I love data! In all of my years of teaching soda firing at Lillstreet Art Center and at Northern Clay Center, I always have students asking questions about what underglazes might work in the soda kiln. There is often a desire to get a touch of color that is best achieved with an underglaze. But hard to know where to start! And some of them can be pricey (hello reds!). So I did some crowdsourcing with my NCC classes to test the Amaco underglazes that we collectively owned. Most are the line of Amaco Velvet underglazes (that’s what the V is for). But there are a few other lines (DV and SS) that are discontinued. But jars are still floating around out there so we tested the ones we had. Some of the Designer Velvet underglazes are gorgeous! Firing underglazes in reduction, at cone 10 is not a typical use. So you can’t get the information you might be looking for out of the maker’s test tiles. These test tiles have been invaluable to my students. And I am hoping that this post, sharing them, will help many more!
blacks and grays
I am happy to be back to blogging! Thanks for reading and sharing!
It’s time again to sign up for next session’s classes at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, IL. Classes begin the week of Sept. 8, 2008 and run for 10 weeks. If you sign up by August 15th, you’ll get 10% off.
Below I’ve listed the classes that I will be teaching in the fall. If you’re not interested in soda, or aren’t at the advanced level yet, there are tons of other classes to take (clay and non-clay, although you know my preference:) .
This class will focus on color, pattern, texture, motif, and the development of a personal style for your soda fired pots and sculpture. You will use glazes, flashing and colored slips, stains and oxides to experiment with a wide variety of techniques which include resists (wax, latex, paper and tape), stencils, spraying and brushwork. In addition to concentrating on surface, hand building and wheel throwing demonstrations will be presented. All students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class
This class is for the proficient thrower to take their wheel work to the next level. We will push, pull and cut the clay on and off the wheel to create new forms on and off the wheel. We will use the wheel to make the basic forms, and then incorporate hand-building techniques to build forms that are out of round.
I have been busy making pots in my studio and I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been up to. I’ve been really pushing myself lately on new forms, new clays and new surface treatments. I’m really excited about the new pieces. I love this part of the process. I put my energy into designing, problem solving, trying to have the new work make sense in the presence of the other pieces. (and having many failures on the way to the successes).
To balance out these time intense pieces (and often less than stellar success rates), I’ve been making a lot of smaller pieces: cruets, tiny bottles and tons of mugs. I can’t believe how many mugs I’ve been making lately! The smaller pieces are also tests of clay bodies and surface treatments.
Here are some pieces that are fresh out of the soda kiln:
A duo of cruets with a nice squeeze that fits perfectly into your hands.
A grouping of tiny bottles. I love making tiny little bottles and vases.
The tallest one is about 3″ tall.
A duo of mugs with a nice thick slip applied and a highlight of glaze. Lined with a shino.
Spring always makes me crave color and I find it actively finding it’s way into and onto my pots this time of the year. I love the curves of these mugs. The curves are perfect for cupping your hands around after your coffee, tea or cocoa has cooled a bit.
These mugs were made with a curly wire and then dipped in slip to soften the edges. They are also lined with shino and highlighted with a sprayed glaze on the outside.
These my mid-western mugs. I always want to attach the word “mid-western” to any of my pieces that have straight, clean lines. Pieces that are simple and approachable. But that is my perspective as a native New Englander who has been a mid-westerner for the last 13 years.
I have yet to fire the larger pieces, but when they are finished I’ll share them with you :)
On a totally different topic, Ron Philbeck has an incredible story on his blog that you really should read!
I know that I have been a somewhat absent blogger lately :) But there is much more to come soon. Things have been in progress, but not published. (Including some pictures from a recent trip to Minnesota where I got to meet Ron in person!)
At NCECA I attended a discussion group that has carried on past Pittsburgh and is leading to some interesting post-conference disussions. At this year’s conference, the discussion group, Salt Firing Verses Soda Firing was led by Joyce Centofanti. One of the other attendees, David Hayashida, came up with the great idea creating an email list so we could continue our discussion and share recipes and techniques after we returned home. David put the list together and there was instantly a lot of information being passed around. Another participant, Pamela Theis, decided to take it one step further and create an Ning group (an social network site) that will allow us to continue to connect with each other, but to invite others out there who weren’t a part of the original group to add to the discussion.
So, if you’re interested in salt firing or soda firing, or even a hybrid, join the group and join in the conversation! It just began a couple of days ago, so we’re really just getting started.
This is my page on the Salt/Soda Firing site, if you’re interested in seeing what you can do. I’m excited about the possibilities with this group. Soda firing is still relatively new so I think that a group like this that will allow us to share, trouble shoot and brainstorm can have a big impact. I hope you join us!
Clay is one of the oldest materials used by humans, and its place in the lives of humans has changed and evolved as we have.It’s had a central place in a community as vessels that store water and grains. Today we most often see clay in the form of toilets, sinks, heater elements, and our molded dishes.With modern manufacturing we have personal spaces which we can easily fill to overflowing with things, so that few people can really say they lack any quantity of items.We store water in disposable plastic bottles, we store our food in layers of boxes and plastic bags, and once we’ve used these up we store the garbage in more layers of plastic until they can be taken away in the metal boxes on wheels.Things just flow through our hands, from factory to landfill, each item indisguishable from the next and inevitably forgotten once sealed in the earth.
So the place that clay has in our world today is much different than it’s been before.Clay is still plentiful, but it’s never been disposable.And clay as art still has the intention and purpose behind it that long ago would have been present in every vessel.It can be something to stop our busy lives for a few moments in the morning to meditate over our morning coffee out of our favorite mug.It can be a vase that with or without flowers, we can stop to think about how it is one of the few objects in our lives that are hand made and individual.
Each and every piece that I make is one of a kind. I often make pieces in a series, but because they are hand crafted and fired in a soda kiln no two pieces are identical.I’m drawn to the pieces with a depth that you can explore, with subtle nuances in the texture and patterns in the glaze.A piece where you can always look a little closer and see something new.You aren’t going to see that in a mass produced plate from Target, or a ceramic mug from Ikea.Our lives are busy and we often don’t allow ourselves to slow down and take a moment to reflect.I see clay/pottery/ceramics as a way to feel a connection with another person, and an excuse to slow down for a moment.
Clay is a material that has a long and rich tradition.I try to reference that history, but in the context of our contemporary world. This is why I love the process of soda firing, also a contemporary adaptation of an older process.
In the 14th century potters began using a technique called salt firing.By adding salt into a kiln, the pieces would be glazed without having to individually apply glaze to each piece.This was great for the very utilitarian pieces like sewer pipes and whiskey jugs.But by the 1970’s there were problems with the technique – black smoke comes from the chimneys, and it wasn’t very friendly to the environment or your neighbors.So another technique was developed, using soda ash and baking soda.The kiln is gas fired and this soda mixture is added to the kiln near the end of the firing (around 2200°F); the soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln.The soda reacts with the pieces, changing their color and texture.The variations you see on the pieces come from the variations in the kiln – how close a piece is to the burner, how much room there is for the flame to flow across the piece, even the temperature outside or the humidity can effect the outcome.Even after firing soda kilns hundreds of times there are still surprises to be found in how the pieces react.The pieces that I have created for this exhibition are tributes to the unpredictable and unique effects of this process.