Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Root of My Addiction...

And no it's not beads but, I am it seems addicted to glaze.

Glaze test tiles

I love working with's such a tactile medium and very therapeutic to sit and hand form or sculpt designs from a little blob of mud. But I have to admit it's the transformation brought about in the glazing process that I love the most and even when I'm sketching my designs I have in  the back of my head the colours and finishes I want to use to bring them to life.

I seem to have accumulated a fair old selection of these magic potions - so much so that when I ordered some new ones last week I had to rearrange my glaze storage drawers to make room.

There are these colourful low fire glazes and under glazes...

More low fire glazes labelled with their colours and firing temperatures for easy selection...

A drawer of Stoneware glazes also labelled....

More stoneware glazes, raku glazes, oxide washes and coloured slips. You will notice that I have managed to make some room in this last drawer so that I don't have to curb my addiction due to space restrictions just yet!

It's about 18 months since I started working in ceramic and for me there's still nothing better than opening the kiln after a glaze firing to find all those pretties sitting there. It is not however an exact science and I'm only just beginning to understand it properly.

All glazes are sold off the back of colour swatches and rather like those tester strips you buy when you decorate your home, glazes can turn out very different from what you expected.

These low fire glazes are very true to their samples and the colour of the wet glaze is very close to the final fired colour. I've used these on different clay bodies with consistent results.

Mayco Stroke and Coat glazes

Many glazes will give different results depending on the clay body used. The same glaze has been used in both of the images below but the one on the left is a piece made from white earthenware clay and on the right are pieces made from buff earthenware clay. The buff gave a semi matt finish as expected but on the white clay the glaze lost it's shine and looks more like a stain...not unattractive but differant non-the-less.

Duncan Courtyard glazes

When it comes to higher fire glazes the results can be even more unpredictable. Glazes usually stipulate a temperature range within which which they can be fired and where you fire within that range will impact the glaze finish.

This is one of my favourite stoneware glazes and the vases in the image from the manufacturer show the expected results when fired at either end of it's 1180ºc - 1250ºc firing range. The little fish pendant shows how it turned out when I fired it at 1210ºc (above this the glaze tended to move). It's pretty close if not identical (of course photographic reproduction and monitors may impact this) and the difference could be down to clay type, type of kiln, reaction to other glazes fired at the same time or any number of factors...I don't pretend to understand the science behind much of this yet.

Terracolor stoneware glaze Galaxy

When I first started with clay I was advised to make up test tiles for glazes so that I had a record of how they came out of my kiln when used with different clays. I did this a few times but as I got more excited about working with glaze it went to the wall a bit and I would just use the components I was making as the tests. This can however be very disappointing when you've spent time on a design and the glazed piece doesn't come out as you expect. Now that I have amassed this collection of glazes I am going back and making test tiles for the clay bodies I use most frequently.

In this next image the glaze on the vases doesn't seem to change much at either end of the firing range but on my test tile it came out very brown (left quadrant of the tile) when fired in the middle of the range. I don't know if this is because of the clay I used, the temperature or other factors and I can only find out by further testing. There's no guarantee though and some of these glazes are sold with the 'characteristic' that no two firings will produce identical results!

Terracolor stoneware glaze Borage Blue 

With this glaze I did think maybe I'd labelled the tile incorrectly and it was actually the glaze in the bottom quadrant of the tile but no, as you can see from this next image - sometimes the results are very close and that test does pretty much match its vases...

Terracolor stoneware glaze South Pacific

So much as I love the thrill of lifting the lid to see if the kiln fairies have been kind there is nothing worse than the deflation of being disappointed by your little treasures so I will be continuing with the testing and yes, probably fuelling my addiction with new glazes from time to time.

Mayco, Spectrum and Bath Potters stoneware glazes



  1. I want your test tiles! Gorgeousness!

  2. Me too! Love seeing your experimentation!

  3. What nourishment for the eyes and soul! I love your ceramic work, Lesley--you are truly inspired...and inspirational.


  4. I agree... I want your test tiles and donuts! I can't wait so long for results which is why I know that clay would not be for me, but what I do love most about clay is the glazes and the unpredictability is what makes them so unique and intriguing! Keep on making and experimenting, Miss Lesley! Because I love what you do and watching with fascination and awe as you go on your artistic journey! Enjoy the day. Erin

  5. I'm itching to try ceramics, and even more so after seeing this post!! Now that I have a kiln I can fire ceramics in it's made it even worse. But I'm trying to hold myself back because I know once I start I'm toast!! I'll have shelves full of glazes lol. I'm with everybody else, the test tiles are fabulous!!

  6. Thank you Lesley for this post! I toy with the idea of playing with ceramic clay because I so loved working with metal clay. After seeing your collection of glazes, I realize that this would be one more addiction I would have to deal with , LOL. Seriously, what an array of colors and how much fun it must be to play and experiment!

  7. Oh yummy yummy! I love seeing glaze test tiles. Wonderful post!

  8. What a delight to the eye! You took to ceramic like a fish to water!

  9. You really have been bitten by the glaze bug... They look fantastic!


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