Ten days ago it was snowing here. Yesterday we went for a walk at lunchtime, across from the workshop, and the cherry blossoms were out in full, a beautiful cloudless warm sunny day. Today it was windy and rainy and in a few more days all the blossoms will be gone.
Every year I come to enjoy the cherry blossoms here more and more. The countryside erupts into flurries of soft whitey-pinks from the bareness of winter and then suddenly they are gone again, as fast as they came. But while they are here now I am aware of how incredibly beautiful and pure they are, the feeling one gets from looking at them and being amongst them is really quite remarkable, almost dreamlike. Something to be treasured.
It’s time for a new wood roof! The present one has lasted nearly ten years, was built with no experience and even less money. It is now at least 6 inches lower than it was when built thanks to no foundation, rotten posts and the Tamba weather! I am not a great planner and as usual am filled with a slight sense of “what am I in for?” as I start to clear out all the old wood scraps and get ready to tear the old roof down. Here goes and pray for the weather!
We had our first outside breakfast of the year this morning and it felt good! A bit chilly still but lovely warm sun on our faces. Our house always seems to lag behind the change in seasons by about a month – so whilst it’s coming up to the end of March outside, with cherry blossoms looming, we’re still burning the last of the wood in the stove in the evenings inside.
My exhibition in Dar Yasmine, in Osaka started today. As usual it was a bit tight getting all the pots cleaned up and ready in time! Moving from the workshop so quickly to the gallery I’m always struck by the contrasts of the different worlds that pots find themselves in, from the dirt and dust of being cleaned up after the firing to the pristine white shelves and lights of the gallery. From clay to sales, it is truly an ongoing art of transformation.
Morning view of Mt.Mitsuo
For most of this year so far I have been getting up earlier than I would have believed possible a few years ago. Up at six, let the dogs out and then walk up to the workshop. It takes about ten minutes at a speedy pace and at that time of day it is invigorating to say the least. The main reason I’m up there so early is to light the woodstove in an effort to warm the place up to a workable level and that takes a while. I give the place a quick clean up, sweep the floor and then follows one of my favourite moments of the day, that first cup of coffee. Silence all around, not many people up and about and still a whole day of potential in front of me! I savour those few minutes! It’s all downhill from there on as I head back home for breakfast with my wife and daughter,and back into the real world…before returning to a hopefully slightly warmer workshop !
Sawn up pine beams!
It was quite a good week for wood collecting last week. A Mr Sakai came round to see me to ask if I wanted some old pine boards, I said I’d like to take a look so the next day he took me to this beautiful 120 year old house 10 minutes down the road. He’s the contractor on a major refurbishment job, and out the back was a barn with a dozen 4m x 12inch x 4inch pine beams – old, good wood, full of resin and well dried – just what I need to finish off a winter firing!
Then a couple of days later another call, did I want some pine trees an electrical company just cut down? Yes please! So next morning at 7.30 Mr Tagawa brought them along in his truck and we off loaded them up at the workshop. Very fresh and wet so they’ll be drying for a while, but nice wood.
I almost never say no to an offer of wood and over the years many people have helped me out, sometimes with a little, sometimes with a lot but it all
adds up and I’m always grateful for it. Thank you people!
Fresh pine and oak (kunugi)!!
Started making a couple of days ago. It always takes a while to get into the swing of things and I usually start off with something small to flex the fingers! Yunomis this time and most of them are destined for the front end of the kiln where they’ll get lots of well molten ash !
Wood drying under a foot of snow.
Making clay with the aid of the wood stove.
We had about a foot of snow over the new year period and though it’s pretty much all gone now it’s cold and wet outside and next to impossible to make and dry clay without it freezing solid. For the last couple of years I’ve been drying the clay in the winter in front of the wood burner in the workshop and it actually works quite well so long as I keep moving the clay around to dry it evenly. It always amazes me the difference in climate between Bizen and Tamba though they are are only 2 hours apart. In 5 years in Bizen I think I saw snow settle once and that was gone almost straight away. Here we usually get 20-30cm falling maybe half a dozen times over the winter. Going down to Bizen the other day it surprised me how the kiln wood often isn’t even covered over the winter, just left out in the sun, the weather is that good. I hate to think what condition my wood would be in if it wasn’t under a roof. As it is I stack it as openly as possibe in the hope of it drying out somewhat by the spring, Still at least the workshop is nice and toasty!