This past summer, I experienced a failure of the portable hard drive on which I stored many years worth of images. I planned to have an area on this site where people could view my ceramic history. For now, at least, that is not going to happen. Should a data retrieval specialist be able to recover some or all of the images, then maybe that could change in the future.
That said, I do have a small number of images that were stored on my computer. A few older pieces are still around for me to photograph again but the history of my work will remain sketchy until and as when the hard drive can be read.
I am choosing to view this loss as a positive. I am no longer bound by the work I have done before. I am free to explore any direction I wish. In truth I always have been. Please just understand that my development has been gradual. I have pursued many directions over time and created many different bodies of work according to the motivations and interests I had at those times.
Though I used to love throwing on the wheel, the process does not currently interest me other than as an occasional bout of nostalgia. That might be said of many of the periods in my work. I work in a particular area for a time which can last from months to years only to reach a point where I feel the need to change my approach in order to stay fresh. I like to switch things up. A kind of restless spirit I guess.
At present, I am working to combine my glaze research with forms generated by model and mould making.
In the reverse of how I normally proceed, I started this body of work with the glazes. A ‘happy accident’ occurred when I was experimenting with different brushing media a few years ago. A glaze can be rendered insoluble in other glazes given the right conditions. I call this process ‘cold fritting’. It took some time between this discovery and the realization of how it might be used in deliberate ways.
At first, my cold frits were extremely labour intensive. I hand chopped them with a cleaver until I achieved the particle size I wanted. I used them sparingly because of the time and effort they represented. I now grind mechanically. I take the ground material and pass it through a set of seventeen progressively finer sieves ranging from 4 to 100 mesh. Controlling the particle size gives a degree of control over the effects. Total labour to produce a batch is considerably lower, though physical costs have increased due to the extreme wear and tear on the blenders I use for the job.
Any glaze can be processed into a cold frit. The hot sunny weather the last couple summers was the perfect time to mix, dry and process a good quantity of material. I currently have about sixty different glazes prepared in this form. Sixty glazes sorted into seventeen particle sizes makes for a lot of choices when it comes time to mix.
The cold frits are made from the glazes I explored in my tile work over the past decade or so. I created an extensive palette of shades and tints within a limited number of base glazes. I was exploring the complex interaction of these glazes when they come in contact with each other. A horizontal line on a tile where one glaze meets another can become a tree line. A circle of glaze surrounded by another can become the puff ball of a dandelion. Some maintain a hard edge when next to each other while others show a soft and fuzzy transition. Fuming and other unusual effects can take place. In ceramics, we call this complex interaction the “eutectic”.
By using a cold frit, you can build the eutectic right into the glaze. Put another way, one glaze can have imbedded in it many different glazes in a variety of mesh sizes, each making a contribution to the overall effect. Rich and varied surfaces can result that would not be possible by other means. With a little imagination, the effects can be evocative. With a little practice, they can be brought under control.
A new discovery for me in 2015 was modelling in wax. Wax models can be formed in similar ways and with many of the same tools used for modelling clay. Unlike clay, wax does not dry out. Changes to form and surface can be made for as long as you wish. Once the models are complete, plaster moulds are made from them for either pressing or slip casting.
The forms I am working on are meant to exploit the properties of the cold fritted glazes. I gleaned a lot of information about how they work on the flat surfaces of the tiles. However, as any ceramics person can tell you, there can be a big difference in a glaze when it is fired on a vertical surface. That is what I am studying now. The small flat sided vases shown in my images serve as test tiles. Each has a number that corresponds to my notes so that I can re-create the surface effects as needed.
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