There is so much color around us, even in the winter of greys and whites and blues (like the KSA bathroom floor for example, a friend swore it would be the perfect glaze, I agree). The sky was a color of pink that I had never seen before last night, the kind of light pink I would want a hint of in a mug. In ceramics color is seldom what it seems, carbonates become oxides and get darker in the firing process, or visa versa. Various glaze materials have different effects on colors, barium and lithium make things brighter. Tin makes things tamer. Granular iron breaks up a surface with specks. Copper can be green, grey, red or pink depending on its firing environment. Even fabricated colorants have variables. But you see, this is what I dig about it all.
Robbin Hopper comes to mind when I think glaze color- he has made it a habit to see something in nature and jotting down a recipe that would make a ceramic surface that color and texture, just off the top of his mind!!! There is a lot to learn before anyone can do that. In fact, I think Robin Hopper is the only one in the world that does do that. So How do you deal with color? How can you emulate your surroundings? For me it is all about testing and experiments. Every potter should be messing around on the side with random glaze explorations. That is easier said than done….I see more now than ever it is about good records. Sure, you have a cup you made two years ago with the perfect glaze on it but, I’ll be damned if I know what it was or what the firing was like (this just happened to me this morning, it sent my mind reeling and longing for a self cataloging library system, like Delicious Library 2, but for hand made objects). I need to create a nifty database to go with all this. (First I’d need a decent camera, will Santa come through?). So, How do you work through finding the perfect color? First, you find a nice base glaze then do what is called a color run on it. This is where you add certain amounts of oxides (cobalt, copper, iron etc.) into 100g batches and fire em up. Then you can take your favorite ones and start creating blends! If you change up the amount of a material in a glaze- ta da, you have a different result. If you switch up a material- bada boom, you have a new glaze. Even typing about this just makes me want to be in the glaze room!
I was not so keen on stains, industrial manufactured ceramic colorants, until I decided to test some I had acquired from retired potters (see picture below). My concern was that… well, I wanted to be independent from the man. A silly thing for a potter to be because, babe, if it ain’t being used in industry it ain’t going to be on the market much longer (for example Gerstly Borate). Industry dictates what is available to the modern studio city dweller. I however, learned that stains can be a useful tool and the standardized quality they produce has a place (that place is the electric kiln in my opinion). Funnily enough, I have had my eye on some nifty colors (see below middle) and called up to order some test amounts and low and behold Mason Color is discontinuing all of their blend colorants (see a sample of greens in the photo above of some standard mason stains). The man let me down. One of the ways to get a unique thing from stains is by blending you own combinations. Mason used to do this themselves and that is the color line you can no longer get. As an off shoot of the closure Mason has posted up how they blended their colors- they did essentially what the average potter would do in their own studio (See below for examples). There you have it some bits about color in ceramics. Yeay for techno-ology.