Saturday, 10 September 2011

What could be more challenging than ceramics???

I'm sitting here this afternoon, contemplating which is more difficult...getting a pleasing glaze result from the kiln, or photographing my pots! Of all the things I have ever tried to photograph, ceramics come top of the list as the most awkward and frustrating. I won't go into the boring technical ins and outs but anyone who has tried, will know that achieving the ideal lighting conditions, color balance, focal depth, background etc. is much more challenging when it comes to photographing pottery. Many glazes, being semi-translucent and reflective, tend to look very different depending on the intensity, direction and quality of the light.

In the past, I've always taken pictures of my pots in natural light, but the last few times, the weather has been driving me crazy, with lots of passing clouds making the sun go in and out constantly. Sometimes, it's impossible to get the correct exposure and colour balance..for example, the blue pots below are actually more of a light lavender-purple, but I simply couldn't get the exact hue, even after tweaking the images in Photoshop. I know I'm probably being too much of a perfectionist, but there seems little point showing people your pots online, if the glaze colours don't reflect reality! In short, I've realised I need a proper studio set up with controlled lighting to do the job properly. Time to raid the penny jar again..

Well, I took these shots this morning, having pulled another load of pots from my electric kiln. I do like these pieces and glaze finish is pretty good, but I'm still not entirely satisfied with this blue-lavender doesn't matter how thickly I put it on, I'm still not getting enough of the mauve/lavender speckling, which I think adds more interest to the surface. I looked again at the original test piece today and noticed that the clay is a bit darker than the clay used in these pots..maybe I accidentally used a reclaimed, mixed body which had some red clay in there, and hence more iron oxide.
Satin-matt mauve glaze:

Potash feldspar 45
Dolomite 22
Quartz 16
Zirconium silicate 11
China clay 6
+ Cobalt oxide 2

( Source: The Glaze Book by Stephen Murfitt )

I'm quite pleased with the matt ochre ash glazes, which came out pretty much as expected, although with a slightly rougher texture than before, as this time the body is a white stoneware-raku mix (50/50) body which is very coarse. These pieces also had some underglaze decoration in the form of a red clay slip with 5% red iron oxide added to it. You can just see the darker stripes and dots showing through on the beer mug photo. I imagine this very earthy, rustic finish won't be to everyone's taste, but I really like it. I think the variegated surface gives the pots a rather ancient look too, as if they've been buried in the ground for hundreds of years..

What do you think? I'm always interested to hear people's reactions to my work, so please feel free to leave a comment!

Carved vessels with satin-matt mauve glaze. Fired to cone 8/9

Beer mug. Matt ochre ash glaze with slip decoration.

Tea bowl. Matt ochre ash glaze with slip decoration

Tea bowl. Matt ochre ash glaze with slip decoration

Never give up..the best is yet to come!

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