Making pots

 

I use a prepared stoneware clay body that is iron bearing, giving it a toasty warm color when fired in a reduction atmosphere. The iron in the clay also interacts with my glazes during the firing giving results I really like.

My wheel is a foot powered treadle wheel. Similar to a traditional kick wheel it differs in that a constant push of the treadle is used to rotate the wheel as opposed to occasional kicking on the flywheel on a traditional kick wheel. On a treadle wheel when I stop kicking the wheel stops moving. This type of wheel is generally slower rotating, it is very quiet, and it connects the maker to the wheel to the clay in a way that I enjoy.

I make my glazes from scratch incorporating local elements when possible. They are formulated to mature at cone 10 or 2350°F. My process of glazing includes using wood ash from the burning of wood from the surrounding citrus orchard and local slip clays from an adjacent creek.  Using local materials, wood ashes, and a variety of clays for glazes creates a finished piece that is uniquely tied to the place it was made.

Each pot is carefully dipped in a bucket of liquid glaze. Further decoration can involve combing my fingers through the still wet glaze on the pot or dusting wood ash over a drying glaze.

The composition of a wood ash glaze I use is 40% lemon wood ash, 40% custer feldspar, and 20% ball clay.

My primary kiln is a 22 cubic foot Berman updraft fired with propane. Depending on the size of the individual pots the kiln holds anywhere from 100-150 pots. I fire both the bisque firing and the glaze firing in this kiln. The bisque firing takes 12-15 hours to reach 1850°F and hardens the pots making them less fragile for the glazing process. The glaze firing is more dynamic as the atmosphere inside the kiln is manipulated through the control of the gas and the damper. By maintaining a reduction atmosphere inside the kiln, essentially starving the kiln of oxygen, during the last several hours of firing I am able to achieve an interaction between the clay body and the glaze that is unique to reduction firing. The glaze firing takes about 10 hours to reach 2350°F.

I also do salt firings in a smaller kiln. Salt firings differ from glaze firings in that no glaze is applied to the outside of the pots. Instead salt is added to the kiln at high temperature where it combusts and fuses with the clay body and “glazes” the pot. Similar to glaze firing the salt fired pots are fully functional, only the firing process differs. Salt firing is much more unpredictable, which can add to its intrigue.