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5 Glaze Books Review

Today I am delving into my vast ceramic book collection and selected some glaze books. I thought it would be helpful to give a brief overview of each book.

  • 1. First up (in order of my pile) is The Glaze Book by Thames & Hudson
    This book is divided up into 3 main sections, the first being earthenware, that is divided up further within into majolica, raku and lustres. The second half of the book is stoneware and porcelain glazes. What I really like is that the glazes are categorised within colours, both reduction and oxidised glazes are given. Each glaze has its firing range, use and a brief description. Personally I have tried about 6 glazes and had mixed results.

    2. Next up is Dry Glazes by Jernegan.
    This book does not display the glaze colours very effectively, all the glaze tests are butted up against one another, and knowing that colour is relative it can be hard to envision what the glaze will look like. This is probably why I have probably never mixed a glaze from its catalogue. However it does share some really good information about glazes, It gives an analysis of what makes a dry glaze dry and shares examples of ceramic artists works. The book goes into detail about slips and engobes, alkaline glazes, boron and lead, magnesium glazes, barium glazes, oxides and raku. It is a good book for understanding what material’s impact the appearance of a glaze and would be helpful to the non functional pottery maker.

    3. The Potters Book of Glazes Recipes by the late and well renowned potter Emmanuel Cooper
    Another beautifully laid out book. The glaze pictures are a little small, but all very clear. The glazes are divided up into their firing temperatures. And a valuable addition to some glazes is that it gives variations with some slight tweaking. I have tested a couple of the recipes and they had similar results to the ones in the book.
  • 4. The Potters Palette by Christine Constant and Steve Ogden
    This is one of my oldest glaze books and a favourite. The book gives a selection of glaze bases; 4 at earthenware and 2 at stoneware temperatures and then each section is divided by the main ceramic oxides and shows you the results the oxides have on each of the base glazes. It also gives examples of these glazes with opacifiers added. The final section of the book includes some stain suggestions and cross blends. I have some of the best glazes from this book, highly recommend.
  • 5. Colour in Glazes by Linda Bloomfield
    From the oldest to my newest addition. Linda has such knowledge about glazes and explains it in a really easy to understandable way. She works with porcelain so I knew her glazes would be good for porcelain application. The book is divided by colour and also gives examples of current ceramic artists work, which is really helpful to see compared to small test tiles. I have had 100% success with the glazes I have trialled and look forward to testing more as the colours she creates, or has referenced from other ceramic artists, are really beautiful.

All of these books have their own area’s of expertise, finding the one that fits with your style and type of ceramic work is important. Its great testing out new glazes and having some expert guidance to start you on a glaze test journey gives you the confidence to get started. Do think of them as a starting point, as often the results may be different due to other factors, such as your firing cycle, different sources of raw materials etc. Tweak the glazes, change the ratio’s of the ingredients and this way you find your very own glaze catalogue.

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Keeping Records

Planning and recording can be easily overlooked, particularly when hands are covered in clay and writing is the last thing on your mind.

I learnt the hard way. When studying ceramics I would be so in the moment, believing I will remember what process I used, what colour slips or glaze, and what firing temperature. I quickly learnt that as the week/s passed from beginning to end of the process I would forget. Then when there was a success I would not be able to repeat as I couldn’t remember exactly the journey that piece of work had been on.

To overcome this, particularly when I started throwing, I created a log sheet. It records the date, back then a code, the weight, what clay was used, how many pieces I’d made in that batch, and any decoration details. I was never as organised as I would have like to have been, as it would have been ideal to record what the glaze firing was too.

This log sheet is still used, slightly adapted as I no longer code my work and now I will include dimensions post throwing now if needed. I keep a separate log book for one-off designs and do record firing temperatures in this one and include a photo of the completed work. The log sheet is really quick to fill out as it’s a table, tally is used to record quantities made.

This document has served me well. I do refer back through it, sometimes years later to re-visit a design I like.

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The Art of Practice

“In order to do something well we must first be willing to do it badly” Julia Cameron, The Artists Way
This is so true, no-one ever picks up a paintbrush and can paint, or sits at a potter wheel and can master making a pot. Practice, practice and a bit more practice is needed to master skills. Experts are not created overnight.

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Studio Time

Today I have spent most of my day in the studio making. The run up to the holiday season is always a hectic time. I am making some incense houses and spoons. I have been making the houses now for 5 years and each batch is different, using different clays, decorating techniques and glazes. The ones shown here are the originals, made from porcelain that I smoke fired. They were not for incense cones either, this design developed over the years. Nowadays I wouldn’t attempt it in porcelain, they are much better suited to stoneware clays as I make them from slabs.

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Mindset for Making

Today I would like to share some helpful tips that I use to help me get in the right mindset for making art when I am not feeling motivated:

  • Have a dedicated space, with your tools readily available, that you can personalise and work un-interrupted to get into the creative state of flow.
  • Tell others you are going to work and not to disturb you, switch your phone to DND
  • Have a daily time to create, it will turn into a habit.
  • Set up little rituals such as lighting a candle, scented oils and playing music. This will trick your brain into the create mode after repeating the same rituals each time. You will quickly forget your reservations and get into the swing of making.
  • When you are absorbed in making don’t stay in one position making for too long, have regular breaks, this will also aid concentration and make it a much better experience.
  • Research other artists practices, their studio’s etc, but be mindful not to use this to compare against yourself. We’ll all have our own unique ways of working.
  • Always acknowledge your achievements, however small, after a making session. Even celebrate the small gains – the fact that you showed up is huge.
  • If you are unable to make don’t be hard on yourself. A break can also be good to reset and start new projects.
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30 Day Challenge

A blog post every day for 30 days

I have set myself a challenge to write a blog post every day for 30 days….. Starting today!

