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Moon (Earth) Madness

Green ware , moon jar inspired vessel, by Ady Barker 2021

Hello fellow Potters, creative sorts, friends and family.

Today I'd like to tell you about my journey through the creation of my very first large Moon Jar. I say moon jar, however, for the purists among you, a real moon jar is a vessel that was made in #Korea, during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). They are curvaceous plain white porcelain jars that resemble the full moon. They were made to contain flowers or wine and they were also ritual votive vessels.

There is a quote by Young Sook Park that especially encompasses the meaning of a moon jar for me as follows;-

'A perfect union when the top and bottom, surrender their individual selves and reach a compromise to exist as one forever'.

The renowned #potter #BernardLeach ,had a particularly fine example of an 18th century vessel made and fired in the Royal Kilns at #Gwangyi, the craftsmen made a point of making the join between the two halves visible. Leach bought the vessel in 1935 and it was part of his personal collection. He gifted the jar to Lucie Rie and it remained in her Albion Mews studio until she bequeathed it to Janet Leach 50 years later, it was then subsequently acquired by the British Museum.

The moon jars public life in the #BritishMuseum became a focus for contemporary ceramic artists, such as #AkikoHirai and #AdamBuick. #GarethMason also referred to the haptic wisdom of moon jars in his work, and it is the spirit of these great artists that I have tried to embody with this, and subsequent creations of my own.

In this piece I have focused on the union of the two halves emphasizing the connection, yet separate elements of ying and yang, with the depiction of air and water over the surface of the jar. Using coloured slip, I applied with natural sponge, wooden ribs, natural hair, and air brushes. The combined influences of material and tool, sit over a base coat of white slip made from china clay. China clay is essentially eroded granite which forms more than 70% of the earth's crust. The body of the jar is iron rich Terracotta clay. Iron being the major component of our planet. One could say that my jar is really an earth jar inspired by the moon jars of ancient Korea.

I will walk you through my build process.

After #wedging a large amount of grogged terracotta #clay, I fixed a large 40cm bat to my #wheel and #centred a hefty #5kg. The secret to making this part of the process easy, is to take your time. I set the wheel at a nice medium to slow speed and gently tap the clay into the centre of the wheel. When I feel the clay is more or less centred, I add some water and start to slowly squeeze the material inwards and upwards. I like this part of the process as one can get lost in the mesmeric cyclic motion of the clay. Feeling the material slip through my hands, it is more of a conversation than a directive. I guide the body of the #terracotta, and the motion of the material on the wheel feeds back to me, informing me of its every intention along the journey towards the final outcome.

Centring 5kg of terracotta - Ady Barker 2021

Once the clay becomes almost motionless in my hands on the turning wheel, I can start to open the body up and pull the sides into a large cylinder. I focus on keeping the sides nice and even with a firmly compressed rim that I like to leave slightly thicker than the rest of the body. This helps to keep the vessel steady when I open the form up.

Opening the form - Ady Barker 2021

Once this process is complete, I accurately measure the diameter of the form and repeat the process. I make sure that the measurement of the rim of the second form matches that of the first, and that both bowl shapes are evenly curved. They are left on the bats and placed in polythene to dry to an even, leather hard state, before joining together, this took nearly two days.

Drying halves - Ady Barker 2021

Once at #leather hard I spent some time studying both forms to decide which would be top and bottom. I then scored and slipped the rims and gently placed the two #elements together. It was incredibly satisfying to see the vessel come together in this way. I then stitched the outside of the jar together by scoring the surface of both halves in several directions and finally smoothing the face of the piece with a #wooden rib. I then left the whole thing to stand for a night before cutting off the top bat and opening up the neck.

Complete form - Ady Barker 2021

Now for the first time the piece actually looked like a real moon jar! After a bit more smoothing, I started to apply the many coats of white slip smoothing each one with a metal rib as it dried. The resulting surface became a beautiful canvas to apply the finishing colours. This had now become a very exciting labour of love, each coat taking up to half a day to dry enough to be ribbed, depending on the #humidity of my #studio.

Once dried to the required state for turning I realized that I needed a very large #chuck to work on this piece. After some considerable thought, I came up with this bucket and foam idea as I did not want to use another huge amount of clay to make one. It actually worked really well!

Sitting in the chuck - Ady Barker 2021

Adding the #colour to this jar was a very #mindful process, I set the wheel in motion and applied coats of varying intensity, starting with the lower half of the vessel, applying layers of sand and sea inspired slip colours. Once these had dried I turned the jar over and worked on the #sky using blues, greys and white, finally I added the clouds using a #mouth operated #spray tool, such a satisfying process.

Applying #slip with a #sprayer - Ady Barker 2021

Finally, to finish the making process I used a large #feather (Herring #gull I think? *we do live in Cornwall*)to sketch in the breaking surf on the lower half of the jar. I then stood back and left the jar to dry. It will take about a week for something this large to dry out enough for the kiln, fingers crossed the #kiln gods will be kind.

This story will continue, until next time

Bright blessings


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