PDP L6 Research and Development

While the forms for my exhibition work came relatively easy and spontaneously, choosing the surface decoration was a challenge and led to lots of glaze testing. I originally wanted brightly coloured matte glazes which would highlight the forms but I felt doing so would somehow betray where these objects had grown from, out of a curiosity for British pottery traditions and questioning the role of skill and the role of the potter in today’s society. I felt a need to create something unfamiliar that confronted these issues, rather than worrying about what would ‘look good’.

Deciding that one of the most recognisable ‘country potter’ surfaces is the ash glaze, I fired up four saggars of garden waste I had collected in the saggar kiln. I only wanted to glaze one vessel in this way but still needed to use some of the mixed wood ash from the glaze room to have enough. I had previously experimented with adding extra iron to darken a Phil Rogers fake wood ash recipe but didn’t like how streaky this became. The shinos, oxbloods and tenmoku I found recipes for in Anders Fredholm’s (HDK glaze tutor) glaze book.

On one hand I wanted the forms to have ‘functional’ glazes to link them to their pottery heritage but on the other, the shininess of these glazes, especially the dark tenmoku made them very difficult to photograph. Getting a good reduction in the glaze was a challenge too because it was hard to pack the kiln tightly and as a result they are very patchy, with the tenmokus showing a green tinge. The shino too wouldn’t behave the same as on the smaller functional vessels from last term. Spraying resulted in not enough variation of orange patches/speckles and pouring resulted in it being too thick (I should have thinned the mixture then poured again).

I also came across issues because I wanted to combine clays, thinking this would even better highlight the difference between the extruded and thrown forms. I found out I was not allowed to fire terracotta in the reduction kiln, despite having proof it would withstand the heat, so had to find oxidation glazes for my vessels pierced with terracotta extrusions. This led to time being wasted unnecessarily on firing test kilns at different temperatures when if I’d stayed to working with only one clay, I could have fired everything together.

For the process video, I struggled with the filming at first because I was so conscious of getting good shots for the camera that I couldn’t get in the flow of making and my pieces looked contrived. I organised to have someone film me instead and the making became much less self-conscious as a result. I enjoyed putting together the video itself and problem solving how to adjust the audio. Recording myself speaking for the voiceover was something I felt extremely uncomfortable doing and it took hours to speak without sounding robotic or pausing too much. I found that listening back to these recordings helped me understand the ideas behind my work with more clarity so I might do a similar exercise in preparation for the viva.

Research and Development
Glaze Research
New Glazes for Fractured Vessels
On Curation
Extruding and Throwing Combined/Adam Silverman
Gareth Mason / Mudfondler

 

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Glaze Research

20190513_124438 (626x800)While testing for suitable glazes for my sculptural vessels I came across a few exciting results, not really suitable for my pieces but interesting nonetheless. The two reduction fired glazes on the left here were supposed to be matte pink (coloured by rutile) but have instead turned pale turquoise which is not what I intended. The bottom right one however is a beautiful dry lavender colour and although I found the colour too bright and poppy to tie in with my theme of rethinking the country potter’s place in society, it could look great on sculptural pieces and reminds me of barium glazes. The dry purple effect is cause by a mixture of spodumene, talc, cobalt carb, silica and kaolin.20190513_124510 (800x327)

Since I couldn’t fire my vessels with the terracotta extrusions in the reduction kiln I tested a few oxidation glazes to try and get some subtle, satin or matte results that might echo the subtle ash glazes of Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie. Trying to multitask and confusing my glazes, I ended up firing these above to 1280C instead of 1220C so that rather than matte pinks and yellows I got some unattractive and super glossy results. The high iron content of the reduction st Thomas clay may have also altered the results.

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I kept getting glazes designed to be matte or satin coming out super glossy which would detract from the forms themselves and hide the traces and marks in the clay. The satin gloss blue (top right, above) surprised me with its depth and intensity. It’s such a uniform, bold, unsubtle shade of blue, reminding me of children’s toys and lego blocks, I struggle to think of it looking great on any piece of ceramics. One of my favourites above is the shino on top of tenmoku (second from left at a bottom row) which has a metallic lichen-like black smudging over the dark brown surface and shimmers without being overly reflective.

