firing

New maquettes

As I mentioned in a previous post I have been playing with some new coastally-inspired ideas recently. The initial maquettes were a way to try out some of these ideas, some new clays and also some different firing techniques.

Once they were all completed I was faced with deciding how to proceed. This sort of decision making process is often a trigger for self-doubt and over-thinking.

This time I tried not to think too hard about it- instead I looked at everything, handled it & just went with my gut response of whether or not I felt it was interesting/appealing to me right now.

Not interesting/appealing right now

Not interesting/appealing right now

Yes!

Still some whittling down to do, but starting to get somewhere...

Long-lived pots

People sometimes worry how robust their new pots are. These ancient pots show just how long-lived ceramics can be.

The pot on the right is a reconstructed Jomon jar from Japan, now in the Tokyo national museum. It hasn't survived intact, but is nonetheless remarkeable at 10,000 - 12,000 years old. (Images from Wikipedia)

The figurine makes it look like a young whipper-snapper! Known as the Venus of Dolní Věstonice she is from a site in the Czech Republic and 27,000 - 29,000 years old! I saw her a while back in the BM's stunning exhibition of prehistoric art. She is formed from naturally occurring clay and perhaps fired in bonfire or firepit.

Archaeologists have apparently calculated that she was fired to about 900 degrees C. This is enough to transform clay into a stable ceramic structure, but is a relatively low earthenware type firing that leaves the ceramic porous and brittle.

My pots are initially fired to this same temperature so that I can then more easily apply liquid glaze to the porous pot. They are then re-fired to 1260 degrees C. At this high temperature the ceramic body vitrifies so that is no longer porous and is much stronger.

If low-fired earthenware can survive almost 30,000 years imagine how long a high fired piece might survive. It's a bit mind-blowing to try and think that my work could out-live me by so many millennia!

Fresh from the kiln

Firing is always an uncertain moment in ceramics when extreme forces transform - or destroy - the previous month's work.

This month it was more uncertain than usual with a new glaze as well as several new forms to be fired for the first time. I fire to 1260 degrees C, and at that temperature the clay moves and shrinks as well as vitrifying. This puts a lot of pressures on the clay and it can warp or crack.

There were some minor disasters this time round, and some adjustments to be made as a result, but overall I am pleased with the results. Here's a small selection of the new stock for you to see.