Tag Archives: porcelain

Ceramic chopstick rests

The holiday season is quickly approaching. If you are someone like me, you may find yourself behind in your creations for gift giving. It is difficult to find a nice little project that will dry fast enough, have a sculptural element, and be something that you designed and made. Enter the chopstick rest or stand, a small piece of tableware that prevents your chopsticks from touching the table. Accompanied by a good set of chopsticks, they would make a very nice gift. It is small, made of just a tad of clay, yet clearly has a design element. Asian etiquette will dictate how and when you use chopstick rests. You can find out more about such rules here. “Chopstick rests are usually used at formal dinners and placed on the front-left side of the dishes,” according to Wikipedia. “The chopsticks are placed parallel to the table edge with the points toward the left.”

Japanese Chopstick Rests Japanese Chopstick Rests. Source: Danny Choo from Tokyo, Japan via Wiki Commons

Chopstick rest Chopstick Rest. Source: Toshihiro Oimatsu from Tokyo, Japan, via Creative Commons

China chopstick rests China chopstick rests. Source: Sarah from Bristol, UK via Wikimedia Commons

Noritake Chinese chopstick rest Noritake Chinese chopstick rest. Source: By OpenCage via Wikimedia Commons

My new chopsticks and chopsticks rest that I bought in San Francisco My new chopsticks and chopsticks rest that I bought in San Francisco. Source: Kim Navarre from Brooklyn, NY, via Wikimedia Commons

Chinese Cutlery Chinese Cutlery. Source: Dennis Wong from Hong Kong, via Wikimedia Commons

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Cat-proof candlelight with ceramic luminaries

It was rainy, dark and rainy today. When I got home from walking at the community recreation centre, all I could think of was how comforting the gas fireplace seemed. It warmed me just looking at it and made me think of candlelight. Because we have a cat, we are very careful about using candles. Generally, we tend to use hurricane lanterns because they are enclosed and safe for the cat to be around. Tonight, I realized a good solution would be luminaria…ceramic ones. Maybe I thought of this because it’s New Year in India, Diwali, and millions of tiny clay lamps have been lit all over the globe to celebrate it. I first heard of the term luminaria through Sunset magazine many moons ago. It is a Hispanic tradition and a beautiful one: pathways and sidewalks are lined with paper  lanterns holding candles. Originally, luminaria had religious connotations associated with Catholicism, but now they are a secular decoration used on Christmas Eve. Candles in paper bags?! I know, it sounds dangerous, but if tea lights are used on an appropriate base, it is quite safe. The soft light that shows through Kraft paper is warm and enticing. Many potters make “luminaries” by throwing a vessel and carving holes in the walls after it has firmed up a bit. Designs or simple geometric shapes. They don’t have to be thrown, though, and many a fine luminary can be made by handbuilding.

Coil Technique: Either slabs or coils would work well and, if it were me, I would use coils, keeping them as is on the outside of the vessel, connecting and smoothing from the inside. Mark out the placement of windows, then cut away the coils in those areas after the vessel had dried a bit. Once I made a little toothpick holder for my Dad with this method and, tiny though it was, it turned out quite neat. Stains or glazes accentuating the spaces between coils look neat and accentuate color and form.

Slab Technique: Slab work very well, too, and you could make any shape you wanted. Simple is best, though, because it doesn’t detract from the candle. First, make a paper pattern, to make sure your measurements work, then cut a slab and base to measure. Let dry, covered, for a couple of days, then, once it is firm enough to work with, carefully cut out the openings before assembling. Porcelain would be especially nice if it was thin enough. Light would shine through the translucent walls, in addition to the cut outs. If you want to be more of a traditionalist, you could make sack shapes from porcelain. I’ve seen luminaries made this way and they’re really neat! Some have tiny serrations along the top like real paper bags.

If you would like to read more about making ceramic luminaries and see a few videos, click here.

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Pretty in porcelain: French perfume bottles

I can see a vanity table…with a tulle skirt, beveled glass mirror and tufted seat. Silver mirror, brush and comb set. On a beautiful lacquered tray sits five or six tiny bottles of French perfume. Luxurious fragrances… Single florals, such as rose. Oriental, scented with ambergris and vanilla. Sandalwood, for woodsy notes. Bergamot for chypre. Top, middle and base notes, terms used to describe the attributes of perfume. The early houses: Houbigant, Chanel, Molinard, Guerlain, Fragonard, Caron. When flowers were still picked in Grasse and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence….

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The translucence of porcelain rice grain ware

Bluish white porcelain with translucent spots the size and shape of a grain of rice. Clear glaze with light blue or bright cobalt accents. The first time I saw rice grain ware was in Montana in the form of a teapot. It was beautiful and exotic. I couldn’t figure out how it was made. If you hold it up to the light you can see through the tiny spots. I’ve read some sources that said it was made by inserting little grains of rice in the walls of a porcelain vessel. After glazing, the rice evidently burned out during firing, so all that was left was the translucent glazed area. As it turns out, it is created much more simply. No rice is used at all, states Jan-Erik Nilsson Gothenburg on his Gotheborg site. This makes sense because, as another source pointed out, the rice would expand by absorbing moisture from the clay as it dried, thereby growing in size. This would cause the vessel to crack before bisque firing. “‘Rice grain’ is a name of a technique rather than actual rice grains,”  according to Gothenburg.  “To make this kind of decoration the holes are pierced through the rather thick walls of the rough and unfired porcelain and the holes are then filled with translucent glaze.” Interestingly, the porcelain vessel is initially quite thick. After the holes are made, then filled with the glaze and dried, the potter reworks the vessel.  This is done by thinning the walls without compromising the integrity of the vessel. Surely this must not be how they are all made, however. It seems there must be a big market for slip cast rice grain ware, considering the amount that is sold. Pieces made the traditional way must be wafer thin. “The highly skilled potters, who are usually young women, after what I saw when I visited a factory for this kind of porcelain in Jingdezhen in the 1990’s – are judging the thickness of the walls and the work progress by the sound of the paring knife against the unfired clay,” writes Gothenburg. He says the technique came to China via Turkey in the 14th century. Another style of pottery is made when the holes aren’t filled with glaze. This linglung work creates a lattice effect. These techniques are much older than I realized and the oldest pieces are quite collectible. I myself have a modern rice grain ware teapot. Such porcelain is common and inexpensive in Metro Vancouver, so my take on it is that the finer pieces are pared thin by hand but, others, like my teapot, are slipcast. It is no less appreciated, though. The translucency makes it appeared delicate and the cobalt blue decorations enhance the whiteness of the porcelain. These pieces are truly beautiful.

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