Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recipes and more glaze testing

Call me naive.

This time of year always makes me think of cooking, and I certainly miss the big family get-togethers that we used to have. Although my immediate family isn't that big, my mom is one of 14 kids, so holidays are often filled with family, food and good times.

Which started me thinking about recipes.

Years ago, I was at a picnic, and ate a wonderful dish that someone had brought. I asked for the recipe, and after several attempts at duplicating it, I could never make that dish as good as the one I tasted at the picnic.

It was for a simple pasta salad, and hard as I tried (and I'm a good cook!) there was just no duplicating it. I mentioned that to my mom one time and she looked at me like "who raised you?" Then she told me that some people actually don't like to share their recipes, so they'll sabotage your creations by leaving out an ingredient, or some other important piece of information.

So... that's why I said - call me naive.

Part of the reason I probably enjoy glaze making in my studio is because it's so similar to cooking. Add a pinch of that, or a dab of this, and you get something completely different. Which started me thinking about sharing recipes for glazes.

Now I make a ton of glazes in my studio - literally hundreds over the past few years, and since I don't have an evil bone in my body (unlike the wench who gave me the pasta salad recipe) I would never dream of leaving out an ingredient. Never.
But I sometimes hear from people who say that they made a sample batch of one of the glazes recipes I've given them, and it's nothing like my version.


Let's switch gears for a minute, and talk about clay. I use two different clay bodies in my studio - a light buff stoneware called Long Beach, and a very dark stoneware called Black Mountain. I like the grittiness of both, groggy and textural, but each clay is entirely different once it's fired.

Unless you're firing your test tile on the same glaze, in the same kiln environment, and at the same schedule, it's quite possible that you're going to get different results.

Here are some examples of the same glaze being fired on different clay bodies.

Below is one of my favorite glazes, a variation on Waterfall Brown, developed by Ron Roy and John Hesselberth. When I'm just beginning my tests of a new glaze, I cut a slab of clay the exact size of my favorite ruler. Once it's fired, I can calculate it's shrinkage very accurately. These pieces started off exactly 12" long.

When I brush the glaze, The lower half gets a coat of glaze. Then I drop down a third and give it second coat, and then the last third of the tile gets three coats. Look at these pieces, you'll see that the glaze appears thin on top, a little better in the middle, and best at the bottom. This is a good guide when I'm trying to decide how much glaze to apply on a bisqued piece.

The clay on the left is the light stoneware, Long Beach, while the one on the right is my preferred (darker) clay - Black mountain. With this particular glaze, there isn't too much of a difference.

But with the Waterfall White glaze (below), you can see a much more profound difference on the different colored clays.

The glaze applied to the darker clay actually looks much nicer than to the lighter body, wouldn't you agree? I think it looks like freshly fallen snow.

One of my favorite (and most stable) versions of Waterfall Brown is what I call Waterfall Gold, it's slightly lighter and really gorgeous on the darker clay, but not so nice on the light one.

And finally, here is Waterfall brown on three different clays that I've used - a woodfire clay, a porcelain, and a light stoneware. Of course, I forgot to put the Black Mountain clay sample tile in this picture, and it's the best of the four clays. But at least this picture shows how different Waterfall Brown looks on different clay bodies.

If you're testing a glaze and the results don't look like you think they should, perhaps thickness is an issue. Below ilustrates how thickness can really make a difference. The numbers on the test tubes indicates the number of dips of Floating Blue on these tubes.

When I travel, I often take a baggie with me, to bring home a small sample of soil, sand, ash or clay. And while the sample below isn't necessarily a suitable glaze for dinnerware, I love the crackle effect. I will probably use it on some tiles for a table someday. I made this using sand from my all time favorite beach - Little Beach, on Maui. Google it and you'll see what my idea of a perfect beach is.

Finally, sometimes when you're testing glazes, you come up wth something unexpected and pretty exciting. These next few pictures show a glaze I'm working on - it's full of texture and pools of color, yet exhibits a raw, crawl-y look that I'm starting to appreciate. I'm still testing it, but so far, it's behaving well.

It almost has a pewter look to it, with pools of gold.

Since wood is my main focus, I also have to consider what sort of wood will compliment this glaze. Right now, I'm playing with some fumed white oak, as it's smokey hue compliments these colors rather well.

That's it for now, I'll close this by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you're surrounded by kindness, people you love and good food. We all deserve that.


Aura said...

Hi Jamie,
I am a potter from Oregon and I really love your blog. You do a great job. Your writing is always interesting and you always provide lots of photos.While I am always excited to see glaze posts, I learn from the wood working posts as well. Thank you for all of your hard work. It is appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Fishstikks said...

I loved reading all about your glaze tests.

I took a pottery class in High School, way back when, and it was one of the most exciting things I ever did. Haven't touched it since and have been drooling at the mere mention of pottery wheel or kiln ever since.