Category Archives: Pottery Techniques

Mocha Diffusion Mugs

Mocha Diffusion–Magic Landscape Pottery

Mocha Diffusion is a very special technique: a process that is almost magical to watch because of the very rapid way that landscapes are formed in front of your eyes.

Whenever visitors come to the studio here at JoVic Pottery, and we have the time to engage with them and show them a few things, a mocha demonstration is often at the top of the list.

Achieving success with the process on pottery often proves very difficult. Everything has to be just right for things to work. The pots need to be almost bone dry. At that stage they will rapidly absorb the slip applied. This slip is quite alkaline. The introduction of an acid can be shown by the addition of colorants to a tea made with boiled pipe tobacco.

Drying Mocha Greenware 1
Mocha Landscape Mugs Drying

If the pots are too dry, the slip just forms ugly blotches and runs. If the pots are too wet, the slip stay wet too long and the “trees” grow well beyond our desired needs right over the edges of the rims. It’s a Goldilocks process, so if the pots are just right, we can quickly make landscape strokes and add a little extra tea in those spots where we’d like a tree to “grow.” We really have a very short window in which to do this decoration and pure concentration is required, as well as a planned approach.

Mugs and Tumblers with Mocha Landscapes Ready to Fire
Mugs and Tumblers with Mocha Landscapes Ready to Fire

But for our visitors, we have a delightful solution consisting of a piece of plastic that we dip into the slip bucket. The slip stays wet, of course, but almost always works to demonstrate the technique. We watch the trees grow and continue this growth demonstrating not only the wonder of dendrite at work, but also explaining how continued moisture is undesirable on our actual work.

White background mocha mugs
Finished Mocha Mugs with White Slip Background

Vic Duffhues has been using this technique for many decades. Yet even with all that experience, he’s not always guaranteed the results he’d like. Now he chooses to exercise this form of decoration only in the early spring, when drying conditions are most easily controlled. The result is that we never have enough mocha pieces and there is always a demand by collectors.

They truly are gorgeous mugs and tumblers and we joke that these are the fastest growing trees in British Columbia.

Layering Glazes at JoVic Pottery

 

I once heard an elderly potter say “if I don’t like what I’m getting, I just fire it again.” That was not easy before potters began to fire pottery in electric kilns. In fact, those extra firings often resulted in pots for the yard, if not the garbage can.

Disappointing Glaze #1
Disappointing Twisted Sister # 1 at Mature Temperature

Firing pottery at Cone 6 in an electric kiln (in oxidation) wasn’t exciting in the past either. Potters often frowned upon the results, and those with gas or wood-fired kilns which make use of oxygen reduction to bring out the beauty of their glazes swore they would never switch to oxidation. You just could not get a lot of great color development unless you were using commercial glazes–or so it was believed. How could you get that great variation in glazes on your pots if you didn’t have the magic of the reduction fired atmosphere which helped add variety and depth and interest on just a single pot?

Refired Twisted Sister # 1
Delightful Result with Re-Fired Vase 1 “Twisted Sister”

But potters love to invent, whether it’s a new tool for their use in the studio, or a new glaze to put on their beloved pots. It seems much of the fun comes from experimenting. While there are still lots of potters quickly dipping their ware in buckets of glaze (and it’s admittedly much less expensive with so little waste), many of us are also using spray booths. This requires a good safe space to work with phenomenal ventilation. It also results in lots of waste of glaze chemicals. The upside, however, is that it enables a very even coating of glaze without the dreaded unintended drips marring the final surface finish.

Not that drips aren’t sometimes desired. But for a potter to be truly happy or excited, those drips need to be placed in such a way as to enhance the work. And since we’re firing in oxidation, and we’re spraying the glazes, well then why not look for ways to enhance color and texture by spraying different glazes onto a pot.

Bad Glaze Vase 2
Disappointing Vase #2 at Mature Temperature

Yes, there’s a lot of experimenting, and not just a few disappointments to contend with along the way. Each glaze causes reactions within the heat of that kiln, and some of those reactions aren’t just to the heat, but to the different glazes introduced.

