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Making test tiles for first time - how to avoid overwhelming amount?


JRW
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Hi All,

 

I recently installed a kiln and purchased a bunch of glazes. I am interested in starting to create test tiles to get a sense of how the glazes behave with/without texture and at different temperature settings. I use a variety of white stoneware clay bodies (mostly B-Mix, B-Mix with sand, B-Mix with grog, Dover, and Vanilla) as well as some darker clays. My question is this: Given that there are so many factors that effect the outcome of a glaze firing, it would seem I would have to make literally hundreds of test tiles to view every possible glaze/clay body/cone setting/cooling time/layering combination. Is there a shortcut I could take that would eliminate one of these factors? For example, is there a such a  significant difference in the behavior of glazes on mid-fire white stoneware clay bodies  (such as the ones mentioned above) that I should make an entire set of test tiles for each clay body?  Part of the conundrum with choosing one clay body to work with is that I don't want to choose one until I know how the glaze works on it compared to others. Any ideas for reducing the number of test tiles required to get a good predictive sense of what you'll get on a pot? Thanks!

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Texture your tiles, single and double dip them and maybe focus on competing bodies first to get a general idea. You probably will want to evaluate the bodies with respect to your throwing practices first and then pick glazes that perform aesthetically well for you on the body you are comfortable throwing. As far as too many tiles, I don’t think you can ever have enough. That said, I don’t really need tiles for a body I will not use.

Edited by Bill Kielb
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9 minutes ago, Bill Kielb said:

Texture your tiles, single and double dip them and maybe focus on competing bodies first to get a general idea. You probably will want to evaluate the bodies with respect to your throwing practices first and then pick glazes that perform aesthetically well for you on the body you are comfortable throwing. As far as too many tiles, I don’t think you can ever have enough. That said, I don’t really need tiles for a body I will not use.

Thanks, Bill! I do throwing and handbuilding, to complicate things further. When you say "focus on competing bodies" do you mean bodies that are similar (like different white stoneware bodies) or dissimilar (white stoneware versus red or porcelain etc.)

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8 minutes ago, JRW said:

When you say "focus on competing bodies" do you mean bodies that are similar (like different white stoneware bodies) or dissimilar (white stoneware versus red or porcelain etc.)

To me I have a favorite light body and maybe a dark. Occasionally I will try out different similar bodies to see if I enjoy one more. So in context I was envisioning that you have several light bodies to try. Or several dark to try. I actually pretty much only throw porcelain these days but still try different types for transparency, how do they throw, join, etc..... reasons.

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I'd select a clay body first, then find glazes that work. It's important to have a body that you really enjoy using, and that works well for your purposes. Once you've narrowed it down to a couple of bodies, then start testing glazes.

Many glazes will look about the same on different white bodies, others will look quite different. It all depends on the glaze.

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I agree with Neil, narrow down the claybody choice first. You could use one of the lighter clays like B-mix for the test tile then paint a stripe of slip made from the darker claybody onto it. (get the slip on as soon as possible) It isn't ideal but will give you an idea of what the same glaze looks like on a light and dark body using one test tile. I find it's a real pain keeping light and dark claybodies separate insofar as cross contamination of wheel, tools, batts etc.

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10 minutes ago, Min said:

I agree with Neil, narrow down the claybody choice first. You could use one of the lighter clays like B-mix for the test tile then paint a stripe of slip made from the darker claybody onto it. (get the slip on as soon as possible) It isn't ideal but will give you an idea of what the same glaze looks like on a light and dark body using one test tile. I find it's a real pain keeping light and dark claybodies separate insofar as cross contamination of wheel, tools, batts etc.

I'm familiar with the idea of a large tile with horizontal and vertical stripes of multiple glazes to see the effect of glaze over glaze. Excuse non-glaze example.
320glazegrid5-750x563.jpg

Could you use horizontal stripes of clays as slips and vertical lines of glazes (at least for a given temperature)? It might narrow the combinations of interest.

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1 hour ago, PeterH said:

I'm familiar with the idea of a large tile with horizontal and vertical stripes of multiple glazes to see the effect of glaze over glaze. Excuse non-glaze example.
320glazegrid5-750x563.jpg

Could you use horizontal stripes of clays as slips and vertical lines of glazes (at least for a given temperature)? It might narrow the combinations of interest.

Peter that is a brilliant idea! Thank you.

