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more design discussion: tactile surfaces

updated fri 18 jun 04


Vince Pitelka on thu 17 jun 04

Lee wrote:
> Sometimes woodfired, unglazed pots, are not pleasant to touch.
> Ocassionally, they are just plain dangerous to hold in the hand, because
> of jagged edges where glaze runs or where it puddles on wads and shells.
> I learned about polishing unglazed work at my teacher's workshop. All
> the Yohen work, where charcoal is introduced at the end of the firing,
> comes out matt and looking dark and dingy. But it is sanded, rubbed with
> a 3M pad (use to use rice straw) and then rubbed with a soft cotton
> cloth. This brings out the color, taking some of the oxidized matter off
> the surface and leaves a wonderful satin finish. Sometimes, a large
> tsubo would take a day or two to finish. I use power tools, I can do it
> much quicker to my work.

These are good points, and they represent another area that many potters
simply do not consider. The greatest area of neglect on pots in the US is
the unglazed foot. I do not like a glazed foot, but I also do not like it
when an unglazed foot is left raw and rough. There have been plenty of
posts mentioning the abrasive flap wheel, which can be installed on any
bench grinder or on a simple accessory arbor on an electric motor. Anyone
needing information can find it in the archives. The abrasive flap wheel
instantly transforms rough, abrasive high-fired clay surfaces into
silky-smooth surfaces. I have watched customers pick up my pots and run
their hand over the foot, and it makes them smile.

For our woodfired pots, we generally use 3-M Wet-or-Dry paper, in the sink,
with water flowing over the pot. A very light sanding will take off the
most abrasive snags and points. I guess it becomes a questions of how much
of the wood kiln texture you want to preserve. That is a difficult dilemma,
and it is for each potter to make that decision. I think there is usually a
happy medium where you preserve the most desireable visual effects, while
eliminating the raw, ragged tactile edge. And as Lee states, sometimes the
best visual effects are revealed when some of the rough accumulations are
Best wishes -
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft, Tennessee Technological University
Smithville TN 37166, 615/597-6801 x111,

Lee Love on fri 18 jun 04

Vince Pitelka wrote:

>These are good points, and they represent another area that many potters
>simply do not consider. The greatest area of neglect on pots in the US is
>the unglazed foot.

I have mentioned before, what is used here in Japan is a whet
stone. You break a long one in two and a half a stone is about the
right size. You dip the stone in water and then wipe the foot clean
with a wet sponge after smoothing.

One of the sounds at the pottery festivals you hear, is the sound of
the stone on the feet of the pots. Most potters smooth the feet when
they come out of the kiln, but at the festival, they use this sound to
announce a sale.

Lee in Mashiko, Japan Commentary On Pottery