Twisted Sister # 2 Beauty
Gorgeous Re-Fired Twisted Sister # 2

But back to the original statement, about firing again; it is now not just to salvage failure, we re-fire with intent. We increase the number of firings in order to bring about results we could not otherwise have with the typical bisque followed by one glaze fire. We don’t just add the exciting variety that potters formerly achieved with gas or wood-fired kilns: we have taken that to brand new heights. We don’t have to spray a pot evenly with just one color, we can use bits here and there, spraying gently, choosing a heavier application here and lighter one there.

After our initial bisque firing, we fire glazed pots at lower temperatures to ensure that the glazes adhere or you might say that they are baked on, usually at cone 04 somewhere in the neighborhood of 1900 ° F. Sometimes we add more glazes and again fire at that low temperature before finally firing our pots to maturity (or to a stoneware state)  at Cone 6, approximately 2200 ° F.  Some pots may have 3, 4, or even 5 firings before we decide they’re finished and ready to sell.

For a final finish, some of our pots are treated to a crawl glaze application, and this, too, is comical when we think about the former “taboo” of having a glaze crawl on our pottery.

Bisque Fire Glaze Load
Loading a Low Temp Fire in Electric Kiln

With electric oxidation firing, we can play to our heart’s content. We can introduce and generally control the crawl so that it enhances our work. And that’s true for our ash glaze applications as well. Ash glazes tend to run, but instead of worrying about the runs, we carefully introduce them just where we know they are likely to bring about some incredible beauty. The pots that in ages past relied on wood ash to create their glazes, well, I guess we’ve experimented and found ways of using them in an electric oxidation atmosphere.

Crawl Glazed Urn
Crawl Glaze Control on Beautiful Lidded Vessel

And just like that elderly potter, we’re happy to believe that we can even re-fire a pot that had previously reached stoneware maturity.

The Joy and Disappointments Unloading Kilns

Opening Kiln, top shelf
First sight on opening looks good

Anticipation is always exciting for us here at JoVic Pottery, however, it’s also a little bit nerve-wracking. How will things turn out in this firing? We do our very best to continue to develop glazes, always pushing limits. We also continue to use those glazes we think of as tested, tried, and true, especially some of the layered glazes we so love.

Spherical Vessel
Ash and Crystalline Glazed Vessel

No matter how often we use some of these glazes, the results are never fully guaranteed. Electric kiln firings are more easily controlled now than ever before in the history of pottery, and the variety of glaze approaches available in mid-range oxidation makes the process truly exciting. We use computer controlled kilns, giving us the ability to carefully control the firing time and even some of the time we allow kilns to “soak” at a specific temperature.

Stacked kiln shelves
Stacked shelves invite a peek

But even with such controls, the firings have a way of leading to both disappointment and joy. Some pots come out of the final glaze fire giving us just what we were hoping for, some exceed those hopes, and yet others appear with unexpected flaws.

Alligator Ginger Jar with Rim Spatter
Slight rim contamination on an otherwise perfect lidded pot

The kiln furniture attests to some of the surprises thrown our way (and I do mean thrown, pitched, or perhaps spit). We find evidence on shelves that suddenly require grinding because crawl glaze spitting occurred during the firing and the bits of glaze hitting shelves has fused onto them.

glaze spit on kiln shelf
Kiln shelf with glaze spatter

We’re even more disappointed when the spitting affects nearby pottery–turning a winner into a second and affecting the bottom line when it comes to earning a living from our work. This is an added risk when we’re using layer upon layer of glaze and adding crawl glaze texture for a final firing. In other words, we’ve already spent tons of time getting the pots to this final firing, and have put in the energy, literally as well as physically, into as many as 2 or 3 previous firings.

butter dish
Note the little fired in blotch on a butter dish base

We’re experienced. We’ve been at this work for over 35 years. But that doesn’t matter in the least when it comes to the occasional failures in the final product. We get to load beautiful pieces into our kiln, knowing the quality of our work is truly awesome, but sometimes we still end up unloading a pot that just hasn’t made it to the level we’re seeking.

