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QotW: Do you use commercial products or do you mix your own?


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Hi folks, once again, no new questions in the pool, so I will muddle through with another QotW. . . . QotW: Do you use commercial products or do you mix your own?

In my small studio, I could never imagine mixing my own clay bodies, it would just take up too much space. Much easier to just order what I want in clay from Standard Ceramics in Pittsburgh.  Yet I do mix glazes, and slips. I try to stay away from most commercial products that way as the cost is easier for me to make my own. I have purchase some underglazes, and mason type stains to mix colors that are hard to reach with ^6 unless you have a more elaborate set up than mine. My use of commercial product is based on convenience more than anything else along with a healthy eye on budget.

 

So what is your mix of Commercial and home mix as the original question was: QotW: Do you use commercial products or do you mix your own?

best,

Pres

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At this point I am using primarily Amaco's Potters Choice glazes and have been OK with the cost so far. I'm buying gallons of my most used colors and have been pretty happy with the output of my products and the prices I am getting for them. I've also got an inventory of dry ingredients for the glaze formulae I have looked at and some time in the not too distant future will be mixing my own glazes.

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I use a local commercial clay body for throwing.  But I recently had to make the decision whether or not to mix my own casting slip.  I ended up deciding to make it myself, using a recipe from Indiana University, they had the slip recipe and also clay body recipe (for adding handles, attachments, etc).  

So far so good, the purchase price for the raw materials was 90 dollars, and it's enough to mix 15 gallons of slip, and if I add another 50 dollars (grolleg) i will still have enough of the other ingredients to mix another 15 gallons.  The price of a porcelain slip from the store was 120 dollars for the same 15 gallons.  So it was an easy decision for me.  I'd have to mix the slip either way, might as well weigh out the ingredients myself!

I make all my glazes as well, that price break is a LOT bigger, you will pay a huge premium to buy commercial glazes.

I made my own studio furniture and ware boards and all that, because wow have you seen what they want for that stuff? Wowzer!

I did buy my wheels and kilns though, I buy my trim tools and ribs as well.  I know a lot of other people who make their own tools but buy their glazes.  

I have been making my own lustre overglazes, although the price would be a wash if we had access to colored lustres here in the states.  I made my own titanium lustre for a while, but mother of pearl lustre is so cheap it's not even worth the time it takes to make it.

So I guess it's always a balance of time vs. money, some things like making glazes have a huge payoff, other things like making lustres or equipment have a very low payoff (but are still fun).  If you hAve a lot of time and no money, do it yourself, you have a lot of money and no time, buy it?

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Haven't used lustres in years, fun when I did, but did not enjoy the smell. At the HS they were more of a novelty, and too out of reach for most things. If I had a student that needed a little extra zing for something that deserved the effort and extra firing, I did it. Otherwise have not gotten into them on my own.

 

best,

Pres

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11 minutes ago, Pres said:

Haven't used lustres in years, fun when I did, but did not enjoy the smell. At the HS they were more of a novelty, and too out of reach for most things. If I had a student that needed a little extra zing for something that deserved the effort and extra firing, I did it. Otherwise have not gotten into them on my own.

 

best,

Pres

They require extra work for sure, and with a larger kiln I doubt I'll be using them much anymore, but I like them because they're translucent and metallic, it's a very cool combination that adds a TON of depth on an otherwise flat surface.

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i rely on recipes from books and other potters but mix my own buckets of glaze.   i do not remember any true failures that were disasters except one recipe from a book that came out looking like the lava glaze someone here was trying for recently.   one other was my failure to remove the 1000 gram weight from my scale and that resulted in a much larger quantity of glaze than i wanted.

the only commercial glaze that i use is the entire color choice in duncan stroke and coat.   these are for small parts of decorations on the empty bowls i make each year.   i use their purple for the dragonflies that go on most of my other work.  i have to say that the stroke and coat "hot tamale" red makes a big bang when i spray it on the outside of some of the bowls.   i almost want to do a series of them and call them " Lucy's Kitchen" as they remind me of the 1950s TV show most of you only saw as reruns.

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Using commercial clays (Aardvark and Clay Planet), underglazes (Speedball), and commercial ceramic materials for glazes.

The underglazes seem to behave well. Having been frustrated with mystery ingredient glazes from the (very) start, jumped right in - still swimming, no regrets there.

Not completely sold on any of the clays I've tried so far; each has at least one drawback (as well as some great features). For foreseeable future, working with the problems and trying different clays will have to do, as I'm not ready (nor willing) to invest in clay mixing tools and ingredients, let alone storage space. That said, just Nerd's reclaim admix is enough to pique interest...

Other stuff, hmm, went with non-commercial sponges, pointer tools, bats, and trimming tools (repurposed saw blades) right away, wood knife and ribs next - looking to pick up an inexpensive belt sander... I really like the thin and flexy metal ribs, should I find thin stainless sheeting, might snip out my own metal ribs as well.

