Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Commercial cone 6 glazes

I met a new friend last week (Hi Sherry!) and we were talking about glazes.  She mixes her own whereas I use commercial glazes. 

Before we go any further, I hereby bow down to those who mix their own glazes.  It takes a knowledge of chemistry and a patience that I simply don't have and don't desire to learn.  It is an artform in and of itself.

That being said, she asked me my favorite brands and since then, I've thought that I might have to backtrack on my initial answer.  I initially said that I love Coyote glazes.  But then I made all sorts of exceptions - this one turned out ugly, that one doesn't work the way I like, etc etc. 

I think I have tried just about every brand of glaze out there.  I'm constantly on the hunt for new colors.  I number the back of each test tile I make and I'm currently up to number 82, so yes, I've sampled several.  I think I currently have about 30 different pints in my cupboard.  Several of them are only there because I didn't like the color, but can't bear to throw out useable glaze so I keep using them for the insides of mugs and stuff until one day, thankfully, I'll run out and be able to throw it away.

So I started thinking about if I had to choose only a handful of glazes to keep in my cabinet, which ones would they be?

All of the following observations are based on the results of my medium size kiln (I think it's an 18 inch hexagon, about 3 feet tall, inside dimensions) with a kiln sitter.  I put the little cone it and when it melts, the kiln turns off.  No soaking, no holding, can't really do that.  I've tried using cone 5, cone 5 1/2, and true cone 6.

If I could only use 5 glazes they would be:

1)  Albany Slip Brown, Potters Choice.  Quite simply, it just works.  It's a beautiful color that breaks gold.  Looks good over texture and creates its own visual interest if no texture is present.  Works the same on cone 5 through cone 6 and doesn't run all over my shelves.

2)  Blue Rutile, Potters Choice.  Like above, it just works and behaves properly at just about any of my temps.  It's a blue that will never go out of style.  It needs to be applied thick or you get a brownish black.  It does run a little bit (due to being applied very thickly) but you tend to get kind of a bump blob of glaze under the handle of a mug rather than a whole bunch of glaze all over your shelf.

This might be replaced by either Coyotes Mottled Blue or Mayco's Blue Surf.  Both of those have brighter blues but I haven't used them enough to be able to predict the outcome when I use them.


3)  Blue Hare Fur, Clayart Center.  Everyone needs a reliable black.  This has blue undertones when applied thick.  Another really good behaver in all temps.  And it mixes with other glazes REALLY well.  If applied over blue rutile, it will exaggerate the visual flow of that glaze without changing the color.  If applied under albany slip brown (and some others that I've tested it with), it creates a whole unexpected effect.

Don't have a sample of it by itself, but here it is first under, than over stellar rust. 

4)  Clear, Continental Clay.  I do a lot of agateware so I want to see the color of the clay itself.  It was hard finding a good clear.  They tend to be milky or bubbly, or kind of clump up on the pot.  I've found continental to be the best of those I've tested.  Works at cone 5 1/2 but looks even sharper and clearer at 6.

Hmmmmm, I guess I only had 4 must haves.  Ok, here's a list of some new glazes that I've done a test tile for but haven't tested extensively and therefore I can't get them a definite "must have" title yet.

1)  Hellfire Red, Kentucky Mudworks.  If this one works out, it will shoot high on my list.  It's like a deep brown but with a shimmery pink floating on top of that brown.  I did the test tile at cone 6 and it's beautiful.  I did a firing at cone 5 1/2 where I used it and I kind of had to search for the shimmering color.  It came out mostly brown.  So I think it needs that extra heat.

2)  Deep Firebrick, Potters Choice.  It's a deep, non cheesy, brick red.  Shows texture pretty well.

3)  Stoned Denim, Mayco.  Seems to work well, a really nice flowing greenish blue over a black base.  Very nice over extreme texture but does need to go on thick so it can obscure softer textures.

4)  Merlot, Clayart Center.  It's a lovely purple and leans more to the burgandy/red side of the purple spectrum.  Goes gray when thin so if applied medium, it's a showcase for texture.

And here are four that I will never ever ever buy again and kind of hope my leftovers accidently fall into the landfill.

1)  Sunrise Shino, Coyote.  Cedar Shino can go with it.  I've tried it at all temperatures and I just get pepto bismal pink.  Flat, thick, blech.  But sometimes you need a pink which is why I haven't just thrown these two out. 

2)  Chun Red, Laguna.  I just got a mess.  No red, just ick.  Threw it out.

3)  Eggplant, Coyote.  It's matte, kind of an olive green the goes purple when it reaches a hot enough temp.  When fired at cone 6 I got more purple and it was more acceptable but just too unpredictable.  At cone 5, it came out a really rough texture and just kinda blue.

4)  Steel Gray Shino and charcoal satin, Coyote.  Came out matte and flat which I don't like.  But when I fired one or the other at a real cone 6, I actually got a smoky effect that had some depth.  Will have to experiment with the hotter fire more, but if all else fails, out the door they go.
And a few parting notes.

1)  Hyacinth, Laguna.  When it works, it's the most beautiful glaze.  It's a purply, smoky, wonderful colors.   But when it doesn't work, ick.  It runs if fired too hot.  It seems to get some sort of grit that floats in it and when fired, sometimes that grit is just embedded and creates little sharp points (especially prevelant inside mugs for some reason) or it just seems like it burns.  I will not include this in cone 6 firings anymore because it runs and ruins shelves pretty much every time.  But I'll keep trying to make it work at cone 5 1/2.

