Author archive for Derek

  • Glazes

    Glazy open source ceramics recipe library

    I invite all of you to join Glazy, a ceramics recipe library that allows anyone to browse and add pottery recipes for free.

    Glazy was built using the latest open source tools, including Laravel and Bootstrap.  The database of ceramic recipes was originally seeded with data from Linda Arbuckle’s GlazeChem database and John Sankey’s glaze database. John Britt, Alisa Liskin Clausen, Terry Rorison and Tara Hagen have also included their glaze tests with images.

    Since it’s release, many new features have been added to Glazy, including improved charts and color search.  More information can be found on the Glazy help page.

    If you have ceramics recipes that you would like to add, or if you would like to help organize the recipes already in the database, please contact us.

    Glazy is constantly improving and evolving.  I hope you will join us!

  • Glazes

    Glazy: Glaze recipes most used materials

    With the data stored in Glazy it is possible to visualize recipes using graphs and charts.

    In the future, these visualizations and more will be added to Glazy at

    Below are simple pie charts showing the most commonly used glaze materials for both Mid-Fire and High-Fire glazes.

    For those who are just starting out with glazes, these charts could be a useful guide when stocking glaze materials.

    The charts on the left are for “base” materials, the materials that form the actual glaze.  On the right are charted the “additional” materials- typically colorants and opacifiers- that are added to the base glaze materials.

    There are still some strange and untrustworthy recipes in the Glazy database that may have skewed the results somewhat.

    Below are the charts for High-Fire glazes.

  • Glazes

    Orton Cone 10 Reduction Glaze Line Blends

    Leach 4321 is a simple, reliable glaze that we can use to compare coloring oxides.

    All of the following glaze variations can be found on Glazy:

  • Jingdezhen

    Yaoli Village and Raonan Outdoor Ceramics Museum

    Yaoli Ancient Village (瑶里古镇) is a fairly well-known tourist destination located about 1 1/2 hours by car from Jingdezhen.

    During the past few years I have visited the village a handful of times, and each time I’m even more disappointed by the continuous development, poor management, and flocks of tourists.

    But the countryside around Yaoli is beautiful.  If you continue driving past the ancient village you will find numerous small villages with restaurants offering local cuisine.  Drive up the mountain and you should come across wonderful views of the valleys as well as waterfalls.

    A village near Yaoli

    An ancient bridge in the countryside

    One of the waterfalls to be found in the mountains


    Yaoli is also the home of a type of porcelain stone known as “glaze stone”.  This stone is a major component of traditional Jingdezhen glazes.

    There is a very nice outdoor museum in Yaoli called Raonan (绕南陶瓷主题园区) which runs along a small river.  The river powers hammer mills that continuously crush Yaoli porcelain stone.  There are also ancient dragon kilns and even pottery wheels where you can try throwing Jingdezhen porcelain.

    The river running through the ceramics museum

    A water wheel powers large hammer mills

    The hammer mills crush porcelain stone

    The crushed stone powder is washed, mixed, and dried in large pits.

    The porcelain paste is formed into bricks and air-dried.

    One of the remaining dragon kiln ruins. Chambers can be seen at the bottom of the kiln.

    Another dragon kiln at the Yaoli site.

    Large piles of waste saggars and shards surround the kiln sites.

  • Glazes

    Digital Scales for Weighing Glazes

    After years of using simple balance scales to measure out glazes, I finally decided to invest in a better setup. I couldn’t find any triple-beam scales for sale in Jingdezhen, so instead I purchased a cheap 200-gram digital scale from a local shop.  I was delighted at how much simpler and faster it was to mix up tests with the digital scale.  It was only a few months later when I compared the digital scale to my old balance scales and discovered that the digital scale was consistently inaccurate, even just after calibration.

    After having wasted 600RMB, I decided to just buy the best reasonably priced scales I could find.  The only imported brand in my price range and available in China was the Ohaus Scout Pro line.  I purchased two- one for tests and measuring colorants (model SP202, up to 200 grams with 0.01 gram readability) and one for mixing up bigger batches of glaze (model SP4001, up to 4000 grams with 0.1 gram readability).

    The SP202 is very accurate, great for when you are making very small test batches.  The scale can also be used to measure colorants for big batches of glaze.

    I use the SP4001 to directly measure out 1-3kg batches of glaze, or for measuring out each ingredient in larger glaze batches.

    After a couple years, the Ohaus scales are still performing very well, especially considering that they are stored on the glazing patio and subjected to the weather.  The scales cost me much more than I wanted to spend, but they are well worth the money.

    In conclusion:

    • If you’re looking to purchase scales for small glaze batches but don’t have a lot of money to spend, go for a triple-beam scale.  A good triple-beam will be much more trustworthy than a cheap digital scale.
    • If you only have enough money to buy one digital scale, get a 200-gram scale, preferably with .01 readability.  This will allow you to make accurate test glazes, as well as accurate colorant additions to larger batches of glazes.
    • If you do buy a digital scale, don’t forget you will need to calibrate it from time to time.  (I do so each glaze-making session.)  You will need accurate calibration weights in order to so, adding to the final cost.
  • Jingdezhen

    Under Pressure

    Reduction a bit strong at the beginning

  • Photos

    Wanli Birds

    Three birds painted in blue & white on a late Ming export dish

  • Techniques

    Photographing Artwork


    Note:  In the following photographs I only used the most basic lighting setups.  Even using natural light, you can take advantage of reflectors to highlight shadows and produce fill light.  Try searching “product photography lighting” if you are looking for information about advanced lighting.

    Natural Lighting

    The PBS Art21 documentary episode “Memory” contains a segment about Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto.  Sugimoto gives a tour of his photography studio which is surprisingly simple.  No fancy lights.  Just a camera, table, and backdrop placed near his studio window.  Sugimoto controls the lighting simply by rolling the window shade up and down.

    If you are not worried about lighting consistency from photograph to photograph, taking pictures of your artwork using natural light is the simplest approach.  You can wait for a cloudy day and shoot outside for diffuse, cool light, or use window light.  If you do not want a color cast, simply use a grey card.


    Simple natural lighting setup

    Grey cards

    Grey cards provide you with a reference neutral grey.  This grey can be used in photo editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom to correct for color temperature casts.  The grey card I use is X-rite ColorChecker Grayscale because it also provides a white and black reference which helps adjusting exposure and black/white levels.

    You might be tempted to use a sheet of paper, piece of styrofoam, or other object as a cheap reference with which to set white balance.  But in my experience, it’s much better to buy a professional grey scale card.  Even with something as “standard” as a piece of paper, the color differs between brands and thicknesses.

    Below are three photos taken with the same lens, ISO, white balance setting (Auto), shutter, and speed.  In Lightroom I only adjusted the white balance.

    Remember there is no “correct” color temperature.  You may prefer the cool window light, or the golden tones of late afternoon light.  The grey card is simply a reference.

    Original with camera auto white balance

    Using a grey card

    Corrected in Photoshop using grey card

    Color Calibration Target

    Much like a grey card provides an accurate grey, a color calibration target provides an accurate reference for colors.  I use the X-Rite ColorChecker and ColorChecker Passport.  Unfortunately, I’m not professional enough to give you a detailed explanation of exactly how it works.  All I know is that it standardizes colors in an image profile, compensating for differences in color between camera manufacturers and lighting conditions, resulting in a more accurate photograph.

    I’ve made the ColorChecker part of my workflow.  Every time I shoot, I include the ColorChecker in at least one of the photos, so that later I can use that image as a reference.  The ColorChecker software creates a DNG profile that can be used with Lightroom and Photoshop, simplifying the workflow considerably.

    Even if you are just an amateur photographer like me, I highly recommend getting a color calibration target and including it in your photos.  The ColorChecker includes grey patches, so you can use it for simple white balancing as well.

    Studio Lighting

    There are times when you require lighting consistency (for instance when publishing a book or website) or a specific lighting setup.  As most of us are not professional photographers, the simplest lighting solution in this case is continuous lighting.  Just like normal room lighting, continuous lighting is simply switched on.  The lights can then be easily positioned for the lighting you prefer.  The most affordable continuous lighting consists of fluorescent lightbulbs mounted in a fixture that is usually surrounded by a softbox.

    Below is one of my softboxes which I purchased from a cheap Chinese manufacturer.

    Fluorescent Light Softbox

    Fluorescent Light Fixture

    Color Temperature

    As a beginning photographer, I was very concerned about color temperature, purchasing only light bulbs which were 5500K.  (See Color Temperature.)  Somehow I came under the impression that a specific Kelvin temperature rating was the sign of quality.  So I was always puzzled when the colors in my photographs weren’t as rich and vibrant as the artworks themselves.

    I later came to realize that the Kelvin temperature is perhaps the least important of factors to consider when purchasing lights.  Just as with natural lighting, color temperature can be easily adjusted in software like Photoshop and Lightroom.  And using a grey card it’s very simple to achieve a neutral white balance.

    In China, restaurants are often lit with cheap, bright fluorescent tubes.  It’s possible people here are not very concerned with lighting, but I find it unappetizing and unromantic to see food and people lit like this.  It’s not just the brightness, it’s also the quality of the light.

    My cheap photography softboxes put out a similar kind of ghostly light.  Sure, they are 5500K, similar to noon daylight.  But just like in a typical Chinese restaurant, colors look lifeless.

    Color Rendering Index (CRI)

    When I finally learned about Color Rendering Index, everything made sense. From the Wikipedia article:

    A color rendering index (CRI) is a quantitative measure of the ability of a light source to reveal the colors of various objects faithfully in comparison with an ideal or natural light source.

    Where I had been looking for light sources with a specific Kelvin rating, I should have been much more concerned with their CRI rating.

    Searching through the Chinese commerce site Taobao, while almost all of the cheaper photography lighting companies tout their bulb’s color temperature, none of them even mentioned CRI. So I decided to find a bulb with a high CRI in order to compare.

    Philips Master Graphica 36W/950

    The only affordable high-CRI light source I could find in China is the Philips Master Graphica 36W/950.  This tube is frequently used in painter’s studios to provide conditions similar to true daylight.  This tube’s color temperature is 5300K (a little warmer than the typical photography light) and the CRI is 97 (very high).

    As a first test, I used a Philips double light fixture and placed it above my work desk and used it at night.  (Up until then I had only used cheap fluorescent bulbs in my studio.)  The difference was startling.  Working at night has always been a bit depressing, but the Graphica light changed the entire atmosphere of the room.  It’s a really beautiful light.