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Surprisingly I thought the glazes turned out much more effective on top of high fired terracotta – the shiny pink glaze shows speckling of tiny metallic crystals and the blues have much more depth and variation where they break to dark on the edges.

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The pieces that didn’t make it to the exhibition

 

Blog Map of Research and Development Progress

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1. September 2018 (RESEARCH) L6 Characteristics of Practice
I begin early on in Term 1 defining some of the concrete pillars of my practice. I want to make vessels for one. A vessel is the original abstract form and its familiarity means I can imbue it with metaphors and layers of meaning while still being accessible to viewers. I also identify traces and memory of place as significant to my practice. I think I want to make functional, wheel-thrown forms decorated in ash glazes, utilising weeds and plant waste in Cardiff. In the months afterwards I will hone in on these ideas, realising it is the capability of clay to hold traces and memory that I am particularly interested in as well as the time of making.

2. October 2018 (RESEARCH) Sensory Geographer, Kinetic Poet
A month later I begin to understand more why making vessels is important to me. While my work so far has defied boundaries of fine art, craft and design, it becomes important to me to root my practice in this tradition of pottery since I want to especially feel connected to the tradition of clay in the UK, reaching back to Leach and Hamada who had such an influence on the development of ceramics in this country. While I admire the work of potters working in the country pottery tradition – Leach and his disciples including Batterham and Pleydell-Bouverie and contemporary potters like Jack Welbourne and Charlie Collier who have adopted these values, I don’t feel satisfied making functional work in this way. I find Leach’s potter’s book dictatorial and I connect with De Waal’s description of the passive-aggressively humble pot. I feel pots made with such a nostalgic aura can lack a sense of humour and so I want to rebel against this paradigm of ceramic virtue. A quote by Alison Britton about it being necessary to go beyond technical skill to make work relevant to today’s world strikes me as pertinent.

3. November 2018 (PROCESS) Gas Firing Gallery
Feeling a bit lost, I decide that in order to understand clearly how I feel about traditional pots I first need to embrace them and become familiar with the processes involved. I adopt the stance of ‘know thine enemy’. Skill is important to me still because it teaches things that I think are good such as patience and commitment, remedies to our culture of speed where sloppy craft is prevalent. Over this first term I focus on improving my throwing skills so I am confident to take bolder risks as well as learning how to fire the reduction kiln and developing a range of reduction glazes based on traditional shinos and ash glazes. I decide not to focus solely on ash since it is difficult to get it in enough quantity and results vary dramatically depending on the type of wood in the mix.

4. Dec 2018 (RESEARCH) – PDP L6 Term 1 The Gesamtkunstwerk Bowl
Having written the main body of my dissertation at this point I have much more knowledge about the relationship between ceramics and time and its importance to my making (my thesis is titled ‘re-defining the experience of time in contemporary ceramics’). I am no longer confined to the indeterminate idea of ‘slow art’ and creating a relationship between an object and viewer which draws attention to the present moment. I frame my thesis argument through examining works by three contemporary artists in relation to time – Phoebe Cummings and her raw clay installations anticipating collapse in a future time, Keith Harrison’s performative firings demonstrating transformation in the present and causing temporal anxiety and Alexander Engelfriet’s practice exploring the preservation of traces made in the past. As a result I feel liberated to move away from the functional vessels of the bowl project and explore the layering of time and traces in my vessels in a different way – through building up and breaking down the vessel in a repetitive, continuous duration through time, working in iterative response to past moments.

5. Jan 2019 (RESEARCH) Statement of Intent for Exhibition Module 
I decide to return to a process I have used in the past, of hand-building with thrown forms to juxtapose two modes of time. I like how thrown forms capture the tension, speed and movement in the process of throwing but I also enjoy the breaking of this tension and creating new rhythms by slicing the vessels and sticking them back together in a new configuration. This process would not be possible without the skills I developed in the previous months in order to control and manipulate the clay. My vessels still feel too safe and I begin to look to artist/stuntmen like Peter Voulkos for inspiration. I begin to consider more the time of actions and making as a dance of choreographed or improvised movements.

