|Monthly Tech-Tip |
At Digitalfire we use a Dragon to personify the kinds of thinking that prevent potters, educators and technicians from understanding and therefore controlling their ceramic glazes.
I fight the "Glaze Dragon". If you are experienced enough to understand ceramics, the dragon may not threaten you. But if you are "spinning your wheels" this could be the reason.
The Glaze Dragon personifies the **attitudes** that counter your desire, ability and efforts to control your glazes
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.
There are thousands of ceramic glaze recipes floating around the internet. People dream of finding that perfect one, but they often only think about the visual appearance, not of the usability, function, safety, cost or materials. That resistance to understanding your materials and glazes and learning to take control is what we personify as the dragon. Using the resources on this site you could be fixing, adjusting, testing, formulating your own glaze recipes. Start with your own account at insight-live.com.
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.
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.
Prepared glazes are starting to hurt our control, independence and sense of responsibility regarding the quality of our ware. Many potters are even losing simple abilities, concepts. Some potters are unaware of even what weighing out a glaze is. Some do not know how to recalculate a recipe total! Or even what a gram is. Or what ceramic materials are (like a frits, feldspars, koalins, or silica) and the purpose of each type. Or even where even to buy them? Or the difference between a suspension and a solution. Or what specific gravity and viscosity are? Is this a trend we want?
There are many mindsets that prevent us to getting control of our glazes. Many of them have nothing to do with the glazes themselves, the problem is with us, our culture as ceramists and potters.
Glaze Recipes: Formulate Your Own Instead
The only way you will ever get the glaze you really need is to formulate your own. The longer you stay on the glaze recipe treadmill the more time you waste.
G1947U/G2571A Cone 10/10R Base Matte/Glossy Glazes
These starting recipes use no frits and work in oxidation/reduction and are inexpensive to make. They can be used as bases for the whole range of typical cone 10 pottery glazes (celadon, tenmoku, oatmeal, white matte, brown crystal).
G1214M Cone 5-7 20x5 Glossy Base Glaze
This is a base transparent glaze recipe developed for cone 6. It is known as the 20x5 or 20 by 5 recipe. It is a simple 5 material at 20% each mix and it makes a good home base from which to rationalize adjustments.
Trafficking in Glaze Recipes
The trade is glaze recipes has spawned generations of potters going up blind alleys trying recipes that don't work and living with ones that are much more trouble than they are worth. It is time to leave this behind and take control.
Stop! Think! Do not get addicted to the trafficking in online glaze recipes. Learn how they work. Understand them. Then make your own or adjust/adapt what you find online.
Magic of Fire book