    Convinced that I was on the right track, I next tried taking some photographs with my old lights and then the Graphica as the light source.  With the exact same shooting conditions there were still subtle differences in the final photograph.  The colors under Graphica lighting just seemed richer.

    Below you can see a comparison of my regular, cheap fluorescent lights with the Graphica tubes.  (The large image can be rolled over to switch between the two images.)  Apart from the lighting, both photos were taken using the exact same conditions.  In Lightroom, I only set the ColorChecker profile and adjusted white balance.

    Regular Fluorescent Photography Lights

    Philips Graphica 36W/950 T8 Fluorescent Lights, 5300 K

    Histogram for Regular Fluorescent Lights

    Histogram for Philips Graphica

    DIY Fluorescent Photography Light Fixture

    I discovered that many photographers are already using fluorescent lights for photography.  In particular, this tutorial by Joe Edelman shows how to make your own fluorescent light tube fixtures for photography.  I made a similar version using parts that I could find on Taobao.  Because I could not find 4 or 6-tube light fixtures, I mounted two 2-tube fixtures onto a sheet metal corrugated shelving.  The corrugated sheet is light, sturdy, and convenient.

    In total I made four of these four-tube fixtures.  This is because I also help friends photograph their large ceramic paintings, and we need lighting longer than the 1.2 meters of the 36W tubes.


    Light fixture attached to wheeled tripod.

    Back of light fixture.

    For the photo of ceramics below, I used two four-tube fixtures as the side lighting.  In front of the fixtures I hung a sheet of translucent softbox fabric.

    Ideally, each light fixture should have six 36W tubes.  Four tubes still seems a little dark for studio photography.

    Scroll over the image to switch between my regular photography lights and the Graphica tube lights.


    Photographing Paintings and Porcelain Tiles

    Part of the reason for building the DIY fluorescent lights is to help my porcelain painter friends photograph their work.  In the past they used natural light on cloudy days or my cheap softboxes.  But with either of these methods it is very difficult to get consistent light over the entire length of a porcelain tile.  A one meter square softbox will not illuminate a one meter long painting evenly, as the light intensity of the softbox decreases toward the edges.

    The best way to photograph a flat reflective surface is to position two lights at either side, hitting the target at an angle of 45 degrees.  The lights are moved away from the painting until the lights’ reflections are no longer visible through the camera.

    In the session below, the lights were placed about 1.5 meters away from the subject.

    DIY fluorescent light setup for large paintings

    High-dynamic-range (HDR) Test

    You might have seen HDR images before on the internet, they were very popular for a time.  Often, HDR images appear gaudy, ghostly and surreal.  But HDR doesn’t have to look like that!

    All digital cameras have limited dynamic range.  That is, they can only record a certain range of light to dark in a photograph.  HDR is simply taking multiple exposures of the same scene and combining them in order to get greater dynamic range.

    For example, looking at the group of ceramics I photographed above you will notice that some details are lost in the shadows.  Normally I would use Photoshop to manually lighten up areas like the inside of the oilspot teabowl.  But with HDR I can capture those details using information in the overexposed shot.  This technique works even better with very light objects (like porcelain vases) on a dark background or vice versa.

    It might seem daunting for the amateur photographer, but HDR only requires an extra press or two of the shutter.  Most cameras offer a multiple exposure setting.  If you prefer to shoot manual, remember that you only need to adjust the speed, not the aperture.   (Adjusting aperture would result in varying depths of field.)  Image processing software like Photoshop and Lightroom 6 include HDR functions, all you need to do is select the files and the software does the rest.

    The large photo below is an HDR composite of the four smaller images above it.  They were combined in Lighroom 6.

    HDR can produce some interesting effects, but when photographing artwork I still haven’t come across a situation in which HDR beats a correctly exposed single shot.

    ISO 100 105mm f/11 1/3s

    ISO 100 105mm f/11 .6s

    ISO 100 105mm f/11 2.5s

    You can scroll over the image above to switch between the HDR and single-exposure photos.

  • Jingdezhen

    One ton

    One ton of porcelain stone delivered to my studio. It's only recently that I've become confident enough to make such a large investment.

  • Glazes

    Simple Microscopy for Ceramics

    The first day of Ecology class we went out to a local pond, gathered water, and returned to the lab.  I’ll never forget the amazement of viewing the water under a microscope, exploring that hidden world.

    I finally got my first microscope for viewing ceramics.  There are multiple hand-held digital microscopes available now, I went with a Chinese company, Supereyes.  The A005+ is their most expensive version and has a 5MP sensor.  It was about $150USD.

    The camera comes with Windows software.  On a Mac, you just plug in the USB cable, open Quicktime and select File->New Movie Recording.  You can either record a movie or take a screenshot.  Results are best if Quicktime is in Fullscreen mode.

    The quality of the A005+ sensor is not great.  There is a lot of noise in the image and resolution seems poor for 5MP.  Focusing works fairly well, although the focusing mechanism (rotating the top of the microscope) can be confusing.  The A005+ has built-in lights, however they produce a lot of glare on reflective surfaces.  Using ambient light or shining a flashlight at various angles works better.  It is also very interesting to view translucent ceramics with a light shining through them.

    Shining a flashlight through a late Ming porcelain export dish to view birds painted in blue & white.

    In retrospect, I probably should have gone with a regular microscope, using a handheld digital camera to record images.  (John Skaley has more information about microphotos at the bottom of his iron glazes article.)  But the A005+ is still a pretty fun toy.

    As a first test of the microscope, I thought it would be interesting to compare various clear glazes.  Personally, I prefer clear glazes that do not contain too many bubbles visible by the naked eye.

    These clear glazes were all fired in a reduction atmosphere to Orton Cone 11.  You can find the recipes to these glazes on my new recipe website,


    In microphotography it’s common to take multiple images of a subject at various focus depths, finally merging those images into a single image with greater depth of field.

    We can also physically move the subject around on the microscope platform without varying focal length, finally merging those images into a single, larger image.  (Just like taking a “panorama” shot on your mobile phone.)  Various software exists to merge these photos together, including Photoshop and Lightroom.

    For Photoshop the process is very simple.  Just gather your panoramic images into a single folder.  Open Photoshop and select File->Automate->Photomerge.  Select all your images and modify settings if desired.  I find that the default settings work just fine in most cases.

    Here is a recent teadust glaze I have been working on and the resulting Photoshop photomerge of the same test tile.

    Teadust glaze test tile

    Photomerged image of a teadust glaze

  • Glazes

    An old Porcelain Stone Mine

    It’s surprising to me how often archaeological discoveries seem to be made in Jingdezhen, but then I remember that wherever I walk in this place there are deep layers of shards beneath my feet.

    A friend of mine was given samples from a recently found porcelain stone mine dating from the Five Dynasties Period.  Apparently the find has not gone unnoticed- professional antique makers have been secretly mining the site.  Luckily we have the chance to acquire some of this porcelain stone.

    I’m often dealing with unfamiliar, traditional materials of which chemical analyses are lacking or unreliable.  In these cases, I usually create a series of line blends to get a basic idea of what I’m working with.  From those first tests, one can further refine glazes using more line blends and triaxials.

    For this porcelain stone I created the following initial tests:

    • Pure porcelain stone, crushed, milled and sieved.
    • Porcelain body using porcelain stone and kaolin at 15-45%.
    • Lime-fluxed celadon glazes:
      • Porcelain stone and 10-20% Er Hui (Glaze Ash)
      • Porcelain stone and 10-20% Wollastonite
      • Porcelain stone and 10-20% Whiting

    Idealized “traditional” recipes are also based on two-component mixtures.  For glazes, porcelain stone was mixed with a flux like glaze ash.  For porcelain bodies, porcelain stone was simply mixed with a proportion of kaolin.

    Usually a single line blend of either Whiting or Wollastonite could tell you a lot about a porcelain stone.  However, porcelain stone mixed with Glaze Ash or Whiting often results in fuming/carbon trapping, so I wanted to test each flux separately.  I usually also create Dolomite or Talc tests.

    I also prepared two sets of test tiles for cone 10 and 12 firings.

    Stones of all types can be used in glazes.  Joseph Grebanier’s Chinese Stoneware Glazes lists many recipes that use locally sourced granite.  And Brian Sutherland’s Glazes from Natural Sources contains a wealth of information on the subject.

    A sledge hammer is used to break off pieces of the hard porcelain stone

    A very hard mortar and pestle is used to further break down the porcelain stone.

    The crushed porcelain stone is ball milled for four hours.

    Even after milling, the mixture needs to be sieved.

    After sitting and decanting excess water, the mixture is dried on a plaster slab.

    Because I’m in a hurry, the mixture is further dried on the stove.

    Porcelain body tests with increasing proportions of kaolin.

    Fired porcelain body tests.

    Fired porcelain glaze tests with increasing proportion of flux.

  • Jingdezhen

    Hutian Workshop

    Carving using traditional tools on a meiping vase form.

    This workshop employs a type of thick slip-casting as well as coil building in molds.

    Bowls are removed from molds, trimmed, and then carved.

    This studio also copies sculptures. The elements of the sculptures are slip-casted and press molded.

    After firing, most of the porcelain goes through a process of antiquing.

    Some finished items.

  • Glazes

    Triaxial testing

    A lot of potters in China still seem to mix glazes the old-school way- one cup of this, two cups of that.  And strangely enough this technique seems to work pretty well for complex traditional materials.  Being a foreigner I tend to make things overly complicated.  I am also terrified of mixing up a great glaze but not remembering the exact composition or, even worse, not knowing how to adjust it if it doesn’t come out right.  So I rely on a lot of line blend and triaxial glaze testing.

    Line blends are a useful tool for comparing two different recipes.  Commonly, the two recipes are different glazes.  For instance, you can blend two different celadon glazes in different proportions to create a new celadon recipe.  Line blends are also commonly used for testing additions of coloring oxides, for instance the effect of incrementally adding iron oxide to a clear glaze.

    The range of the line blend is arbitrary- you can start each variable from 0% and go up to 100% or you could choose any range in-between.

    For example, when adding red iron oxide to a reduction-fired clear glaze like Leach 4321, a line blend from 0% to 10% in 1% increments is sufficient to see the gradual transition from clear to blue celadon (1%), light green celadon (2%), dark green celadon (3-4%), brown, and tenmoku (7-10%).

