•The secret to cool bodies and glazes is a lot of testing.
•The secret to know what to test is material and chemistry knowledge.
•The secret to learning from testing is documentation.
•The place to test, do the chemistry and document is an account at https://insight-live.com
•The place to get the knowledge is https://digitalfire.com

Sign-up at https://insight-live.com today.

Tony Hansen

Tony Hansen is a potter, researcher, author, software engineer and developer of ceramic body and glaze recipes. He has used Digitalfire Corporation as a medium to distribute his software and knowledge products. He has had a long and close association with Plainsman Clays, they have provided him with a well equipped lab and studio and free use of anything in the factory and warehouse (hundreds of difficult kinds of clays and materials).

His accomplishments include:

  • Desktop Digitalfire Insight glaze chemistry software. Using it people were able to predict the fired properties of glaze recipes. This ability enabled them to fix, adjust and develop glazes. Developed in the early 1980s and used worldwide in Windows, OSX and Linux until today. Tens of thousands of users, in the curriculum of hundreds of universities. It has been used to develop the glazes on everything from ceramic tile to tableware, toilets to enamelled bath tubs, pottery to architectural murals, even spark plugs and fiber glass; some of these products are almost certainly in your house.

  • Tony was a very early adopter of the internet as a medium to learn and understand ceramics. He gave the first internet-connected-with-video-projector presentation to the oldest professional organization in North America, the American Ceramic Society. He was among the first in North American to employ online electronic commerce during the middle and late 1990s.

  • Digitalfire 4Sight Ceramic Lab Database software for DOS. Developed in the late 1980s and used past 2010 by many ceramic technicians. Tony used it to record hundreds of thousands of measurements in his lab during his lifetime of body and glaze research and development.

  • Digitalfire Reference Database. He developed this content management system to organize thousands of articles he wrote as a product of his development and research. The articles are organized in a hierarchy unique in the world of scientific documentation of ceramics. The objective was to find a balance between understanding materials and bodies and glazes from the physical, mineralogical and chemical levels. Since about 2000, Google has ranked hundreds (possibly thousands) of the pages on this site number one for a wide range of searches (most often ahead of the manufacturers of the products in question).

  • Digitalfire Insight-Live.com. Developed starting in about 2012. An online version (and superset) of the combined functions 4Sight and desktop Insight. Developers from around the world sign-on for accounts and manage their information according to the principles developed by Tony. Tony was able to import all of his 4Sight data into this system and develops into it today.

  • Pottery. Tony has always made large amounts of pottery. Every size and shape. At many temperature ranges. From hundreds of clay bodies and glazes. He has not sold a piece since about 1990, he gives it all away.

  • Body and material characterization and testing procedures. Tony has developed a system of testing and reporting to make it easy to compare their firing and drying properties. His system does not require expensive lab equipment and enables anyone willing to get their hands dirty to learn to understand materials and develop bodies and glazes.

  • Trouble shooting. Tony has developed and documented online a system to assist technicians in diagnosing and fixing body and glaze manufacturing defects and problems.

  • Glaze recipes. Recipes Tony developed, especially base transparents at low, medium and high temperature, are used around the world by potters and manufacturers. They are also sold by Plainsman Clays and others. He publishes all recipes he develops and uses them as case studies on how to use his software.

  • Materials. Tony Alberta Slip and Ravenscrag Slip. These are low-melting natural clays mined on the prairies that have been conditioned with refined minerals so that they form stoneware glazes by themselves. These materials are easy-to-use starting points for developing all types of glazes, they are used across North America and appear in a wide range of recipes found in textbooks and other web references. Tony also documented his development of Boraq (using Insight software and a trip to Turkey to research borates), a Gerstley Borate substitute. Following this that many others developed similar products using his method and software.

  • Clay bodies. Tony has developed all the clay bodies at Plainsman Clays since the 1970s. These include terra cottas, stonewares, casting bodies, porcelain, sculpture and modelling clays and many others.

  • Porcelains. Tony has researched, tested and developed many hundreds of porcelain recipes. He has publicly documented his procedures on how to create glazes that are compatible with porcelains. He developed Polar Ice, the first commercially available, super plastic, highly translucent porcelain for potters.

  • Books. Tony wrote the book The Magic of Fire, it was one of the first PDF eBooks sold online in the late 1990s. It documented a wide range of his research and was used around the world as a textbook in university ceramic programs.

    • Why does Tony Hansen take months to unload his kilns?

      I love making pottery, but I love the technical side more. I searched for all the test specimens in this load of cone 10 reduction ware first, then pushed it back in and forgot about it. For three months! I really anticipate the test results (I am developing and adjusting many of bodies and glazes at any given time). The data and pictures for them go into my account at insight-live.com, it enables me to compare the chemistry and physical properties of recipes and materials side-by-side. That teaches me which roads to abandon and which ones to pursue. My last kiln went back in for six weeks, so things are getting worse!

