Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Finding Harmony in Color

Project Name: Iron Red Flower Pot with Celadon
Clay Type (high fire): B-Mix
Glaze (cone 10): iron red, Celadon, matt white, black underglaze

Many times, two beautiful colors may not be the best match for each other. I have a rich glossy iron red glaze for the exterior of this flower pot and a smooth green Celadon for the interior. Although both glazes are beautiful and turned out nicely after high fire, I felt the color combination of red and green does not seem to be in perfect harmony.

I will try glossy black for the interior next time; however, I will refuse to coat inside of this bowl with iron red. There is no fun with a lack of contract. Anyhow, this recipe may become useful in December when X'MAS comes. Red and green are the right colors for Christmas, after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

La Mer

La Mer

- song by Charles Trenet
- special thanks to Ludovic Ferret for the English translation

La mer

Qu'on voit danser le long des golfes clairs
A des reflets d'argent
La mer
Des reflets changeants
Sous la pluie

The Sea
One can see it dancing along clear gulfs
Has silver reflections
The sea
Changing reflections
Under the rain

La mer
Au ciel d'été confond
Ses blancs moutons
Avec les anges si purs
La mer bergère d'azur

The sea
You can confuse the summer sky
Its white sheeps
With pure angels
The sea is a sky-blue shepherd

Près des étangs
Ces grands roseaux mouillés
Ces oiseaux blancs
Et ces maisons rouillées

Near fishponds
These wet and tall reeds
These white birds
And these rusted houses

La mer
Les a bercés
Le long des golfes clairs
Et d'une chanson d'amour
La mer
A bercé mon cour pour la vie

The sea
Cradled them
Along clear gulfs
And with a love song
The sea
Cradled my heart for life

Saturday, September 17, 2005

On the topic of centering


Centering is the most fundamental and important technique in wheel throwing pottery. How well the clay is centered on a wheel very much determines the outcome of the project. There is no room for debating on the essentialness of perfect centering, and this is true even when the intention is to produce an eccentric (symmetrical) form*. To center a piece of clay, one has to have steady hands and good control of force. Too much force can jerk an already centered clay body off center; too little force only leaves the clay body in a wobbly state. Any project that starts with off-centered clay is destined to be defective, and if the mistake is not detected earlier on, the work is usually wasted and cannot be salvaged. Re-centering from scratch will be the only solution. Sometimes, perfect centering can take years to learn, depending on personal talent.

I often think about life when centering clay on a wheel. I suppose the rules of centering can be applied to life in general. I am looking forward to the day when my centering technique is perfect.

P.S. The bottom 1/2" of clay is known to be the hardest to center because it is too close to the wheel.

*Note: Thanks to fellow blog member commenting on this topic. I asked my teather who has been throwing pots for the last 25 years. Yes, there are artists who purposely throw off-centered pots when asymmetrical forms or off-centered work is what the artists desire; however, in the training as a potter, one has to learn proper centering first.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Red Rose & White Rose - Eileen Chang

This is my favorite story written by Eileen Chang who was regarded as one of the best Chinese novelists in Chinese literary world. It is this story that inspires the movie "In the Mood for Love". I couldn't find the English translation of the story, so I translated the famous two paragrahs from the story here. I hope my translation is not too bad.



也許每一個男子全都有過這樣的兩個女人,至少兩個。娶了紅玫瑰,久而久之,紅的變了牆上的一抹蚊子血,白的還是"床前明月光";娶了白玫瑰,白的便是衣 服上沾的一粒飯黏子,紅的卻是心口上一顆硃砂痣。在振保可不是這樣的,他是有始有終的,有條有理的。他整個地是這樣一個最合理想的中國現代人物,縱然他遇 到的事不是盡合理想的,給他自己心問口,口問心,幾下子一調理,也就變得彷彿理想化了,萬物各得其所。

Red Rose, White Rose

There were two women in Cheng-bao’s life. One he referred to as his white rose, and the other one his red rose. One is a chaste wife, the other one is a passionate mistress. – This is where people always use the words virginal and promiscuous to describe the two types.