Unloading Lovely Pot
Vic and Ash Glazed Lidded Pot

Whether some spitting hits an interior or the beautiful rim on the base of a pot, it’s still disappointing. It’s just a good thing that the majority of what we pull from the kiln makes us feel blessed to continue our work. We’re thrilled to say there’s always something to strive toward; because as long as there is a goal ahead, we’ll want to keep working, and for potters who won’t likely ever earn a great retirement package, that’s a really good thing.

 

Patience and Pottery Cycles

Vic shaping a pitcher on the wheel
Vic shaping a pitcher on the wheel

There are so many things that provide artists with fairly quick results; photography, some styles of painting, drawing…. It does not take too long before these artists know whether or not they’ve achieved their desired results.

2015-02-11 12.47.47
Squeezing a neck and spout into the pitcher

Of course there are many other arts that require patience, and that’s certainly true for pottery. Even so-called rapid fire methods, like raku, still require time and patience.

Making a Spout
Beginning to Form the Spout

With stoneware pottery waiting for the final results can be a very slow process. From mixing and preparing clay, through creating with clay, drying it, adding engobes or slips, drying a little more, adding handles or knobs or spouts, and drying a little more.

Pitcher Throat
Forming the throat of a spout.

Bisque firing the work, and hoping you’ve dried it enough to prevent warping or cracks from appearing, or engobes flaking off.

Finishing the Details
Finishing the Details

Adding dipped, poured, or sprayed layers of glazes. Drying the pottery again. Oh yes, and drying a full day between the layers to ensure that each glaze is completely dry before another layer is added.

Rack with pottery drying
Pots drying… waiting for trimming, handles and more

Possible firing another bisque, but this time with glazes on the work.

Handled Pitchers Drying
Handled Pitchers Drying

Waxing the pottery in places where you don’t want further glazes to adhere, especially the bases of the pots that stand on shelves in the kiln.

A Sweet Handled Pitcher
A Sweet Handled Pitcher

Applying additional glazes, and then waiting for these to dry before carefully loading the kiln for that all important final glaze temperature firing.

Trimmed Pots and Orders Drying
Trimmed Pots and Orders Drying

Of course it’s important to try to maximize the work coming out of a kiln. That means waiting until you have assorted sized items to take advantage of the space available. Yes, tons of waiting between every step.

Throwing a pitcher
Carefully Loaded Kiln

Once you’ve gone through all these steps you’ve probably been waiting anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 months for some of those special pots to make it to the shelves in your showroom. In fact, you sometimes wait so long you can’t remember what you were hoping to see. Maybe the waiting is a good thing; after all, every time you unload a glaze firing, you’re surprised, and while not every surprise is wonderful, you’re always excited and sometimes blissfully happy.

Unloading a Glaze Fire
Ah yes, time to unload the kiln. Say “ooooh.”

 

Pottery-A Slow Process

Jan 2015 wheel throwing
Vic at the wheel

The making of quality stoneware pottery, whether functional or decorative, is far from a rapid process. Aside from clay preparation, pots made require careful drying before they can even be put through their first bisque fire.  But just the making is a time consuming thing, especially for large vases that are thrown in two stages.

Two-Piece Altered Vase by Vic Duffhues
Careful finishing of joined, altered vase by Vic Duffhues

Getting the neck onto the base requires careful joining; after all, if the pot is not put together correctly, the neck would come free of the vase. Careful smoothing and finishing is needed.

Potter's Wheel with Vic
Inspired Creativity

Then there’s a process that allows us to get some color onto the pieces before a first firing–of course not until the pieces are bone dry. We often spray the work with engobes, or brush on slip.

Kiln Load with Bisque-Glazed Pots
A Bisqued Load of Partially Glazed Pots

Once the pottery is again bone dry, we’re able to place the work into the kiln for a first firing. We bring them up slowly and cool slowly as well to avoid any potential cracking or warping through this cycle.

JoVic Partially Glazed & Fired Vases
Some Vases With Initial Fired-On Glazes

The cooled pots then need waxing before we can glaze. If we didn’t wax the bottoms the pottery would end up stuck to the kiln shelves.

