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Body made from Plainsman Fire-Red, ball clay and feldspar

Fire-Red is an unusual material for several reasons. It has a high iron content yet is a fireclay (the iron percentage is so high that it fires black at cone 10R). It is also non-plastic. Most important, it is not ground to 200 mesh like industrial materials. This body demonstrates it well: 42.5% Fire-Red, 42.5% ball clay and 15% feldspar. All that ball clay gives it awesome plasticity. The feldspar gives control of the degree of vitrification (just raise or lower it for more or less). This recipe produces good density and strength yet still exhibits deep red color! Look closely at the surface: It is covered by thousands of tiny iron eruptions, these will bleed through an over glaze to give "speck-city" like no other!

Monday 13th May 2019

Want bright orange on your ware?

Orange is a very difficult color in ceramics. Inclusion stains are the only reliable method and universally used in industry. But you could ignore that and try a bunch of recipes online, buying exotic materials to complete each one. Maybe one will be orange enough, but will it craze or run or blister or leach or cutlery mark or crawl? Or you could put an orange stain into a transparent glaze you already know works on your clay. Or, how about trying a premixed orange at low fire? Ware can be amazingly functional and there are so many other bright colours available.

Friday 10th May 2019

When the cone does this I need to adjust the program

This is a cone 04. It is bent too much, the kiln has over-fired a little (cone 03 was also bent somewhat). The built-in firing schedule goes to 1945, that would be much more over-fired than this was (and the built-in ones do not soak, drop-and-soak or slow cool). It only takes a minute to edit the program I made, all I have done is drop the step-three temperature to 1930 (it was 1935). I adjust my schedule fire-up-to temperature as needed, I cannot imagine not doing this.

Friday 10th May 2019

Soda fired porcelain vessel by Heather Lepp

This is a small cup-sized object made from Plainsman P600 (simply composed of Tile #6 kaolin, nepheline syenite and quartz). It is valued as a product-of-the-process piece, consigned to the "kiln God" as unglazed. It exhibits carbon-trap, soda glaze deposition and flashing. The soda-vapour atmosphere of the kiln glazed one side of the vessel early enough in the firing to trap carbon under a crystal-clear glass. Often such glazes are crazed, but this one likely is not because the body contains 25% quartz, giving it a high thermal expansion. The other side of the piece exhibits tones of red, brown and yellow on the bare, vitreous porcelain surface - this is characteristic of "flashing".

Friday 10th May 2019

Incredible Titanium Dioxide in a calcium matte

The glaze is G1214Z cone 6 base calcium matte. 5% titanium dioxide has been added. This Plainsman M390 tile was fired at cone 6 using the PLC6DS firing schedule. Titanium can create reactive glazes, like rutile, even with matte surfaces (provided the glaze has good melt fluidity). Calcium mattes host crystallization and work particularly well. Because titanium dioxide does not contain iron oxide lighter colors and better blues are possible than with rutile. Like rutile, the effects are dependent on the cooling rate of the firing, faster cools produce less reactivity.

Wednesday 8th May 2019

Partially and fully opacified matte glaze at cone 6

The glaze is G1214Z matte base and the clay is M390. 5% zircopax was added to the glaze on the left (normally 10% or more is needed to get full opacity, the partially opaque effect highlight contours well). 5% tin oxide was add to the one on the right (tin is a more effective, albeit expensive opacifier in oxidation, often only 4% is needed). The PLC6DS firing schedule was used.

Wednesday 8th May 2019

M390 mug by Sarah Pike

Wowzers! These are actually hand-made, not thrown on the potter's wheel. You can see the vertical join by the handle as it rotates. Her's is a simple concept: A red clay (M390) with a thin application of partially opacified matte glaze. She flaunts a bare red clay base, polishing it. You can find her easily on Instagram and google.

Wednesday 1st May 2019

Brushing glazes can go on unevenly for more than one reason

Both of these were glazed by brushing. The inside transparent and white glazes are fairly easy to apply evenly but the bright color on the outside left one certainly is not. The problem is a combination of things. It is difficult to apply it evenly with a brush. It is difficult to get it on thick enough. And this commercial glaze does not contain enough of the purple stain (so I added 6 grams of Mason 6304 Violet powder to the 2/3 of a jar I had left). That, more careful brushing, and an extra layer produced the piece on the right!

Wednesday 24th April 2019

How to give children a good experience in working with clay

Teachers who have never worked with clay face a formidable challenge with this. This read-in-three-minutes page is a complete beginners crash course in what you need to know. It explains what clay is, the advantages of working at lower temperatures, how to plan and inspire the children before starting, how to join and dry pieces, what is glaze and how to use it and how to fire the ware. The page explains things with an objective that the reader understand the basic whats, hows and whys of ceramics and pottery.

Tuesday 23rd April 2019

Low fire ware cracking during firing. Why?

Most low-fire bodies contain talc. It is added for the express purpose of increasing thermal expansion. The natural quartz present does the same. These are good for glaze fit but bad for ware like this. You could fiddle with the clay recipe or change bodies, but better to change the firing schedule. While stoneware dunting happens between 950-1150F on the way down, this could be happening anywhere. A simple fix is to slow down the entire cooling cycle. Learn to program your kiln. Use a conservative cooling rate of about 200F/hr (even slower between 950 to 1150). No electronic controller? Learn a switch-setting-schedule to approximate this down-ramp (buy a pyrometer if needed).

Wednesday 17th April 2019

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