6. Jan 2019 (RESEARCH) Gareth Mason / Mudfondler
In the same vein as Voulkos is contemporary potter Gareth Mason who I first heard of at the 2015 ICF where he was demonstrating. I found Mason’s method of working resonated with me since he sometimes works on a single piece for years, firing, re-firing, breaking apart, sticking together and re-firing pieces until he arrives at a piece which can be considered completed. Mason works especially with subverting our ideas of beauty, working in particular with eastern celadons, copper reds and traditional korean, chinese and japanese vase forms, smearing sections of the delicately thrown porcelain vessels in darker, earthier clays which fracture and bubble. He is interested in a sensous beauty rather than the refined, oculacentric beauty of the past. He creates sculptures which make the traditional korean moon jars resemble the dull relationship of Edgar and Catherine while his own are the passionate, destructive and toxic relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, chained to nature and the dangers of the wild.

7. Jan 2019 (PROCESS) Building Bigger
I struggle with the tricky process of building with and altering thrown forms. I learn to work on pieces slowly over days, covering the pots in bin bags to balance out the dryness of the different sections. I experiment intuitively and spontaneously with mark-making, developing a vocabulary of marks which include slicing, squeezing, patching, punching, drawing on and cutting sections out of the clay.

8. Feb 2019 (PROCESS) Extruding and Throwing Combined/Adam Silverman
Following on from John Clarkson’s lectures on the bases of pots being ceramic ‘parergons’ and how the grounded nature of pots makes then feel safe and humble, I begin experimenting with extrusions alongside thrown forms. I begin intending to make extruded legs and frames for the thrown sculptures as plinths to elevate the status of the humble vessel but later use the extruded sections stuck on or pierced into the thrown pots. In retrospect, this is something I would like to push further in the future since I still feel I was too precious with my pieces. They took time to make and the pressure of an upcoming show meant I felt each one had to succeed so I didn’t quite push them to the edge of destruction. Later I returned to making extruded legs for my vessels to sit on, feeling the two vocabularies of shape (precise extrusions and fluid throwing) was too jarring.

9. March 2019 (PROCESS) New Glazes for Fractured Vessels
I realise I am a maker who prioritises form over surface. Unlike Gareth Mason, my sculptures are uniformly glazed so as to highlight the marks and traces in the clay. I struggle with deciding how to glaze my pieces before realising it makes the most sense to draw from my previous reduction firing knowledge and glaze the work in shinos, tenmokus and ash glazes which reference back to the standard ware at the Leach Pottery in St Ives. The familiar, domestic glazes are unexpected on such unorthodox and sculptural forms.

10. March 2019 (PROCESS) Corridor Crit / External Examiner
I can begin to identify the small details that make one of my vessels work and start imposing restrictions on my making after so much freedom previously. Minimising choice can be liberating.

Corridor Crit / External Examiner

Last Thursday, after a slightly panicky start to the day when I discovered yet more of my test glazes had turned out unsuccessful, things began to feel better towards the afternoon  as I realised I need to focus on making the best of what I already have. I realised I haven’t been asking myself concrete questions about what I want the sculptures to look like and as a result hadn’t committed to a choice of decoration.

Over the lunch time I took part in a corridor crit which was positive and constructive. Displaying my work on three plinths of different heights which I’d found around the school, I realised the plinths would not need to be as high as I’d predicted for the work to be at eye level because much of it is fairly tall. Themes which seemed to dominate the composition were growth, architecture, distortion, movement, a dialogue between function and non-function, order/disorder and collapse. I found it interesting how the others commented on the uniting feature of the horizontal throwing lines on all the pieces and how this made an interesting contrast with the vertical clay particle orientation in the legs. They also pointed out a harmony between colours, which was positive since I was worried the vessels were too disparate. In regard to curating the show in a wider sense it was suggested my work may be interesting beside Andrea’s functional thrown tableware, the continuity of the vessel and process of throwing raising  questions surrounding the role and value of craft and skill in our contemporary society of mass production.

