Gargoyle-Tile Workshop Visit Part 2: Crafting the Clay
The Devil's In the Details temple-roof demon end-piece tile during fabrication at the Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 52mm — 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos
The Devil's In the Details
temple-roof demon end-piece tile during fabrication
at the Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房)

Picking up from yesterday's Gargoyle-Tile Workshop Visit Part 1: Factory Tour, we'll look a bit on how these complex decorative tiles are made.

Old and New Mr. Minabe shows a current replication project ( his father is the current head of household ) -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/50 sec, f/4.5, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Old and New
Mr. Minabe shows a current replication project
( his father is the current head of household )
High-Tech Methods everything is done by hand -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 26mm — 1/50 sec, f/4.5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
High-Tech Methods
everything is done by hand

These are essentially pottery, so crafting is simple: create the shape you want out of clay, let it air dry for a few months, then fire it in a kiln for 30 hours at a bazillion degrees.

It's not that simple, of course. First off, with the lead time to the final firing measured in months, they can't afford to have pieces crack in the kiln, so they've developed crafting and firing techniques that completely avoids cracks. I didn't realize how extraordinary this was until someone else on the tour who happened to be a potter exclaimed her shock. Apparently some loss during firing is always expected.

Another complication is that the clay shrinks about 13% when fired, so they have to take that into account when building a replacement piece whose final size must exactly match the original. They deal with this 13% shrinkage (building everything 13% larger) day in and day out, so after a lifetime it must all be second nature.

In Need of a Fang -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/60 sec, f/4.5, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
In Need of a Fang

It's perhaps difficult to tell in the photo above, but the fang in the near-side edge of the mouth is missing in the version being crafted. As part of the tour, Mr. Minobe showed a bit how he models the clay, and in doing so added that fang...

Mold the Shape by Hand -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/160 sec, f/4.5, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Mold the Shape by Hand

This is probably the most difficult part, especially for someone like me without an artistic bone in my body. He's got to get the general shape, 13% larger than the final desired size.

Preparing to Attach -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 62mm — 1/125 sec, f/4.5, ISO 4000 — map & image datanearby photos
Preparing to Attach

To create a good bond, he places rough groves in the clay using the fork-like tool that was the subject of my recent What am I? quiz. A lot of people guessed the fork-like tool had something to do with clay, but no one had the proper answer that it's for scoring a surface to be attached to another surface.

Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/160 sec, f/4.5, ISO 2500 — map & image datanearby photos

Another bad photo, sorry, but if you look carefully you can see the fang has been attached. He's then using another tool to smooth part of the brow.

Of course, this is just the roughing in of the basic shape. I'm sure there's quite a bit of work and artistry to get the final sculpture ready for the kiln, 13% larger than the actual target size.

Here's a closeup of yesterday's Massive Tile Awaiting the Kiln...

desktop background image of a closeup of the face on a clay gargoyle tile prior to being fired in a kiln, at the Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) in Otsu Japan -- Babyface -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2800 — map & image datanearby photos
Babyface
Vertical Desktop-Background Versions
1050×1680  ·  1200×1920  ·  1600×2560
Old and New replacement reproduction (background) air drys before heading to the kiln -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1100 — map & image datanearby photos
Old and New
replacement reproduction (background) air drys before heading to the kiln

At one point while allowed some free time to wander around the workshop, I noticed the current head of the household, Kei-ich Minobe, working on a project. As it happens, he was about to attach a strip of clay to a work in progress, so he was just starting to score the clay with the aforementioned fork-like tool...

Scoring the Strip to be Added the Mozart of clay -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Scoring the Strip to be Added
the Mozart of clay
Scoring the Attach Point -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Scoring the Attach Point
Master Craftsman Kei-ichi Minobe At Work 美濃邉惠一さん -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400 — map & image datanearby photos
Master Craftsman Kei-ichi Minobe At Work
美濃邉惠一さん

He was the subject of episode #57 in the NHK TV Professional series, in 2007. I've found it on the web here.

美濃邉さんはNHKの番組「プロフェッショナル 仕事流儀」出演しました「鬼師 美濃邉惠一」

Placing the New Piece -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Placing the New Piece
Pressing It Firm -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Pressing It Firm
Strengthening The “ Weld ” -- Minobe Onigawara Workshop (美濃邉鬼瓦工房) -- Otsu, Shiga, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D4 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1400 — map & image datanearby photos
Strengthening The Weld

As I mentioned in the previous post, my visit to the workshop was as a guinea pig during a test run of Tour du Lac Biwa's Special Japanese Gargoyle Workshop and Hot Spring Tour. I also got to do the other parts of the tour (all for free!), except we had to cut the hot-spring visit short because a typhoon was coming in and we worried that the train line would shut down, and I had to be home for a late-afternoon appointment that I couldn't take a chance on missing.

I've much else to post from this tour, and from other tours I got to take part in. Sadly, a lingering cold this week caused me to miss a tour that involved zip-lining and kayaking. Maybe next time!


One comment so far...

Great images. I like seeing craftsmen at work. Thanks for the explanations and links as well.

— comment by Tom in SF on September 6th, 2014 at 11:14pm JST (2 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink
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