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The Trials of Being the Only Technical Person in the Club

Section: Glazes, Subsection: General


If you are the only technically oriented person in your company, school or pottery club you will get a charge out of this report from a right-brained potter always fighting to drag others into understanding glazes.

Article Text

Recently I got this email from a pottery club. It really makes me think about left-brained and right-brained approaches to ceramics and how we might work together a bit better than we sometimes do.

"Several of our glazes are showing evidence of failure and I wanted to work on "fixing" some of these problems. This has lead me down an interesting and very absorbing line of research that started with digging out and dusting off my old chemistry text books. Unfortunately, the other members were not very supportive of storing the one or two small containers of glaze, loading and running the test tiles through the kiln (yes I know seems incredulous). I was working on only one glaze at a time, made a very small batch as a base from which to start.

After explaining the process, I was told basically that they just weren't willing to deal with it. Yes these are still the people who complain about crazing! I know that adding silica to the recipe works for many glazes, but without the testing process I am not at all sure how much to use or if other properties are compromised. So they succeeded in dampening my enthusiasm - well not really - just putting off the final part of the research until such time as my own studio is built and I can just do it myself! They know I have glaze calculation software and they know I have a very extensive library - I'm the "techie" in the group that everyone always asks the "why does this work this way" questions of!"

It is understandable that most potters and sculptors are right-brained, creative and intuitive. However if you are fortunate to have a left-brained analyser in your club or as a friend it only makes sense to support them (even if they are eccentric enough to be interested in ceramic chemisty and material science!). These people are going to help you make glazes that don't shiver or craze, ones that don't dissolve in acidic or hot liquids, ones that don't cutlery mark or stain. If they are really good they will be able to do these things without compromising much of the appearance or texture of the glaze and they will be able to improve application properties of your glaze slurries so that they are a joy to use. They might even be able to combine a bunch of your glazes to use a common base, then you can get rid of all those bags of materials that are only used in one recipe. I am definitely left-brained and my intiution tells me these are going to be big issues in future and potters will face increasing scrutiny for the quality of the ware they sell.

Right-brained people are usually pretty quick to offer assistance with things like how to throw, how to design, how to glaze. But are they ready to listen also, to understand how glazes work, to make changes in the way things are done? Everyone in the club will benefit and so will the people that end up using the pottery.

By Tony Hansen

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