Men probably all had two women like these in their lives, two the least. If one marries red rose, the red eventually faded into a blood stain on the wall, meanwhile, the white would still be remembered as the pure moonlight of a clear night. If one marries white rose, as time goes, the white became the steam rice on one’s collar; however, the red is like a red birth mark on the heart. Cheng-bao does not think like that. He is someone with principles, with disciplines. His being fits perfectly to what is of an ideal modern Chinese. Although he had encountered imperfections in life, he could always internalize and idealize them, so the world is as perfect as it is.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Gift for Grandpa & Grandma

Project: Grandpa & Grandma
Glaze (cone 10): Black Underglaze, White matte, Deep Green, Celadon (inside)
Clay (high fire): B-Mix

Underglazes provide colors that are more stable and predictable than oxides and are often means of obtaining reds, yellows, and other bright colors. I use black underglaze mainly for writing, drawings, and signing my work. Pencil is used to transfer initial drawings to bisqueware.

Pencil mark burns out at high temperatures; thus leaves no trace of the original writing or drawing.

Celadon Rice Bowls

Project Name: Celadon Rice Bowls
Glaze (cone 10): Celadon, White Matt, Oribe Green
Clay (high fire): B-Mix, Recyle Clay

Celadon is one of the oldest glazes in the history of ceramics. It was first produced in China during the Five Dynasties (907-960) and is charaterized by the well refined jade-like glaze. The green glaze is clean, simple, and beautiful.

Here is a trivia I learnt about Celadon:

"Celadon was the hero of the French writer Honore d'Urfe's romance L'Astrée (1610), the lover of the heroine Astrée. He was presented as a young man in green and his dress became all the rage in Europe. And it was just about this time that the Chinese qingci made its debut in Paris and won acclaim. People compared its colour to Celadon's suit and started to call the porcelain "celadon," a name which has stuck and spread to other Countries."

If this question ever comes up in Trivial of Pursuit, I am sure I will score the point.

Friday, September 09, 2005

My favorite short story by Haruki Murakami

On seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful April morning

by Haruki Murakami
translated by Jay Rubin

One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl.

Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of girl - one with slim ankles, say, or big eyes, or graceful fingers, or you're drawn for no good reason to girls who take their time with every meal. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I'll catch myself staring at the girl at the next table to mine because I like the shape of her nose.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect girl correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like noses, I can't recall the shape of hers - or even if she had one. All I can remember for sure is that she was no great beauty. It's weird.

"Yesterday on the street I passed the 100% girl," I tell someone.

"Yeah?" he says. "Good-looking?"

"Not really."

"Your favorite type, then?"

"I don't know. I can't seem to remember anything about her - the shape of her eyes or the size of her breasts."


"Yeah. Strange."

"So anyhow," he says, already bored, "what did you do? Talk to her? Follow her?"

"Nah. Just passed her on the street."

She's walking east to west, and I west to east. It's a really nice April morning.

Wish I could talk to her. Half an hour would be plenty: just ask her about herself, tell her about myself, and - what I'd really like to do - explain to her the complexities of fate that have led to our passing each other on a side street in Harajuku on a beautiful April morning in 1981. This was something sure to be crammed full of warm secrets, like an antique clock build when peace filled the world.

After talking, we'd have lunch somewhere, maybe see a Woody Allen movie, stop by a hotel bar for cocktails. With any kind of luck, we might end up in bed.

Potentiality knocks on the door of my heart.

Now the distance between us has narrowed to fifteen yards.

How can I approach her? What should I say?

"Good morning, miss. Do you think you could spare half an hour for a little conversation?"

Ridiculous. I'd sound like an insurance salesman.

"Pardon me, but would you happen to know if there is an all-night cleaners in the neighborhood?"

No, this is just as ridiculous. I'm not carrying any laundry, for one thing. Who's going to buy a line like that?

Maybe the simple truth would do. "Good morning. You are the 100% perfect girl for me."

