Author archive for Derek

  • Techniques

    Slow drying

    I have a couple “wet boxes”.  These are plastic bins with lids into which a layer of plaster has been poured.  The plaster is kept wet in order to maintain humidty, slowing (if not stopping) the drying process.

    However, I haven’t used the wet boxes in a long time.  I’ve found it much easier and more convenient to simply wrap each piece in it’s own plastic trash bag.  Pieces stored in this manner can be trimmed weeks or even months later.

    Ware placed on MDF bats and wrapped in plastic trash bags.

    Ware is placed mouth-down on an MDF board to prevent warping. The boards mold easily, alternatively only wrap the ware.

    After two months the ware is still wet, although the moisture is now distributed more uniformly.

    Bags of clay are double-bagged in large heavy-duty plastic bags. A piece of soaked plaster is placed in the bottom of the bag.

  • Work

    Finally Sunny

    Work usually slows to a crawl during Winter in Jingdezhen.  Although it rarely dips below freezing, the weather is very wet.  Apart from the fact that it is quite uncomfortable to work in unheated studios, clay also dries slowly.  On the rare sunny days one can find balconies filled with drying porcelain as well as heavy blankets being aired out.

  • Work

    Translucency

  • Techniques

    Kiln & Firing

    This page is in progress and will cover my kiln and firing.  For now it is just a place to store my notes.

    A typical 47kg/100lbs LPG propane tank used for firing gas kilns. Depending upon firing style, a small kiln requires 1 to 1 1/2 tanks per firing.

    The older bottles can be very dangerous. Sometimes the top pressure-release valves leak, even after closing.

    Hydraulic hoses connect the tanks to the gas line.

    In my experience, the hose connector is the most likely point of failure. Earlier models of hoses were just rubber and would start leaking at the connector after about 2 years of use. The rubber cap ring must also be regularly replaced.

    The first gauge measuring pressure directly from the tanks. Newly-filled tank pressure usually varies from anywhere between 0.2-0.6 MPa.

    Electric water heater and gas filter.

    Typical gas line connector. Inside each end is a rubber collar and plate that under pressure should eliminate leaks.

    The pressure regulator reduces the gas pressure to a level we can use in the kiln burners. I have mine set at 0.05 MPa.

    Gauge measuring outgoing pressure from regulator.

    Kiln room valves. The bottom lever valve can be used for coarse adjustment, while the top (needle?) valve is good for fine-tuning.

    The final gauge measuring pressure at the kiln. A typical firing rarely goes above 0.02MPa.

  • Work

    Bisque out, bisque in

    Almost ready to glaze

  • Work

    Old trusty (and rusty)

    I've purchased this kiln nine years ago when I first arrived in Jingdezhen. Known as a 烤花炉, this kiln is normally used for overglaze enamels and decals. I paid about $300 USD for it. Only changed two elements in nine years.

  • Work

    Cloudscape

  • Glazes

    Colors of Celadon: Iron and Titania

    Following images from Bonham’s 2014 auction, The Feng Wen Tang Collection of Early Chinese Ceramics

    A Qingbai incised conical bowl

    A Fine Yaozhou Celadon 'Peony' Carved Bowl

    The best resource I’ve found about color in Chinese glazes is Nigel Wood’s Chinese Glazes.  Chapter 8, Iron in Chinese Glazes, covers iron in detail, while celadons are covered throughout the book.

    There’s a great range of colour in Chinese celadons.  In traditional celadons, color is mostly the result of materials containing naturally-occurring iron being fired in a reduction atmosphere, with the color modified by the balance of other oxides in the glaze as well as the underlying clay body.  Relatively small amounts of titania, manganese, copper and even cobalt can affect the color in significant ways.  Ancient kilns like Yue, Hutian, Longquan, and Yaozhou became associated with certain colors and qualities of celadon, as the materials used at those kiln sites naturally contained particular blends of oxides.  In Jingdezhen, celadon glazes seem to have evolved from fairly simple geographically specific material-based recipes (e.g. 10 parts glaze stone from Yaoli, 1 part glaze ash from Leping) to extremely refined and intentional recipes with similar base glazes that incorporate additional materials for their specific ability to modify color.  This lead to glazes named not just for kiln sites but also specific colors and qualities:   天青 (sky blue with a small < .2% addition of cobalt),豆青(”bean” celadon pure green iron celadon),影青(”shadow” lake-green),粉青,玉青 (jade celadon),冬青 (winter green),鸭蛋青 (bright duck-egg green), just to name a few.

    But celadons in the Song dynasty were mostly restricted to local materials.  Thus if your local clay and glaze stone contained only trace amounts of titania and low amounts of iron (such as in towns near Jingdezhen), then you could produce the famously pure blueish-green qingbai glazes.  While if you were in the Northern Yaozhou kilns where materials naturally contained more titania, your celadons would tend towards olive-green.  (These are greatly over-simplified and generalized statements.  Regarding Yaozhou celadons, in Chinese Glazes, Chapter 6, The Stonewares of North China, Woods also mentions the blueish-grey glazes of Yaozhou, as well as the possible influence of coal firing on the color of Yaozhou celadons.)

    For me, part of the beauty of Chinese ceramics is the ability of those ancient potters to reveal the beauty of their local materials, and how the resulting aesthetic of each kiln’s wares was in large part driven by the nature of those materials.

    Of course, these days most of us make glazes by blending various “standardized” materials, with color variations resulting from additional coloring oxides.

