Testing, Testing: Playing with teapots and discovering new colors for 2014


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I started January of 2014 with a secret proclamation that I will write a post once a month.

3 months 27 days later, I finally get around to sitting down to put thoughts on screen. I have been keeping a journal and that’s going well…includes personal thoughts as well as clay processes and sketches for new ideas and revamping old ideas. I find that I need to write down my thoughts more often…can’t seem to remember what I wanted to do from hour to hour.

This is how the new teapots came to be.

I was working with some old tumbler templates and started “plumping” the walls out. This turned into several iteration of template sizes and form construction to finally developing a form that I can develop into bring out their own personality and character, as seen above.
(For more photos of new teapot forms: https://www.facebook.com/2Frogscearmicarts)

With new form comes the need for new colors. I didn’t feel that the colors I had will be able to highlight the teapots’ personality—playful and full of attitude. I didn’t want to over-work it either and diminish the texture. So, with several days and weeks of internet search for cone 6 glazes, I started my glaze testing process. If any of you have gone through this on your own, you can either say you love the process or absolutely find it exhausting! I am somewhere in the middle…love the excitement of opening the kiln to discover new colors, contentment of half successes and then the disappointment of utter failure.

I tested
– Snowflake glaze with Copper Carbonate and Cobalt Carbonate variation…now snowflakes…just a lot of crackle craze. Probably needs a more controlled cooling cycle than I was willing to commit to the whole kiln firing.

– Fake Celadon variations using Zinc Oxide and Copper Carbonate. Not quite there on this one either. I substituted one with Strontium Carbonate and It is showing an orange peel texture…underfired? Haven’t decided if I like it or not.

– Raspberry and Cranberry using Tin Oxide and Chrome Oxide. NO LIKE. I was hoping for more cherry apple red…but got more of a maroon… Too warm on the color wheel. It’s a good stable glaze, just not what I want on my pots.

– Juicy Fruit…lol…yuk. Something went very wrong on this one. Looks like day old dog poop.

Well, that about covers it. I need to do more testing.

Now to get ready for the wood firing this weekend!

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Back to Teapots


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This was the last teapot completed successfully in my studio. Sadly, I’ve made at least 8 while in SF, and this is the only one that survived—thanks to a pre-mixed Cone 6 glaze from a bottle, brushed on. Inner liner glaze is my own.

Let’s rewind the clock to Fall of 2012.

September. I finally set up my little studio in the garage of our Redwood Shores townhouse rental, I was excited to continue my teapot making…I was starting to really enjoy the process. Got my little Skutt kiln hooked up after paying the electrician $300 for a special outlet—this we negotiated down from $500! Bought the necessary glazing materials and equipment…this was not cheap either since I couldn’t bring all of my wet glaze materials.

So, fast forward a few weeks… many bisqued teapots, cups and bird houses and other little experiments I was ready to glaze. Mixed up my usual batches of tried and true glazes in test quantities and fired up my kiln to cone 6. They seems to look fine… but it wasn’t. My second glaze firings included those new teapots and every pot came out with blisters! I mentioned this in my previous post, but didn’t get into what happened to my teapot making. Well, I was distraught, so I stopped making teapots…it was too heart breaking. I started hand-building and reformulating glazes and testing, testing, testing—glaze mixtures, clay bodies, temperatures, ramp/hold/cooling schedules. Turns out it was a bisque temperature and kiln load density issue…yes 5 months of testing! At least now, I have several new glazes that work beautifully (also found in previous post).

Fast forward again to this weekend.

I took a hands-on Ultimate Teapot Workshop with George Dymesich offered by OVCAG at Higher Fire in San Jose. Well, I think my groove is coming back. George was a very patient and thorough teacher, showing each step with explanation of why certain techniques are used, both functional and aesthetic concepts. All this time, I didn’t understand why there is a hole in the lid! It’s to allow liquid to flow without gurgling. AHA! There were many other Aha! moments throughout the day. Not only from George’s instructions, but from working with 10 other fellow potters learning, encouraging and inspiring from each other. Seeing little home made tools and shortcuts like: a little painter’s sponge bought at HomeDepot stuck at the end of a stick works so much better than ones you buy from the clay store! And I learned how to use a throwing stick on the inside of a pot to give volume…and I successfully threw a 5 pound clay pot!

Now I should have some photos of my hard work…nope. Packed it up in the trunk at the end of the day, got home and while unloading my pieces, dropped it on my garage floor. FLOP!

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Two things learned by dropping my teapots on the floor:
1. Got over my “precious pot” syndrome. It’s the “don’t cry over spilled milk” for potters. Kind of.
2. My throwing is getting better, even walls, mostly. Still need to work on not thinning out at the rim.

Back to the wheel.