Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Purple Waterfall Glaze?

About a year ago, I took a glaze making class with my local ceramic supplier, in hopes of learning some basic theory. It was helpful, no doubt, but there is SO MUCH seat of the pants knowledge that this requires. It's not something you can simply learn in one class, but rather, you need a lifetime of experience with glaze chemicals in order to know what you're doing.

How will a Red Iron Oxide wash behave under a white glaze? What will the addition of Chrome do to a recipe? Can I mix a white and a black glaze to achieve a gray color? The only way to know is to TEST, TEST, TEST, and even then, different clay bodies will give you different answers. Even different kilns will give you different results. Even different cooling rates can change everything.

To a beginner, it's a daunting challenge to absorb all this.

There is a certain elegance to the art of glaze making . There's no guessing, no "oh, let's add a dash of this" sort of experimentation. It's sort of like cooking, but not. Precision is perfecrtion. Pull out your triple beam scale and take notes. Take GOOD notes.

So imagine my surprise when I opened the kiln a couple of days ago and got a purple version of John Hesselberth and Ron Roy's Waterfall Brown. Gorgeous violet purple. Completely unplanned purple. Purple without notes purple.

It started by having a little extra shelf space in the top of my kiln load. I didn't have much, but there was a spot I wanted to fill, so I picked up a small medallion tile that I had fired a few months ago. I didn't like the way it turned out, and had stuck it on a shelf, trying to decide what to do with it.

Fast forward to this week, when I mixed up a batch of Nutmeg and White Satin glaze, my newest project. These glazes can be combined to mimic a wood fired look, and I had already thrown a few test tiles into this kiln, just for a little extra research.

I took that medallion, painted it with the Nutmeg, and sure enough.... purple. WTF Purple, which is what I may name it, if I ever figure out what the hell I did.

Which brings me back to my glaze making class. I remember one employee at the ceramic store told me a story of a glaze test he did - he could never reproduce the exact color of it ever again. EVER. He wasn't sure if his notes were bad, or his chemicals had changed, or whatever. All he knew was that he was on a quest to reproduce that, and after MANY, MANY attempts, he still wasn't any closer.

So even though I managed to achieve a lovely Purple Waterfall Glaze, Who knows if I'm going to be able to repeat it. Oy.

One more thing... here are a couple of small soy bowls with some interesting results of the WF glaze:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wood Fired effects in an electric kiln

A couple of blog posts ago, I wrote about a glaze developed by Richard Busch of Glenfiddich Farm Pottery. It's a fabulous glaze- in fact, it's two glazes- a white and a nutmeg that can be mixed together or layered to create colors in electric kilns that are usually only achieved in wood fired kilns. Busch also developed a black stain (for highlights or brushwork) to be used with these two glazes.

Being the glaze test junkie that I am, I decided to play a bit with these two glazes, by experimenting with not only the proportions of these glazes, but also with different clay bodies. These test results came out of my kiln yesterday.

These glazes over the light color of the porcelain clay body doesn't quite achieve that rich deep golden toasty color that I like. But they do illustrate that higher percentages of nutmeg will give you darker and richer colors.

Next, I tested these same glaze ratios on a medium buff stoneware called Long Beach.

This body is darker than porcelain, but still fires to a light beige color. It's still not quite what I want, but the cup (below) is promising.

Coming up next... these glazes on my clay of choice, Black Mountain.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tan, rested and ready to jump back into the studio...

Went to Hawaii for a much needed dose of inspiration, good food, and good company. Did some hiking, which is about as foreign to me as astrophysics. Here's a short video of me crossing a raging stream. Don't believe the smile on my face; the bridge was terrifying and the stream below had swelled, due to record amounts of rain. Normally, this stream is small and you can cross it by hopping on a few rocks.

This is the first time I've played around with putting a video on this blog- it's a humbling experience, trust me. The sound is hard to control, the editing is even more difficult, and on top of all that, this clip makes my legs look like sausages! They say that film adds 15 pounds to everyone, but no one mentioned the height compression factor. Oy!

I suspect much of my upcoming work is going to reflect some Hawaiian influence. The islands are filled with tribal art, ancient petroglyphs, and some incredible artists.

One of my all time favorites is Joelle Chicheportiche-Perz, who has been living in Hawaii since 1982. This piece is simply incredible, this picture doesn't do it justice. It's a solid block of Purpleheart wood, carved and painted in the most exquisite detail imaginable. Her work never fails to inspire and surprise me. If you visit her website and click on the"new work" tab, you'll see some fascinating information about her new work that explores her unique combination of oil paint on carved wood.

Viewpoints Gallery
is a must see for me during every visit. And just a few steps from the lovely glass studio - Hot Island Glass.

Is it too early in the day to make a mai-tai?