Tales of edible plantings alongside ceramic ramblings, from a couple of artists lucky enough to be living on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Anagama Firing!

Back in April, I helped a very well known and extremely skilled Potter/Artist on the Island fire his Anagama Kiln. Clayton Amemiya Studied Ceramics on the Island Of Okinawa in Japan. He received a degree from the University of Hawaii as an Art Major, but it was not this same type of studying that he did on Okinawa. While working for the American Consulate there, he happened upon a local potter and his studio on one fateful day. This very skilled local potter, Seisho Kuniyoshi, soon became his teacher and friend. They spent much time visiting local galleries discussing pieces both of high merit and not. He was taught in a very hands off way, the same way he has begun to teach me as well. There were no tutorials on throwing, handbuilding or any other facet of ceramics, rather Clayton would show up, they would talk, they worked together, they shared chores that needed to get done around the studio and ultimately became very good friends. Only after being a part of this teaching process can I begin to understand why this way of teaching is so important to the Japanese culture. My aesthetics have improved markedly in the short time I have been helping out around Clayton's place. There is something so very important about developing good aesthetics and taste vs. only good technique. Had I focused in this way earlier in my life, I know now that I would have progressed much more rapidly in my work. The work quickly becomes a sequence, a pattern to follow time and in this way becomes what we do without the thought of it. Although there is much more to it than this, this is the first step and I am honored that Clayton has allowed me this time.

So what is an anagama? You may be wondering. I think the closest translation is "Chamber Kiln". A very traditional Japanese Kiln which finds its root from Korea. It is usually built into a hillside in order to achieve the slope necessary to draw the fire and ash through it's innards. It is wood fired and, in this case, consists of a 100+ hour firing. None of the pieces are glazed, as the glaze would be obliterated by the heavy ash deposited on the pieces. It is really a lot of work to prepare for and support these firings, so they are not done as often as normal gas or electric firings. In total I think 4 cords of wood, maybe more, were used to sustain accurate temperatures for the right length of time. All in all, in my opinion, this is the epitome of what a wood fired kiln should be (with the exception maybe of a Noborigama in order to include glazed ware). Beautifully designed and built, it cradles the pieces as they are transformed by the fire.

The firing was a huge success!

I was honored to be present at the start of the fire, many times in between, the end of the fire to seal up the kiln, as well as the unpacking which occurred some 4 days later. The pieces inside were absolutely beautiful. They exemplified this idea of "Quiet Beauty". The pieces were examined one by one. Choice pieces were hand chosen by Clayton for and up coming show, and the rest quickly dispersed amongst the few tasteful galleries lucky enough to carry his work.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to be a part of this tradition. Many thanks to Clayton for all his help in educating me on this tradition as well as being so patient with me. I hope to repay him through time, effort and advancement in my own work.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Diggin' Red Clay

A few weeks ago Ivy and I made a trip up the coast to check out the local farmer's market. On the way back we made a stop at a friends house who happened not to be home, but as luck would have it, another friend, Johnny Boy, was waiting outside for them to get home. Ok, this is worth the explanation as its an interesting interaction/relationship of individuals. Johnny Boy is a 5th generation Cane worker, and although he no longer does it, since the industry no longer exists on this island (Maui has the last operating Sugar Mill), he was raised in this old Cane town and knows just about everyone in the little town. Johnny Boy is who we ran into outside Chooks house. Chooks is a great gal we met a while back and have come to be pretty good friends with. Chooks is an avid garage saler, and so naturally was out having at the good deals the morning must have been offering. Johnny Boy, as I said, grew up in this small Cane town and although he lived in a number of the houses there through his life, it was this house, Chooks, that he grew up in.

We learned Chooks wasn't around, and told Johnny Boy what we were searching for;Local Clay. There are deposits of clay on the island, but usually small and with lots of impurities. Johnny Boy wasn't going anywhere fast since he was waiting for Chooks husband to have a look at his truck, so he decided to come along and show us a few spots he knew of.

We climbed down into a river gulch to get a very pure sample of the native "Alae" Red Clay. I was expecting Yellow ochre from what I had heard was in the area, so this was really exciting. This red clay turns pink when bone dry, but moist it is almost the color of blood. It's really impressive stuff. We took a very small portion for tests and always viewed it with respect as it is very important and prized by Hawaiians.

