As many potters I know, I also base my ceramic work on local materials. Getting to know the nature around you is very important as well as quite interesting part of potters live. But when Peter Stanik, owner of small tea/yixing business, offered me chunk of Zi Ni clay to try I couldn´t refused. The clay was send by YiXing potter Lui Ming Zhu. He added short note and the information that they fire it in between 1050- 1150°C was the most important one. Well, temperature in our kiln varies from 1220 to 1380°C. It means that we can make clear clay glaze from that Zi Ni! But many low-fire clays can survive in coldest parts of our kiln, near chimney, so let's try it anyway...
Clay has very unusual hue of brown color, with hint of purple. It is without sand or another larger, rough particles in it. On first touch you can feel its plasticity. I got around 1,3kg of clay and I was decided to try to create some teapots from it. But first, I had to make some tests and see how it will work in or kiln. I made several small cones and laid out them around kiln chamber. I put some of them to hot places, some to colder and some even to chimney.
For 100ml teapot I usually need around 120g of clay. Plus I need some clay for lids and spouts. It means that if everything will go well I can make seven teapots. For the first shot I decided to go for trio. I have to say, this kind of clay is pleasure to work with. It is very smooth, plastic and strong. I haven´t expected such malleable material; it is great, at least for small forms. Here you can see several pictures from the process.
We usually do our first, bisque firing, in electric kiln and mostly to around 1000°C. From my experience, it is crucial for such high iron, low fire clays to be bisque fired in oxidation or neutral atmosphere. If such pot, made from iron rich, low-fire clay, is fired in stronger reduction without first firing it in oxidation you will find it bubbled or collapsed much sooner. That is why I have "bisqued" those three teapots even though I was not going to glaze them.
|On the right side you can see all three teapots fired to 1000°C...|
|Footprints of the fire...|
Attentive readers of my blog already know that one of them has become part of my Gem Collection. Second one stay with me, as part of my young sheng tea sessions. And the third one went as a gift to Peter Stanik's hands as my thanks for the opportunity to try this wonderful clay. At the end, you can take a look at Lui Ming Zhu's work from this clay here.
|2011 Xi Zi Hao Ding Jia Lao Zhai Xiao Beeng Cha...long, long name for those leaves in my new teapot|
Thank you for reading...