    To illustrate a line blend, here is a sample using two RGB colors blending by opacity.  If you already know the result of the outlying 100% blends, you could remove them from the test.  However, each firing is different and I usually leave in the 100% blends regardless.

    Line blend of red and blue RGB colors by opacity

    You could mix each test in a line blend individually, but a much less time-consuming method is to only make the left and right-most 100% solutions.  Using a syringe, you can easily create each mixed blend.

    Ian Currie popularized volumetric blending.  (See his article here.)  First, mix the same weight of each glaze you will be blending.  Second, add some water to the glazes and sieve thoroughly.  Third, add water to each glaze so that their volumes are equal.  Now the two glazes are ready for blending.

    Preparing glazes for volumetric blending

    Below is an illustration of the blends in a 20ml syringe.  For my test tiles, 20ml is the minimum volume I need in order to completely cover a test tile (including a second dip).  See here for more information on how I make test tiles.

    Using a syringe to perform volumetric blending

    As you can see, for 10% increments using a 20ml syringe we need at least 20+18+16+14+12+10+8+6+4+2 = 110ml of each 100% recipe.  Preparing 100 grams of glaze material for each glaze should be sufficient.

    Each time before you take glaze into the syringe, be sure to re-mix the glaze and confirm it has not settled.

    Although I use 20ml test batches, it’s easier to use a 30ml syringe so there is extra room for drawing in air, making it easier to mix the glazes.

    Volumetric line blending of 20ml glaze in a 30ml syringe

    A triaxial volumetric line blend. Test tiles and glazes are arranged in order.

    On the back of each test tile is written the full glaze information.

    Test tiles resulting from a volumetric line blend. Increasing amounts of red iron oxide added to a clear glaze.

    Fired result of the same test tiles. Reduction Orton cone 10.

    Here is a line blend of Dolomite added in 2% increments to a Chinese porcelain stone.  Normally, I would test from 4-14% Dolomite, as I know from experience that this is the most useful range.  Below are the tests from 4-12% Dolomite in which the porcelain stone turns from a satin-matte to light celadon glaze.

    Mixtures of porcelain stone and 4-12% Dolomite

    However, it’s often good to test beyond the limits.  We might expect that even more Dolomite added to this glaze stone will result in a runnier, more transparent celadon/clear glaze.  But ceramics is much more complicated than simply mixing two colors together.

    Here is the same test carried further, from 16% to 20% Dolomite.  We’ve gone from a creamy satin-matte to celadon and now to Dolomite matte with crystals.

    This test also shows the importance of making small increments when doing line blends.

    Mixtures of porcelain stone and 16-20% Dolomite

    Triaxial Blends

    Ceramics recipes are a complex interaction of multiple variables.  Triaxial blends involve three variables, making them more useful for exploring ceramic glazes and bodies.

    Below is a four-row opacity triaxial blend of three colors (red, green, and blue) in RGB with a range of 0%-100% for each color. The outer edges of the blend are simply line blends of two colors, while the middle area of the blend contains mixes of all three variables.

    Four-row triaxial blending RGB colors by opacity

    The size, variables, and ranges of a triaxial are completely up to you.  A four-row triaxial with ranges starting at 0% is of limited use in testing mixes of all three variables.  You could adjust the four-row triaxial for ranges of 20%-80% so that each test includes at least some percentage of each variable.  Or, you could move up to a five-row triaxial for even more results.

    Below is a five-row opacity triaxial blend of three colors (red, green, and blue) in RGB with a range of 20%-100% for each color. Because the range starts at 20%, each test includes all three variables.  If you instead wanted the outer blends to represent line blends, the ranges would start at 0%.

    Five-row opacity triaxial RGB blend, 100-20%

    Moving up to six and eleven-row triaxials you will notice that the number of tests we are creating is growing very quickly.  Because the range is from 0%-100%, the outer edges of the triaxial represent simple two-variable line blends.

    Six and eleven-row opacity triaxial RGB blend, 100-0%

    Based on these simple RGB color-blend triaxials, it might seem as if larger numbers of rows are unnecessary since we can easily infer the range of colors from a smaller four or five-row triaxial.  However, as mentioned before, ceramics recipes are a complicated mix of ingredients and sometimes results do not transition gradually from one test to the next.  Using too small of a triaxial with too large of an increment might miss important changes in glazes.  For instance, if Whiting were one of our variables in an eleven-row triaxial, the difference between each Whiting increment would be drastic.

    Triaxial Size

    The number of tests required for a given triaxial size can be determined by the triangular number sequence.  For a triaxial with only one row we of course need only one test.  But the number goes up very quickly as we add rows:  2 rows has 3 tests, 5 rows has 15 tests, 11 rows has 66 tests, and so on.

    If we want to create a triaxial where each variable is in the range of 0%-100% and tests are in 10% increments, we will need an 11-row triaxial with 66 tests.  Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time to create so many test tiles!  It would be nice if we could create meaningful tests while at the same time reducing the size of the triaxial.

    Reducing Triaxial Size

    Often we already have idea of the ranges we want for each variable in a triaxial.

    For example, say we’d like to find a nice Chinese blue & white qinghua underglaze.  Nigel Wood’s Chinese Glazes shows that qinghua is not simply cobalt blue but rather a complicated mix of oxides.  We decide upon three basic variables for our triaxial:  cobalt (top), iron (left), and manganese (right).  In order to do a comprehensive test, we decide to use steps of 10% for each variable.  Usually we would need a full 11-row triaxial for this type of test, necessitating 66 tests.  However, we decide that the left side (a line blend of cobalt and manganese) and the bottom side (a line blend of iron and manganese) are not interesting to us, so we can leave those out.  Now we are left with only 45 tests, in other words a 9-row triaxial.

    Triaxial with eliminated tests. The sides are simply line blends. For this test we leave out the left and bottom sides.

    Volumetric Blending for Triaxials

    In our blue & white (qinghua) underglaze triaxial we still have 45 tests to make.  But instead of mixing each test individually, we can use Ian Currie’s volumetric blending to create intermediate tests.

    Starting at the top of the triaxial pyramid, remove each adjacent glaze.  Now we are left with only 15 glazes to mix.  To produce the intermediate glazes, simply mix the two glazes in a 1-to-1 relationship by volume.

    Note that the more times you need to mix a glaze, the more total glaze material you will require.  For the type of triaxial below I usually mix 200 gram batches in order to ensure that I have enough glaze.  My test tiles only require 20ml of glaze each.

    Volumetric blending of triaxial, 50% mixes

    We can further reduce the number of glazes to prepare, with the trade-off of more numerous and more complicated volumetric blends.  In the example below, we are only left with 6 glazes to make.

    Further volumetric blending of triaxial

    The actual fired result of this triaxial is much less balanced than the computer-generated RGB diagrams.  It’s apparent that cobalt oxide is a much stronger colorant than both iron oxide and manganese.  It seems the most interesting results are in the bottom two rows of the triaxial.  It might be interesting to “zoom in” on the bottom portion of the triaxial to refine the color even further.

    In designing the tests, we also take into consideration that the glaze that covers an underglaze will affect the resulting color.  So for each test tile, the top half is covered with a basic transparent glaze (Limestone), while the bottom half is covered in a traditional chinese glaze (灰釉).  The narrow unglazed band in the middle gives us further information.

    Fired result of cobalt, manganese, iron triaxial

    The changes in coloring oxide triaxials are usually straightforward- colors gradually shift.  Results are not so certain, though, when performing triaxial tests on other glaze components such as glass formers, melters, stabilizers and opacifiers.  Sometimes huge changes in a glaze can occur within only one or two-percent changes of the recipe.  So ideally, for each glaze test we would create a 51-row (range of 0%-100% in 2% increments) or 101-row (range of 0%-100% in 1% increments) triaxial.  But a 51-row triaxial needs 1,326 tests, while a 101-row triaxial needs 5,151 tests!

    So in designing triaxials with small percentage increments it is often necessary to eliminate vast swaths of the triaxial.

    For example, in the partial triaxial below I am searching for a nice teadust glaze.  The triaxial is based on 2% increments of Chinese glaze stone, whiting, and silica.  From experience and prior testing, I have already determined fixed percentages for ingredients not included in the test (red iron oxide and talc), and I have set fixed ranges for the three variables.  For instance, from past tests I know that I do not want too much or too little whiting- a range of 10%-16% is enough.  In this manner I have pared down a 1,326 test triaxial to only 13 tests.

    As you can see in the results below, there is indeed a great range of glazes even within 2% increments.  If I had created a smaller triaxial with larger 10% increments I might have entirely missed the teadust crystal effect.

    All possibilities for a triaxial with 2% increments. Shaded area represents actual test.

    Traditional teadust glaze. Partial Triaxial, 2% Increments

    Further reducing size

    By plotting out all of the tests (or even just the extremities) in the large triaxial above on a Silica/Alumina chart, we can further reduce the number of glaze tests.  From experience, it’s obvious that a cone 10 glaze with 60% Whiting and no Feldspar or Silica won’t work out very well.  But by looking at the chart, we can see entire areas of the test triaxial that are “out of bounds” for a good glaze and thus probably don’t need to be included.

    Having said that, there are some interesting glazes (like Shinos) out of the ranges of commonly accepted glaze limits.  And in my example above, the tests that look most to me like teadust are quite high in silica and fall just inside the blue “underfired” zone.

    For more information, see R.T. Stull’s original article in Transactions of the American Ceramic Society, Volume 14, pages 62-70.  Also see Matt Katz’s Introduction to Glaze Formulation Online

    Large 2% triaxial plotted on SiO2/Al2O3 chart with Stull overlay



    Tests build upon each other.  Coarse triaxials can be later refined, and specific glazes targeted within smaller ranges.  The more experience you have, the more you know where to look.  If you’re just starting out, I recommend a large, 11-row triaxial of Potash Felsdpar, Silica, and Whiting which will reveal a range of glaze types, from celadons to mattes.  Once you have a good feldspar/silica/whiting glaze you could try adding coloring oxides, stabilizers like ball clay or kaolin, opacifiers, etc.