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I usually make my own glazes,  I will buy premix if I need a small amount for a special project especially if it is a difficult color to obtain.   My son wanted a set of mugs that was a bright orange,   I wanted to make sure they would be food safe.    After a little research I headed for the ceramic store and found the perfect glaze.  It is not worth the time and effort to mix and test glazes for a one time project.   Denice

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I have mixed clay in the past, but I don’t have time anymore and I’d like to save my body a bit, so I happily pay Plainsman for their fine product. 

Even in high school, we mixed our own glazes, so I never really learned different. When I went through college, the focus was on making your own, whatever temperature you were working at. I didn’t start using any kind of commercial products until the high fire gas kiln I was using wasn’t going to be available for a couple of months for shed repairs. I decided to “just try” some red clay at cone six, and because I “wasn’t going to have time to learn the chemistry” I bought some powdered clear and some underglazes. 
 

5 years later, I am still working with the red clay, and I have some glazes I mix after having put in the time to learn the chemistry. I still buy the clear glaze because it fits the clay, but it makes a better base glaze with colourants than a clear. I do regular testing to find new glazes though. 
 

Edited to add:  I also buy decals, both overglaze and tissue transfers. I’m looking at some ez screens to maybe make some of my own tissue transfers though. The shipping is getting out of hand. 

 

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16 minutes ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I have mixed clay in the past, but I don’t have time anymore and I’d like to save my body a bit, so I happily pay Plainsman for their fine product. 

Even in high school, we mixed our own glazes, so I never really learned different. When I went through college, the focus was on making your own, whatever temperature you were working at. I didn’t start using any kind of commercial products until the high fire gas kiln I was using wasn’t going to be available for a couple of months for shed repairs. I decided to “just try” some red clay at cone six, and because I “wasn’t going to have time to learn the chemistry” I bought some powdered clear and some underglazes. 
 

5 years later, I am still working with the red clay, and I have some glazes I mix after having put in the time to learn the chemistry. I still buy the clear glaze because it fits the clay, but it makes a better base glaze with colourants than a clear. I do regular testing to find new glazes though. 
 

Edited to add:  I also buy decals, both overglaze and tissue transfers. I’m looking at some ez screens to maybe make some of my own tissue transfers though. The shipping is getting out of hand. 

 

CALLIE! 

This is a much better option I think. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Silk-screen-w-custom-image-on-16-X-12-frame-You-will-provide-your-own-image/223558103087 They'll burn anything into a screen and mail it to you.  I think you'll get way better results, ez screen is a cool idea but I found it to be very uncool to use.

Edited by liambesaw
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The short answer is that I use commercial bodies and commercial glazes. But being a bit of a Chatty Cathy, here's the rest of it. I do not have the physical space to mix my own, nor the energy or motivation, tho I cringe and wince and grind my teeth every time I pay to get the commercial materials that I like. New Hampshire has no ceramics supply store and the drive to ME or MA costs almost as much as shipping and pretty much kills most of a day.  So I pay (and pay a lot...since I use such small quantities). I don't go  in on other potters' large orders because they rarely use the kinds of clay I prefer.   For cone 6,  I am real happy with glazes from Coyote/Amoco/Laguna/Spectrum etc. I don't get a lot of opportunity for wood fire and raku, but with my small quantity, people are real generous with sharing their glazes.  For high fire bodies I use Troy wood, Sheffield's Z, and T3.  I use Highwater's raku. 

That said, I have to 'fess up that I truly miss making clay bodies and formulating glazes. I spent several years saturated in the learning and doing based on  Daniel Rhodes and D.G. Lawrence (clay/glazes/ceramic science)  plus an excellent education in potters/clay artists and the history.  I was enraptured with the making of the materials that were at the heart of my final work. I got my degree but that was just barely a taste. Then I took an economically-driven detour of 30 years. When I retired and went back to clay, I found that the minor brain injury I have pretty much obliterated everything I learned, including much of the physical processes needed to  function with reasonable skill as a craftsman. It took a while to integrate the sense of loss/frustration with the thrill of being back at it, however limited the effort. So, long story long, I use commercial bodies and glazes, and they are just fine--pretty sweet actually! 

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13 minutes ago, LeeU said:

The short answer is that I use commercial bodies and commercial glazes. But being a bit of a Chatty Cathy, here's the rest of it. I do not have the physical space to mix my own, nor the energy or motivation, tho I cringe and wince and grind my teeth every time I pay to get the commercial materials that I like. New Hampshire has no ceramics supply store and the drive to ME or MA costs almost as much as shipping and pretty much kills most of a day.  So I pay (and pay a lot...since I use such small quantities). I don't go  in on other potters' large orders because they rarely use the kinds of clay I prefer.   For cone 6,  I am real happy with glazes from Coyote/Amoco/Laguna/Spectrum etc. I don't get a lot of opportunity for wood fire and raku, but with my small quantity, people are real generous with sharing their glazes.  For high fire bodies I use Troy wood, Sheffield's Z, and T3.  I use Highwater's raku. 