JoVic Wax Station
Hot Wax Set-up with Exhaust

Once the waxing is finished, we can get on with the work of glazing. This is frequently a slow process because we tend to use multiple glazes and each coat must be completely dry before we add a next layer. Bisqued pottery is still somewhat porous, and the water base of the glazes is absorbed into the work, requiring careful and total drying between each step.

Waxed Mug
Hot Waxed Base

Some of our pottery is actually put through a few low temperature firings. This ensures that the first layers of glaze are fired on, allowing us to handle the pottery without smudging or accidentally removing some of the glazes. Though the glazes in this case have not reached a mature melt, they are stable enough to handle.

Bisque-Glazed Platter and Lidded Vessels
Kiln with Bisque-Glazed Platter and Lidded Vessels to Unload

Fired on glazes really help with some of our more complicated glaze applications. Crawl glazes, for instance, cannot be applied to glazes unless they have already been fired on at a lower temperature. By their very nature, as reticulating glazes, they would pull up any immature glazes they were placed on and instead of an attractive crawl, exposing lovely sub-surface colors or glazes, they’d end up exposing some terrible peeling effect that exposed clay.

Crawl Glaze Drying on Stoneware Platter
Glaze Drying in Bowl of Platter with Waxed-Over Glaze Rim

Each kiln load has us looking forward to seeing whether what we envision at the start of making our work actually lives up to our hopes.

Vic glazing Vase
Preparing to Glaze a Vase

With the glazes applied, the final drying begins.

Glazed Vases Ready to Fire
Glazed and Drying in advance of Firing

Once we’re sure the pots are dry, we can carefully load the kiln. Great care must be taken with vertical vases that have crawl glazes applied near the base.

Kiln loading at JoVic Pottery
Stacking the kiln for a final glaze firing

A slight bump and the glaze will fall off the pot, potentially leaving bare spots where they might not be desired, and also fusing to expensive kiln shelves or other kiln furniture.

Cone 6 Firing Ready to go
A Nicely Loaded Kiln Ready to Fire

Some of the final results pleased Jo Duffhues immensely–not so Vic. He’ll likely take the vases he’s not thrilled with and apply additional glazes for yet another re-fire.

Stoneware Vase
Vic’s not happy with this?

I have to remind him that some of our customers love the pieces that he is not excited about at all. The trouble is that when we work we have an idea of the outcome we’re seeking, and if things don’t turn out that way, we tend to think it’s a failure. It’s very hard to get past that kind of negative response. But since I love these pieces, I think they’re a great success.

Stoneware Vase Feb 2015
Multi-Glazed Stoneware Vase

Yes, these are the vases that Vic is seen making in the images above. Now it’s just a question of who wins the argument–will they be fired once again?

 

Glaze Chemistry and Testing to Create New Art

One of the things we love about being artists as well as artisans and also potters (and yes, the distinction is deliberate) is the fact that we are able to continue to experiment with a vision to always improving all our work. Our studio is not limited to work that creates art for art’s sake. We also create functional stoneware, and by its nature, this means a certain amount of production, in other words, repetition. Without the added joy of striving to make this work fresh by developing new glazes and styles, we’d soon reach a level of boredom and mediocrity that would make our work become a form of drudgery.

Years of experience and practice naturally also changes the work. Our own growth, starting in 1979, stems from the knowledge gleaned from many years of such practice and experience. However, our work is also a reflection of our interests, and is additionally influenced by the nature around us here on beautiful Vancouver Island. Testing glazes, developing new approaches, searching for ways to bring our vision to life helps us to bring a reality to our vision.

Former Glaze Tests
Old Test Tiles Find a Spot in the Garden, and yes, it’s time for a Spring Cleanup.

Vic has become more and more keenly interested in pushing limits when it comes to glazing, and these days he loves spraying layer after layer of glaze on some of his pots. Unlike other potters who traditionally limit techniques that might use ash or crawl glazes to decorative pottery, Vic enjoys seeking ways to incorporate these techniques into production and functional ware. His goal is to make each piece, whether it be a mug, a goblet, a bowl, an urn, a teapot, or those incredibly unique one-of-a-kind decorative items into art. Functional stoneware pottery is the bread and butter income for our studio, while the decorative work is the dessert. But since every single piece created is made by hand, it needs to fulfill us at a creative level too.

