Wednesday, March 21, 2012


As I ponder the fate of a teabowl, which I damaged and took the time to repair, I am reminded of a scene from the movie HEAT in which Robert DeNiro's character, Neil McCauley relates the Zen of his profession; "don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk away from in 30 seconds flat (if you feel the heat around the corner)", maybe the same should apply to potters and their pots. I am not sure why, but there are always pots in a series that I have a heightened attachment to. I have had this discussion and a number of craftsman have expressed the same sentiment, though in most cases, they could not express a logical basis for the feeling. I think in some cases it is the simple recognition that a pot (or other work) is superior to others in the same group.

I have been spending some time working on "hand tooling" some teabowls, that is to say, tooling them off the wheel with the use of a sharp bamboo knife. The first attempts were just not very good and over the past several months, I have begun to get some pieces that actually looked rather promising and when glazed, fit the form and style of the bowl. I have been throwing these bowls, as tests, about once a week, off the hump, five or six at a time and recently hit on a rather "perfectly" cut foot. Now perfect is not really perfect, but rather it subscribed to the foot for that bowl that I had seen in my mind's eye. As luck would have it, as I was finishing it up, I cracked the lip and was just about to put it in the slake bucket when I decided to try something I had never attempted or even thought about in 20 years of making pots, I would try to repair it.

I carefully moistened the area and then proceeded to cut out the crack, about 2mm on either side of it and then using clay, excised from the foot, I put in a patch, which I blended in as well as possible. It only took a couple of minutes, so I didn't feel like I was throwing more time into the pot, but honestly, at this point I was curious if the patch would hold. It dried perfectly fine, without any signs of the crack and then it was bisque and glazed and fired in the next glaze firing. Now, I certainly am not saying I am going to make a habit of this, but I think it is worth finding out what the outcome will be.

For those that have stuck with this narrative and thought what a beginner's move this is, let me say that since I was going to fire the teabowl anyway to see the foot glazed and finished, in for a penny, in for a pound. In essence, it actually gives me double the feedback and when is learning something not a good thing. So I unloaded the kiln, the bowl was at the very back bottom and as it emerged, it was crack free and the foot was better than I expected. Illustrated is the bowl in question. The information that I got from the foot, will help me tweak the process in future pieces and knowing that I can actually repair a lip with a nearly 2 inch crack is info worth filing away for the next time a pot that I am attached to, takes a turn for the worse.

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