An effect created by firing a clay containing high iron mineral particles (e.g. ironstone concretions). The iron becomes a flux in reduction and the particles melt and blossom and can even run down vertical surfaces. Plainsman Clays in Alberta, Canada is particularly adept at making this type of body because they have raw clays that contain concretions and their grinding process can leave them large enough to blossom.
Cone 10R dolomite matte glaze with 5% manganese dioxide
By Tony Hansen
Dolomite bamboo matte glazed cone 10R mug
Courtesy of Susan Clarke
1970s cone 10 reduction stoneware bowl by Tony Hansen
This bowl was made by Tony Hansen in the middle to late 1970s. The body was H41G (now H441G), it had large 20 mesh iron stone concretions that produced very large iron blotches in reduction firing. Luke Lindoe loved to use these clays to show off the power of the cone 10 reduction firing process that he was promoting in the 1960s and 70s.
Heavily speckled eduction fired porcelain Shino bowl by Glenn Lewis
This effect was created by wedging 10 mesh ironstone concretions into the soft porcelain.
Reduction iron speckle much heavier one one body than another
An example of how iron stone concretions contained within two clay bodies (a white and brown stoneware) blossom and produce speckle at cone 10 reduction.
Varying sizes of iron speckle in a high-iron reduction stoneware clay
Cone 10R firing of Plainsman Fire-Red (left), St. Rose Red 42 mesh (center) and St. Rose Red 10 mesh (right). The 10 mesh material produces a reduction speckle and deep red color that is very unique.
Ravenscrag Saskatchewan clays fired at cone 10R
Glazeless (top) and with glaze (bottom): A1 (bentonitic), A2 (ball clay), A3 (stoneware), 3B (porcelains), 3C (lignitic ball clay), 3D (silt). The bottom row has also shows soluble salts (SOLU test).
Emulating a speckled reduction fired stoneware in oxidation
The body is Plainsman M340S. Cone 6. Left to right: G1214Z calcium matte base glaze with 6% titanium dioxide added. GR6-A Ravenscrag base with 10% zircopax (zircon). G2926B glossy transparent base with 10% zircon (this one produces the white "Kohler Toilet Bowl" appearance we are seeking to better). G2934Y silky magnesia matte base with 10% zircon.
Reduction speckle: a product of iron particles in the body
In reduction firing, where insufficient oxygen is present to oxidize the iron, natural iron pyrite particles in the clay convert to their metallic form and melt. The nature of the decorative speckled effect depends on the size of the particles, the distribution of sizes, their abundance, the color of the clay and the degree to which they melt. The characteristics of the glaze on the ware (e.g. degree of matteness, color, thickness of application, the way it interacts with the iron) also have a big effect on the appearance.
A magnesia speckle matte at cone 6 oxidation is impossible, right? Wrong!
I am getting closer to reduction speckle in oxidation. I make my own speckle by mixing the body and a glossy glaze 50:50 and adding 10% black stain. Then I slurry it, dry it, fire it in a crucible I make from alumina, crush it by hand and screen it. I am using G2934 cone 6 magnesia matte as the glaze on this mug on the left. To it I added 0.5% minus 20 mesh speck. Right is a cone 10R dolomite matte mug. Next I am going to screen out the smallest specks, switch to a matte glaze when making the specks (they are too shiny here), switch to dark brown stain. Later we will see if the specks need to bleed a little more. I am now pretty well certain I am going to be able to duplicate very well the reduction look in my oxidation kiln. I will publish the exactly recipe and technique as soon as I have it.
Making my own home-made fired speckle for cone 6
I control the recipe and temperature I use to make it and now I need to control the particle size. I have already smashed it up (using a special flat hammer we have) and am now sizing it. That involves getting what I can through the screen and then going at the larger sized particles with a hammer again. I use three screen sizes in the procedure so that I can control the distribution of sizes in the fired product (to more closely match reduction fired ware). This can be a dusty procedure and those particles are angular and sharp and high in heavy metal, so it would be better to do this outside in a breeze or with a ventilator and mask inside.
Making your own crucibles
I mixed a cone 6 porcelain body and a cone 6 clear glaze 50:50 and added 10% Mason 6666 black stain. The material was plastic enough to slurry, dewater and wedge like a clay, so I dried a slab and broke it up into small pieces. I then melted them at cone 6 in a zircopax crucible (I make these by mixing alumina or zircopax with veegum and throwing them on the wheel). Because this black material does not completely melt it is easy to break the crucible away from it. As you can see no zircon sticks to the black. I then break this up with a special flat metal crusher we made, size them on sieves and add them to glazes for artificial speckle. As it turned out, this mix produced specks that fused too much, so a lower percentage of glaze is needed. I can thus fine tune the recipe and particle size to theoretically duplicate the appearance of reduction speckle.
Want to make a cone 10R super translucent porcelain? Think again.
On the right is a porcelain used in China, renowned for its whiteness and translucency. On the left is a body made from Grolleg kaolin, this is commonly used by potters. They were fired in reduction. The tiny iron specks that potters do not even notice are enemy number for the blue-white porcelain like this. Although they might be small the reduction atmosphere makes them blossom out in full glory to ruin the piece. These specks come as contaminants in the materials (especially the silica) and they are easily picked up during fabrication. For very white bodies like this, it is incredibly difficult to prevent the specks. For a perfectly white flawless result, the entire factory must be dedicated to this one body; they use wet processing, magnets, filter pressing, stainless steel equipment and impeccable procedures.
Cone 10R celadon at cone 6? Ravenscrag:Alberta GR6-N recipe.
Brilliantly glossy. The body is Plainsman Polar Ice porcelain. Firing is cone 6 oxidation. The reduction fired effect is particles (or agglomerates) from one of the raw metal oxides in the recipe (iron, cobalt, rutile; most likely the cobalt). If this glaze were ball milled the effect would be lost. Even though the glaze is so glassy, it is not running down off at the foot. The blue where it thickens on contours is because of the rutile, this can be removed for a truer Celadon effect (if it is not causing the specks).
Laguna B-Mix on Steroids: Wedge in a mix of Plainsman Fire-Red!
Both pieces have a transparent glaze, G1947U. The Fire-Red (a blend of Plainsman A1/M2 and St. Rose Red) was mixed as a slurry, dewatered to plastic form and then wedged in to the B-Mix (left piece has 10%, the other 20%, the bar in front shows the pure material). The A1 supplies most of the speckle, the St Rose and M2 impart the color. This addition does not affect the working properties of BMix (it still throws very well). An added benefit is that pieces dry better. Fired strength and maturity are minimally affected (porosity stays around 1%). With a 20% addition the surface of the unglazed clay is almost metallic. Silky matte glazes, like g2571a, are stunning on a body like this.
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!
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