the work-glazing

After I posted, I got an email from a customer and friend who used to work with Gary. The sweet guy bought a few serving pieces of mine for his wife for her birthday. He wrote to tell me that she was pleased (I'm so glad! They are such a sweet couple), but as he's just read my blog post, he wondered why glazing wasn't fun for me. It occurred to me that I hadn't said why it was a chore, so I thought I'd answer that question here.

I'm not complaining, please know that. I chose this job for myself, and I love it, but like any job, there are just parts that you don't like as much as others. I know that some people LOVE glazing. For many potters, and I'm thinking particularly of these potters, painting, illustrating, glazing their pottery is an obvious joy. It's an expression of whimsy, personality, joy in creation. I am both a sloppy potter (I can't quit touching my wet ware, leaving finger and handprints all over it, clay boogers, dents, you name it. Nasty habit I need to break. I should leave the pottery alone on the bat until it is leather hard.) and a recovering perfectionist. So even though the pottery has prints and boogers and needs to be sanded, I dearly want the finished product to be completely smooth, snag-free, well-covered by glaze, with a nice bottom, blah blah. All of my perfectionist tendencies come out when I glaze.

Here's my typical proceedure: first I sand (um, bad for the lungs), then rinse each piece, let dry, stamp the bee on the bottom, wax the foot of the piece (the bottom and lower 1/8"), try to keep that 1/8" line straight, try to keep the liquid wax off the rest of the piece. Wax is applied to keep the glaze, essentially liquid glass, off the kiln shelf. If there's specks of glaze on the bottom of the piece, the pottery might adhere to the shelf and either leave a piece of itself there or take a chunk of the shelf with it. Also, if spots of wax get on the rest of the piece, the glaze won't adhere and there will be sections of unglazed clay on the finished piece. That has to be reglazed.

While the wax is drying, I mix up the glaze- it's in gallon buckets and has to be mixed with my drill and screened to remove any clumps. I almost always have clumps. Then I dip my pieces with tongs into the buckets to coat them with glaze. After they dry, I try to brush off any obvious drip marks and wipe off any errant glaze from the foot. If the piece is a single color, that's all. But for my fern pieces, I paint the ferns with a green glaze and wax over that before I dip for the main coat of glaze. For the ladybugs, I paint the red and black details over the white base coat.

Today I got about 45 pieces clean, stamped, and waxed. I painted leaf-green on another ten small pieces but didn't wax over those. There are another 30 or so pieces that I didn't get to at all. I stopped after 4 podcasts. Conveniently, it also began to thunderstorm and freak the dogs out. I do all of my glazing work outside, weather permitting, because I am so messy at it- glaze splattered everywhere, wax splashes, dust from sanding everywhere.

So. There's the process. Loading the kiln might take another hour because I try to pack the kiln as full as possible- the pieces jammed in together but not touching so they won't stick to each other. Firing is usually another 10 hours, then cooling might take another 24 hours. Slow process. Maybe someday when I'm rich and famous I can hire someone to glaze for me! I can wish, right? Until then, I'm back at it.