Earlier this year (late 2011, actually), I abandoned my standard clay body because it would no longer behave- any turquoise glaze or underglaze sheared right off in sharp glassy shards. Disappointing for me, hazardous to anyone who used the pieces. At first, I thought the problem was the glaze, but after seeing this happen with multiple glazes (and then with certain colors of underglaze), I realized it was a problem with the clay. Sad, because this ultra-white, smooth, easy to throw, easy to hand-build clay body was one I'd been using for 10 years. I switched back to one that I knew had some problems (have to baby it as it dries or oops, that mug handle will pop right off *just* before it is bone dry), but oh, those problems. So I've tried 2 new stonewares, one of which didn't play well with glaze (see my crazing post) and another which is fine, really, except that it isn't white. See the cup above. Not white, more of a french vanilla. And I'm coming to the realization that well, it's just what it is. Even the porcelains I've tried aren't strictly white. (the whiter pieces above are porcelain, and they're fine, but a bit speckled with something that doesn't show up unless it's coated in clear glaze). I've forgotten how to throw large pieces (such as plates and serving bowls) with porcelain and will need to re-learn. Porcelain also has to dry very very slowly to keep its form and not crack.
So, unless I can bite the bullet and order new clay bodies from afar (and either drive to get them or pay several hundred dollars for shipping), it seems that french vanilla is my new white. There is some white-glazed french vanilla stoneware in the kiln, cooling. Test stoneware #1 showed through the white glaze (it looked dirty, not like a thin glaze, just like a dirty cup). I am in mourning for my ultra-white stoneware, but like any loss, I'm learning to move forward with the new reality. And the reality is that very few people will care if the base clay is ultra white or french vanilla, and the ones who do care will let me know, quite vocally. And I'm becoming ok with the fact that it's out of my hands, that pottery is alchemy, and that I'm just not in control of very much. And with that, I'm going to head to the studio to throw more and re-learn how to make larger forms in porcelain and figure out how to fill my dinner and breakfast ware orders that a few sweet folks have been waiting quite patiently for.
Thanks for reading.