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Set up of work in progress for corridor crit

We realised too that it may be more practical to place my sculptures on clusters of plinths rather than individual ones to avoid the danger of knocking them over. It might be interesting to look into exhibition safety guidelines to figure out the distance required between each individual plinth if I choose a set up like the one in the exhibition plan. 

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Bisque vessels ready to be glazed

Talking through my work with our external examiner Bonnie Kemske was also hugely valuable to me because I was forced to explain my ideas to someone who knew nothing of my work. Initially I thought I wanted to create a range of bright, matte glazes for the vessels but realised this was because I was following a pre-determined idea of what I expect the forms to look like. Perhaps the proliferation of ‘insta-porn’ pots has something to do with this – bright, beautiful, photogenic objects that look modern and fresh. It’s not that I don’t want to create modern, fresh, beautiful and photogenic vessels, but that the concept and the experience of viewing them in reality is more important to me than whether they look good online.

I realised when explaining the objects to her that what I needed to do was go with my original idea of using my pre-existing ash, shino, tenmoku and red oxblood reduction glazes which will place them very much in the context of Leach and British country pottery, but with the unexpected twist that the forms are sculptural. I hope this use of the familiar and domestic in a sculptural high art white plinth context will create an uncanny experience. In regard to the forms of the objects, again I solidified my conviction that the ones with defined rims and bases work better since they behave as a start and finishing point for our line of vision, an empty space on which the eye can rest. I have started to lay down rules for myself when making now so I apply these design considerations.

Below: Vessels in progress

 

 

New Glazes for Fractured Vessels

 

After my previous blog post about the kinds of surfaces I want on my sculptural vessels I created a series of glaze tests. Realising that I wouldn’t be able to fire my terracotta vessels or those with terracotta extrusions in the reduction kiln because of the risk of the clay melting or becoming too brittle, I decided to test some in the oxidation test kilns too. Above are my results from the gas kiln which all give a bright but slightly earthy dry surface that I thought would be less distracting than the shiny surfaces of my previous vessels.

The oxidation glazes (above) turned out a lot more glossy and gaudy than I expected. I’ve turned instead this week to the dry glazes book for simple recipes, quick to mix because of a small number of ingredients. Yixia suggested I use ordinary stoneware glazes but fire them to a lower temperature so they don’t mature completely and remain dry and pastel coloured like she has been doing. It was interesting speaking to Hannah too who has been using ferric oxide raku glazing. For her the firing process is the most important part and she decides on her forms based on how to show these firing effects best. For myself it’s the other way around, starting with form and thinking which surface will work best afterwards. I think most makers prioritise either the form or the surface.

The large glazed vessel forms shown here were all fired in the large red gas kiln, the first time I’ve fired work in this kiln since starting university. While the top half reached 1280C, unfortunately the cone at the bottom looks to have only reached about 1220/1240C. Perhaps as a result of this, on the largest of my thrown and altered constructions the glaze flakes off and hasn’t fused to the clay body. The glaze on the sculpture above is the same speckled blue-green that you can see on the first test piece at the top of the page, but because of the nature of the firing has instead become a very fluid dinosaur green, too variegated in shades to work well with the complex forms. It’s a set-back as it was one of my favourite shapes and as I don’t have time for in-depth glaze refining in these last few weeks, I’m going to abandon this glaze completely for the time being.

The photos above show two pieces almost completed and with surfaces I would be happy to show in my degree show. The sculptural jar was made in the spirit of some of the vessels I saw in Sandy Brown’s studio – bottomless because there is no concern with function here. Like her vessels which were often just canvases, not designed to hold anything except for surface decoration. I like to think of mine as sketches of pots in three-dimension. They look like pots and reference traditional vessel forms but are completely impractical and stitched together, optical illusions that subvert our expectation. The mustard yellow glaze works very well and gives a buttery texture that’s not too shiny to distract from the form. Iron oxide in the glaze gives it this colour but I wonder if I substituted that for cobalt, rutile or manganese, could I create similarly textured glazes in different colours?