Glaze Test Tubes
Glaze tests on tubes allow us to gauge texture, flux, color, etc.

I found myself thinking about the development of our glaze technology over the years. Initially my own experiments involved learning about each of the ingredients by firing them separately onto small bowls. This let me see what worked as a flux and what worked to stiffen and so on. The next step involved combining these elements to understand what happened in synergy. My original glaze tests were all done by trial and error. I learned heaps, but the results weren’t often exciting or of use. Even the glaze chemistry courses didn’t add much to my working results. In time we learned about glaze unity and began to understand much more about the interaction between elements at different temperatures and using varying approaches to bringing our kilns to our desired temperature, or holding the work to soak at a specific temperature, or cooling the work in specific cycles. Of course many of those things weren’t really possible either before the onset of computer controlled kilns which we can set up to suit ourselves.

Picasso, one of the most prolific artists of all time, started out by following the rules before intentionally breaking them and developing his unique style. Likewise, authors like James Joyce, intentionally breaking all the norms of English, stands out for us as a literary giant. Sometimes people who read such works are confused, as are those people who just don’t get cubism, or abstract art. I would say that the artist who not only understands and can follow the rules of art is also the artist who can choose to break those rules. Isn’t that actually the mark of true art–a way to move forward and find a new expression for your work?

Cylindrical Glaze Tests
Our final glaze tests look at impact of layering glazes on a cylindrical form.

The joy of creating is fraught with failure–at least in terms of work that we can sell and earn from. But there is no failure at all when the work teaches us so much, and when it both teaches and delights us, it keeps us interested. We continue to strive for ways to break the rules and find new expression.

 

One Of Many Steps Making JoVic Pottery

Aside from mixing, pugging, wedging, throwing, trimming, handling and drying pots before they ever go through that first bisque firing, we frequently add yet one more technique: we add layers of sprayed on engobe to the bone dry work. Here are just a few pictures of Vic Duffhues doing just that.

The Main Engobe Application
The Main Engobe Application

In some cases, the pots are sprayed with what we might call the main engobe, and in case you’re wondering what that is, I’ll explain. There are multiple techniques used to add color and depth to pottery. Slip, possibly most commonly used, is a wetter version of the clay itself, sometimes with an oxide added for color. It is generally applied to pottery that is considered leather-hard, well before a pot is dry enough to be fired. Engobes generally have a much lower clay content, and they can be applied to a wider range of pottery in various stages. Like slips, they can have colorants added, including commercial stains or oxides.

A Fine Application of 2nd Engobe
A Fine Application of 2nd Engobe

We like spraying layers of color onto our work and usually do this when the pots are bone dry. We generally use an engobe for the first application, allowing it to dry before adding another different engobe, or sometimes a smoother and finer Terra Sigillata. There are many recipes for engobes, slips and terra sigillata available and each will work differently depending upon time of application, clay body, firing temperatures and so forth. As with all underglaze applications, potters have to experiment and fine-tune before coming up with a version that works best for them.

The Light Touch
The Light Touch

When these pots are once again bone dry, they are fired in the kilns to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1000 ° C or approximate 1950°F, all depending on how hard or soft we want the pots to be before we apply final glazes. If you’re curious about firing temperatures, you can consult this chart from Bellevue College.

Unfinished and Finished with Rich Glaze Layers
The New and The Finished Together

Many of our pots actually go through three firings before we reach that final finish we’re seeking. During our second firing, which we also do at a lower bisque temperature, we can fire on glazes so that they will be stiff enough to allow handling, but soft enough to allow for further glazing. We do this to add depth and richness and texture, a step that ensures that glazes will marry in the final firing. One of our final glazes is actually frequently called lizard skin or alligator glaze. It has to be applied to a pre-fired underglaze because it is actually a reticulated glaze, meaning that it shrinks more than the glaze surface underneath. The shrinkage during drying and firing leaves the surface beneath this glaze visible. This technique would once have been considered a glaze flaw and named a crawl glaze, but it has become rather popular in the last 15 or so years being deliberately applied to decorative pottery. Our studio is unique in the way the technique is applied to functional stoneware pottery.