No, she wouldn't believe it. Or even if she did, she might not want to talk to me. Sorry, she could say, I might be the 100% perfect girl for you, but you're not the 100% boy for me. It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I'd probably go to pieces. I'd never recover from the shock. I'm thirty-two, and that's what growing older is all about.

We pass in front of a flower shop. A small, warm air mass touches my skin. The asphalt is damp, and I catch the scent of roses. I can't bring myself to speak to her. She wears a white sweater, and in her right hand she holds a crisp white envelope lacking only a stamp. So: She's written somebody a letter, maybe spent the whole night writing, to judge from the sleepy look in her eyes. The envelope could contain every secret she's ever had.

I take a few more strides and turn: She's lost in the crowd.

Now, of course, I know exactly what I should have said to her. It would have been a long speech, though, far too long for me to have delivered it properly. The ideas I come up with are never very practical.

Oh, well. It would have started "Once upon a time" and ended "A sad story, don't you think?"

Once upon a time, there lived a boy and a girl. The boy was eighteen and the girl sixteen. He was not unusually handsome, and she was not especially beautiful. They were just an ordinary lonely boy and an ordinary lonely girl, like all the others. But they believed with their whole hearts that somewhere in the world there lived the 100% perfect boy and the 100% perfect girl for them. Yes, they believed in a miracle. And that miracle actually happened.

One day the two came upon each other on the corner of a street.

"This is amazing," he said. "I've been looking for you all my life. You may not believe this, but you're the 100% perfect girl for me."

"And you," she said to him, "are the 100% perfect boy for me, exactly as I'd pictured you in every detail. It's like a dream."

They sat on a park bench, held hands, and told each other their stories hour after hour. They were not lonely anymore. They had found and been found by their 100% perfect other. What a wonderful thing it is to find and be found by your 100% perfect other. It's a miracle, a cosmic miracle.

As they sat and talked, however, a tiny, tiny sliver of doubt took root in their hearts: Was it really all right for one's dreams to come true so easily?

And so, when there came a momentary lull in their conversation, the boy said to the girl, "Let's test ourselves - just once. If we really are each other's 100% perfect lovers, then sometime, somewhere, we will meet again without fail. And when that happens, and we know that we are the 100% perfect ones, we'll marry then and there. What do you think?"

"Yes," she said, "that is exactly what we should do."

And so they parted, she to the east, and he to the west.

The test they had agreed upon, however, was utterly unnecessary. They should never have undertaken it, because they really and truly were each other's 100% perfect lovers, and it was a miracle that they had ever met. But it was impossible for them to know this, young as they were. The cold, indifferent waves of fate proceeded to toss them unmercifully.

One winter, both the boy and the girl came down with the season's terrible influenza, and after drifting for weeks between life and death they lost all memory of their earlier years. When they awoke, their heads were as empty as the young D. H. Lawrence's piggy bank.

They were two bright, determined young people, however, and through their unremitting efforts they were able to acquire once again the knowledge and feeling that qualified them to return as full-fledged members of society. Heaven be praised, they became truly upstanding citizens who knew how to transfer from one subway line to another, who were fully capable of sending a special-delivery letter at the post office. Indeed, they even experienced love again, sometimes as much as 75% or even 85% love.

Time passed with shocking swiftness, and soon the boy was thirty-two, the girl thirty.

One beautiful April morning, in search of a cup of coffee to start the day, the boy was walking from west to east, while the girl, intending to send a special-delivery letter, was walking from east to west, but along the same narrow street in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo. They passed each other in the very center of the street. The faintest gleam of their lost memories glimmered for the briefest moment in their hearts. Each felt a rumbling in their chest. And they knew:

She is the 100% perfect girl for me.

He is the 100% perfect boy for me.

But the glow of their memories was far too weak, and their thoughts no longer had the clarity of fouteen years earlier. Without a word, they passed each other, disappearing into the crowd.

A sad story, don't you think?

Yes, that's it, that is what I should have said to her.