Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The ups and down of the potter's life

Today I was feeling bright-eyed and optimistic as I opened the kiln. Most of the glazes I'd used at least once before and I thought I'd learned the lessons from previous trials and errors..

But, as is so often the way, some pieces came out looking great, some were indifferent and one or two were a bit of a disaster. Murphy's law dictated that the carved piece I placed in the saggar, which I wanted to come out best, was one of the slight disasters! I knew that my satin-matt, orange glaze could be a bit runny, probably because heavy reduction in the saggar was causing the metal oxides in the glaze to flux more than normal. But I really didn't expect the glaze to run right off the bottom of the pot and weld the wadding to the base! Fortunately, I could remove it from the kiln shelf, so it might be rescued with some judicious use of the Dremel grinding tool. The other minor defect was some pinholing on a couple of pieces, which I suspect may be due to the thicker clay walls releasing more gases during the firing..I'm not sure how I can get round that problem, apart from applying the glaze more thinly, which may (I say, may, I don't really you?) allow gases to escape and any bubbles to heal over more easily. I have a feeling that I may have over-fired everything a little too, as I soaked the kiln for almost an extra half an hour. That was because cone 8 didn't seem to be fully over, and I was concerned that the glazes may not have fully matured..ah, hindsight is a wonderful thing..if only..

Having said all that, I was really delighted with the glaze finish on several pieces..the orange satin-matt glaze looks like being a real winner, I just need to understand how best to apply it. The upside of the glaze running alot was that it created some beautiful rust-coloured "waterfalls", pouring over and off the carved ledges. I was also very happy with the small jug, shown below, with an oak-ash ochre matt glaze on the has a different, slightly glossier ash glaze applied to the inside, which has also produced a nice orange blush in parts.

Well, at the end of the day, it was an interesting firing and I feel I learned a few more things. And that's what ceramics is all about; taking small steps each time, learning from the mishaps and mistakes, and gradually moving forward. Making pottery certainly teaches you about patience and stoicism..but, despite the downs, one should never give up..the best is yet to come!

Glaze run-off under base of pot below

Carved vessel with satin-matt glaze. Reduction fired.

Carved vessel. Approx 2.5 inches tall.

Jug with matt ash glaze, approx. 5 inches tall.

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