That said, I have to 'fess up that I truly miss making clay bodies and formulating glazes. I spent several years saturated in the learning and doing based on  Daniel Rhodes and D.G. Lawrence (clay/glazes/ceramic science)  plus an excellent education in potters/clay artists and the history.  I was enraptured with the making of the materials that were at the heart of my final work. I got my degree but that was just barely a taste. Then I took an economically-driven detour of 30 years. When I retired and went back to clay, I found that the minor brain injury I have pretty much obliterated everything I learned, including much of the physical processes needed to  function with reasonable skill as a craftsman. It took a while to integrate the sense of loss/frustration with the thrill of being back at it, however limited the effort. So, long story long, I use commercial bodies and glazes, and they are just fine--pretty sweet actually! 

It really takes so much space to store raw materials.  I'm at my limit right now, but I have a full spectrum of materials for cone 6.  If you ever feel like flying across the country we can have a glaze mixing party just for you :D

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I used to make clay when I was young and dumb-it takes a lot out of you as clay is cheap really. The only reason to make clay yourself is for special clay bodes not made commercially .

I learned about 30 years ago that making clay is not worth it. I have always made my own everything -heck I stated out with home made balance beam made from wood to weigh materials-bought my 1st sieve at a restaurant supply. Those where the old days 1971. I make all my own glazes-I do have a ton of my own glaze made for me every 5 years by Laguna ( rutile blue) with my formula and materials list.

I have lots of space so storing is not an issue.I'm still using Kingman feldspar from a 3000# buy in 1980-down to 400#s left. I'm a glaze material horder . Always have been. Its paid off in spades. My glazes look the same over the decades.I like to know whats in my products I sell so I know that 100% always and that important to me.

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i did make clay with that simple formula that got folks on this forum into a tizzy.  unfortunately, it was red and my hands and everything in the studio looked bloody awful.  so i stopped using it.    it was exceptionally cheap to make.   if anyone wants to try it, get a bag of Redart and a bag of XX saggar.   mix with water.  it used to cost about $20 but i am sure that cost is higher now.   2 bags, 50pounds each equalled a lot more clay when the water was added.   it is a cone 6 clay.

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2 hours ago, oldlady said:

i did make clay with that simple formula that got folks on this forum into a tizzy.  unfortunately, it was red and my hands and everything in the studio looked bloody awful.  so i stopped using it.    it was exceptionally cheap to make.   if anyone wants to try it, get a bag of Redart and a bag of XX saggar.   mix with water.  it used to cost about $20 but i am sure that cost is higher now.   2 bags, 50pounds each equalled a lot more clay when the water was added.   it is a cone 6 clay.

40 dollars now

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I started out of the gate making and firing crystalline glaze: which also meant making my own glaze. From there it naturally evolved into making my own glazes; including my own versions of temmoku and others. The first ton of clay I purchased, then started making my own- later buying a pugmill. Currently, I use R2 porcelain that I specifically developed to promote crystalline growth. I make my own suspender and brushing medium: that Britt named glaze jelly. Made my own tile setters, and other kiln furniture. I prefer to explore and learn.

T

Edited by glazenerd
Comment deleted to ensure someone hair doesn' catch fire.
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On 2/28/2020 at 12:10 AM, liambesaw said:

flying across the country

My daughter & her hubby live in Kennewick. I haven't been able to see her for a couple of years and have never been to WA & I have a friend in Seattle. Be careful what you ask for --might end up throwing a glaze party someday! :D

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Commercial clay and glaze.  

I was given a stack of raw materials from a retiring ^10 gas reduction Potter.  Couldn't make them work at ^6, so passed them on.

There are enough (dried out, unfortunately, so constantly need work) small pots of brushing glaze at the centre and in my studio to keep me going for several lifetimes.

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started out by buying a bluebird mixer and mixing a pretty nice white stoneware for a couple of years. Not a true porcelain recipe but close. I forget his name but recipe was touted by a hippie dude that once streaked naked (or so the rumor goes) at the national convention (NCECA??) a while back. I'm pretty sure he passed away but he was a pretty colorful guy from the sounds of it.  Also mixed dozens of glazes. Like a lot of things I do I just went overboard and making clay and glaze,  by the time I bought everything bulk, added test kiln, mixer and expensive everything, was very expensive and time consuming. I know its cheaper by volume and I am sure plenty of folks here did/do it right and keep the number of glazes down and pass on the costly stuff and by doing that it really does save them money. 

I sold the mixer a few years ago and although we have a few glazes we still make, we buy porcelain and a line of house glazes from Clay Art Center in Tacoma along with some gap fillers from Amaco and the like.     

Bottom line, I think making all your own stuff is really only for those folks that want to do it for enjoyment unless you really have the discipline to on get the stuff you absolutely have to have and keep the number of glazes to a small number. 

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