal tongs to remove our red hot pieces.  He QUICKLY and CAREFULLY places each piece in a spot on the sawdust bed.

Our earthenware is set in the sawdust bed and covered with metal buckets filled part-way with straw.

Metal buckets, roasting pans and planters cover our pieces (and conduct heat).
Metal buckets, roasting pans and planters cover our pieces (and conduct heat).

Mary and Peter nestle a bucket on a large piece, attempting to minimize any air leakage.
Mary and Peter nestle a bucket on a large piece, attempting to minimize any air leakage.

“Aluminum containers act as reduction tubes. Reduction is a decrease in oxidation number.  Closing the can reduces the oxygen content after the combustible materials such as sawdust catch fire and forces the reaction to pull oxygen from the glazes and clay minerals.  Luster gets its color from deprivation of oxygen. The reaction between the oxygen and clay minerals affects the color of the clay and the metal elements of the glaze.” (Wikipedia)

We "burped" our pieces by quickly lifting the buckets and lids, adding more sawdust and covering as quickly and carefully as possible.
I help “burp” the pieces by lifting buckets and lids, while Peter adds more sawdust.

Peter checks each piece, throwing sawdust on the ones where more crackling is desired.  Pieces are re-covered and buckets and lids are nestled into the beds to reduce escape of air/ smoking.
Peter tosses sawdust on the ware where more crackling is desired. Pieces are quickly and carefully re-covered. Buckets are nestled into beds to reduce escape of air/ smoking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tossing sawdust on a burning hot pot.
Tossing sawdust on a burning-hot pot.

Whoosh!  The sawdust bursts into flames.
Whoosh! The sawdust bursts into flames.

 

 

 

 

Dramatic flames and experienced hands.
Dramatic flames and experienced hands.

Judy's sculpture was re-covered and left to cool a bit more before it was handled again.
Judy’s sculpture was re-covered and left to cool a bit more before it was handled again.  Notice the crackling of the glaze.

What happens next?  

Red Hot Raku (Raku Workhop Part 1)

Hake and regular paintbrushes.
Hake and regular paintbrushes.

Clay Maven

You know how I love to “play with clay“?  This summer I learned something new.  I learned Raku!

I just finished a wonderful workshop given by master ceramicist, Peter Syak.  He instructed more and less experienced (umm, that would be me) students how to create vases, plates, boxes and sculptures, and how to fire them in a raku kiln.

According to Wikipedia, Raku originated in Japan and is “thick-walled, rough, lead-glazed earthenware.” Raku means “enjoyment, comfort and ease.”  The workshop was definitely enjoyable, but as for comfort, I smelled like a smokestack at the end of the day.  As for ease, I’m not so sure.  If it weren’t for Peter’s engineering-background and careful attention to detail and safety, we might have glowed orange like our pots after baking in 1800 degrees Fahrenheit!

Over four weeks, we hand-built with raku clay and painted with glaze.  Peter bisque-fired our greenware.

I couldn’t wait to take part in a raku firing.  Hon, hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I enjoyed the process!

Outdoor kiln.
Outdoor kiln.

A propane tank feeds gas into the kiln.  Our pieces are already inside, baking as the Pyrometer tells us when the temperature has reached about 1600 degrees F.

Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.
Fire bricks support the kiln lid and our work.

Low temperature.
Low temperature.

Extremely hot!
Extremely hot!

 

 

 

 

 

Hor air vent on top of kiln.
Hor air vent on top of kiln.

Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.
Maxine and Peter (carefully) remove the kiln lid.

Our pieces glow orange.
Our pieces glow orange.

Red Hot Raku!