Tag Archives: pitchers

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.

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.”

 

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.