Tag Archives: ash glaze

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.

Wine Entertainment Set

JoVic Pottery’s Latest Kiln Delights

This last kiln load had us both smiling with glee. There are some gorgeous functional pieces, like the wine bricks and the tall stemmed goblets with crawl glaze decoration that take function to art and are absolutely perfect for entertaining special guests.

Crystalline & Layered Ash Glaze Bricks
Wine Bricks, Utensil Holders, or Vases–so functional, so decorative

Crystalline layered glazes with final ash glaze layers (Mt. St. Helen’s Ash actually), and fabulous tenmoku liner glazes on the interior which make the wine bricks not only functional, but allow them to become decorative vases or utensil holders.

Lidded Vessel with Ash Glazes
A beautiful Ginger Jar or Urn in Spring Shades $250.

And how delightful are large ginger jars with beautiful lids?

Urn with lid off
Lids are fired separately so that the rim of the pot is glazed too.

Should you want to use this beautiful jar as a vase, you might enjoy setting the lovely lid slightly to the front and side to give it an extra wow appearance.

Mt. St. Helen's Ash Lidded Pot
lidded pot with slip-combed decoration and layered glazes $125.

Also fresh from the kiln are two lovely lidded pots, again glazed with Mt. St. Helen’s ash layered over crystalline glazes. The similarity of these pieces comes from the skill of glaze applications–but slight tweaking of the process ensures that though the pots are alike, they remain unique.

Ash Glazed Lidded Jar
perhaps a perfect tea canister… $125.

Note the wonderful slip application–a treatment put onto the pots when they’re just slightly stiffened. Combing through the slip adds texture to the shoulders of the pots and also aids the “breaking” of glazes showing up color beneath the layers.

Vase in Blue and Green
Slip-Combed & Ash Glazed in Blues and Greens $125.

And the last vase here is a delight to hold and would be wonderful displayed with or without flowers. It, too, shows the benefit of slip-combed decoration which adds depth and texture. Engobes and crystalline glazes, sprayed over a period of several days to allow sufficient drying between applications adds so much visually and texturally. Come visit our studio in Ladysmith, BC on Vancouver Island to enjoy not only looking at, but touching and collecting work that brings art to function and function to art.

 

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.

 

JoVic Pottery–New Work for Arts on the Avenue

Pottery Booth
Pottery Booth

Arts on the Avenue is just a few days away–this coming Sunday. This is the 16th or 17th (not sure) time this fabulous event will take place in Ladysmith. You can peruse some of the pictures taken last year by clicking on this link to the Gallery. You will, as always, find us there too. We try to make sure that every year has us bringing some of our newest work for this home-town street event.

This year’s line-up of artists is as terrific as ever, and we’re counting on the weather to cooperate and make this another fabulous day. But let me tell you about some of the fabulous pottery we’ll have ready for our collectors and new customers alike… better yet, let me show you.

Alligator Sphere Vase
Spherical Alligator Crawl-glazed Vase
Textured Spherical Alligator Vase
Bronze-Necked Alligator Vase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stoneware pot shown above is definitely one of my favorites to come out of the kiln this past week. Vic’s alligator finish, layered engobes and glazes, and the gorgeous form, all work together to invite the eye and hands to love this vase. Ah yes, this one is worth drooling over.

There are other gorgeous vases too… including the one shown right with a delicious fat bronze detail on the neck.

Ash Glazed Mug
Ash Glazed Mug

 

 

 

Of course we will have a series of gorgeous mugs, and some of them will have that fabulous layered alligator finish, but we also have a few with a new ash-glazed combination that is really stunning. The ash comes from the Mount Saint Helen’s eruption.

And there are some lovely tea lights coming out of the last few firings–they’re perfect for romantic dinners, relaxing atmospheres for that soothing bath, or just simple soft mood lighting.

Ash Glaze Tea Light
Tea Lamp with Ash Glaze

We’re excited to continue to enjoy the beauty of our Vancouver Island home here in the Oyster Bay area of Ladysmith, BC. It’s a place that constantly provides inspiration–but come and see for yourself and discover why so many artists, artisans and talented crafts people make this place home.