As you can see from the website, my "thing" when it comes to pottery is smokefiring. I got into that because everything I made in the earlier days seemed to have been "ruined" once it was glazed. The glazes seemed to me to "kill" the pot - losing any organic qualities that I had been looking for.
Having said that, I have been wanting to try natural glazes for a while, and I even had a little book on the subject by Miranda Forrest (who lives not so far from me now). As I have been sharing the studio with some neighbours, teaching them how to make pottery, I have been doing glaze firings of their work. So it seemed to me that if my kiln was going all the way up to 1260 odd degrees, then I should probably take advantage and make some of these natural glazes myself. As I live in the Highlands, I am surrounded by seaweed, bracken and wood, and its not so hard to collect some, process it to ash, and see what happens. The first image is of some of the little test tiles I made of the various glazes and their mixtures. It was a moment of real magic to open the kiln. I suppose the effects are subtle, more a study of different birds eggs than vibrant colours, but on close inspection, there were some definite pieces of magic. I ended up taking two of the more interesting finishes and made these pots. The offwhite pot is coloured by the wood ash whereas the whiter pot is bracken ash. Amazing aye? Now these glazes take a lot of adjustment. You can see the pot on the right is a bit "gloopy", so its a case of playing with the proportions of ash to any stabilizing alumina etc to get it right. I have already had some better results for this one.
Now I can't go for a walk without looking at the vegetation around me and deciding what I should burn next - including fragments of rock. Two tests I will definitely be doing is on rhododendron - the invasive Ponticum variety is being cleared in a number of places round here, so there is tonnes of this wood lying around. I am intrigued by this because it is actually a very toxic plant. So will its wood ash be any different to the Douglas Fir? I also want to try some heather - as its so iconic to the Highlands. So I am glad to be glazing - and I never thought I would say that! Smokefiring is also notoriously fickle (my sawdust supply changes a lot for a start), so the natural glazes allows me to gain ground elsewhere, even where the smokefiring feels stuck.
All this shows how having students in the studio is overall a good thing. In needing to show them new techniques that are different to the ones I am "stuck" on, my own processes get challenged or just refreshed. Basically, they inspire me as much as I hope that I inspire them. Its a quiet but wonderful thing..
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