 

 

The Joy of Wheel Work at JoVic Pottery

Jo Duffhues rarely finds herself able to work on the potter’s wheel anymore. There are multiple reasons for that. Perhaps foremost is the arthritis in her hands. But the switch from a wheel to hand-built or slab work actually began when she was doing her graduate studies and found that she just could not get back into the studio for the follow-up that wheel-thrown pottery usually requires. Making pots is a process. Checking Jo's BowlThere are so many steps required before something is finished. Preparing the clay, throwing on the wheel, trimming and handling on subsequent days, decorating at various stages… all these steps require a commitment to return to the studio in a timely manner. That isn’t always possible when you’re also doing other things on a full-time basis. Jo found that she could wrap hand-built work and return to it at her own pace, and she gradually gave up regular wheel throwing.

Over the years it became natural for Vic to make practically all of the wheel-thrown work that comes from JoVic Pottery in Ladysmith–a terrific studio on Vancouver Island. However, every so often, Jo feels the urge to center herself at the wheel. She can’t deny the impact of this amazing zen approach to clay, nor would she want to deny herself the joy she’s capable of finding in it.Happy Throwing Session Jo

There’s no doubt that constant practice is required for exceptional functional pottery, and Vic Duffhues is definitely a master potter capable of tremendous production. But Josee (Jo Duffhues) isn’t worried about production. She’s delighted by the fact that she has the freedom to take the clay, not bothering to weigh it, and to make whatever the ball she’s thrown onto the wheel allows. It’s a freedom and joy. Each of these bowls will end up being a one-of-a-kind vessel that someone will delight in using, just as she’s found immense delight in enjoying the rhythm and peace she’s experienced creating them.

Laughter in StudioThese rare occasions generally result in perhaps a few dozen bowls finding their way onto showroom shelves in time for the annual Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans’ Christmas Studio Tour, which this year will run from November 19 through to the 23rd.

JoVic Pottery Urns in Stoneware or Raku

At JoVic Pottery, here in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, it has been our privilege to participate with families memorializing and keeping the ashes of their lost loved ones. We’ve been able to make urns in either a stoneware or raku process. We have made them shaped as Traditional Ginger Jars, or as more round, spherical shaped vessels. We have even had the honor of holding a candlelight service at our studio for one of our customers–a service for which we closed our studio to all but the family and friends in attendance–a customer who has become a treasured friend.

Alligator Ginger Jar by Vic Duffhues
Alligator Texture Ginger Jar by Vic Duffhues. Photo Vic Duffhues

As potters, we have the joy of helping people celebrate all of life’s special moments from birth to graduation from college, for weddings, anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and more.

But perhaps the most sacred of all is that moment of transcendence from the physical to spiritual stage in a loved one’s life.

Spherical Urn
Spherical Urn

 

 

 

 

The lidded vessels made by request can also filled and sealed with the ashes of the deceased at our studio. This is done with the utmost respect. Stoneware vessels are sealed with wax, and in some cases with an additional item that belonged to the departed loved one. For instance, in one case a beautiful gold chain was worked into the closure. Out of respect and for privacy, these dedicated and specially created urns cannot all be shown in such a post as this. It is important to note, however, that we are willing to individualize such special vessels whenever possible.

Altered Spherical Urn
Altered Spherical Urn

 

Should a customer choose a lidded vessel from our showroom, we’re delighted to assist with sealing if requested.

 

However, we’ve often found that people want us to create their urn specifically. We then make the vessel from start to finish with the love and respect, with special intention, adding unique touches that celebrate the loved one who has moved on. Custom urns generally take up to two months to complete and range in price from $250 to $450.

