Question: 3) Answering a Question a day for the BCPG Retail Jury!

3) Please explain your choice of materials and how they are appropriate to the intent of the pieces, both in purpose and visual appearance. 

All the materials I have come to use are chosen simply because they are what work and what is available in all practicality to the North American potter. After years of developing this Everyday Ungulates I have experimented and tested various clays, glazes, pigments, kilns and tools. From mixing and matching and altering I have come to use the present day materials to make these present day pots. As a scientist I am always seeking better compounds and processes to liberate the my artist self. Potters are of course both Artists and Scientists. The intriguing technical processes of chemical mixingand calculation and exposing mixtures to different environments and temperatures overtime is undeniably Science. The problem solving in design, process and intuition is Art. The two married together in making is what makes Craft. And so by this dichotomy it how my materials are chosen. I use three various plastic fine throwing clays all to yield slightly different texture and color, one standardized slip modified for color variation and three clear glazes for various functions. With the constant progression that is an Artist’s prerogative and quest of a conscious maker my materials will continue to change. I am forever trying to source and acquiesce more common materials mined closer to home and acquired by minimally invasive means. The Science and Artist and Maker will continue to battle is out for esthetic’s sake.

Techno-ology: Glaze Catalogs

For years I have been painstakingly making, testing, photographing and compiling glazes. There are some people who just hone in on the most appropriate glazes- I am more the anthology of glaze type. I find it very interesting how other artists go about investigating the possibilities. Here is how Ben Fiess has gone about it by publishing his findings,search engine ala blog:


Techno-ology: Glaze tectonics!

I came upon the blog Glaze tectonics! Great name. Take a gander through all the macro shots from the blog, such as those displayed below! The ceramic surface really is a landscape of sorts. Just imagine what is involved in creating any of these surfaces a little… copper, manganese, alumina, silicon carbide, tin, volcanic ash, barium?- anything is possible for such a volatile surface. Now contemplate what it takes to make a lush perfect fitting glaze, it really could be the same materials! This is what I mean where I say there are endless possibilities. There are a finite amount of materials and endless combinations and firing environments.

Techno-(glaze): What we can do.

I realize that I may have jumped the…goat, gun, fence, shark when it comes to Tuesday and the Techno-(glaze) category. Glaze is the coolest thing ever! The template I have created may be quite bland and contain information all potters already know. It is a greedy tool- a refresher for me, but not presented in raw note form. My notes being spiky colorful convoluted things, much like my though processes.  The problem is that I get sucked into the depths of my glaze books. One fact leads to another and hours pass only with snippets of relevant info for the given material to be featured on Tuesday. I am finding it a great challenge to organize and relate any of it to you with a certain degree of passion when not presented in a spiky colorful convoluted way. I have decided to let bygones be bygones and display glaze info as I come across it, in staccato fashion. The template will live on but be punctuated by facts and tangents and a more truthful representation of my relation with glaze technology.

One of the possible reasons for my inability to aptly represent glaze technology here is because it is such an endless topic- oddly enough that should be the very thing that makes it appropriate for the rambling tome that is this blog. I posted a crit from the 500 Cups book two weeks ago. It is my practice writing opinions of a pot on a page everyday smack dab on the printed page of the book that has led me to much contemplation of glaze material uses. Whilst flipping through the book yesterday it dawned on me just how inexhaustible the glaze surface and subsequently glaze technology is. Just take a gander at the short slide show of pitchers below, from the 500 Pitchers Book, just consider the limited glaze materials in the glaze room and how they were use to give such varied effects. Consider the endless choices and experiments done by each maker in getting everything just so. It is this immensity of possibility the potter is faced with upon entering to studio each day. Decisions, decisions.

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Techno-ology: Glazing & Waxing

When pottery is glazed there must be a section of the pot that is left without glaze where it can sit on a kiln shelf without being fused to it in the firing process (pots can also be propped up on metal spikes but this method is only advisable for smaller items as bigger pots can be prone to warping). The spot often left bare is called the “foot”. Something called ‘wax resist’ can be applied prior to glazing, thus glaze is repelled from the area when dipped in glaze. If wax gets anywhere it shouldn’t the pot must be re-fired once so the wax melts away. Or glaze is applied and removed as shown below on the set of plates I glazed on Saturday! I have found that scrapping the outlining the boundaries of the foot ring helps when removing the remaining glaze with a very wet sponge. Some pots you can just avoid getting the feet in contact with glaze by dipping a certain way. Like the mug pictured below. One of my most favorite things about the mugs I am currently making is the marks left in the glaze and slip from where my fingers were holding the pot! Anyways, just some techy info for you on a beautiful Saturday!

Techno-ology: Info on ceramics- definition, technique, history.

Techno-ology: Color

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.