I’ve been a lazy potter.
It’s been ages since I sat down with fifty test tiles and the tiny scales and weighed samples of fifty different variations on a glaze to put into the kiln.
There is more than one reason for this. Maybe too many of them. One is that I was away for almost a month, to see my brother, my sister, and my parents (in three different places). It was my first time seeing my nephew, who is even sweeter in real life than in the photos. I caught the tail end of a festival curated around women drummers in NYC as part of my sister’s submission for Frieze NY. And enjoyed a rare and welcome respite of health and normalcy with my parents in Israel. My father is back to work, and riding his bike again too.
I’ve also been hurled into glaze making, as opposed to testing, by my studio mate Ann, of Golem Designs fame. A day before I left I went into the studio to finish the handles on some mugs and pitchers, when Ann asked my if I had anything to glaze for a cone 10 firing.
“No, just four test bowls, why?”
“Because I NEED to fire and the kiln is half empty”
There is no greater sin in Pottery than firing a half empty kiln. So glaze the bowls. But I haven’t mixed the tests. So mix them, three different 1kg batches. Two recipes are on Insight Live (online) so I pull them out. The third is trickier. It’s a point between two test batches, so I calculate the right mix on a piece of paper and keep it just long enough to mix the batch before losing it.
And glaze my bowls. Using the heat gun, the microwave, and faith, to make the glaze stick to the outsides of the bowls as the saturated bisque is sweating moisture absorbed from glazing the insides.
All that in under two hours.
“You know Ann, I didn’t mean to glaze today. At all. just pull a few handles and go pack”
“Welcome to the Golem universe”.
So they’re glazed – but now I fly to NYC, to take the bus to Boston and see my nephew and his appendages, formerly known as my brother and my sister in law. It was the worst bus ride of my life, worse than buses in India. The bus crawled and took three hours to get from NYC to New Haven. The AC didn’t work. And worse – the WiFi didn’t work, which means that the photos of the Oil Spot tests are just beyond reach.
Until we stop at a strip mall, and I manage to tap into a chain restaurants WiFi. And see this
My bus trip improved immediately. But now I am facing a problem. I know one of the three. But am not sure which are the other two. The problem is, they don’t look anything like the test tiles. One would think I could write down which is which, but true to form I didn’t (“It will be obvious which is which”: famous last words).
Besides, there was the pesky patter of the recipe that I lost.
So here I am, trying to learn about the application and use of glazes I have only seen on test tiles.
Also, the Guild summer sale was coming up and I was pressed to glaze pots. Especially bowls, of which I didn’t have enough. I had made six noodle bowls before I left. The perfect solution was to make them test pots. So I did. But I also had a big spiral bowl, and I didn’t want to use it for testing. Instead I played it conservative and glazed it in an oil spot which I’d already tested – it’s one I considered a little pedestrian compared to the potential of the others, but at least it’s safe:
Seeing this one, I am reminded that oil spot glazes are very sensitive to thickness. The bigger spots are where I glazed thicker – where the application overlapped. I usually spray my glazes, but I decided to try to get away with just dipping, and while I don’t hate the result, I think it would have showcased the form much better with a more uniform application.
The last reason for this advanced stage of glaze testing, is that in the back of my mind, there looms the Monster. The Bowl. I need to trust a glaze as much as a glaze can be trusted to use it on the Bowl.
So I decided to sacrifice a few tea bowls to further testing.
Which means I made tea bowls. Off the hump. And trimmed deep feet on them. All of which is like being some other potter who just happens to make use of David’s body. I made them for Olivia, of Treasure Green tea store in Chinatown, and I actually meant them to be gaiwans. Some of them were not the right size or shape so they became bowls. Most of them were glazed in celadon and sent to the gas kiln, which I’ll fire tomorrow. But three were left behind, to go into Ann’s firing in our studio, unloaded a few hours ago:
They are even richer in real life, reflecting the different surfaces and colours as the light on them changes.
All I can say is, I think I’m getting somewhere.