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Min

Choosing Glazes

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Where do you start when choosing glazes? 

Simple answer would be they develop over time or they are the ones that sell but looking deeper than that… 

Do you use the shotgun approach and mix up test glazes from books or the internet that you like the looks of? Do you take a base glaze that you like and try it with different colourants and opacifiers just to see what you get? Do you have an idea of a glaze colour and surface that you want to make and then build a glaze from scratch or alter an existing glaze? Line blend of glazes, triaxials, Currie grids, overlap existing glazes? Try out different firing schedules to see what happens to the glazes? If you use commercial glazes what do you look for, do you change them in any way?

I’m always mixing up glaze tests, lately I’ve been working on a more earthy glaze colour so it had me pondering this question, would be interesting to hear how you choose your palette. 

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My glaze testing comes in spurts-I get tired of using my 15 standbys and begin testing new ones-usually by base alterations or working towards a color I know will sell well.

I will test a few than let it go for a year or two then more testing .Many tests are trying new materials in same glazes. I have a glaze that only works with an old talc so I'm always trying  new talcs to see if they will work. I now have enough old talks to maybe last my lifetime.

The glaze surface also is a big deal to me and how it will work for my  customers. I have a few satin matts and I always am thinking about new ones.

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I tend to start out with some kind of problem I want to solve (crazing, a crystal clear glaze, curiosity about exactly how much soda ash does fume in an electric kiln), or a specific surface or colour that I'm after. 

Because some glaze recipes really don't travel well, or even transfer onto different clay bodies well, I tend to start with a base glaze and alter from there. I'm lucky in that Tony Hanson is making all the Digitalfire recipes on Plainsman clays, and that saves me some work in terms of finding a base that is a good starting point. 

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I have started a clay hanbuilding workshop in our community.   I am realitively new at ceramics and need some info on glazes.   We are currently doing low-fire and brushing on the glazes.  This is somewhat time-consuming, especially for students who have made many small pieces.   I'm wondering if a dipping glaze would be better to use as a base coat and then decorate using a brush with colored glazes?  If using a dipping glaze as a base coat is a good idea,  what would be the best color? and should the dipping glaze be an under glaze?

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Few ways to go here, probably the easiest way would be to have your students brush underglaze decoration onto greenware, bisque fire then dip into a clear glaze. (underglazes are usually applied by brush or spray rather than dipping, Speedball seem to be the least expensive)

Welcome to the forum :)

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I love Tony Hansen's glazes from Digitalfire and he publishes the glaze recipes as good starting point base glazes with tips about how to alter them for different degrees of glossiness and examples of stains. Also, it's always fun to experiment on a small scale with a test tile or two of some new idea for every firing. I have a textural test in the kiln right now - hope it works!

Callie- what are you doing to your kiln (soda ash?) !!!

 

Edited by terrim8

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Mark, I have some old talc from my high school gym locker, smells kind of perfumey, could you use that?  For the next life, maybe??

this is like question of the week!  A disarmingly good question which has made me think, thanks Min!

Sooner or later the same 10 glazes in the shared studio glaze room get stale and run out of appeal, particularly after you have seen them layered every which way but loose (some layers work, some don’t) 

From there the well-trodden path seems to be to go off chasing recipes from books or the web, with the grass always being greener on the other side, and I guess one could spend a lifetime doing that.  Many otherwise competent potters I know (still) seem to be doing this.  It is not clear to me when you arrive if you take this direction.  All seems rather incestuous...

Buying lottery tickets not my thing, so shotgun approach is out.   Derivatives of well-known base glazes also out, for similar reasons.

Steady selling not a big priority at this point, so dependable glazes with repeated outcomes not really an objective (yet).   This will come as I mature as a potter and grow more comfortable with myself and my work?

In a field crowded with ever-more commercialised glaze recipes using increasingly refined and industrially processed raw materials from fewer and fewer suppliers, experimentation, uniqueness and individuality are more appealing at the moment.  Using new and  unknown ingredients which I procure locally and develop myself seems more promising in the development of my own work.  Testing is central to the process on this path, as are knowledge (glaze chemistry!) and research.   Increasing headwinds to world trade seem to suggest that the free exchange and easy access to ceramic materials is not something we can depend on going forward.

much more to be said, but there is the essence.....

Edit: fixed typo on Mark’s name!

 

Edited by curt
Fixed name typo

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I pick glazes purely on texture or the surface they give. I then test the glaze to see if it holds up. If it does yay(rarely happens), if not then I end up tweaking the amounts and usually it ends up going somewhere completely different. The real trick to glazes isn't finding the perfect single glaze but layering them to get absurd results. Of course, I say this now when I am currently working with a single glaze for all my work, *gasp*.

The absolute hardest thing about glazing pottery is not finding a good pretty glaze, there are thousands of great glazes. The issue is finding a great glaze that you like and won't get bored with and that your customers will also like. That I have found is the absolute hardest part of glazing.

 

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3 hours ago, Joseph F said:

Of course, I say this now when I am currently working with a single glaze for all my work, *gasp*.

 

I don't know Joseph, after seeing how much work you've put into glaze testing the past few years and some of the gobsmacking beautiful results you've achieved can you be satisfied with using a single glaze? Is part of the pleasure/torment the hunt for the elusive perfect one?

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Re-reading the responses here it feels like there are some overlapping issues which influence these decisions.   Some part of this must be where you are at in the journey, and it seems another part has to do with with your personality, and, ultimately, your voice and how it expresses itself in clay

If you are at the beginning of the journey the whole topic of glazes seems quite opaque.  You are coming to terms with the main game of making, and are given a short menu of glaze options, almost as an afterthought.  You dip and pray, feeling your way forward on application by trial and error while slowly unravelling the mysteries of firing and heat work.