    Triaxial Worksheets Download (PDF)

    Triaxial Worksheet

    Volumetric Blends for Triaxials

  • Glazes

    Tea Dust Glaze

    Tea Dust Recipes on Glazy

    The following glazes and more can be found on my new website, Glazy:

    The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes Tea Dust Recipes

    Some tea dust glazes from The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes.  I fired these glazes according to my usual firing schedule, probably too hot and not ideal for the development of crystals necessary for good tea dust glazes.  I crash cool to 1000C and then completely shut up the kiln.

    Currie 10 Tea Dust

    Stoneware, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 11

    Currie 11 Tea Dust

    Stoneware, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 11

    Stoneware, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 11

    Stoneware, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 11

    Stoneware, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    Porcelain, Reduction Cone 11

    Chinese Traditional Tea Dust Glaze

    Although the glazes above call all be considered tea dust, in China teadust glaze usually refers to Qing dynasty wares like the ones below.  Although tea dust can result in a range of colors and with varying crystal sizes, usually the crystals are very evenly dispersed.  (The example below is a Qianlong vase sold through Sotheby’s.)

    Qianlong Teadust Vase

    Various Teadust Colors

    Chinese Traditional Tea Dust Glaze Recipes

    The recipe above comes from 颜色釉 (Colored Glazes), published in 1978 by the Jingdezhen Ceramics Company.  The components of the recipe can be difficult to find today, even in Jingdezhen.  Those materials that are still produced probably have different compositions than in 1978.  For instance, I’ve noticed differences in Glaze Stone (釉果) and Zijin Stone (紫金石) from year to year.  What this recipe has in common with the Western tea dust glazes above is the addition of magnesium oxide in the form of talc, which helps form the tea dust crystals.

    The glaze preparation is quite interesting.  The ingredients (excluding the white clay (白土)) is ball milled for 30 hours, then white clay is added and the full glaze is milled for another four hours.  After adding water, the glaze is sprayed approximately 1mm thick.  Firing is to 1250°C in a weak reduction atmosphere.

    Tea Dust Triaxial - First Attempt

    In part because I’ve had a difficult time finding a reliable chemical analysis for the glaze stone I use, but mostly because I often don’t have much clue what I’m doing, I often use triaxial blends to find interesting glazes.  I’m also interested in making glazes for my normal firing schedule, rather than changing my firing for a single type of glaze (like the recipe above that fires to 1240°C).

    Because triaxials are limited to three variables, the following tests make some assumptions about tea dust glazes.  The top axis of the triaxial will be glaze stone (the “unknown” ingredient), the left axis whiting (the flux), and the right axis silica.  I’m certain I need magnesium in the form of talc, dolomite, or magnesium carbonate- I choose 8% talc.  I also need some iron, based on past experience and other glaze recipes I choose red iron oxide at 8%.

    From the resulting triaxial it seems that crystal growth improves as silica is increased while glaze stone and whiting are decreased.

    Tea Dust Triaxial - Second Attempt

    For each row of the first triaxial, I like what’s happening in the third column.  For the next test, I extend this third column down a few rows to see what happens.

    Extended Triaxial. Left- Porcelain, Right- Stoneware

    It’s nice to see my educated guesses are working out.  Beginning from the fourth row of this second test, it seems like I’m coming close to a glaze that I like.

    You’ll notice that the glazes look completely different on the two types of test tiles (porcelain on the left and stoneware on the right).

    Just to check that my initial amounts for Iron and Talc are in the right ballpark, I choose the fourth row of this test and make some adjustments.  It seems that Red Iron Oxide at 8% additional and Talc at 10% are ideal.

    After a few more tests further adjusting the silica, iron, and talc I ended up with the glaze at the left.  While it’s not an ideal tea dust glaze by Qianlong standards, what’s important is that I like it and I can fire it using my usual temperature and schedule.

    Photomerged microphoto of the same test tile.

    The teadust glaze on a small bowl

    August 2015 Update

    Just to see what would happen if I continued adding silica to the recipe, I extended the bottom-right corner of the original triaxials.  As you can see below, incrementally replacing glaze stone with silica leads to an increasingly uniform crystal distribution more closely approximating Chinese teadust glazes.  (A feldspar/whiting/silica triaxial for some of the High-Fire Glazes recipes above may have similar results.)  Note that in the following tests I increased Red Iron Oxide to 9% (additional).

    Second triaxial extension for teadust test glaze

    Complete tested triaxial for teadust glaze.

    Microphoto of the extended triaxial's bottom-right test

    Adjusting Coleman Tea Dust Black

    As I did with the traditional tea dust glaze above, I wanted to adjust one of the tea dust recipes in John Britt’s High Fire Glazes to increase coverage of the crystals.  The most promising candidate I had found was Coleman’s Tea Dust Black.  Starting with that recipe, I designed a triaxial that incrementally increased silica while reducing feldspar (also lowering the alumina).

    The original recipe for Coleman Tea Dust Black:

    Custer Feldspar 39.81
    Silica 25
    Whiting 15.74
    Kentucky OM #4  12.04
    Talc, Magnesium Silicate 7.41
    Red iron oxide, RIO 9.3
    Total: 109.3

    Since I can only change three variables in the triaxial, I choose to modify Custer Feldspar, Silica, and Whiting.  I keep the Ball Clay at 12%, raise Talc slightly to 8% (which was a good amount in my traditional tea dust glaze) and set Red Iron Oxide at 9.5%.

    Triaxial adjusting Coleman Tea Dust Black. Porcelain, Reduction Cone 10

    The most instructive column is the last, with Whiting set at 14%.  As silica is increased and feldspar decreased, crystal coverage becomes more even.



    The above triaxial was slow-cooled.  Below is a comparison of the same glaze with a crash-cool to 1000°C.

    John Sankey has an excellent article about iron glazes and cooling:


    Teadust glaze with slow cooling. After reaching cone 10, immediately close up kiln entirely.

    Teadust glaze in fast cool to 1000°C. After reaching 1000°C, completely close up kiln.

    I added the recipe for this glaze on Glazy at

    Potash Feldspar: 28%
    Silica: 40%
    Whiting: 12%
    Ball Clay: 12%
    Talc: 8%
    Red Iron Oxide: 9.5%

    Actually, this glaze is probably too high in silica, and the resulting stony surface not at all like the satiny Chinese teadust glazes.  I will try again, increasing the talc and adjusting iron levels rather than simply adding silica.  Ideally I would also attempt different firing/cooling schedules, but I won’t change my firings just for a single glaze.

    I hope this article shows how to refine a glaze using triaxial testing.  With some general knowledge about the type of glaze, educated guesses, experience and a bit of luck, one can design triaxials that reveal interesting new glazes.

    Note:  I did not cover glaze limits in this article.  There are various glaze limits that describe “good glazes”.  For instance, on the Glazy page for the triaxial-derived Tea Dust glaze above (, you will notice that the glaze sits just outside the Hesselberth & Roy Δ9-10 Glaze Limits.  It is up to you to ensure your glazes are functional, especially if they contain oxides that are toxic when leached.  However, I find that a lot of interesting glazes are outside of established glaze limits.

  • Jingdezhen

    Sanbao Porcelain Stone and Saggar Kiln

    Nestled in the beautiful mountains near Jingdezhen is Sanbao, a traditional source of porcelain stone. Porcelain stone comes in many types characterized by the local geography. Sanbao stone is primarily used in making porcelain bodies, but it can also be used in glazes.

    Worker removing porcelain stone from the Sanbao mine (May 2012)

    This wooden tool ensures equally sized porcelain bricks.

    Porcelain bricks are air-dried on wooden racks.

    A shrine at the mine.

    A workshop near the porcelain stone mine specializes in making kiln saggars.

  • Glazes

    Ash Glazes

    All of the following ash glaze recipes and more can now be found on my new open-source ceramics recipes website, Glazy:

    I’m not particularly an ash glaze aficionado, and I’m far from an expert.  But it’s surprisingly easy to make an interesting ash glaze, and it’s nice to have some “natural” glazes which give interesting surfaces on functional ware.  

    The digitalfire website has safety tips for mixing and using ash glazes.

    At the bottom of this article is a list of resources for learning more.

    Wood stove ash with local stoneware

    A great way to make an ash glaze is to mix any type of ash with your stoneware body.  A line blend of ash from 40-60% is a good place to start.

    Below are tests of a local Jiangxi stoneware body, Tianbao, mixed with unwashed ash from my wood stove.  Glazes dipped onto bisqued porcelain and dark stoneware tiles, then fired in reduction to Orton Cone 10.

    Stoneware 40% Wood Ash 60%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Stoneware 40% Wood Ash 60%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Stoneware 50% Wood Ash 50%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Stoneware 50% Wood Ash 50%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Rice Straw Ash with Local Stoneware

    Below are tests of a local Jiangxi stoneware body, Tianbao, with Rice Straw Ash.

    Clay 60% Straw Ash 40%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Clay 50% Straw Ash 50%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Clay 40% Straw Ash 60%. Orton Cone 10 Reduction.

    Glaze Ash with Local Stoneware

    Below are tests of a local Jiangxi stoneware body, Tianbao, with a traditional Jingdezhen glaze ash called Er Hui.

    20% Glaze Ash

    30% Glaze Ash

    40% Glaze Ash

    50% Glaze Ash

    High Fire Glazes Ash Recipes

    Some ash glazes from The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes  All tests fired to Orton Cone 10 in reduction.

    Basic Ash

    Titus-Zella Wood Ash

    This recipe, listed in High-Fire Glazes, is simply 50% wood ash and 50% custer feldspar.

    Basic Aerni Ash

    Zellar Ash

    Other Ash Glaze Recipes

    Leach Ash

    As posted by Tom Turner (link below).  He says: “I do not wash ash as I believe much of the character is in what is washed away. Dry sieve through a 30 mesh sieve.”  I used a 60 mesh sieve.

    Leach’s Basic Ash Glaze
    Wood Ash 40
    Feldspar 40
    Ball Clay 20

    Libby Pickard Ash Glaze

    From Phil Rogers Ash Glazes, p. 85:

    Also listed on Glazy:

    Tenmoku with Rice Straw Ash

    This glaze is from a University of Texas online glaze database (approx 2004) at:

    More information on Glazy:

    Synthetic (Fake) Ash

    You must burn a lot of wood or plant matter to make a small amount of useable ash.  The sieved, unwashed ash collected after a Winter burning my small wood furnace only gives me enough material to make a couple buckets of 50% clay 50% ash glaze.  Furthermore, I burn whatever type of wood happens my way, and it often contains impurities like dirt and nails.  So besides the limited quantity I have available, there is also a question of consistency.