    The following test is a simple biaxial blend showing the influence of iron and titania on the color of a base glaze.  I’m now using Pinnell Clear for all of my additive tests as I find it a much better glaze than the traditional Leach 4321.  Further tests could be done using small amounts of manganese, copper and cobalt, as well as varying the fluxes and silica:alumina ratio.  For this test I substituted Grolleg for New Zealand Halloysite, but I did not adjust the recipe to account for the slightly different chemistry.  For this test it is important that the base glaze has as little titania as possible, so it’s best not to use “dirtier” clays.  The test tiles are made from Jingdezhen “super-white” porcelain, which serves as a good blank canvas for the glaze colors.  These glazes look quite different on dirtier porcelains and stoneware.

  • Glazes

    Glazy: One Year Old

    One year old!

    Exactly one year ago, Glazy registration was opened to the public. Since then, we’ve made a ton of improvements and added many more recipes.

    Thank you!

    94% of website server fees have been paid with your generous donations. Thanks to all of you who have added recipes, photos, and contributed valuable ideas to Glazy. Special thanks to Pieter Mostert and Matt Katz for all their help.

    Notable new additions to Glazy:

     

    Stull SiO2:Al2O3 Charts

    Si:Al Charts now include a Stull overlay as well as color-coded R2O:RO Ratios. To learn more about Stull, R2O:RO ratios, and other illuminating aspects of glazes, see Matt Katz’s Introduction to Glazes Online.

     

    Extended Search

    Simply click the eyedropper icon or one of the photo swatches to search by color. Keyword search is now greatly improved with natural language text search and the ability to search for numbers.

     

    Material Safety Information

    Newly added this month are hazard warnings for each material in the recipe. There is still a lot of work to be done in Glazy to provide accurate, easily understandable safety information for potters.

     

    Todo

    There are more improvements planned. The most important change in the next few months will be the addition of material lists, including regional and supplier lists. Material lists can be shared between users and rated.

     

    WE NEED YOUR PHOTOS!

    Ceramics recipes “do not travel well” and are very sensitive to differences in materials, preparation, application, firing, and cooling. The best way to compare, critique, and refine our recipes is to share photos of our results.

    If you have photos you would like to share but find the Glazy interface too complicated, contact us and we will help. If you represent a school or studio with a lot of tests, we can help add the photos and recipes for you.

  • Photos

    Cat hotel

  • Techniques

    Simple plaster drop-out molds on the wheel

  • Techniques

    Razor trimming

    I’m not sure if double-edged safety razor are still available in the West, but here in Jingdezhen they are an essential trimming tool.  These razors are thin, sharp, and most importantly flexible.  Great for wheel-trimming details on small forms, or for scraping hand-built objects.  The most used brand is Flying Eagle.  I get the more expensive stainless steel ones.  At 5RMB for a 5-pack, each blade is about 15¢ USD.

    Two brands of safety razors available in China

    Using a Dremel or similar tool, edges of both thin and thick razors can be ground for specific uses, like scraping glaze off these plate feet.

    A Dremel tool was used to create a notch in this blade for use in scraping glaze off this unique foot.

  • Glazes

    Glaze Transparency Test

    Recently I’ve been wondering if there’s a reliable way to test glazes for transparency.  A method that would allow one to compare results from different firings and glaze types.

    Paint manufacturers have a system for testing paint opacity that uses a black and white card from which a contrast ratio can be calculated. The primary manufacturer is Leneta.

    I couldn’t find any parallels in the ceramics industry.

    I wanted to try a similar method using porcelain (white) and stain/colored porcelain (black), adjusting the results to account for the fact that our whites and blacks are not pure.

    Paint Opacity Chart from Leneta

    Using my whitest porcelain, I created a colored slip adding 8% of a local black stain.  (Ideally one would use a standard mason stain.)  Adding Darvan, I made a thin slipcast slab that I then cut into small squares.

    Cutting square slabs of stained porcelain

    Using the same casting porcelain I made a thicker slipcast slab which was then cut into square test tiles.  The black stained squares were then applied to each test tile and rubbed flat.  Finally, the tiles were bisque fired in the hopes of minimizing contamination of the glaze when dipping.

    Test tiles after adding black-stained squares.

    Two 100 gram batches of glaze were prepared:  Pinnell Clear and Pinnell Clear with added 10% Zircopax.  Using volumetric blending I created tests in 2% increments.  The tiles were dipped in the test glazes.  Ideally, steps would be taken to ensure even thicknesses of glaze.

    Test tiles after firing in reduction to Orton cone 10.

    The fired tests display a nice opacity gradation as zircopax is added to the glaze.

    Unsure of the best way to measure transparency (or opacity) using these test tiles, I tried the simplest approach I could think of.  Adjusting the image to greyscale, I averaged the colors of the white test tiles as well as each black-stained square.  Below are the Brightness levels measured in Photoshop using the HSB scale.  If these tests were going to be made consistent across firings, I suppose one could normalize the photos based on the color of the unfired white porcelain body.

    For the opacifying power of Zircopax relative to this specific test, I created an opacity scale in Photoshop using the 0% glaze as a baseline and then matched the tests to this scale.  According to the scale, a 4% addition of Zircopax opacifies the glaze by 30%, while a 10% addition of Zircopax opacifies the glaze by 70%.  I’m probably vastly over-simplifying things.  For instance, I didn’t take into account the fact that the entire test whitens as Zircopax is added.  Also, there will probably be few times in ceramics where there is a neat linear relationship, for instance adding 14% Zircopax to the glaze won’t necessarily get me to 100% opacity.

    Below is a closeup of the black squares.  If I had made these tiles more consistently, with a crisp, straight border between the black and white porcelain, it might also be possible to compare diffusion.

    Close-up of colored squares.

  • Antiques

    Wanli Pheasant

    Blue & White pheasant head on a Wanli dish.

    Single photo from iPhone with Eyeskey lens.  More details here.