Starting with a brief introduction, my name is Helen, I am an artist and live in the UK. I studied art craft almost 25 years ago and have been practicing ever since. I work across mediums but share mostly my ceramic creations. I like to also sketch and paint (watercolours and acrylics) and photography/videography is also an interest.

Inspiration for my work is constantly changing, I do not stand still for long. Re-occurring themes are houses, landscapes, the coast, seasons and the weather. I always listen to music when throwing on the pottery wheel.

My art practice is done alongside my day job as an Occupational Therapist. I need the social contact as well as the quiet making time.

The best advice I’ve been given and share is to follow what you are passionate about, do not to feel constrained sticking to one medium, instead experiment and play. And make because you love it, not others or money – it will show in the work!

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Impact AI on studio pottery

Digital Pottery Designs

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris

We are on the edge of yet more change to pottery production. I have been chatting to friends about the impact of AI that led me to think about the studio pottery movement and how it came about in revolt to the industrial revolution, and where its place in history is now.

How technology has impacted studio pottery

Studio pottery is the creation of ceramic art and functional pottery by individual artists or small groups working in independent studios or workshops. Unlike mass-produced factory ceramics, studio pottery is typically characterized by its emphasis on handmade, unique, and often one-of-a-kind pieces, the amazing pottery and ceramics seen on the internet.

There is no doubt that the industrial revolution has aided studio potters, it provided possibilities thanks to the technological developments particularly the electric kilns, not to mention the glaze technology. Ceramic equipment is now so accessible meaning pottery studios can be set up easily at home.

The downside was that before the industrial revolution, pottery was a ‘village craft’ and the village potters skills were at risk of being lost to mass production. Fortunately a few famous studio potters (Bernard Leach) kept the craft alive and going. Both mass production and studio pottery both have a place today.

Fast forward to today, and similar to the potters facing the industrial revolution, we are facing the impact of AI.

How AI could help

  • Assist with designs
  • In commercial studios robots equipped with AI can be programmed to handle tasks such as clay molding, glazing, and firing.
  • Education
  • To record and catalogue
  • To support with business administration

How it can’t help

  • It can’t substitute the relationship between maker and viewer
  • It can’t produce ceramic that has the makers individual handmade mark
  • It can’t replicate the passion the potter has for making their work.

While AI could bring benefits to the world of pottery, it’s essential to strike a balance between technology and traditional craftsmanship. Many potters value the handmade and artisan aspects of their work, and AI should be seen as a tool to enhance and complement their skills rather than replace them entirely.

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Why buy handmade pottery?

Handmade pottery offers a range of benefits, both aesthetic and practical. Here are some of the advantages of using handmade pottery:

Unique and One-of-a-Kind: Each handmade pottery piece is unique, as it is crafted by hand, making it stand out from mass-produced items. This uniqueness adds character and charm to your collection.

Artistic Expression: Handmade pottery allows artisans to express their creativity and artistry, resulting in pieces that often feature intricate designs, textures, and shapes.

High Quality: Skilled potters take pride in their craft, ensuring that each piece is carefully crafted with attention to detail, resulting in higher quality and durability compared to factory-made ceramics.

  • Sustainability: Supporting local artisans and purchasing handmade pottery can be more environmentally friendly than buying mass-produced ceramics, as it often involves fewer resources and energy.

Connection to the Maker: When you purchase handmade pottery, you often have the opportunity to connect with the artisan, learn about their process, and gain a deeper appreciation for their work.

Functional Art: Handmade pottery is not just for display; it’s also functional. You can use it for cooking, serving, and storing food or beverages, enhancing your dining experience.

Durability: Handmade pottery is typically fired at high temperatures, making it more durable and resistant to chipping and cracking than some commercial ceramics.

Heirloom Quality: Handmade pottery can become cherished family heirlooms, passed down through generations due to its quality and sentimental value.

Supporting Local Economies: Purchasing handmade pottery supports local artisans and small businesses, contributing to the local economy and preserving traditional craft techniques.

Cultural and Historical Value: Handmade pottery often reflects the cultural and historical traditions of a region, offering a connection to the past and a sense of heritage.

  • Personal Connection: Using handmade pottery in your daily life can create a personal connection between you and the artist, enhancing the enjoyment of your pieces.

Collectible: Handmade pottery can be a collectible hobby, as collectors often seek out unique and rare pieces created by renowned potters.

Unique Gifts: Handmade pottery makes for thoughtful and unique gifts for special occasions, as recipients can appreciate the craftsmanship and individuality of the item.

Local Sourcing: Many people prefer to source their everyday items locally, and handmade pottery provides an opportunity to support local businesses and reduce the carbon footprint associated with shipping.

  • Overall, handmade pottery offers a blend of artistry, functionality, and sustainability, making it a valuable addition to your home and lifestyle.