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Agree with clay body suggestions. The same glaze will have variations on porcelain, white stoneware, buff, or red bodied clays. Potter preference and style plays more of a role in selection of clay and glaze: your "dream" glaze and forms work better on some clays than others. I have a test tile trick that I have yet to share: good as time as any. I peel the label off a regular empty soup can: punch a hole in the other end to prevent suction: and punch out an 100 test tiles in less than an hour. Limited use: but if you are simply exploring color development or testing glazes on a variety of clay bodies: it is quick test that takes little kiln space. Can always punch a hole at the top if you like to hang them for reference. 

Tom

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You might also try making some decisions about the style of work you want to make, so you have something to aim for. If you’re starting from the materials and you have no familiarity with any of them yet, it can be overwhelming to try and narrow it down. Instead of trying to test everything, which can take thousands of tests, narrow the field a bit.

When I say pick a style, I don’t mean find a genre of work and copy other people. I mean find some characteristics or feelings you want your work to have, or techniques that inspire you to play. Decide if you want neutrals or colour, texture or smooth, subtle layers or one and done glaze, fancy or simple forms. Once you have a few decisions like that made, it’ll help eliminate the things that won’t enhance that kind of work. You wouldn’t necessarily want a fat glaze with no movement that would fill in a stamped texture, for instance, so you don’t need to chase down that testing line.

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2 hours ago, JRW said:

Peter that is a brilliant idea! Thank you.

Some texture on whatever you use as a tile so that you can see how the glaze breaks over a texture. Some portion vertical so you can see what gravity’s effect will be when fired. L shaped tiles have been popular for a reason, including storage and stacking.. Although  it’s often nice to final test on a  shape such as a small bowl.
Color Pallet style tests are often used for underglazes and the like where multiple colors can be fired with different overglazes and firing flat is fine as underglaze products generally not affected by gravity when fired, hence color pallet.

I have extruded shapes, hundreds in an hour, thrown L shaped rings, made nice little bowls with chatter for final tests and used the little  “condiment” bowls for holding seasoning while cooking. Quick little pouring bowls, use your imagination, you will come up with cool ways to fit your needs.

John Britt’s tiles below, he needs the stacking space! Small bowls to zero in on look and application once a glaze has been picked and can be used afterward for holding something.

DEB7CDDB-225C-4B0E-929A-602F5D7FC1EA.png

29A10213-7E08-49C1-A8F2-4C9E56921D39.png

7AD9B9AD-37B0-4BAA-9D57-94442AEE0F98.png

Edited by Bill Kielb
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I would research Glazy, FB, and the rest of the internet to avoid testing things that have been tested. 

Know what you need to make. Know, not think. Need, not want. 

I think if you make tiles that allow drips onto your shelf, you should just glaze the shelves straightaway, and buy stock in Kiln Wash.

Sorce

 

 

Edited by Sorcery
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for a first round of testing you could make grids like this for each clay body and glaze then fire them. they wont give you an idea of how they move on a vertical surface you'll have to do another round of testing on vertical tiles once you identify some glazes that you like from the grid.

325159388_ScreenShot2021-01-26at9_15_36AM.jpg.e41092c155499d7568b0bd45411121ce.jpg

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@JRW 

Here is an idea you may like, popular  with many artists. A palette of your stains on your clay, fired to your normal temp. You can glaze over just a portion of the color stripe to easily compare glazed and unglazed changes. Only takes one glaze firing.

7DDC839B-EA5C-4D65-9A95-5ADE8A2C254A.jpeg

Edited by Bill Kielb
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In my studio I have a board full of tiles that shows all the possible double dipping combinations of my classroom glazes. 14 glazes, so 196 tiles, laid out in an X/Y axis grid. From the left is the first dip, from the top is the second dip. Every tile has a side with texture to show how the glaze breaks, and a side with black underglaze to show the transparency (or lack of). The tiles themselves are extruded, about 3 inches long. It takes about 75 pounds of extrusions to make the board, which leaves a few dozen end cuts and extras for running glaze tests in the future. The photo below is not the current board, but you get the idea. It's well worth the effort to do one of these once you settle on some glazes, as it's quite accurate as to how the glazes will come out on actual pots.

 

Tile-Board.jpg

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On 1/25/2021 at 7:34 PM, Min said:

When I want a lot of little bowl shapes I do the same thing as Tom then press them on my bent elbow for super quick rough and ready bowl shaped test tiles. cling film / saran wrap on the clay so it doesn't stick to the can.

Like the elbow trick- easier than  the little press form I made. 

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