When the first batch of glazed pieces came out of the kiln last week, I have to say I was both happy and sad. Some of the pieces were really nice, but sadly, it is clear that I need to do lots of testing and experimenting and learning what my glazes are made of.
Being concerned for the planet, I find that I worry that I am using too much water and that I only want to use the energy to fire things that I really love and feel will be a nice finished piece. So while I am throwing a pot, if it doesn’t look like something that I would want to keep forever, it goes back into the clay bin to dry out and be recycled into new clay.
I have taken the time to create all new test tiles and spent an entire week reconstituting my commercial glazes. I did a firing of those tiles and now have them hanging on a board in a somewhat color palette that I can look at and choose the glaze. I did a set for the white stoneware that I am using as well as the brown stoneware. One tile for each color clay with 3 different coats of the glaze, from light to heavy, to give me a palette.
In doing this testing, I used a quart sized yogurt cup of water to clean out my brushes and utensils and emptied that mix into a larger bucket in the sink. Over the course of the week, the bucket is full of a mix of all my glazes which, from my research, can become a new glaze. (or not) My point is that I tried very hard not to let the chemicals go down the drain to end up in the water system.
After doing the tests, I then did the glaze firing on some real items. With each piece that I took out of the kiln, I had many thoughts going through my head about what I should’ve done different or what worked really well. Keeping a journal of each of the glazes as a reference so I can alert myself to the next time I use a particular glaze. I also bought a great book called Mastering Cone 6 Glazes by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy. It is written in layman’s terms and is helping me understand the science of what is going on with the glazes, giving me insight into food safe glazes and the leaching of the chemicals with certain foods following the FDA‘s standards for food, as well as, the Clean Water Act standards. It includes recipes that are stable and have gone through their rigorous tests. This may be where I turn in the future so that I know what the chemistry of the glazes are that I am putting onto the pottery I create. Much like cooking from scratch so that you know exactly what the ingredients are that you are putting into your body.