Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Since I started making pottery, I have always been curious about how potters feel about sharing their formulas. Some potters share freely and most generously, others a bit begrudgingly so and certainly others not at all. I have always been fairly generous with glaze and clay recipes, though there are always some I hold back. Over the years, I have developed 15 to 20 glazes that I consider my own from start to finish. They didn’t originate from known formulas or are so far removed from the origin, that I consider them originals. These are the formulas I am most “secretive” with, though I have probably shared more than half of these with friends or have traded them away for other interesting glazes.

A few years back there was this novice potter who hounded me on a regular basis to share with her a glaze and firing technique I was using. The glaze was a really pretty candy apple red glaze that I was actually fine tuning and trying to figure out how best to use it. In time, I relented in my very own and peculiar way. I asked her if she would like me to throw the pots, decorate them, bisque and glaze them and then call her to come over and sign them, “Okay” she said. I was dumb-founded.

Not too long ago, I was working in a friend’s studio. I had brought a handful of porcelain teabowls and some stoneware covered jars and a few teapots. Bringing these, I sort of wrote them off as I would be using her glazes, though I brought my best black glaze, BBV3-92, which has a tendency to oilspot over some glazes. Before I started glazing, she told me she was going to fire for an almost entirely red glazes kiln. I figured in for a penny, in for a pound and decided I would glaze in the one of the red glazes and my black glaze. During the middle of the firing, she was called into work and asks if I can finish firing the kiln. “No problem” says I and I proceed to reduce the bejezzus out of the 80cft down draft.

I show up a week or so later and I see my pots on the table and they came out rather nice. I asked her for the “red” formula and she just smirked, went over to her notes, wrote down the formula and then, picking up a large black magic marker, redacted the materials, leaving only the percentages. I asked her if she worked for the CIA and another smirk, I take the formula to the window and there you can see the entire formula, much to her chagrin. In return, she asked for my black glaze formula, again, “No problem”. I mailed it to her the next day, properly redacted; sure she would not be able to read the materials, just the percentages. Later on, way later on, I sent her the formula.

Illustrated is a porcelain teabowl glazed in the Chun Red and my BBV3-93 and a closeup of the same glaze combo on a stoneware teapot.

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