    Substituting part or all of real ash with synthetic ash in a glaze recipe is one method to address the problems of impurities, variability, and supply.

    For most of these tests I just made a simple 50/50 mix of the synthetic ash recipe with a local stoneware body in order to compare to my previous real wood ash glazes.  The following tests were all fired to Orton Cone 11 in reduction.

    Robert Tichane's Recipe

    Robert Tichane’s excellent book Ash Glazes has a chapter devoted to synthetic ash glazes.  Based on Dr. Emil Wolff’s analysis of Beech wood ash, Tichane creates the following synthetic ash:

    • Limestone: 75 g (43.2%)
    • Dolomite: 50 g (30.8%)
    • Potassium Carbonate: 25 g (15.4%)
    • Bone Ash: 6 g (3.7%)
    • Sodium Carbonate: 5 g (3.1%)
    • Calcium Sulfate: 3 g (1.9%)
    • Silica: 2 g (1.2%)
    • Sodium Chloride: 0.2 g (0.1%)
    • Ferric Oxide: 1 g (0.6%)


    Robert Tichane's Synthetic Ash 100%

    As you can see in the third picture, the soluble salts tend to permeate bisque ware, possibly decreasing body melting temperature and increasing warping.  (It would be interesting to compare the effects of solubles on a raw-glazed tile.)  Solubles are troublesome for other reasons, of course.  Water should not be removed from an already mixed glaze batch, and safety is a concern.


    Tichane Synthetic Ash 100%. Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction.

    Tichane Synthetic Ash 100%. Stoneware, Orton Cone 11 Reduction.

    Tichane Synthetic Ash 100%. Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction.

    Robert Tichane's Synthetic Ash 50%, Stoneware 50%

    Tichane’s recipe is interesting because of the soluble components that emulate unwashed wood ash.  And of all the synthetic ash recipes I tested, Tichane’s comes closest to the feel of real unwashed wood ash glazes.

    Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction.

    Stoneware, Orton Cone 11 Reduction.

    Maritaro Onishi's Recipe

    Ash Glazes also contains a recipe for synthetic ash by Maritaro Onishi:

    • Limestone: 62%
    • Feldspar: 12%
    • Bone Ash: 7%
    • Magnesite (Magnesium Carbonate): 5%
    • Kaolin: 10%
    • Silica: 3%

    Maritaro Onishi's Synthetic Ash 50%, Stoneware 50%

    Tichane notes that impurities in the feldspar and kaolin may add iron and manganese.  However, in my test I added an additional 2% red iron oxide and 1.2% manganese dioxide.

    Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    Stoneware, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    Etsuzo Katou's Recipe

    John Neely on the Clayart mailing list mentions Etsuzo Katou who published another synthetic ash recipe, Ueda synthetic ash #3:

    • Whiting: 59%
    • Potash Feldspar: 22%
    • Magnesium Carbonate: 11%
    • Bone Ash: 5%
    • Red Iron Oxide: 2%
    • Manganese Dioxide: 1%

    Etsuzo Katou's Synthetic Ash 50%, Stoneware 50%

    I accidentally used 2% Manganese in my test glaze.

    Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    Stoneware, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    Joseph Grebanier's Recipe

    In chapter 13 of Chinese Stoneware Glazes, Synthetic Wood Ash, Joseph Grebanier compares various wood ash analyses and questions the accuracy of Onishi’s synthetic ash formula.  Using Herbert Sanders’ ash analyses in The World of Japanese Ceramics,  Grebanier creates the following recipes:

    Grebanier’s Batch Recipe for Synthetic “Common Ash”:

    • Whiting: 35.73%
    • Buckingham Feldspar: 24.35%
    • Kaolin: 10.39%
    • Flint: 10.11%
    • Magnesium Carbonate: 6.86%
    • Bone Ash: 4.09%
    • Soda Ash: 3.90%
    • Red Iron Oxide: 3%
    • Manganese Dioxide: 1.32%

    Grebanier’s “Common Ash” recipe was later simplified by Phil Rogers in Ash Glazes:

    • Whiting: 36%
    • Buckingham Feldspar: 25%
    • Kaolin: 10%
    • Flint: 10%
    • Magnesium Carbonate: 7%
    • Bone Ash: 5%
    • Soda Ash: 4%
    • Red Iron Oxide: 3%
    • Manganese Dioxide: 1%

    Grebanier’s Batch Recipe for Synthetic Pine Ash:

    • Whiting: 44.37%
    • Orthoclase: 36.17%
    • Magnesium Carbonate: 6.36%
    • Soda Ash: 4.38%
    • Bone Ash: 4.1%
    • Red Iron Oxide: 2.31%
    • Manganese Dioxide: 2.28%

    Grebanier’s Pine Ash recipe was later simplified by Robert Tichane in his Ash Glazes:

    • Whiting: 44.4%
    • Feldspar: 36.2%
    • Magnesium Carbonate: 6.4%
    • Soda Ash: 4.4%
    • Bone Ash: 4.1%
    • Red Iron Oxide: 2.3%
    • Manganese Dioxide: 2.3%

    Grebanier's Synthetic Common Ash Recipe (simplified)

    In the following tests I substituted Buckingham Feldspar for my local Potash Feldspar.

    50% Stoneware, %50 Synthetic Ash. Porcelain, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    50% Stoneware, %50 Synthetic Ash. Stoneware, Orton Cone 11 Reduction

    40% Stoneware, %60 Synthetic Ash. Porcelain, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    40% Stoneware, %60 Synthetic Ash. Stoneware, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Leach’s Basic Ash Glaze. Wood Ash (sub Synthetic Ash) 40, Feldspar 40, Ball Clay 20. Porcelain, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Leach’s Basic Ash Glaze. Wood Ash (sub Synthetic Ash) 40, Feldspar 40, Ball Clay 20. Stoneware, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Grebanier's Synthetic Pine Ash Recipe (simplified)

    Stoneware Body 50%, Synthetic Pine Ash 50%. Porcelain, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Stoneware Body 50%, Synthetic Pine Ash 50%. Stoneware, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Synthetic Ashes in Low-iron Glazes

    Many white, clear, and celadon glazes in antiquity were at least in part comprised of plant or tree ash.  By varying the amount of synthetic ash and coloring oxides (mostly iron and manganese) you can quite easily produce some nice glazes.

    One of the most important lessons to learn from using synthetic ash is not necessarily to reproduce the look/effect of natural ashes, but rather to understand the result of introducing a wider variety of oxides into the glaze mix.  For instance, take a common celadon recipe, Hamada 5-3-2 (50% custer feldspar, 30% silica, 20% whiting) which is primarily fluxed with lime.  What happens when we introduce extra sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and manganese to the mix?

    Grebanier Synthetic Common Ash and Porcelain Body

    One of my favorite ways of making new glazes is to simply mix a flux or ash with a clay body.  This method is usually used with iron-rich stonewares but works just as well for cleaner stoneware and porcelain bodies.


    Porcleain Body 60%, Synthetic Wood Ash 40%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Porcleain Body 50%, Synthetic Wood Ash 50%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Porcleain Body 40%, Synthetic Wood Ash 60%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Grebanier Synthetic Common Ash, reduced Iron and Manganese

    For the following three tests, the amount of Iron and Manganese in the synthetic ash was reduced to 1/3 of the original amount.

    The first test results in a lovely semi-matte glaze, while the last two tests are passable celadons.

    Porcleain Body 60%, Synthetic Wood Ash 40%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Porcleain Body 50%, Synthetic Wood Ash 50%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Porcleain Body 40%, Synthetic Wood Ash 60%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Grebanier Synthetic Common Ash and Feldspar

    This is basically the Titus-Zella Wood Ash above.

    Potash 60%, Synthetic Wood Ash 40%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Potash 50%, Synthetic Wood Ash 50%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Adjusting the Feldspar/Synthetic Wood Ash glazes

    For the potash feldspar/synthetic wood ash mixes above, I reduced the amount of iron and manganese (1/3 of original recipe) as well as added silica to reduce crazing.  With 10% Silica we’ve eliminated the crazing.

    Potash 55%, Silica 5%, Synthetic Wood Ash 40%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Potash 50%, Silica 10%, Synthetic Wood Ash 40%. Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Making Your Own Synthetic Ash

    Chemical analyses of ash vary widely, even analyses by different people of the same type of ash.  But chemical analyses are a good starting point for experimentation.  Synthetic ash recipes can be calculated by hand (see Chapter 13 of Nigel Wood’s Chinese Glazes) or by using glaze software.

    I was interested in Issu wood ash, commonly used in Japan for making celadon glazes.  The chemical analyses for Issu wood  (see list by Linda Arbuckle below) are:

    SiO2 Al2O3 TiO2 Fe2O3 CaO MgO K2O Na2O MnO P2O5
    Herbert Sanders, The World of Japanese Ceramics 34.6 4.38 0.49 47.71 5.99 2.51 0.06 0.33 3.93
    Cardew 16.19 4.16 0.92 36.68 6.6 1 0.2 0.48 0.92
    J.B.E. Patterson (via Leach, A Potter’s Book) 71.96 0.63 0.28 15.95 1.57 0.84 0.42

    As you can see, there’s a huge difference between these three analyses, it’s difficult to know if any of them are to be trusted.  So I checked Grebanier’s Chinese Stoneware Glazes and was surprised to find that he had come across the exact same problem (Chapter 13, Synthetic Wood Ash).  Grebanier seems to have abandoned hope of finding an Issu ash substitute, but I went ahead with Sanders’ analysis as it seemed more trustworthy.

    (Actually, perhaps it’s not that Sanders’ analysis is more trustworthy as much as the fact that it’s more interesting to me.)

    I calculated two recipes, one using only Whiting and one minimizing the amount of Whiting by using Wollastonite (without adding too much Silica) and replacing Magnesium Carbonate with Dolomite (in order to provide MgO as well as CaO).

    Recipe 1 (Whiting):

    • Whiting 53.36
    • Custer Feldspar 13.97
    • Silica 13.76
    • Magnesium Carb 9.72
    • Bone Ash 6.63
    • New Zealand Kaolin 2.03
    • Iron 0.31
    • Manganese Dioxide 0.23
    • Total: 100.01

    Recipe 2 (Minimize Whiting):

    • Whiting 21.35
    • Wollastonite 29.86
    • Dolomite 23.14
    • Custer Feldspar 15.46
    • Bone Ash 7.34
    • New Zealand Kaolin 2.25
    • Iron 0.35
    • Manganese Dioxide 0.26
    • Total: 100.01

    Ash Glazes Resources

    Ash Glazes by Robert Tichane.

