Pot sheen


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Northern California
I've been making pottery for about 1.5yrs and recently got into bonsai containers for friends and myself. A few have asked if I can make the surface smooth with matt sheen or luster to them, like the Tokoname pots. Have done some searching and have found out how the Greeks and Native Americans did it but have not seen anything on how the Japanese perform this task. Anyone have any insight?

Luster example

Thanks for your help!

What type of clay body are you using and what type of kiln is your work fired in?

For unglazed pots, a lot depends on the chemical make-up of the clay body and the type of kiln that the pot is fired in.

The clay bodies that are commercially available in my area are not designed to give this type of surface appearance when fired alone.

I have been able to achieve similar results using a satin matt base for my glaze recipes.

Thanks Paul.

Electric kiln, usually to ^5 or 6 and Black Mountain, 1C Stoneware, Navajo wheel are the ones I use most frequently. Have used glazes too, I just wanted to know if there was a way to get this look without. Did more searching last night and found out that some are polished, but no description on how it is done.

I put some testers in the kiln this morning and will see how they look tomorrow

I'm not familiar with those particular clay bodies. You can burnish your pots using a number of different objects. A smooth river stone or a spoon will work. However, that is much more labor intensive than using a glaze to achieve what you are looking for. In addition, if the clay bodies you are using have a lot of grit it will be hard to get that smooth look.

Something else you might consider is a colored slip or englobe. These are usually applied when the clay is leather hard and may give you the results you want.

Good Luck,
Tried burnishing, liked the finish but too much work. Navajo wheel is probably the finest texture, the other two have some grit. Depending how you work the surface it is not revealed.

Thanks for the englobe tip, found a couple of links with good recipes. Made some terra sigillata from the black mountain slurry (that's what's in the kiln). I applied over a gritty surface and came out surprising smooth, also had a nice satin sheen to it.

If you are trying to get the look of tokoname ware then you should keep two things in mind:

First, know that the claybody from this area of Japan is very, very fine. You might want to get a body that is more fine, but becareful, as it becomes more of a 'closed' vs 'open' consistency. This will be problematic in drying and warping.

Secondly is the fact that most of the pots from Tokonama Japan are made in molds and compressed from soft slabs of clay. This enables mass production and a lack of cracks and warping.

Hope this helps.

Also check out clayart online. It is a great place to learn from other potters.;)

Thanks Rob for the info!

I saw a video on youtube on how japanese pots are made, the size and variety of molds was incredible. I'm not looking to recreate their pots, just the surface finish. A friend has a tokoname pot and it's very smooth, no grit at all felt like and it has that nice polished surface.
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