Copper Wire Closed Urn in Raku
Copper Wire Closed Urn in Raku

 

 

JoVic Pottery Studio Tour Nov. 21 – 24

The Wonderful Annual Cedar and Yellow Point Artisan Christmas Tour is just a couple of days away. The studio is buzzing with activity. Some of the work that will be out on the shelves is cooling now and will be out of the kiln today. Vic’s amazing alligator-glazed functional and decorative stoneware will fill our showroom with everything from mugs and vases to casseroles.

Teapots and mugs and more
Teapots and more…

Jo’s new series, “Quilting on Clay” is truly exciting. Using under glazes on stoneware clay when it’s bone dry can be a little nerve-wracking. As long as clay has not been contaminated or fired, it can usually be re-claimed. However, once I start adding those under glazes, I’m committed to getting it right or tossing it out.

Platter with Quilt design un-fired
Un-fired, quilted tray…

If the work only took an hour or so, that would not be a real problem. But these pieces can take up to two full days to paint.

Pots with Quilt Designs
Quilterly Painted Clay Art

It’s my love of quilting and needlepoint, both former hobbies that I no longer have time for, that inspire this creative line. I can remember spending time years ago searching fabrics that complimented my choices for making a quilt. When I do this work with clay, I don’t have to choose the fabric designed by others, I get to create the look of my own fabrics while I design the quilt I have in mind.

Quilted Tray with Birds on Blues
Birds on a Blue Quilt

The work is moving from forms with folk-art painterly fabric approaches to more traditional quilt backgrounds and even to backgrounds with the feel of a final applique design. It’s truly fun.

While not all the work has come out of the kiln yet, I’m delighted with the final results I’m seeing on some of the finished trays now.

Birds on Blue
Birds on the Blue Quilt Tray

I’m sure the tour visitors will enjoy the splashes of color from the truly exciting new pieces. There will also be a great selection of the award-winning modern art stoneware with goblets and trays and more available for people wanting to select really special hand-made gifts that will become treasured favorites this Christmas.

Mod Art Trays and Goblets
The Retro Look of Mod Art Pots

The Cedar and Yellow Point Tour starts on Thursday, November 21st and ends at 4:00 pm on Sunday, November 24th. We’ll be open from 10 – 5 throughout the tour and will have Carol’s Wreathes for Haven House as well as our usual refreshments.

Raku Pottery and Stoneware Bowls
Raku Display, and stoneware bowls

We’re truly looking forward to seeing lots of visitors at our Ladysmith, Vancouver Island Studio.  We’re offering 20% off the ticketed price of our gorgeous raku vessels for this Holiday Season. We also have a great selection of clearance pottery and that will be marked down by 50%. It’s a chance for our customers to get a truly great deal on some of the work and will make some room in the studio for the new ideas and creations we’ll want to pursue next year. It’s the 25th year of this remarkable tour and we’ll have maps to guide our visitors to some of the fine local artists in our beautiful area.

 

Glazing Pottery Jugs and Vases

STEPS IN THE PROCESS

Yesterday I found some time to post a few pictures of some vases and jugs and pitchers and told you a little about the “steps in the process.” I thought I’d take the next step here, and show you the pieces as they appear now.

Lidded Vessels, Pitchers, and Vases
Lidded Vessels, Pitchers, and Vases

They have all been through a bisque fire, and that’s been followed with an initial glaze firing.

2013-05-22 11.32.15 - Copy

We do the first glaze fire at a bisque fire temperature, though in the case of the pieces shown above, we have also used engobes  (we can use some engobes on either leather-hard clay or bisqued ware, while glazes are applied only on the bisqued ware). It allows the powder to fire onto the pieces and makes it possible for them to retain their porous bisque nature which then allows them to receive additional overglazes.

Drying on Kiln
Drying on Kiln

The alligator, or crawl glaze, is particularly tricky. These glazes are reminiscent of dried clay in desert dry areas. As the moisture evaporates, the glazes shrink (almost crawling) to allow for the engobes and underglazes to show through the cracks that appear. I can handle the upper section of the jugs, since the alligator glaze is not on that part of the surface; however, the vase shown below must be lifted carefully with fingers only on the inside of the vessel.