    The Complete Guide to High Fire Glazes by John Britt.  Besides being my favorite introduction book on glazes, there is a section on ash and synthetic ash glazes.

    Chinese Stoneware Glazes by Joseph Grebanier.  Joseph uses ash in many of his glazes in order to re-create ancient Chinese glazes.

    Ash Glazes by Phil Rogers.  I have not yet read this book, but the reviews are good and the book preview on Google Books looks promising.

    Ash Glaze on the website.  Also information on wood ash, hardwood ash, softwood ash, rice straw ash,  and rice husk ash.

    Nigel Wood’s Chinese Ceramics and Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 12, Ceramic Technology both contain a wealth of information of the role of wood and plant ash in the development of Chinese glazes, including chemical analyses of ashes and comparisons with glaze compositions.

    Some ash glaze recipes can be found on Rick’s Bricks and Tom Turner’s website.

    Chemical Analyses of Various Ashes

    The following information is from a Linda Arbuckle handout, GlazeChem Materials.

    Bamboo ash

    % 4.8 K2O 0.3 CaO 86.4 SiO2 0.4 Fe2O3 8.1 LOI

    Bamboo ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2.



    % 4.8 K2O 0.3 CaO 86.4 SiO2 0.4 Fe2O3 8.1 LOI

    (‘Bamboo sugar’, Java) (Bourry, 1st English edition, 1901)

    Barley straw ash

    % 5 Na2O 22 K2O 3 MgO 8 CaO 57 SiO2 5 P2O5

    Barley straw ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and K2O.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 5 Na2O 22 K2O 3 MgO 8 CaO 57 SiO2 5 P2O5

    Beech ash

    % 8.34 Na2O 24.29 K2O 8.20 MgO 42.00 CaO 3.01 SiO2 6.2 P2O5 0.62 Fe2O3 4.52 MnO 2.10 SO3 0.72 Cl

    Beech ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and K2O.



    % 8.34 Na2O 24.29 K2O 8.20 MgO 42.00 CaO 3.01 SiO2 6.2 P2O5 0.62 Fe2O3 4.52 MnO 2.10 SO3 0.72 Cl

    Rogers (appendix):

    % 4.0 Na2O 16.5 K2O 10.9 MgO 55.5 CaO 5.45 SiO2 5.45 P2O5 1.0 Fe2O3

    Birch ash

    % 9 Na2O 22.6 K2O 14.3 MgO 29.6 CaO 11.5 SiO2 7.9 P2O5 1.3 Fe2O3 0.4 MnO 3.4 LOI

    Birch ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and K2O.



    % 9 Na2O 22.6 K2O 14.3 MgO 29.6 CaO 11.5 SiO2 7.9 P2O5 1.3 Fe2O3 0.4 MnO

    Rogers (appendix):

    % 7.69 Na2O 12.53 K2O 7.69 MgO 57.5 CaO 3.84 SiO2 7.69 P2O5 1.0 Fe2O3

    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 9 Na2O 18 K2O 11 MgO 45 CaO 4 Al2O3 8 SiO2 4 P2O5 1 Fe2O3

    Cedar ash

    % 3.7 Na2O 4.3 K2O 6 MgO 44.2 CaO 0.52 Al2O3 24.28 SiO2 10.6 P2O5 1.01 Fe2O3 0.3 MnO 5.09 LOI

    Cedar ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and SiO2.



    % 3.7 Na2O 4.3 K2O 6 MgO 44.2 CaO 0.52 Al2O3 24.28 SiO2 10.6 P2O5 1.01 Fe2O3 0.3 MnO

    Common ash

    % 2.33 Na2O 3.91 K2O 3.3 MgO 22.42 CaO 8.91 Al2O3 30.99 SiO2 1.91 P2O5 3.04 Fe2O3 1.26 MnO 21.44 LOI

    Common ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and CaO.



    % 2.33 Na2O 3.91 K2O 3.3 MgO 22.42 CaO 8.91 Al2O3 30.99 SiO2 1.91 P2O5 3.04 Fe2O3 1.26 MnO 21.44 LOI

    Desert plant ash

    % 28.0 Na2O 5.5 K2O 0.5 MgO 21.1 CaO 1.8 P2O5 34.0 CO2

    Desert plant ash supplies several oxides, especially Na2O and CaO.


    Tichane (TCB): (adds to 91%)

    % 28.0 Na2O 5.5 K2O 0.5 MgO 21.1 CaO 1.8 P2O5 34.0 CO2

    Elder ash

    % 2 Na2O 17 K2O 16 MgO 38 CaO 14 SiO2 13 P2O5

    Elder ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 2 Na2O 17 K2O 16 MgO 38 CaO 14 SiO2 13 P2O5

    Fern ash

    % 0.56 Na2O 4.81 K2O 7.44 MgO 8.59 CaO 19.32 Al2O3 55.02 SiO2 0.3 TiO2 0.92 P2O5 1.67 Fe2O3 1.36 MnO

    Fern ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and Al2O3.


    Rogers (appendix):

    % 0.56 Na2O 4.81 K2O 7.44 MgO 8.59 CaO 19.32 Al2O3 55.02 SiO2 0.3 TiO2 0.92 P2O5 1.67 Fe2O3 1.36 MnO

    Hamer & Hamer: (Bracken and fern)

    % 3 Na2O 26 K2O 8 MgO 12 CaO 10 Al2O3 33 SiO2 6 P2O5 1 Fe2O3 1 MnO

    Grass ash

    0.2 KNaO 0.3 MgO 0.5 CaO 0.2 Al2O3 2.0 SiO2

    Grass ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and CaO.

    Generic grass ash.

    Green: (weed and grass ash)

    0.2 KNaO 0.3 MgO 0.5 CaO 0.2 Al2O3 2.0 SiO2

    Green: (unwashed lawn clippings, from Leach “A Potter’s Book”)

    0.41 KNaO 0.29 MgO 0.30 CaO 0.27 Al2O3 1.09 SiO2 0.12 P2O5 0.03 Fe2O3

    Green: (washed lawn clippings, from Leach “A Potter’s Book”)

    0.15 KNaO 0.32 MgO 0.53 CaO 0.38 Al2O3 1.52 SiO2 0.15 P2O5 0.05 Fe2O3

    Rogers: (Lawn grass)

    % 6.20 Na2O 6.19 K2O 5.65 MgO 12.88 CaO 16.60 Al2O3 39.64 SiO2 9.00 P2O5 3.44 Fe2O3

    Hamer & Hamer: (Lawn grass)

    % 3 Na2O 5 K2O 5 MgO 10 CaO 11 Al2O3 59 SiO2 5 P2O5 2 Fe2O3

    Mixed hardwood ash

    % 9.12 Na2O 14 K2O 12 MgO 30 CaO 0.1 Al2O3 15.3 SiO2 13.1 P2O5 2.4 Fe2O3 0.1 MnO 3.88 LOI

    Hearth ash

    % 0.55 Na2O 1.49 K2O 5.44 MgO 35.9 CaO 3.69 Al2O3 14.08 SiO2 2.14 P2O5 0.94 Fe2O3 34.32 h3O 0.14 MnO

    Hearth ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and SiO2.



    % 0.55 Na2O 1.49 K2O 5.44 MgO 35.9 CaO 3.69 Al2O3 14.08 SiO2 2.14 P2O5 0.94 Fe2O3 34.32 h3O 0.14 MnO

    (Hearth ash (‘Dobai’), Japan (E. Kato, Interceram, 2 (1962), 110).)

    Heather ash

    % 9 Na2O 12 K2O 10 MgO 21 CaO 41 SiO2 5 P2O5 2 Fe2O3

    Heather ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and CaO.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 9 Na2O 12 K2O 10 MgO 21 CaO 41 SiO2 5 P2O5 2 Fe2O3

    Issu-wood ash

    % 0.06 Na2O 2.51 K2O 5.99 MgO 47.71 CaO 4.38 Al2O3 34.6 SiO2 3.93 P2O5 0.49 Fe2O3 0.33 MnO

    Isu-wood ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and SiO2.  Issu (Distylium racemosum) is the source of a very popular wood ash in Japan. Note the incredible variations in the analyses.



    % 0.06 Na2O 2.51 K2O 5.99 MgO 47.71 CaO 4.38 Al2O3 34.6 SiO2 3.93 P2O5 0.49 Fe2O3 0.33 MnO


    % 0.2 Na2O 1 K2O 6.6 MgO 36.68 CaO 4.16 Al2O3 16.19 SiO2 3.67 P2O5 0.92 Fe2O3 30.08 h3O 0.8 SO3 0.48 MnO

    (Isu Ash from Hagi, Japan (E. Kato, Interceram, 2 (1962), 110).)

    Leach (“A Potter’s Book”):

    % 0.84 K2O 1.57 MgO 15.95 CaO 0.63 Al2O3 71.96 SiO2 0.42 P2O5 0.28 Fe2O3 8.29 LOI

    (from work done by J.B.E. Patterson)

    Ivy ash

    % 20 Na2O 26 K2O 8 MgO 25 CaO 12 SiO2 6 P2O5 3 Fe2O3

    Ivy ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO, K2O, and Na2O.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 20 Na2O 26 K2O 8 MgO 25 CaO 12 SiO2 6 P2O5 3 Fe2O3

    Larch wood ash

    % 9 Na2O 21 K2O 8 MgO 27 CaO 1 Al2O3 11 SiO2 8 P2O5 4 Fe2O3 11 MnO

    Larch wood ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO, K2O, SiO2, and MnO.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 9 Na2O 21 K2O 8 MgO 27 CaO 1 Al2O3 11 SiO2 8 P2O5 4 Fe2O3 11 MnO

    Mahogany ash

    % 10.98 Na2O 9.49 K2O 4.39 MgO 9.49 CaO 3.81 Al2O3 51.51 SiO2 2.08 P2O5 4.53 Fe2O3 3.72 LOI

    Mahogany ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2.