Later, in the middle of the story, your making has improved and you want more control over surface treatment than you have had up to now.  You have discovered there is a whole world of glazes out there, and you reach a fork in the road.   You can continue to push forward on the main road using glazes made by others, preserving your time for making instead of learning glaze chemistry, but never quite knowing why a glaze works or doesn’t, or how to bend it to your needs.  Or you can take the side road into glaze chemistry land, which slows your making somewhat but offers technical enlightenment which you feel will have great rewards down the line.   Success and failure through experimentation becomes daily fare, parallel to, but different from, making.

Until recently I believed that this latter path was pretty much essential for “success” as traditionally defined in this medium, on the premise that to become a master of clay, one needed to dominate all aspects of its use, including the technical.  Now I am not so sure, as I see artists recently arrived from other mediums using clay with little or no technical expertise, with great critical success.  Perhaps I am missing something, will continue to ponder this....

Anyway, further on in the journey, judging by the people I see ahead of me including many on these forums (!) the voice has emerged clear, with glaze aesthetics and decorative choices (and ultimately personal preferences) well-defined.  There is substantial technical mastery in evidence with successful execution as the baseline, and mistakes or failures cropping up just temporary kinks to be identified and worked out.   Dependence on commercial products for the final look appears to be limited - signature treatments are everything.  The main lament I have heard from a few privately seems to be a sense of feeling a bit trapped by one’s own success.  Galllery curators and loyal customers tend to want more of the same rather than bold new directions, or so it seems.  Inventories of proven product to a defined minimum standard need to be stockpiled periodically to meet market demand, cater for exhibitions, etc..  

Without the benefit of direct experience at this stage I wonder if there still experimentation, and if so to what end?  Once an experimenter always an experimenter?  Not sure.  I would look forward to others offering different perspectives....

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curt, i don't know where i am on the continuum you highlight but i do know that the kind of work i do limits my choices.  i like to make things that have (i hate the word texture) some unusual handling of the clay itself so it  is not dependent on some flashy glaze treatment.  i want the work itself to show so i like transparent glazes and a translucent for the things i carve.  min is helping me on trying out various recipes and she is wonderful, the kind of person who enjoys the chemistry part.   

it would be fun to be able to use some of the glazes that are so spectacular in reduction but finding a way to do that is difficult.  firing an electric kiln at cone 6 is easy but can be limiting.  trying out odd clay, that black stuff from standard for example can add variety and interest.   but, i need to sell pots so i make what sells.  i think i have saturated the market where i live so it is time to spread out somehow.   still working on that idea.

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20 hours ago, Min said:

...can you be satisfied with using a single glaze? 

 

We shall see. I don't know if I will be satisfied 100%, but I am at a point where I am more interested in generating income than generating kiln loads full of test. I have some purpose for my pottery now, as before it was just a mug to maybe sell.  I have since moved into a new area where I am interested in making utility pots for functions that I personally need daily. I also have a future plan on ways to market my pottery very well in my local area. Of course, this won't come to pass for a few more years, but I am in the process of learning to farm on a small scale, and I can see my vases and bowls at the farmer's markets full of fresh beautiful flowers,  fruits, and vegetables. I am also finally going back to work this year after 10 years of health battles. So my need to explore glazes for personal mental health have faded. I won't have the time to spend days researching anymore and I am not sure if I really want to.

I guess overall I am pretty satisfied with the results I have achieved in a few years and I am going to focus on making more pots and using fewer glazes. I think it is time to finally go that way.

Needless to say, I have no idea if the glaze I plan to use will sell or not. It is pretty far out there in terms of what people in the west are happy to use. I drink and eat out of it every day for the past few months and it is a real experience each time. I have a few other glazes that I have been using for a long time that I will continue to use as well, but I am done developing glazes for some time. 

Anywho, I am almost derailing this thread here, but I just wanted to respond to your question. 

I think anyone interested in making glazes should definitely try it, even if you only end up making a few glazes you really enjoy, understanding the chemicals, the materials and the processes that develop certain surfaces is very helpful for your future in pottery. There are not many things as satisfying as being able to troubleshoot your own glazes very quickly just by looking at the recipe and holding the pot in your hand.

 27894525_1270434303089213_338687716369629184_n.jpg.14f352fd2e4e8e0057a2b13aac072ee2.jpg

Edited by Joseph F

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Great thread!  I can identify with so many voices here.  I started mixing my glazes almost 6 years ago, with little understanding of the chemistry, simply following a recipe.  Further into the journey I started investigating the relationship between clay, glaze, firing....then found and continue to work on finding my "voice" and have enjoyed that!   Like Curt pointed out, then your market (fanbase) starts expecting a certain aesthetic from you.  I had an order for a bowl that a customer had purchased 3 years ago.  I still use those glazes, but I did let her know that the outcome might not exactly match the previous bowl.  And it didn't.  Close, yes, but not a match.   And yes, I am an experimenter.  Whether it is with surface decoration or glaze or form or whatever.  Sometimes I just have to get it out of my system before I can move on!! 

So I guess my process is to look for colors that I visualize on my pots, mix up a BUNCH of test batches and choose one that suits. Then work on seeing if it will "fit" different clay bodies and how does it layer.  (last year the hunt was on for just the right blue) (This year might be a transparent olive green)  

I can also identify with Joseph's comment about making and selling more pots and using fewer glazes.  I am there as well.  I did that last year and it made my glazing process more streamlined.  

Such a timely thread.  I came in the house for a bite of lunch, and yes, I am mixing glazes, and making decisions about what to do with NUMEROUS test batches o glaze that are in NUMEROUS containers and taking up space!!!! 

Roberta

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