Return of the prodigal potter

Where have I been?Potting obviously. Mostly immersed in glaze development for cone 10 oxidation. But in the mean time I set up my etsy store and even made my first sales! Check it out at

Posting a few pics so that there is a record of them when they sell on etsy and disappear from my shop:


These are ‘magic’ salt shakers. There is a hole in the bottom that you put the salt through:


The salt stays put when the shaker stays put – and when you shake it, the salt bumps into the top of the shaker and bounces back out of the same hole. It’s a neat idea that I’ve been playing with for a few years. The first generation were just round. The second generation had many small holes. But alas, salt gets wet and clumps and then doesn’t come out of the many small holes – or, worse, doesn’t want to go in. So a big hole it is. They also had the problem that there was nowhere to hold them. So I put ‘handles’ on them. But now they looked like hands – so they needed the face. The feet also came because they completed the form. Also, they allow me to glaze the bottom, and give the pot a ‘lift’ – as if it is floating on air.

People who saw them, other than saying how cute they were (more on this later), said they look like ghosts – or like robots. More specifically, ‘Daleks’ which I just found out about, not being a Dr Who fan in any way. The most interesting thing I heard was that they looked like Whirling Dervishes. I am sure Rumi wouldn’t mind.

Cute – who would have thunk it, I set out to do serious pottery and ended up with cute. I’m learning to embrace it. I still think form is important and can recycle the clay of a 6lb bowl because I didn’t like some minor detail about its foot, curve, or rim. But a sense of humour is important, as well as a sense of play. These salt shakers are a lot of work to finish, and they can’t be sold for that much money, and they are definitely not ‘serious’ – I see Hamada, Leach and Lucie Rie turning their noses. But (a) serious is a myth. And (b) fun/funny/cute/weird have a sense of play and wonder, which is a raison d’etre of their own – as valid as that of ‘serious’. They are Martial’s epigrams. Or consider that Yehuda Halevi wrote the Kuzari, but also the following small tongue in cheek miracle of a poem:

עפרה תכבס את בגדיה במי

דמעי, ותשטחם לשמש זוהרה

לא שאלה מי העינות עם שתי

עיני, ולא שמש ליפי תארה

“Ofra washes her clothes with the waters of my tears and spreads them out to dry in the sun of her splendour.She has no need for spring water having my two eyes, nor for the sun, having her beauty”

I’m still serious about my bowls. But I’m trying to change that and let them breathe a bit too. I’ve decided to put spirals in a few as a test – they’re usually very smooth, for functional considerations. But these:Image

small dessert bowls are not smooth, and still functional – the bottom is still a nice C shaped curve and if you’re putting ice cream where the spiral is you’re probably having too much ice cream :-p You may notice that I got my tea dust glaze to work again, which I’m really happy about. It’s nice and golden and ideally forms gold flecks in a clear matrix, and only forms a continuous matte surface where it’s thick. I also developed a new bluish white, seen on the salt shaker – that goes a nice light powdery blue on top of the tea dust:Image

By the way, white is even harder to photograph than black. Two of my favourite colours – and all their nuance is lost in photos, 90% of the time.Now that the tea dust works, I need to get my turquoise to work again, since they go so well together. It has been giving me grief and pitting a lot, and not small meaningless pinholes, but craters that go all the way to the clay body, with sharp edges – pots for the shard pile. I reckoned that since it works at cone 6 as well, I may as well put in tiles to Ann’s cone 6 firing and see how they behave:


The rightmost is the problem one. It did not pit. Which means the problem is either with the clay body or with the firing. I am inclined to think both, since there are well known problems with many clay bodies of a certain company that shall remain nameless. Also I have been firing very fast to get my oil spot glaze to work, following Tom Turner’s recommendation. I think this doesn’t leave the strontium carbonate in the glaze enough time to dissociate to strontium oxide and carbon dioxide, hence the pitting. The above tiles are on Laguna Frost Porcelain for ^6 which is a pristine, very well formulated clay body. And fired to a perfect cone 6 using Ron Roy and John Hesselberth’s schedule. So, Problem solved? not quite. Notice the white spots on the middle two tiles? that’s where I soaked them in lemon juice to see if they leach copper. And they do – as would the rightmost one except that I didn’t bother with it. the second from the left is much better but still has tiny white specks where the glaze was super thick – so, it’s borderline useable – It’s a very pretty glaze for surfaces that don’t come into prolonged contact with acidic foods. The one to the left is very stable, and has a surface feel that is very satisfying to the touch – not smooth, slick or satiny but not dry and rough either. The only trouble is that it’s a shade less blue and more green – still pretty but not as flashy as the other three.Going back to look at the base glazes before copper addition, I see this:Image

Where a non potter sees just four white tiles, a potter sees the top left one is a bit shinier and more yellow, and the bottom one is a bumpy surface – that’s the base for the problem glaze. So glaze composition does play a role in this. Although it is very similar in chemical composition to the one above it (btw those would be the two right  tiles in the turquoise photo) it produces a different result, in a way that is surprising to me. You learn something new every day, if you try. More importantly I am very happy with the left most tile, happy enough to start glazing a few magna opera again!


One thought on “Return of the prodigal potter

  1. branden

    came across your site, love your glazes. curious to know if your turquoise glaze is the classic strontium matte (pinnell) w/ 60% Neph. Sy, 25% Str. Carb, lithium, a little clay and Silica?
    I have tried that on b-mix clay. Great color, but hardly food safe. My attempts to gloss it a bit to increase acid resistance have always resulted in loss of that blue color.
    Love the teadust glaze, too.
    Would you ever share?


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