Reduction Results: Rethinking Surface

This morning, after nightmares of flooded glazes, collapsed shelves and shattered kiln elements, I opened the gas kiln to reveal the first batch of my exhibition module work that’s made it through to be glazed. I have mixed feelings about the results but seeing the finished coloured vessels is a huge aid in understanding how I want them to look, even if I haven’t quite reached the point where I’m happy yet. The vessel above has been sprayed with three layers of shino over three of tenmoku. Although oxidising atmospheres are necessary for oil-spot glazes to form in iron rich glazes, by layering these two glazes I found I could recreate a very similar effect. More different to my original tests however is the pink vessel (see below) which I expected to be a slate-like blue from a thin oxblood over a shino. I think perhaps the copper oxide didn’t reduce so much in my test since it was so small. Putting such a feminine, glossy, vibrant pink glaze on an almost violently disfigured, masculine form is a striking juxtaposition. I originally did think of juxtaposing the Peter Voulkos style slashed and punched vessels with delicate, child-like pastel colours to create an unexpected clash. I then chose instead, based on my prior research into reduction glazes to use more traditional, recognisable japanese style tenmokus, shinos and ash glazes so that there was some link to the familiar ‘humble’ functional vessels like the ones we saw at the Leach pottery and that you find in so many studio ceramic collections. I hoped deconstructing these vessels and patching them up would be a metaphor for my own deconstructing and redefining what it means to be a potter and to be part of this long tradition.

The spherical vessel form above is so far, for me, the most aesthetic of all the vessels I’ve made. Perhaps something about the three sections conforms to the golden ratio or perhaps it is simply something to do with the notion of perfect roundness which I’ve often mused about on this blog. Either way, my next stage is to make more of these round forms, some narrower, some larger. The construction is very simple – two bowls stuck together with a thrown and spliced collar. Cutting and sticking back together the pieces as much as possible is also something I must do. The brown vessel below shows what happens when I keep the manipulation to a minimum – there is nowhere for the glaze to catch and pool or break on the edge to a thin wash. The top vessel here however has a beautiful quality of lines which reminds me of the patchwork tarmac in the pavements of Cardiff that I walk on my way to university and back each day. Scars and layers speak of the passing of time.

Since I usually pour or dip glazes, I found it difficult to know how many layers of glaze to spray. Six layers is perhaps not enough although I do like the even coverage achieved with the spray gun. Also unpredictable though is the way the glazes will behave in the gas kiln, even if they’ve been tested many times before. The shino on the jar below was poured on but unlike the orange metallic sparkles like on my previous pieces, this one only turned a crackled off white. These deformed jars are another shape I want to play more with and that will be quick to mass-produce. Since time is becoming of the essence and I’m struggling to control how the glazes look, I plan to mix up six or so oxidation glazes with matte or satin surfaces to layer and test next week. These firings will give me more control of colour and also a quicker turnaround. I’m drawn towards the ridiculousness and humour of these bulky, awkward vessels decorated in soft pinks or baby blues. I like the sleekness and oily voluptuousness of the fake oil spot vessel too though. Hopefully by the end of this week I will have more clarity about the surfaces qualities I want and what they should communicate.