    % 10.98 Na2O 9.49 K2O 4.39 MgO 9.49 CaO 3.81 Al2O3 51.51 SiO2 2.08 P2O5 4.53 Fe2O3

    (Australian white mahogany) (Forestry Commission of New South Wales, 1956)

    Maple ash

    % 6.04 Na2O 6.2 K2O 12.05 MgO 27.5 CaO 0.9 Al2O3 13.8 SiO2 8.1 P2O5 2.5 Fe2O3 0.5 MnO 22.41 LOI

    Maple ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO.



    % 6.04 Na2O 6.2 K2O 12.05 MgO 27.5 CaO 0.9 Al2O3 13.8 SiO2 8.1 P2O5 2.5 Fe2O3 0.5 MnO

    Meadow hay ash

    % 7.0 Na2O 25.67 K2O 5.0 MgO 11.56 CaO 29.57 SiO2 6.2 P2O5 1.0 Fe2O3

    Meadow hay ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and K2O.


    Rogers (appendix):

    % 7.0 Na2O 25.67 K2O 5.0 MgO 11.56 CaO 29.57 SiO2 6.2 P2O5 1.0 Fe2O3

    Hamer & Hamer: (Meadow grass)

    % 4 Na2O 15 K2O 5 MgO 10 CaO 3 Al2O3 58 SiO2 4 P2O5 1 Fe2O3

    Mixed wood ash

    0.125 Na2O 0.266 K2O 0.187 MgO 0.422 CaO 0.016 Al2O3 0.375 SiO2 0.109 P2O5 0.062 Fe2O3


    Oak ash

    % 9.12 Na2O 14 K2O 12 MgO 30 CaO 0.1 Al2O3 15.3 SiO2 13.1 P2O5 2.4 Fe2O3 0.1 MnO 3.88 LOI

    Oak ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO.



    % 9.12 Na2O 14 K2O 12 MgO 30 CaO 0.1 Al2O3 15.3 SiO2 13.1 P2O5 2.4 Fe2O3 0.1 MnO

    Tichane (TCB):

    % 3.9 Na2O 9.5 K2O 3.9 MgO 72.5 CaO 2.0 SiO2 5.8 P2O5

    Rogers: (English oak)

    % 9.12 Na2O 14.00 K2O 12.01 MgO 30.02 CaO 0.13 Al2O3 15.30 SiO2 13.8 P2O5 2.40 Fe2O3 0.10 MnO 0.05 CuO 2.61 SO3 1.18 Cl

    Rogers (appendix): (China)

    % 1.47 Na2O 5.77 K2O 4.09 MgO 23.54 CaO 15.11 Al2O3 39.81 SiO2 2.3 P2O5 3.58 Fe2O3 4.32 MnO

    Rogers (appendix): (Japan)

    % 1.52 Na2O 5.68 K2O 4.14 MgO 23.69 CaO 16.34 Al2O3 39.62 SiO2 2.62 P2O5 3.83 Fe2O3 1.01 MnO

    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 6 Na2O 11 K2O 9 MgO 51 CaO 1 Al2O3 10 SiO2 10 P2O5 1 Fe2O3 1 MnO

    Straw ash

    0.4 KNaO 0.2 MgO 0.4 CaO 2.7 SiO2 0.1 P2O5

    Straw ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2.  Generic straw ash.


    Green: (straw ash from cereal crops)

    0.4 KNaO 0.2 MgO 0.4 CaO 2.7 SiO2 0.1 P2O5

    Tallowwood ash

    % 6.84 Na2O 2.41 K2O 25.58 MgO 52.15 CaO 1.09 Al2O3 8.96 SiO2 0.4 P2O5 1.93 SO3 0.38 Cl2 0.18 MnO

    Tallowwood ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and MgO.



    % 6.84 Na2O 2.41 K2O 25.58 MgO 52.15 CaO 1.09 Al2O3 8.96 SiO2 0.4 P2O5 1.93 SO3 0.38 Cl2 0.18 MnO

    (Eucalyptus microscorys III (Tallowwood) Forestry Commission of New South Wales, 1956)

    Thatching grass ash

    % 0.22 Na2O 2.55 K2O 3.67 MgO 6.14 CaO 5.42 Al2O3 76.96 SiO2 1.58 P2O5 0.22 TiO2 1.06 Fe2O3 0.15 SO3 0.67 MnO 1.4 LOI

    Thatching grass ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2.



    % 0.22 Na2O 2.55 K2O 3.67 MgO 6.14 CaO 5.42 Al2O3 76.96 SiO2 1.58 P2O5 0.22 TiO2 1.06 Fe2O3 0.15 SO3 0.67 MnO 1.4 LOI

    (Abuja, Nigeria. Wahsed and calcined at 900C) (Overseas Geological Surveys, London, 1966)

    Turpentine ash

    % 4.08 Na2O 1.2 K2O 1.03 MgO 1.88 CaO 1.26 Al2O3 89.74 SiO2 0.39 P2O5 0.42 LOI

    Turpentine ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2.



    % 4.08 Na2O 1.2 K2O 1.03 MgO 1.88 CaO 1.26 Al2O3 89.74 SiO2 0.39 P2O5

    (Australian turpentine) (Forestry Commission of New South Wales, 1956)

    Wheat straw ash

    % 2.8 Na2O 11.5 K2O 2.5 MgO 6.1 CaO 66.2 SiO2 5.4 P2O5 2.8 SO3 3.8 S

    Wheat straw ash supplies several oxides, especially SiO2 and K2O.



    % 2.8 Na2O 11.5 K2O 2.5 MgO 6.1 CaO 66.2 SiO2 5.4 P2O5 2.8 SO3 3.8 S

    (Air dried) (B.C.S., (1959), 59P)


    0.67 K2O 0.14 MgO 0.19 CaO 0.71 Al2O3 4.95 SiO2 0.10 P2O5

    Tichane (TCB):

    % 2.8 Na2O 11.5 K2O 2.5 MgO 6.1 CaO 66.0 SiO2 5.4 P2O5 2.8 LOI


    % 1.4 Na2O 13.6 K2O 2.5 MgO 5.8 CaO 67.5 SiO2 4.8 P2O5 0.6 Fe2O3

    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 2 Na2O 13 K2O 4 MgO 6 CaO 70 SiO2 5 P2O5

    Willow ash

    % 2.50 Na2O 49.80 K2O 8.26 MgO 20.21 CaO 0.05 Al2O3 4.44 SiO2 10.00 P2O5 1.25 Fe2O3 0.18 MnO 1.22 SO3 0.08 Cl

    Willow ash supplies several oxides, especially K2O, CaO, and P2O5.



    % 2.50 Na2O 49.80 K2O 8.26 MgO 20.21 CaO 0.05 Al2O3 4.44 SiO2 10.00 P2O5 1.25 Fe2O3 0.18 MnO

    1.22 SO3 0.08 Cl

    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 3 Na2O 51 K2O 9 MgO 21 CaO 5 SiO2 10 P2O5 1 Fe2O3

    Ash wood ash

    0.125 Na2O 0.266 K2O 0.187 MgO 0.422 CaO 0.016 Al2O3 0.375 SiO2 0.109 P2O5 0.062 Fe2O3

    Ash wood ash supplies several oxides, especially CaO and SiO2.


    Hamer & Hamer:

    % 8 Na2O 17 K2O 12 MgO 27 CaO 1 Al2O3 24 SiO2 7 P2O5 4 Fe2O3

  • Jingdezhen

    Cat nap

  • Tests

    How I Make Glaze Test Tiles

    I’ve tried all manner of methods for making test tiles- thrown, extruded, and slab.  Each type has advantages, but I’ve finally come to the safest, most economical and useful method for my needs.

    Assuming you have a fast way to make slabs, using this technique you can easily make a couple hundred test tiles in an afternoon.

    Hand-rolled slabs work fine.  The irregular edges can be saved and used to make the supporting triangles.  To attach the supports I use dry clay trimmings and pure vinegar.  The triangles are dipped into the vinegar slip for about two seconds, then wiggled into place on the test tile until the two slabs are firmly joined.  (I have tried this with all of my clays, from porcelains to stonewares, without problems.  However, your clay may differ.)

    Just after joining, the test tiles should be covered and dried slowly for the first day or so.  You may notice some cracking along the join line, but the join should be strong enough to last through bisque and glaze firings.

    Edges of hand-rolled slab used for support triangles

    Joining slip made with dry trimmings and vinegar


    If you have casting slip, the fastest way that I have found to make test tiles is to make a slipcast slab using a large, flat plaster table.  Supports are joined to tiles using the same casting slip.

    Cutting a slipcast porcelain slab

    A fork is used for texturing the test tiles.

    Type of clay is stamped onto back of each test tile

    These test tiles will not fall over (especially important as I often put tests in public kilns).  They can be stacked very closely in the kiln, and the height can be varied by choosing either the long or short end of the triangular support.  Because they are flat, they require less glaze for coverage (handy when using very small batches of material) but also show more area of glaze than an extruded column.  The hole in the base allows the tile to be hung on a glaze bucket or on a display.  I stamp the back of the tile with a code for the type of clay, and there is ample space to write information about the test using an underglaze pencil.

    Packed close in the kiln.

    Dipping in 20ml of glaze

    Right side double-dipped

    Full details written with underglaze pencil and permanent marker

    Taking photos with a styrofoam support

    The tiles should be quite thick in order to better absorb and support thicker layers of glaze.

    After dipping the face of the tile into a glaze, I dip one side (not the top) again in order to see different thicknesses.  (Double-dipping the top of the tile often results in the thicker glaze running down into the thinner area, sometimes resulting in a completely even coat after firing.)

    Using flat, square tiles I can dip twice while only using 20ml of glaze.  This is especially useful when doing triaxials or biaxials using the syringe method.

    The back of the tile has a lot of space for writing glaze information.  Before firing use an underglaze pencil (I use Amaco Black Pencils), after firing a permanent marker can be used to record the date and temperature.

    Another advantage of these square tiles is that they photograph very well.

    For my purposes, the best size for a test tile is 6cm or 7cm square.  This size is large enough to get a feel for what the glaze looks like, while small enough to be covered by only 20ml of mixed glaze (including a second dip).

    Conveniently, the supporting triangles are half the width of the tile, which allows for first cutting the slab into 6cm or 7cm columns.

    I know it seems really anal, but this cutting pattern saves clay and ensures the tiles all rest at the same angle, allowing for more accurate comparisons and tighter packing in the kiln.