We went on with the search to another location where a larger sample might be found. Again another river gulch was involved, and this one was beautiful. Walking through dense overgrown pathways,Shampoo ginger and woodear mushrooms sprouted from the leaf cover and we were knocking coffee berries off their spindly branches. This coffee was pushed into these river gulches a hundred + years ago when sugar began to take over as the dominant monocrop on this wet side of the island. Years later these coffee plants would be resurrected and taken out of these very gulches to be grown on the dry side of the island as the world famous "Kona Coffee". Johnny Boy tells us stories of how when he was a boy, he would come pick all the ripe Coffee Berries from these trees and take them to the mill for processing so he could then roast and sell the beans. What the hell has happened to kids these days? No kid I know of would ever even consider doing that.......It's sad.

We pass an old grinding stone that the Ancient Hawaiians had used to pound taro, a beautiful little cascade down into a culvert that took us to a small freshwater pond. The whole trip was beautiful. We found good clay samples to run some tests with, and got Johnny Boy back to his Truck at his old house. He brought some sweets out of the house (It did use to be his house) for us to share before we left.........Sweetened Lemon peel! Basic; Lemon peels, Brown Sugar, Water- Set in the sun for a few weeks. Delicious.

Many gracious thanks to Johnny Boy for taking the time with us that day and sharing as much as he did. Mahalo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good lord, for being a writer I dont blog much..

Ugh. ;)

I pledge to change all that.
And to begin, some very random sharing!


I want You to be Me.
Unfold your face,
take my nose from inside the fibers
reveal lips from the blooms of blood

and then, smile.

I want your chuckle for my inconsistency
to tuck my sentences into correct tones
as if they were yours,
at the war fields of parties
in amongst common conversation.

Take my hand on the bus,
weaved fingers, hot, behind our sacks,
just where no one could be looking.
Leave something in the cuff of my jean
something to soothe me,
that only I will know to recognize.
To inspire me,
so I survive.

Trust strictly kept, in secret.
Cos our mystery's so tragic.
Like life.


Work and play:

I'll post with more focus tomorrow. Tim went and harvested some native clay recently, I've got some great pictures.
See ya soon!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Notes 1

Close up of pot, testing sprayed glazes.

Gotta catch up!

Phheewww... Just finished a long slog of glazing and we're burnt.- But happy! The kiln is loaded to the brim and all tucked in { I finally got to fill all the in between spaces, my masses of jewelry came through the bisque!}
Tim's candling as I type.
It's 4:30 pm Hawaii time which means that we wont turn off the propane till sometime a couple hours past midnight. Which is O.K cos the neighbors know were nuts. In the meantime I figured I'd do a photo dump from the last firings with which to compare and contrast with the results of this firing. I'm excited! We dedicated a third of the top shelf to shot glasses glazed in 3's, for tests. Hopefully we'll discover some killer combos that'll push the work even further. I cant wait!

But maaan I'm tired. ;)

Alright! So without further adoooo

(WORK! March 2010)

Inside of Chawan. (first batch)

Tumblers. (first batch)

More chawan from the first batch.

Favorite tumbler of the firing. (its innards)

Favorite tumbler of the firing (it's outtards) Baking soda drips down the rim.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I don't know what does it,
but there are mornings when I wake up and the juxtapositions of the world around us just jump out at me, sharp as a knife
- like the division between sunlight and shade.

Before looks dull against now, the distance of growth in my life is a huge gulf.
All the little daily disappointments when I look at that line, seem petty. It's humbling, inspiring.

I'm really grateful.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blog Launch!

Greetings everyone, thanks for finding our blog!
I'm stoked to start sharin the pictures and rituals of our daily clay.

We've recently moved from LA to the Big Island of Hawaii and keeping with the momentum of such a large jump we're going all out, making the transition from owning our landscaping company to working in ceramics full time. We feel extremely blessed and motivated to be given the opportunity to make this happen, and we're firing weekly like madmen spending long days in the studio chasing the excitement of inspiration.
As we open up each kiln load I'll post pictures, that way you can share in the Christmas like excitement (or massive disappointment, hah, which sometimes happens) of seeing how the fire's treated us.


Until then, ( which will probably be next Thursday) Aloha!