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Copper Red and Post-Human Pots

I’ve come to a point this week where I need to start bringing some of my forms through to completion in order to know what glazes I should develop and which clay works best. I want to focus on traditional reduction glazes for now. As well as being glazes with depth, richness and variability, they offer a familiar base from which to draw narratives and play on tradition. I am eager to see the effect a Leach style tenmoku or a Phil Rogers ash glaze would have on a thrown and distorted/reconfigured vessel. Last week I tested a couple of new glazes from Swedish potter Anders Fredholm’s glaze book. The shino was almost identical to the one I have been using up to now except that it had a slight green tinge (perhaps due to containing lots of Potash Feldspar which the other didn’t have). The oxblood was very successful however, unlike the Derek Emms reduction red I’ve tried using before. The recipes are almost identical except that Anders replaces flint with quartz as a source of silica, uses a standard frit instead of a high alkaline one and substitutes copper carbonate for half the quantity of copper oxide (because it’s a stronger colourant). I like the idea of using this red on the inside of some of my vessels, a metaphor for the inside of the body and a way to highlight the cracks and lines in the form.

I’m starting too to think critically about the place of pots in the modern world, in particular in relation to words like ‘post-human’ and ‘transhuman’. We can think of many of us in the today’s world as being almost bionic people in some sense. We wear contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, braces to strengthen our teeth, have birth control implants and titanium prosthetics, not to mention having our phones at our fingertips as direct and immediate extensions of our knowledge and communication. We extend into our environment just as the environment and materials in it extend into our body. The pot is easily thought of as a metaphor for the body – it has a belly, neck, foot, lip, skin and takes up a volume of space. How far can I push the familiar pot/vessel before it is no longer recognisable as one? One defining feature of functional pots seems to be that they have a flat base, designed to sit stably on a flat surface. After Jon’s lecture about parergons  I’ve began playing with ways the underside of the vessel can be rethought, for example balancing on supports (above). Balancing the forms this way creates a tension and play of positive/negative space. I want to play more with how gravity can change the form, making plinth-like structures from extruded sections then squeezing vessels over the top. What would my bionic pot look like, something along the lines of the aliens from War of the Worlds?

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Gareth Mason / Mudfondler

Of all the contemporary artists whose vessels follow the principle of form follows function, Gareth Mason’s hold a special place in my heart. His 2015 demonstration at Aberystwyth’s biennial International Ceramics Festival was the turning point that led me to decide to pursue ceramics at university. Under the stage name ‘mudfondler’ he regularly updates his avid Instagram followers with close up details of his pots’ varied surfaces, videos of the bold and labour intensive making process and, er, seemingly random photos of polished apples. While the photos of his amorphous, tension charged vessels are undoubtedly stunning, interestingly the poetic, stream of consciousness style of his writing which accompanies these images shows there is a lot more here than meets the eye.

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Gareth Mason ‘Tricolour’ 2006-2013

In terms of thinking about time in making, Mason’s work is a perfect illustration of the layering of different durations. Viewing his work on display in the online catalogue for the Jason Jaques gallery, it becomes clear that many of the pieces have been created over a period of about five or six years during which his vessels are made, remade, broken and remade again, sometimes fired multiple times. Working as a production potter making terracotta garden ware at Franham Pottery for three years, he learnt the tacit knowledge required for his current practice. He also spent a while focused on traditional functional ware inspired by Leach and eastern traditions, the chuns and copper red glazes of which can still be seen in his work now.

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Gareth Mason ‘Mammon, Tarnished’ 2010

He states that his pieces stem from a rejection of the pretty but that he continues to value skill. It is after all, the base from which he works up. Interestingly he writes about how not every thrown form he makes goes the right way and he has had experience of vessels collapsing in public demonstrations (I’ve read this happened to Peter Voulkos at times too). I admire the way he pushes the porcelain to its very limits while throwing in his videos. It shudders and warps dangerously but it is this sense of vitality in the material being pushed so far that gives his work so much life. I hope I can be as courageous in my own throwing.

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Gareth Mason ‘Insulator Flask’ 2010-2014

Mason’s vessels sometimes incorporate lots of different clays and found objects. In a recent firing he used a broken break pad which melted, eating away at the pot. Inspired by Henry Hammond’s pottery philosophy that “it’s the rim and foot that are the main thing. The middle will take care of itself”, he takes into careful consideration how the vessels leave the ground. With my own current experimental vessels, I need to start carefully considering the same thing. I’ve been thinking recently about the masculine nature of the work of ceramic artists like Voulkos and Gareth Mason. The vessels are large scale, thrown with huge quantities of clay that are difficult to control and require brute strength. There is a violence to the mark-making too, of the piercing and scratching in defacing the surface.