  • Underglaze

    Qinghua Stone

    Pictured above is a type of stone (叫珠子) mined in Zhejiang province and sold in Jingdezhen.  It is primarily used for making Chinese underglaze blue & white (qinghua).  These hard nuggets are quite expensive, while the softer stone surrounding these nuggets is about six times cheaper.

    In the magnified view you can see that this stone is a composite of many different minerals.  I am not an expert but there are definitely chunks of silica and mica.  From tests, it seems that the darker bits are primarily iron and manganese.  In ancient times I assume that this stone also contained a small amount of cobalt, however from my tests that no longer seems to be the case.  The proprietor of the materials shop confirmed this, although he mentioned that ores containing cobalt are still sometimes unearthed and fetch a premium price.

    In Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part 12, Ceramic Technology, Part 6, Pigments, Enamels, and Gilding (pages 680-692), Nigel Wood writes extensively about the composition of Chinese blue & white underglaze pigments, with analyses of cobalt bearing absolites and other ores.  Nigel Wood also covers the subject in Chinese Glazes (pages 61-66).

    For me, the basic lessons to be learned from Wood’s research are: a) that underglaze blue pigment composition varied substantially throughout history and between kilns (especially between the official and folk kilns), b) the importance of the ratio between the primary coloring oxides (cobalt, iron, and manganese), and c) the influence of other oxides (especially silica and alumina) present in the underglaze pigment and covering glaze upon the final color.

    Qinghua stone 100%

    Qinghua stone 90% Cobalt Oxide 10%

    Qinghua stone 80% Cobalt Oxide 20%

    Above is pictured a quick first test of the qinghua stone.   An underglaze was made by crushing the rock and sieving it through an 80 mesh screen.  From left to right:  100% ore, 90% ore/10% CoO, 80% ore/20%CoO.  As you can see from the 100% test it appears that the ore contains little or no cobalt.  This is obviously a poor first test, as underglaze blue & white is usually ground very finely.

    Below is a more refined test.  The qinghua stone was first bisqued to 900 degrees, crushed, and sieved through a 100 mesh screen.  Finally, the stone and cobalt were ground with a mortar and pestle.  In my opinion, the combination of Cobalt, Iron, and Manganese result in a much more interesting range of colors than Cobalt used alone.

    Qinghua stone 95% Cobalt Oxide 5%

    Qinghua stone 90% Cobalt Oxide 10%

    Qinghua stone 85% Cobalt Oxide 15%

    Qinghua stone 80% Cobalt Oxide 20%

    Qinghua stone 70% Cobalt Oxide 30%

  • Glazes

    Blue Celadon Glazes

    All of the following Blue Celadon recipes and more can now be found on my new open-source ceramics recipes website, Glazy:

    Complete Guide to High-Fire Glazes

    These are tests of some of the Blue Celadon Recipes found in High Fire Glazes.  Tests fired in multiple kilns in temperatures ranging from 1300-1310 Celsius reduction.

    Craig Martell Blue Celadon

    Custer Feldspar:  61.7

    Silica: 21.2

    Barium Carbonate: 4.5

    Wollastonite: 12.7

    Black Iron Oxide: 1

    Pete Pinnell Blue Celadon

    Custer Feldspar:  24.5

    Silica: 34.3

    Whiting: 19.6

    Kaolin (Grolleg): 19.6

    Barium Carbonate: 1.9

    Tin Oxide: 1

    Yellow Iron Oxide: 0.5

    Sam's Satin

    Custer Feldspar:  40

    Silica: 34.5

    Whiting: 15.5

    Barium Carbonate: 4

    Dolomite: 6

    Yellow Iron Oxide: 0.5

    Cliff Lee Blue Celadon

    Custer Feldspar:  50.5

    Silica: 24.9

    Whiting: 17.2

    Kaolin (Grolleg): 3.7

    Dolomite: 2.6

    Zinc Oxide: 1.1

    Red Iron Oxide: 0.75

    Choy Blue

    Custer Feldspar:  50

    Silica: 28

    Whiting: 6

    Kaolin (Grolleg): 4

    Barium Carbonate: 12

    Red Iron Oxide: 2

    Ishii Blue Celadon

    Custer Feldspar:  49

    Silica: 31

    Whiting: 20

    Black Iron Oxide: 1

    Celadon Blues

    Robert Tichane’s Celadon Blues focuses primarily on Chun (Jun) glaze, but also covers Qingbai, Longquan, and other ancient Chinese glazes.  While perhaps not as informed as Nigel Wood’s Chinese Glazes, Tichane approaches the subject from the perspective of a glaze chemist and gains valuable insight into the nature of blue celadons.  Through testing, Tichane arrives at two formulas.  The “532.1” formula contains 50 parts feldspar, 30 parts silica, 20 parts limestone, and 1 part iron oxide.  The “5321.1” formula is the same but adds 10 parts kaolin.  The type of kaolin added greatly affects the color of the glaze, for blue celadons a kaolin very low in titania such as Grolleg or New Zealand Halloysite is required.

    Below on the left is Tichane’s 532.1 formula with 1% yellow iron oxide (YIO).  On the right is the same formula but with Wollastonite instead of Whiting (of course this adds some silica to the mix).  These tests were fired in a public kiln, temperature is uncertain but at least Orton cone 12, I believe Tichane’s tests were fired to cone 10.

    Porcelain, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    Porcelain, Orton Cone 12 Reduction

    It is quite simple to create a blue celadon suited to your particular firing style using Tichane’s methods and triaxial blends.  From a triaxial blend of potash feldspar, silica, and whiting I arrived at a recipe suitable for Orton cone 11-12 reduction firings:  56 feldspar, 30 silica, 14 whiting plus .6-.8 yellow iron oxide.  Some variants of this glaze are shown below.  All tests fired to approximately Orton cone 12 in heavy reduction.

    .6 YIO

    .6 YIO +2 BaCO3

    .6 YIO +2 BaCO3 +1 SnO2

    .8 YIO +2 BaCO3 +1 SnO2

    .8 YIO +2 BaCO3 +1 SnO2 +2.5 Dolomite

    Formulating Your Own Celadon

    Personally, I really like the Pinnell Blue Celadon recipe in John Britt’s book.  It’s a very beautiful, smooth and “natural-looking” blue celadon.  However, I’ve found that the glaze is difficult to apply given the large amount of Kaolin in the recipe.  A few months ago I fired about 20 pieces with Pinnell celadon with beautiful results except that the glaze crawled on every single pot.  I still haven’t determined if the problem was due to a) glaze application (sprayed inside, dried, then sprayed outside), b) ball milling the glaze for too long (3 1/2 hours), or c) too much shrinkage of the glaze due to the kaolin (using New Zealand Halloysite).

    And although no-kaolin recipes like Tichane’s 532.1 and Craig Martell’s blue celadon almost always fire a nice blue, they seem a little artificial to my tastes, perhaps a little too colorful.  It’s also because this type of Wollastonite-based celadon is covering a lot of Jingdezhen ware these days, and I’m tired of seeing it.  Finally, these glazes tend to sink to the bottom of glaze buckets and solidify there due to lack of clay.

    So I decided to do a simple triaxial, based in part on Tichane’s 5321.1 recipe.  I still want kaolin in the recipe, but not as much as in Pinnell blue celadon, so I picked an amount halfway in-between the two, 10%.  (Again, I’m using New Zealand Halloysite.  Grolleg is also suitable.)  I also decided to add 3% dolomite- based on Nigel Wood’s Chinese Glazes and past experience I know that a little magnesium combined with the calcium can give the surface a slightly waxy feel.  With 13% of the recipe taken up by kaolin and dolomite, I have to adjust 87% Potash Feldspar, Silica, and Wollastonite.  (You could use Whiting of course, although it out-gasses more than Wollastonite.)  Finally, I’m not adding any Barium Carbonate.  (If you want a rich blue celadon you can try adding 2-4% Barium Carbonate.)

    All these tests are the same porcelain body fired together in a heavy reduction atmosphere to Orton cone 10 1/2.

    I realize it’s really difficult to see the differences between glazes in such a small photo.  Furthermore, some tests look richer, but it’s partly due to small changes in camera exposure and glaze thickness rather than glaze composition.  I prefer the diagonal lines going down with Wollastonite at 20-22 percent.  I should have added another couple rows to the bottom of the triaxial, because I prefer the glazes more as the silica increases.  (I thought there was already too much silica in the glaze, including silica contributed by the wollastonite, so I stopped early.)

    Below is a bigger photo of one of the tiles.  It’s almost like some Longquan glazes I have seen.  I think this particular glaze would look great over carving or molded/sculpted work, and it might really look good on stoneware or dirty porcelain.  I’ll post pictures once I try it out.

    I’ve posted the recipe on Glazy:

    Adjusting Pete Pinnell's Blue Celadon

    Years ago I tested Pete Pinnell’s Blue Celadon recipe and loved it, so much so that I didn’t even think of bothering to adjust the original recipe to suit my materials.  But this last kiln I wanted to try swapping out Whiting for Wollastonite, and I thought I might as well adjust for New Zealand Halloysite instead of Grolleg.

    Below is a small triaxial of Pinnell’s Blue Celadon adjusted for New Zealand Halloysite.  The top of the triaxial is the closest verison to the original.

    Using Halloysite instead of Grolleg wasn’t a huge change, and I couldn’t see much of a difference from the original recipe.  The bottom of the triaxial is somewhat interesting- color improves as silica replaces halloysite.  This is a similar finding as with Tichane.

    Replacing Whiting with Wollastonite

    Next is Pinnell’s Blue Celadon with New Zealand Halloysite instead of Grolleg, and Wollastonite instead of Whiting.

    The recipe at the top of the triaxial most closely matches the original recipe.  As with the previous triaxial, color is better on the right side where silica is greatest.

    As with many wollastonite-based celadon glazes, this glaze has a very fine network of bubbles that are smaller and more evenly sized than those in the whiting recipe.

    It is difficult to see in the photograph, but the color is also better in the wollastonite version.  I believe this is due in part to the fact that much of the silica is introduced with the wollastonite.



    My favorite glaze is the Halloysite/Wollastonite recipe at the top of this triaxial (which is closest to the original recipe).  You can find it on Glazy:

    However, I also like the glaze on the right of the second row.  I wish I’d done a test to the right of the top glaze, in other words Potash 30.5, NZ Kaolin 18.5, Silica 24.

    Pinnell's Blue Celadon with Halloysite and Wollastonite.