2)  Coyote glazes in general - I have a feeling that as I see more of them fired to a proper cone 6, I'll like them more.  They seem to be coming to life more when I fire them hotter.  But I am concerned about Red Gold.  It's on so many show pieces for Coyote and yet I'm just not getting the same results.  I'm getting a flat brown with runs that kind of glob yellow.  I was really looking forward to trying this glaze and I'm very disappointed.  I think it must require a hold time or something that I just can't do.  And Pam's Blue - I had given up on it because at cone 5 1/2 it was just a flat blue and gray mottled glaze.  But when fired at cone 6, it became this wonderfully streaky, full of effects glaze.  I'm now considering buying more and trying the Pams Green when I had previously decided not to get any more.

3) Spectrum glazes - I won't buy them anymore.  They run like crazy even at cone 5.  Texture Oasis would have been lovely but I just couln't make it work.  I even did an 8 inch tall planter and the only glaze was a one inch stripe of texture oasis near the top.  And it still ran all the way down the pot and onto the shelf.

4)  Antique Iron, Opulance.  Very nice at cone 5 1/2.  Gets some nice variation as the blue and a touch of green kind of burst out of the brown over texture.  But fired at cone 6, bye bye kiln shelf.  Much more color bursting but it will melt right off your pot.

5)  Clayart Center Brand glazes (from a store in Tacoma), these are not the most flashy colors or anything, but they are solid good glazes.  I use powder blue, evergreen, and of course blue hare fur.  These tend to be solid colors but they behave well and tend to mix with other colors to new effects.  But in their pints, they are really thick.  Every time I use the evergreen, I replace what I took out with some water to thin the remaining, and I still have a completely full pint that could use some more thinning.  I'd say I've used about half of the glaze originally in that pint and replaced it with water and it's still too thick.  Then again, more for you money!

And what's really sad?  This isn't even all of the glazes that I'm CURRENTLY using.  *sigh* 

Saturday, February 13, 2010


I've taken on my first student and I think things are going pretty well.  She's doing a 7 class course spread out across 3 weeks.

The first day was the boring, not gonna play with clay, just learn and take notes day.  I talked about the different kinds of clay and the benefits and drawbacks of them.  I talked her through the definitions of cones and what potters are asking when they ask what cone you fire to. 

Then I did a full demo of making a mug from start to ready to be fired.  I figured that anything you're learning takes about 3 times to be told or shown something before it clicks so I would get one of those times out of the way before we even really started class.  We went over wedging, centering, opening, pulling, a little shaping.  Then I took a mug I had made the day before and we went over trimming, pulling a handle, and attaching it.  Ok, the handle pulling we did at the very beginning of the session so it would have time to set up.

So the first day of getting dirty, I decided to do things out of order a little bit.  I know that we tend to start from the beginning and work our way in but I kind of figured that it would get frustrating and irritating if we started with wedging and centering.  I really wanted her to have fun and come back for the next lesson so I decided to skip ahead and go straight to pulling.  So I did a little demo of what I was gonna have her do.  After the demo, I wedged some clay and re-demoed the centering part of it (she's now seen and heard me talk through it three times) and then she took the wheel for the pulling part. 

Not only did I want to start her out with the fun part, but I wanted her to be accustomed to the feel of that step when the clay is properly centered.  Too many students rush through the centering and so they are always moving onto the next step with uneven clay and it makes the whole thing harder.  I figured if her fingers learned the next step when the first step is done properly, it would help her learn how important centering is and give her the patience to learn it.

My other theory is that since the clay naturally wants to make a bowl shape, I wouldn't even teach her to make a bowl.  I would start right away with teaching a cylinder.  It's very easy to adjust what you've learned from pulling up a cylinder to pulling out into a bowl shape, but it's very hard to adjust from a bowl to trying to pull straight up.  She was very successful and made a little mug form that first day.

So the next class I decided it would be irritating exercises day.  Tuesdays are the fun stuff, Thursdays we finish what we made on Tuesday and then do skill building exercises.  So I had her make a handle and trim her little pot and had her create a signature for herself.  That all went pretty well. 

We had already talked a bit about wedging and she had done a little bit of it just to get the feel for it.  So I took about 7 lbs of white clay and about 7lbs of red clay and told her to wedge them together until they were a uniform color.  And we wired through it a couple of times to doublecheck if she was adding airbubbles in or taking them out.  She did great!  No air bubbles at all and she got the clays mixed really well!

Onto centering.  I demoed again and then it was her turn.  This took some time.  A whole lot of advising on hand placement and how to use the hands and the whole body to coax the clay to center.  And a whole of reminding not to flex the wrist so hard or to interlace her fingers around the back side of the clay.  So she would get it to where she thought it was center and I would check it with a needle tool.  Then I'd knock it off center and have her do it again. 

Around the end of the session, I let her go ahead and move onto the next step and pull the walls up.  She got them very thin and uniform.  I was really impressed!  Since she wasn't attached to that pot, I went ahead and quickly showed her a few different ribs and how to use them.  While we'll mainly be working with just a sponge and fingers, I still want to give her the vocabulary and other ideas of what to try so if she continues with pottery, she'll have the tools to help herself learn and ask good questions.

Those are the three sessions we've had so far and we have 4 more to go.  She's actually doing really well and I'm a little nervous that I might run out of stuff to teach her.  Her walls come up at a nice 90 degree angle, they are uniform throughout the pot.  Her stuff looks like she's been at it for a year or so.  Either she's naturally very talented, or I'm a kick ass teacher!

So I'm thinking next Tuesday, I'll have her make about 5 mugs or bowls (whatever she wants) and then we'll make one really large form.  I'll sit by and advise but I won't touch it myself so she can get accustomed to the whole process.  Then on Thursday, we'll trim and add handles to whatever she made on Tuesday, and we'll add 12-15 handles to the large form.  So she'll be really good at making and attaching handles!

Not sure of what to do that last week.  Just give her some clay and let her play?