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My own slab built vessel

I hadn’t thought of my pots in terms of masculine or feminine before until Yixia pointed out today that a slab construction I was working on looked very masculine with it’s rectangular building blocks. Without the thrown forms which act as a base, I struggled with this construction. There were no marks or textures to respond to and the form lacks a visible tension.

Artists working with deconstruction of Vessel: Glenn Barkley, Kathy Butterly, Nicole Cherubini, Babak Golkar, the Haas Brothers, King Houndekpinkou, Takuro Kuwata, Anne Marie Laureys, Gareth Mason, Ron Nagle, Gustavo Pérez, Ken Price, Brian Rochefort, Sterling Ruby, Arlene Shechet, Peter Voulkos, Jesse Wine and Betty Woodman

Gareth Mason photos from: http://www.jasonjacques.com/contemporary/gareth-mason

L6 Term 1 Technical Project: Reduction Glazes

Images and Key in the link:
Technical Project PDF

I began this term with the intention of developing a series of ash glazes with the hope of getting similarly expressive effects to those in the wood kiln at HDK. The project would also link in with my growing interest in ‘non-spaces’ through using plants from hedgerows and Cardiff’s invisible edgelands. Looking at the ash glazes of Bernard Leach and Katherine Pleydell Bouverie, I admired the quiet, subtle colours and how they work in a calming way on the viewer. Over the summer I collected together a few different ashes – from our log burning fireplace at home as well as from bracken and rushes I had sourced in the countryside in North Wales. I dry sieved these ashes without washing as I had read in the Phil Rogers glaze book that it wasn’t necessary to wash ashes.

Using the simple 60:40 ash to feldspar ratio recommended by Phil Rogers, I experimented with different feldspars, discovering that Potash crazed the most. I also discovered that increasing the proportion of China Clay made the glaze more matte (Test No1.1). Unfortunately the glaze application on the test tiles is patchy since the tiny amounts of ash I had to work with meant the mixtures ended up containing too much water. I left them to evaporate overnight but the small amount of ash meant I couldn’t get a very thick coverage. A second series of line blends (Test No1.2) was made to see what happened when I added increasing amounts of Potash Feldspar to different ashes. Ideally I would have added increasing amounts of ash instead since these results are too similar. The problems I had with obtaining enough ash led me to work with different glazes instead. All my ash tests were fired in reduction although I did test them in Oxidation too but they were colourless.

I liked one of my ash glaze tests very much because of its matte quality, strong iron speckling and mint green colour (Ash glaze A6 on the PDF) so as result decided to experiment with creating glazes that had a similar quality of subtlety and softness. I came across a glaze I had adapted from Jeremy Jernegan’s dry glaze handbook last year. The original glaze had been a matte white reduction glaze with Potash feldspar being the main ingredient. I had adapted the feldspars (as I did with the ash glazes) and discovered that adding Nepheline Syenite instead created a shiner, more viscous glaze (probably because it is higher in alumina than Potash). As I hoped to use these glazes on functional jars and bowls I didn’t want them to be too matte and flaky.

The original glaze is white however with Nepheline Syenite it becomes blue-white with patches of pink flushing depending on the reduction and application. I wanted a series of glazes with a similar satin quality but in different colours so added metal colourants to the base recipe in proportions as shown in the PDF (Test No2.1) and then, deciding these were too dark, created a Triaxial Blend with the Grey-blue, Turquoise and the lighter base glaze. I added 4 brushed on layers to each of the 16 tiles but unfortunately the results are a lot drier than I expected, not really suitable for functional vessels. The darkness of the glazes is probably a result of using Reduction St Thomas which is a darker clay body than the usual white St Thomas, which I chose because of the iron spotting it encourages. The dryness of the glazes in this test could be a result of them being on the lower level of the gas kiln where they perhaps didn’t quite all reach vitrification temperature.