      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.

      Tony Hansen signature - pre 2000

      This was used until about 2000. Any numbers relate to the type of clay being used (often a test). In this case, the body is a test mix of Plainsman H431. The year is 1981.

      The recipe mixing area of Tony Hansen

      Tony's lab work area of mineral and chemical powders for mixing test glazes and clay bodies. Stoneware and earthenware glazes are made from dozens (even hundreds) of commodity industrial mineral powders.

      Magic of Fire book

      A book published by Tony Hansen. It explained why were need to think about materials (and the bodies and glazes made from them) as more than just powders. They have physical, chemical and mineralogical presences that do not take a lot of effort to understand. This was the first widely read book to show how, armed with this information and a knowledge of how to do glaze chemistry, readers could solve all sorts of problems. It showcased the real value of the oxide viewpoint in ceramics and explained how to use Digitalfire Insight and Foresight software in each scenario. From 2000-2014, the book was used as courseware in universities around the world. In 2015 the book was temporarily removed from distribution at digitalfire.com awaiting a new edition. Readers were reminded that all of the books content was available at the Digitalfire Reference Library.

      1981 large stoneware bowl made my Tony Hansen

      The clay is Plainsman H431. Fired at cone 10R. Tony learned how to make these bowls from John Porter in the early 1970s. They were glazed on the inside with the rough, bare clay surface on the outside. Decoration was done by a wax resist technique. The glaze is a silky dolomite matte with rutile and a little cobalt added for the powder blue color.

      Tony Hansen signature - post 2000

      Any numbers relate to the type of clay being used (often a test). In this case, the body is Plainsman P300. The fluted foot ring (for better draining in the dishwasher) is also a tell-tale sign the mug might be made by Tony.

      The Digitalfire Reference Database by Tony Hansen

      It is a public website at http://digitalfire.com/4sight. It is a materials-centric traditional ceramics knowledge-base for formulating, adjusting and fixes glazes and clay bodies. He has been maintaining it since the early 1990s (it is generated by a content management system he develops). It has thousands of pages and tens of thousands of interlinks, and hundreds of its pages rank top-ten on search engines (people often arrive and use it unknowingly). Digitalfire desktop Insight software and Insight-live.com give people the calculation and data storage tools they need to make the best use of this library.

      Ravenscrag Celadon and silky matte glazed mug by Tony Hansen

      The outside glaze on this cone 10R mug (made of Plainsman H550) is simply an Alberta Slip:Ravenscrag Slip 50:50 mix with 5% added Ferro Frit 3134 (the Alberta Slip is calcined). This produces a stunning celadon with great working and application properties. Inside glaze: Ravenscrag Slip 90%, talc 10% (a matte having an extra ordinary silky texture). Learn more at ravenscrag.com.

      Plainsman Polar Ice, P300, M370 and M340 by Tony Hansen

      Much effort is expended at Plainsman Clays to develop good transparent base glazes. Far left is a white cone 6 porcelain made from New Zealand kaolin, a super-white-burning bentonite, feldspar and silica. P300 is a kaolin-only cone 6 whiteware. M370 is a kaolin-ball clay whiteware. The P300 and M370 recipes contain feldspar, silica and bentonite also. M340 is a buff stoneware, it is made from locally mined stoneware clays with no additions of feldspar or silica or any refined clays.

      M390 mugs with Alberta Slip based glazes by Tony Hansen

      These cone 6 mugs use an 80:20 Alberta Slip:Frit blend inside and out (the outside one has added rutile). Made around 2014. The incised wheat decoration as a dead giveaway that the mug is made by Tony. He has made this type of mug for decades and there is a good reason: continuity of testing. By making the same kind of ware each time he tests a clay, going through the same procedures he has done a thousand times, he can more easily spot differences in the way they perform.

      1980s large reduction fired lampbase by Tony Hansen

      This was typical of many made during the 1980s and sold in a gallery in Brandon, Manitoba. Tony was inspired by the work of John Porter and emulated many of his techniques. This is a dark burning iron stoneware clay, H440, fired at cone 10 reduction.

      Ceramic business card of Tony Hansen

      Tony Hansen: Lucky to have Luke Lindoe as my private tutor

      1971, the year I met him. He was the founder of Plainsman Clays. My dad had just built the factory for him and I began working there in 1972. He was a well known potter and sculptor at the time. He got me started along the fascinating road of understanding the physics of clays. He was a true "plains man", interested in the geology (notice the skulls, these inspired the Plainsman logo). I loved testing all the lumps of clay he brought back from his expeditions. John Porter, his partner and an art school trained British potter, was his partner at the time. I spent alot of time learning from John and he got me started on the chemistry that led to Insight software.

      Out Bound Links

      In Bound Links

      By Tony Hansen

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