Thursday, 1 December 2016

Latest results from the electric kiln

Well, all too soon we're back to freezing temperatures here in the UK, which I have to say does make life in the workshop somewhat less enjoyable. I always know winter has properly arrived when my fingers go completely numb after washing my throwing tools in a bucket of water.

On the plus side, I was happy with most of the pieces that came out of last week's electric firing. The dolomite and wood ash glaze on the textured, globular vase crawled alot but I think in an attractive way, to reveal the first layer of glaze. The crawling wasn't a big surprise as two layers of different glazes were applied without bisquing on the first layer ..  and it already had a layer of textured slip and a layer of grey slip underneath those!

This time the kiln was fired to cone 8 with a half hour soak, slightly lower than normal, aiming to get more and deeper pinholing on some of the dolomite pieces. It worked to some extent on the vases, although on the globular one, the high level of metal oxides in the first layer of glaze made the final coating of dolomite glaze flux and become quite glassy in places. This variation in texture and opacity actually appeals to me, so I plan to do more of this kind of thing in future.

I don't normally make plates, partly because they take up such alot of space in the kiln, unless you're able to stack them of course. With this one, I placed the seven-inch bowl (shown below) on top of it with clam shells in between. There were also shells supporting the plate so they've left their outlines fused into the glaze on both sides. I especially like the different ways the shells have interacted with the painted slip decoration on the top side, creating something which vaguely resembles a face. I usually buy frozen clams from the fishmongers in large bags, which is probably not the cheapest way to source shells for pottery, but it does mean I get to treat myself to spaghetti ala vongole from time to time!

Plate (front)

Plate (back)

Bottle vase, height approx 6.5 inches

Vase, diameter approx. 6.5 inches

Coffee cup

Bowl, diameter approx 7 inches

Bowl (underside)

Bowl closeup

Textured vase, dolomite and wood ash glaze, height 4 inches

Coffee mug

Carved sake cup

I'll be making some of these pieces available on my website over the coming days.

Thanks for reading!


Never give up, the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Successful experiments with dolomite glazes!

I'm really growing to love the tactile, satin-smooth surfaces that dolomite glazes produce. When used over other glaze recipes and textures, they can also create interesting rivulets, pinholes and craters. Here are a few pieces from the last couple of electric firings, which on the whole were very successful:

Large vase, height 9 inches
Vase, close up
Hand-pinched dish
Hand-pinched dish interior
Hand-pinched, oval dish, approx. 5 inches long
Bowl, height approx. 3.5 inches
Bowl, height approx. 3.5 inches
One-pint tankard
Bowl, approx 7 inches wide
Bottle vase, height approx. 6 inches
Small coffee cup
Hand-built vase, height approx 7 inches
Carved sake cup
Vase, height approx. 8.5 inches

I'll be bringing these and many other pieces to the Olive and Stitch, artisan fair at the Civic Centre, Alsager, Cheshire this Saturday, 19th of November and the 17th of December:

If you happen to live locally or are passing through the area, why not drop by and say hello?

Thanks for reading!


Never give up the best is yet to come

Friday, 14 October 2016

Interesting effects from a new copper glaze

This year, I've spent alot of time playing around with new techniques for creating surface texture, and some of those experiments are starting to bear fruit. I'm also getting pleasing results from combinations of dolomite glazes with my black slip. Applying this glaze to a moderate thickness and firing to just the right temperature is critical in allowing the slip to show through while retaining the lovely, marble-like texture of the dolomite. Below are photos of pieces I recently fired in the electric kiln, all of which were taken up to around cone 9 with a half-hour soak.

The pots where the glaze has dripped a great deal were given a coating of a new glaze containing copper oxide and carbonate and this produces a very nice range of colours, from dark greys and greens to purple, pink and orange .. the tiny crystal-like orange spots which form in the glaze runs are rather special too. The textured orange-brown glaze on the first vase is also quite interesting as it was made from a mixture of ash from smokeless coal, plus some wood ash (50), china clay (60) plus 2% copper carbonate. The coal ash is highly refractory and doesn't flux to the same extent as wood ash .. also it seems to produce a similar colour whether fired in reduction or oxidation. I like the slightly sandy, coarse texture of this glaze as a contrast with the more shiny, runny copper glaze.

