ceramics background

Clay and making

I use two different clays, which for simplicity I refer to as the brown clay and the white clay, although the fired colour of the clay varies quite a bit according to temperature and other factors and the white clay doesn't ever fire white as such. Both clays are stoneware clays, that is they fire to the same temperature, and I use them because of the colour variations which are then possible.

I throw all my pots on an electric wheel. After throwing, some pots are then altered in one way or another. Heart shaped dishes are formed while on the wheel, oval dishes once the pots are 'leather hard' and animals and other shapes are also sculpted on at the leather hard stage.

Glazes and decorating colours

All my pots are glazed before the pot is fired at all. This is known as "raw glazing". Raw glazing has the advantage of economy of firings but the disadvantage that the pots are much more vulnerable at the glazing stage and there are some problems that only show up in the firing, however it's the way I've always worked, and wouldn't want to do it any other way.

I add colour using a variety of techniques and materials.

All of these methods not only have their own range of colours but are very different in consistency and therefore method of application and I tend to mix and match throughout the range of pots that I make.

Lustres

Lustres are added as an optional extra stage. I use a wide range of precious metal lustres and coloured lustres. The lustre, comes in a viscous liquid which is painted onto the fired pot. The pot is then fired again to about 780deg C and the liquid is burned off, leaving a very thin layer of metal or colour behind. This is, as children like to put it, "actual gold"! (or platinum, copper, etc). It's expensive to buy so I usually use it sparingly, but you will find the occasional animal painted in solid metal lustre.

Firing

My kiln is not very big, about 10.5 cu.ft volume, but an amazing number of pots fit in. I fire by bottled gas and using a reduction firing. You'll see the result of this as speckles in the glaze and it also alters the actual colours of the glazes or decorating colours. The pots are fired to either 1260deg C or 1300deg C so are well vitrified and therefore normally impervious to water even when unglazed.

I fire to two different temperatures for different glazes and within those two, a variety of types of pot and glazes is needed to make best use of the heat and colour variation within the kiln, so I tend to make pots for a few months and then have a series of firings over the course of several weeks, culminating in a small number of lustre firings. This tends to happen every four to six months, so that new pots are available in batches two or three times a year.

The colour of the glaze can be affected by what sort of pots it's next to, what decoration they have on them, how much headroom there is above the pots and many other factors, many of which are outside sensible degrees of control, but (barring really ugly unforeseens) this is what I love about it.

Every pot is unique. The underglaze colours, slips, glazes and decorating colours which were all subject to the variables of their consistency and how much was on the brush or sponge when applied to the pot now have the final magic wand waved over them.

I still find unpacking every kiln load exciting.