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Close-ups for glazes

Last night I spent a couple hours editing photographs for my Etsy shop.  I have a fairly elaborate set-up for photographing my work– there’s a light tent, and couple good lights, a gradient background and so on.  My digital camera is getting old but it still takes high resolution images.  Lately I’ve been trying to include a close-up shot of the glaze for each piece.  Because the camera’s resolution is so much higher than is needed for web applications like the shop, I can zoom right in and get images that can be pretty amazing. stripemugd  For example, this is a zoom of a mug I photographed  last night.  The mug was fluted by cutting a flute in every other slot around the mug.  Then I dipped the mug in a blue slip.  Once the slip stiffened and became part of the leather-hard piece, I cut the remaining flutes between the already-cut flutes.  This gave me a strong striped effect, with the glaze breaking green on the edges.  The crystalline effect that you can easily see here is one reason I like this glaze a lot.

Here’s a close-up of a hand-sized simpl2plainwaterde water pipe.  This was a fairly complex decorative effort.  I sprayed the leatherhard piece with a lavender slip, and then incised a pattern into the slip.  I glazed the bisque pipe with the white titania glaze above, then lightly sprayed the pipe with blue ash glaze and a saturated iron glaze.  I was happy with the way it came out, but in the zoom, I was even happier, because it revealed details that were not as spectacularly obvious as they were in the enlargement.

This small bowl was fluted, dipped in white titania glaze, and oversprayed with blue ash.  A pale, almost iridescent blue was visible in the close-up, where the glaze had flowed down the flutes and collected.  Again, the crystallization is much more obvious in the zoom.2smallbowlc




Sometime the enlargement even reveals interesting details about the texture of the glaze.  In this hand-sized water pipe, it’s surprisingly clear from the image that the glaze is a very smooth buttery matte, and in actual fact, the tactile quality of this piece is wonderfully satisfying.1plainwaterd

I’m enjoying this little touch of technology, and I think I can use it to improve the quality of my glazes.



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Why pipes?

For most of my life as a potter, I was a production potter, and that’s a situation where change almost has to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.  A production potter mixes glaze by the big bucketful, he or she must value consistency in many things that non-production potters can vary at will– a consistently rewarding clay body is very important, a good and repeatable firing schedule, and so forth.  Change is sometimes an uninvited and often destructive enemy.  Forms evolve slowly and carefully, surface treatments must be reliable, and so on.  None of this is to disparage the creativity of production potters– all my favorite potters fall into the production category.  The best way to make great pots, in my opinion, is to make a lot of pots.

All that said, when I began my latest round of making, after several years away from clay, I decided to go in a wildly different direction, one that I had not explored for many years.1steampunkliza

When I was a young, invulnerable, and immortal potter, in the mid 70s, I became interested in clay pipes.  I made many of these pipes, and they helped pay the bills.  But time passed, and I gave hostages to fortune, in the form of a family, and I decided the risk was too great a risk to take.  I stopped making pipes.

2handaThe children are grown now, and I no longer have to worry about what would happen to them should bad things happen to me as a result of making politically incorrect objects.  So I’ve taken up pipemaking again, and I have to admit that I am enjoying it greatly.  One of the reasons for that enjoyment is that almost no one with first-class skills is making wheel-thrown pieces in this category, so I get to be a trail-blazer.  Even better, clay pipes have a history stretching back millenia, and yet there are so many forms to make, including many that I’ve never seen in any collection of ancient pipes.  My central gauge in assessing the worth of a pot is how intimately connected to the user it is– thus my love of mugs and bowls.  Pipes are also extremely intimate objects for those who use them.  When I began researching this market, I found that many users actually named their pipes, and referred to them by these names– something I found fascinating.whitebuffalo1

I’m not exclusively making pipes, because I enjoy making other things too much to not make them.  But this new category of forms is tremendously exciting to me, because almost every thing I make is something that has never been seen before– in a much less subtle way than the mugs and bowls I make (which I hope are different from the work of other potters too.)

For me, excitement translates directly into creativity.  These days I have trouble going to sleep, because I’m always thinking about new forms, new glazes, new decorative treatments, or how I’m going to explain my new works to everyone I know.