Large vase with copper glazes

Bowl with orange slip and copper glazes

Cup with dolomite glaze over black slip

Vase with slip plus three glazes

Textured vase with dolomite glaze

Bowl with dolomite glaze over black slip

Cup with copper glaze

Large vase with dolomite and copper glazes

Carved vase with copper glaze (height 38 cms)

Pebble vase with copper glaze over iron and black slips

Thanks for reading!

Never give up, the best is yet to come

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A new website and a good May firing

Well, I can barely believe it's May already, how quickly this year is flying by! After an extremely cold April in the UK, things have warmed up alot over the last few days with a beautiful, sunny weekend and now the air is even feeling quite hot and muggy.That usually means rain will soon follow, if not storms!

Here's a quick plug for my new website "Mark Smalley Ceramics".. the link for which you may have already spotted in the right hand column of the blog. At the moment I'm running it alongside the shop on Folksy, so there are different pots listed on each. Below is a screenshot of the entry page, and clicking here will open the site in an new window:

I hope you might like to visit some time. It's still a work in progress to some extent, so if there are any problems navigating or purchasing work, I'd really appreciate your feedback via a comment or e-mail, thank you.

Anyway, new pots have been made and the first electric firing of the month was pretty successful, especially as I finally achieved a grey finish which I like very much. It's actually my hybrid dolomite glaze over the black iron engobe I developed recently, and I'm delighted with the variegated, optical hues this produces. The smooth, satin surface texture is very pleasant to touch as well. The five pieces below were dipped in the engobe and bisc fired again before applying the glaze:

Espresso cup

Large coffee mug



Footed cup or bowl

In future, the engobe should work if applied to leather hard ware, perhaps even bone dry, I will have to experiment further..

The next two pieces, had the engobe sponged on which gives a fairly random, uneven application. I felt this worked rather nicely on the tall, lidded jar, but maybe less so on the tea bowl where more of the clay body shows through. A matter of personal taste perhaps..

Lidded jar

Large tea bowl

And finally, a piece I think is quite special .. a globular vase with black "Nezumi" slip and dolomite glaze. This piece received exactly the right glaze thickness and an ideal amount of heat work which has allowed some of the slip oxides to rise through to the surface of the glaze. Just occasionally the kiln gods grant you exactly the result you had envisioned before the firing!

Vase,  width approx 4 inches

Vase; glaze closeup

Thank you for reading!


Never give up, the best is yet to come

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

There are no shortcuts in ceramics

No one said making pottery would be easy, and from my experience, very few steps in the process are simple or straightforward. Well, that is partly what makes it so rewarding when  pleasing results finally emerge from the kiln .. a bit like getting to the pinnacle of a mountain one has tried to scale several times (not my cup of tea I hasten to add, as I can't stand heights!).

I say that because events last week tested my mettle somewhat. The electric kiln is getting on a bit now at twenty years old and having spent hours replacing all the elements a few weeks ago, it then failed on me twice within six days, both times very close to the end of a glaze firing!! The word "disappointed" doesn't quite cover it, but there was no option other than to plough on, repair the kiln, then re-pack and fire it a third time. So I was extremely relieved last Saturday that it made it to cones 9 and 10, even though it did go a little too high again. I find that with new elements, my kiln fires very quickly and even with a short soak, it's easy for the temperature to overshoot by a cone.

The pots on the top shelf tend to get a fair bit more heat work and some of the glazes were more translucent than normal. I was still happy with most of the pieces, especially this cup where the under-glaze decoration has bled slightly into the dolomite glaze:

And here are some of the other pieces from the firing:


Thanks for your visit!


Never give up, the best is yet to come