Having never done a glaze technical before I felt a bit lost as to where to begin and how to alter glazes to get the results I wanted. Although the idea of using natural materials seemed attractive as it fitted with my philosophies of material vitality, finding the materials is such a dedication that it didn’t seem to be practical with the large quantities of glaze I needed for my functional vessels.  This project has been valuable to explore how colourants can impact glazes though and made me confident using the reduction kiln which I used for the first time this term.

 

Shino Glazes

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One of the glazes that I’ve been firing in the gas kiln over the past couple of months seems to yield very different results each time it’s fired. Depending on the application, the thickness, the amount of reduction and placement in the kiln, the shino glaze (recipe here) I have sometimes turns out a bubbling bright orange, a thick opaque white, a smooth fiery red or a heavily crazed salmon pink (as it did in the wood kiln). Some beautiful results with it came on a mug from a recent reduction where the glaze was speckled with lustre-like iron spots on a shiny cream and orange glaze.

I’m interested to learn more about what gives a Shino its distinctive qualities. Researching in the library I discovered that Shino glazes probably originated in the Mino area of Japan around AD 1573-1615 and were named in honour of the shogun at the time, Shogun Shino Soshin. While Chinese ceramic aesthetics at the time were moving towards industrial perfection, shinos with their imperfections, strength of character and individuality were developed under the influence of the Japanese tea masters who had a very different ideal visual aesthetics. Historians suggest that shinos developed from Japan’s attempt to make a white ceramic to rival the pottery made in China and Korea at the time. Prior to this, Japanese ceramics had been glazed with a mixture of earthy ash and iron glazes.

Shinos can be loosely divided into three main categories – traditional, carbon trap and high alumina. Traditional shinos are around 60-80% feldspar and 20-40% clay. Since they are high in feldspar and clay they contain large quantities of alumina and silica whose natural impurities cause texture and imperfections in the glaze, part of their charm. Australian shino recipes developed from Japan adjusted the traditional recipes to contain Nephelyine Syenite (70-80%). The more nepheline syenite, the shinier the glaze .

Carbon Trap shino’s were developed by Virginia Wirt in America in the 1970s and are characterised by an addition of 3-17% soda ash to the recipe. The soluble soda ash leaves deposits of ash on the surface of the pot as the glaze evaporates which can result in grey or black flashes on the surface. With 8.1% soda ash my shino from HDK could be classified as a carbon trap shino recipe. The soda should be dissolved in hot water before adding the other glaze ingredients as I found out when the glaze started forming hard lumps and sticking to the bottom of the mixing bowl when I made it. Another chemical in the recipe is spodumene, a high lithium feldspar which could have been added to the recipe to help thermal shock resistance. I’ve read that a better carbon trap can be achieved if the work is dried for longer and also that putting lids on pots after glazing will encourage the puling of soda ash to the outer surface of the jar.

Ian Currie in his book ‘Stoneware glazes’ divides shino into three different subsections depending on the surface they are on: Firstly, ‘normal’ shinos which are a thick crackle white where applied thickly and a ‘fire colour’ where thin. Secondly he talks about gray shinos which are shinos over a traditional iron bearing slip. Gosu slip (also known as mouse gray) is a traditional slip coloured with iron and cobalt pigment. The third he calls marbled shino which is shino applied to marbled dark and light clay. The red/orange colour from shinos depends on the iron oxide being activated in the reduction firing. While most shinos don’t contain iron oxide in the recipe, iron can be introduced in a number of ways – either from the clay body itself, clay in the glaze recipe or an underlying slip. It’s interesting to note that the heavy iron spotting in my shino might be a result of using high iron reduction st Thomas clay. The high iron content is visible when the pots are bisque fired and turn a salmon pink.

Unfortunately the small gas kiln at CSAD is temporarily broken after last Friday’s firing. I hope to experiment further with shino recipes in the new year though, especially layering them over slips. I’ve read it’s possible to colour shinos effectively too with stains and oxides.