I mentioned in my last blog post that my pieces are primarily fired in reduction at cone 10. A 'cone' is a measurement of the heat work happening inside the kiln - cone 10 is approximately 2370 degrees farenheit. 'Reduction' means we are reducing the amount of oxygen in the kiln at a specific time in the firing, so that the flames interact with the materials in the glaze and the clay rather than burning on the oxygen in the atmosphere. This creates really rich, beautiful and exciting surfaces. But controlling things like oxygen and fire is tough, so the results can be unpredictable when things don't go exactly right. There are many ups (very high ups) and downs (very low downs, big bummer downs). Also notable, for reduction firing some kind of fire is required - it cannot be done with an electric kiln. The use of fire appeals to the pyro in most potters, and I am no exception :)
I'll always love reduction firing and the results I can get with it, but I was craving something a little simpler. Something to expand my glaze pallet without adding too much new complication into my already busy lifestyle. This winter I got the opportunity to buy a nice sized (small, but not too small) electric kiln. I already have 1 electric kiln that I use for bisque firing (bisque firing is firing the pot before it's glazed and fired again, essentially turning the brittle dry mud into strong ceramic), but I've never wanted to try glaze firing in that kiln. It's just so big, it'd take me too long to fill it with glaze ware unless I stopped making cone 10 pots completely for a while - which I am NOT willing to do. This smaller kiln is just right, probably big enough for 8 or 10 mugs or soup bowls, with a few shot glasses or bud vases to fill in the smaller spaces. I decided on trying to fire in the cone 5/6 range (approximately 2150-2230 degree F range) because it's a little bit easier on kilns and the electric bill than firing to cone 10, and yet is still very durable. Durable enough for the microwave and dishwasher - which is important to me, as I want my work to be functional for every day living. Plus there are a Ton of glaze recipes floating around for this type of firing.
At the Dragon, all of our cone 10 glazes are mixed up in the studio based on recipes we've found and tested, and deemed worthy of the time and effort it takes to mix them up. There are a ton of glaze recipes out in the clay world for anyone willing to look, recipes for any kind of firing and any kind of temperature. But again my dabbling in cone 6 oxidation is all about simplicity, so I started by identifying a few commercial glazes that I liked well enough to use regularly. I knew I could start testing some different cone 6 glaze recipes to add to my glaze vocabulary After identifying a few glazes I love that I can just buy. I started by looking at the Dragon at the commercial glazes people are using there, and online of course, and I finally settled on 6 different pints of glaze to test. I made some test pieces, simple cups and bowls, and saved a few other pieces that turned out wonky. Pretty soon I had glazes to test and pots to test them on.
My first firing turned out pretty well. My test glazes all turned out nice, but it was not hard to identify my 2 favorites. One was a nice light dove grey called French Grey - it's a subtle color, very light and pretty opaque. I'm really into grey lately, and I guess I'm not the only one. Grey seems to be having a moment these past few years. With another nearly clear icy blue glaze layered on the top it gained some deeper, darker areas. The combination kind of reminds me of the liquidy metal in Terminator 2. I don't intend to buy the icy blue, but I suspect finding a similar recipe will not be too difficult. The other glaze is called Peacock which is the perfect name. It's a really pretty bluish green, which fits in well with the other glazes I tend to use. I'm a blue and purple fan for sure, and I like green but I definitely prefer my greens to lean a little towards blue. So I had my commercial glazes picked out. I did want to start testing out some recipes in my next firing, so I consulted the internet, and my own ceramics book library, and easily found 3 to try. Two were a matte finish, one was lavender and the other turquoise. The third was what looked like sort of a classic robins egg blue celadon, which I had high hopes of being my substitute for the icy blue glaze that layered so nicely over the French Grey.
Once I bought and mixed up my glazes and test glazes, and had some pieces made in an appropriate kind of clay, I was ready for my first honest-to-goodness (not all test pieces) firing! I had a few technical glitches, but learned from that. The end results were good overall. My test glazes were just OK - the celadon did layer quite nicely over the grey but was a little bland on it's own. The turquoise was really cool, but it dripped onto my kiln shelf - and that drip would NOT come off, not even with major power tools involved - forget that one! The matte lavender was - meh, it was ok. The French Grey and Peacock pieces all turned out really nice! I made some new bathroom utensils (toothbrush holder, cotton pad jar, a few cups for make-up brushes and such) and they turned out really pretty. They are perfect in our bathroom. And the Peacock is so nice and rich, and it's got just the right amount of translucency to let marks on the clay show through.
I'm excited about trying something new, and expanding my clay vocabulary a little bit right here at home. Thanks for letting me share my progress with you!