At Digitalfire we use a Dragon to personify the kinds of thinking that prevent potters, educators and technicians from understanding and therefore controlling their glazes.
The Glaze Dragon personifies the attitudes that counter your desire, ability and efforts to control your glazes
I fight the "Glaze Dragon". If you are experienced enough to understand ceramics, the it may not threaten you. But if you are "spinning your wheels" this could be the reason.
The Glaze Dragon is attitudes. They counter your efforts, control, and confidence in making ware that is truly functional, durable and safe.
This is no joke, he could easily rob you of your potential, make you waste years on blind alleys and dead ends.
The dragon wants you to be a dreamer, having blind faith in textbook and internet recipes and believing you will never need to learn anything technical. The 'textbook glaze culture' continues to dominate among potters and small manufacturers; it pursues a 'universal', 'foolproof' recipe that exists only in dreamland. The 'recipe trade' fosters a helplessness that neither 'understands' or controls recipes, that is a slave of fifty recipes that don't work instead of being a master of one or two that do. Industry is still driven by a 'salesman model' where companies trustingly use recipes and materials recommended by salesman and depend on the expertise of biased suppliers and consultants.
Pottery students are still taught to spin the 'roulette wheel' of glaze tests in the blind hope that one will actually work, not only looking great but also having good application properties, reliability, hardness and durability, resistance to leaching and staining, fit, adjustability, etc. This spawns generations of students who discover hundreds of recipes that don't travel well and who lack skills to recognize or create ones that do. Manufacturers often lack knowledge about alternate formulations and material brands and gamble that what they have is optimized to their process. They spend millions on equipment but overlook the materials.
The dragon promotes casual attitudes and lack-of-conscience regarding ware durability, functionality, and safety even though modern methods, materials, equipment, and information afford great control. He wants potters to think they are exempt from technical concerns, that no simple methods exists to assess glaze quality, that they will never be held accountable for deficient surfaces that hurt the reputation of the pottery and ceramic industry.
The dragon is delighted when you learn nothing when recipes do not work. When you 'spin your wheels' and waste years on blind alleys and dead ends he wants you to blame your supplier or your consultant yet continue in the faith that that 'perfect' glaze is just around the corner. Of course, he wants you to forget all the disappointments that this prevailing culture has brought you and keep buying recipe books and the bags of odd-ball materials they call for. He also wants to you struggle with glazes, having problems with them settling, dripping, dusting, cracking, going on unevenly and drying slowly .. thinking that these headaches are worth it for the way they sometimes fire in the kiln.
The dragon supplies 'blinders' so that you believe everything should be simple or not worth doing. You need not concern yourself with technical issues, understand your materials or have in-house expertise at your operation. He advocates abdication of control to suppliers and consultants or relying on friends. I-don't-need-to-knowers sacrifice only to the god of form and surface, left-brained thinking is off-limits.
The dragon encourages authors not to 'dress' recipes for travel (by supplying information about special mechanisms, why specific materials are used, how to adjust for expansion, surface, temperature, special firing or application techniques, etc.). He then match-makes doomed affairs between ceramists and these naked recipes leaving many disillusioned and ill-equipped to recognize true glaze quality. Traveling glaze recipes that have amnesia about who they are, why they are, where they've been move on and leave alienated people stuck with storage rooms full of mystery materials as reminders of the broken promises. The dragon encourages material suppliers to provide data sheets that supply little or no practical information on exactly what the material is or does, the rationale behind its use in bodies or glazes. Users constantly feel that there are other better suited materials out there but the prevailing 'don't-need-to-know' culture keeps them in obscurity.
Prepared glazes are starting to hurt our control, independence and sense of responsibility regarding the quality of our ware. Many are even losing simple abilities, concepts. Some potters are unaware of even what weighing out a glaze is. Some do not even know how to recalculate the total. Or what the materials are for. Is this a trend we want?
Fight the glaze dragon! Test. Document. Learn. Repeat. Replace that paper notebook or binder with an account at Insight-live.com. Fix, adjust, formulate your own glaze on your PC using desktop Insight software.
Fight the glaze dragon. Disorganized documentation of your testing? You are playing into his hands. Replace that notebook or binder with pictures, recipes, firing schedules, test results, material and more in your own or a group account at insight-live.com.
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By Tony Hansen