Tricky Glaze Drying
Tricky Glaze Drying

This process is particularly fragile, with the slightest shake allowing bits of the glaze to fall off the pieces, and it’s a special problem on some of the vertical forms. Glazes and engobes are applied in stages, with for example, the glaze on the interior of these pieces allowed to dry for a full day before the additional glaze is applied to the lower sections or exteriors of the pots.

platter glaze detail
Glaze Detail Skylight Platter

When we’re working on plate or platter forms, we actually have to wax surfaces where we don’t want the texture of the alligator glazes. However, on such forms, we truly delight in seeing the lift and separation of the alligator glaze. After all, we know that in the heat of the stoneware firing, the glaze will lay back down and fuse onto the clay. The waxing process makes the plates and platters truly labour intensive, but the end results are always amazing. It seems most of our pleasure derives from the process, and perhaps that explains why the bulk of our work truly is just that: time and labour intensive.

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I’ll be sure to “blog” about the very special dinnerware set that Vic’s making for an upcoming Art Show. The hours spent on creating this one-of-a-kind set will ensure that it is most highly-collectible and will remain one-of-a-kind.

Glazed and Drying Dinnerware Set
Drying The Alligator Glazed Dinnerware

All the work made in our Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, BC studio is actually truly one-of-a-kind. Being the nature of our work, every item is individually hand-crafted. Of course when it comes to dinnerware, we try our best to keep to uniformity, allowing for a true set. Still, it’s like having babies, each one has a personality, making them all extra special.

Drying Pottery, Jugs, Vases

Pottery is rarely something that provides instant gratification. Our work requires clay preparation, wedging, and preparing balls of appropriate sizes for the wheel-work to follow. We cannot even attach handles, or trim the feet of the pots until they’ve reached the appropriate leather-hard stage.

wet and without handles
wet and without handles

Once we have managed that step, we need to patiently wait for the pots to reach a bone-dry state before we can follow that step with firing.

Pretty Handles
Pretty Handles

Vic’s jugs and pitchers are special. The jugs are made in one piece, and Vic takes special pleasure insuring they have comfortable and attractive pulled handles.

Handled Pitchers, with Comfortable Holds
Handled Pitchers, with Comfortable Holds

Once the pottery is actually dry, we have to continue with the firing process. The first firing leaves the pottery in what is known as bisque ware stages. It’s a little bit porous, which assists in the glaze process that comes next. The minerals we use for glazing are suspended in water, and the bisque ware absorbs that water while the mineral glaze mixture dries into a powdered state on the pottery. Yes, that takes time too, and once again we wait before we can place the work into the kiln for the next step. The final firing (provided there are only two of them) brings the work up to a stoneware temperature. It becomes as dense as stone and is then able to hold food and liquid making it exceptionally functional.

Drying Pots
Drying and Ready to Bisque Fire

I’ll try to post pictures of these pots once they’re finished. This series is most likely to receive at least three firings, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I hope you are too.

Some website updates…

I’ve been having a bit of fun here lately, and I just wanted to make sure our customers and site visitors would know what I’ve added. To the Techniques pull-down menu, I’ve added a page about creating our glazes.

I’ve also added some new information under the Workshops pull-down menu. We offer both private and group lessons as well as some special interest classes. I’m delighted to have added a little video here too, showing off some of the lovely carved tiles made by local First Nations participants in these workshops and classes.

Our studio continues to be open to the public, and we delight in showing some of our skills off to visitors. We’d welcome you, so come on over.

Vic n Linda

Alcohol Reduction Copper Matt Firings

After spending a week with Don Ellis at Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA), Vic’s re-inspired to do more with Raku. That has resulted in both of us working with raku clay again. I’ve been using some Industrial Raku, with the reminder that this is not a particularly white body of clay. Vic’s been using WSO, but though this clay fires up nice and white, which is terrific when it’s used with a white crackle glaze, it’s also terribly groggy. At MISSA, Vic was hearing about Soldat 60. He picked some up, and yesterday he started making some pots with it. I can hardly wait to see the final results and will be posting some pics later of the new pieces he’s throwing. In the meantime, Edward McCrea came by and started taking some pictures of the firings.

Removing a vase in hot molten glaze stage