In early May, I discovered that the clay I'd been using for nearly a year seemed to have changed. It decided that it did not want to work with my glazes anymore - either recipes I found, made, tinkered with that had been perfect on the last batch of clay, or with commercial glazes that I'd been using for years. Once I was recovered from Urban Barn market, I decided to test the two batches of clay that I was using, plus a stoneware that I used to use, and English porcelain. Over the course of a few days, I threw familiar forms in multiples- plates, tiny plates, small cups, bowls- to test with the various glazes. Happily, everything seemed to work well. I have 300 lb of clay that didn't fit with my favorite clear glaze, but I found a substitution that seems fairly happy. I still have more pieces to fire and glaze, but I'm pretty pleased with what's happened so far. There were a few specific problems that I think are working out, but I'll have to tackle them after I get back from Maine in mid-June.
Many of my test pieces were plates. I'll start with this big pale blue gray porcelain plate (#18) that I made as a test piece for a client and was the least successful of the batch:
I was thinking about etched glassware when I made this - specifically grandmother's old precious fostoria crystal. Sadly, the design just didn't show up in this color that I love. I'm going to keep working on it, but this piece didn't work. Also, it's time for a studio deep-clean and organization to segregate my cobalt brushes from all of the others. Too much contamination going on here. Ironically, I'm wondering if one way to save this piece is to brush in cobalt into the lines I carved. We'll see.
this little plate, #19, is also english porcelain. I drew lily of the valley and inlaid with cobalt wash, then sadly decided to once-fire it, trying to rush the process, and the finish is more like salt-glazed pottery than smooth, shiny pieces. I gave it to a friend for her 40th birthday so did not take a picture with good light and my real camera. But I know I'm going to use this imagery again, and I have high hopes for it.
Plate 20 is a big porcelain dinner plate that was such an experiment for me. I almost glazed it in white or clear, but at the last minute decided to use my aqua glaze because it was one that had played badly with my regular porcelain, which I used the "good" batch to make this plate. Before trimming, I pressed small pieces of seaglass into the wet clay and just let it dry after trimming. No drawing, no special treatment. I knew exactly how the plate would look in white or clear (and honestly, I would have liked the end results better), but the way the glass pushed the aqua glaze out of the way is so interesting to me. I'm considering adding a few more pieces of glass to the top of the plate an refiring it so that there's more glass and the plate looks less like a clock. It was a very interesting experiment, and I'm looking forward to playing with more seaglass.
Twenty one, small porcelain plate in the new batch that didn't respond well to this commercial glaze, and sure enough, it is full of crackles, despite the fact that I applied the glaze really really thinly. I made a matching cup out of english porcelain and used the same glaze (but cracked the darn thing), and it didn't craze at all. I believe it is a bad batch of clay.
These two plates are so small I'm counting them as the same, #22. The larger saucer is my old good batch of porcelain, with glass embedded in the sides, glazed in clear. I really like how the glass runs down the sloped sides. The second, top dish is the size of an antique butter pat dish, and I made it with the trimmings from the english porcelain. English porcelain is lovely and beautiful but it does NOT like to be reclaimed. I try to collect the trimmings whenever I throw with it, wad them up, mist, wedge, and then immediately throw a little something with them. On this piece I dipped it in my favorite clear glaze then scattered a few tiny pieces of glass on the top. It feels very organic and very made by someone else besides me.
Lastly, I want to share a cup that I'm just crazy pleased with, that combines my love of drawing and detail with this unpredictable glass.
This is English porcelain, again, and I drew a rugosa rose all over the cup with a pin tool and filled it in with cobalt wash. Then I pressed in small pieces of sea glass and let it dry. The next part terrified me. I ran it under a trickle of water to sponge off the extra cobalt to minimize the transfer that I never can see until after it's fired. Bisque, favorite clear glaze, and Oh! Look what happens where the glass moves over the drawing! I just love it and want to play with this more over the summer.
I have two more plates to share, but they are gifts that I'm taking to Maine, so I'll share them when I return.
Happy summer, friends