Monday, July 12, 2010


I am in the midst of a terra cotta cycle right now which entails throwing, tooling, bisquing and glazing. A standard cycle usually lasts about 3 weeks. I am also in the midst of making up some glaze tests for some of the terra cotta pieces. In the past, I would have taken a glaze I had used previously and just made up 6000gr. of glaze in a in for a penny in for a pound style impetuousness. I have learned my lesson. In other words, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!”.

To illustrate my early folly, back in the very early 90’s, I happened on a copper red glaze formula. In the next firing, I put several pods in the kiln at varying places. The pods came out incredible, the best copper red I had seen, let alone ever made up. I was sold and made up 10,000 grams of glaze and fired a whole Alpine gas kiln full of porcelain. As I open the kiln, I learned a hard won lesson, never put all of your eggs in one basket. I had nearly a hundred pieces of what everyone was jokingly calling liver ware. The best learned lessons are ones that you have to go through.

I have moved some many times now that I am constantly surprised at the variables that will alter a glaze. In our first big move from Cleveland to NH, as soon as my studio was up and running, I set about throwing terra cotta and making up a few glazes for cone 04. None worked. The variables are many, but one of the main culprits was the use of well water. In my moves I have found how water high in iron, calcium, copper, etc. can alter the slips and glazes and change them beyond recognition.

Now days, I am a bit slower to leap before I look. Staying in the Northeast, I can at least control my clay and glaze materials, but the water source is a big variable. We live now, where we use well water that is both iron and calcium rich. I am trying to alter the glaze accordingly and will test before I go and glaze a kiln load of pots in glazes that I haven’t used since we moved here to Little Falls.

I know this just sounds like common sense, but there is nothing common about it. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way and I am determined not to repeat mistakes that I have made before. More pods, more glaze tests, more test bowls, each a valuable step in proofing glazes that have worked in the past and will hopefully work tomorrow.

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