I took up ceramics in 2004 as a hobby, going to Glasgow Art School for evening classes. I really enjoyed the immediacy of the art form, particularly throwing. The idea that you can create a useful/beautiful piece from a lump of clay still gives me a kick.
Ceramics is a wonderfully tactile art form which has been around for thousands of years, dating back to 3000 BC in China, where they were making and glazing pots to a very high standard. Some of their glazes are still used today.
Glazing is an amazingly complex process and almost every potter will testify to its complexity and variability. This makes each firing very soon special and you never know exactly what you are really going to get! I make Stoneware and Raku Stoneware is the traditional well known method of creating useful and beautiful tableware for functional use. I make ceramics with five finishing Glazes in "West Coast Colours", inspired by the colours of the West Coast of Scotland. Raku is an amazing process of open firing and burning pieces in a sawdust bucket allowing the smoke to decorate with a completely random pattern. I have recently participated in a training course held by the international known Ceramicist Davis Roberts who is a leading expert in the Raku technique on "Naked Raku" or " Painting with Smoke” The work has no glaze for finished decoration, the patterns and decoration are applied by "smoke" The work is either thrown or hand built, bisque fired initially to 1000 c. It is then rubbed down with diamond pads to make it as smooth as possible.
Terra sigilatta is applied before bisque firing. A resist slip is applied to the work and then a sacrificial glaze is applied over the top. The work is then fired in an open gas fired kiln, (Raku style), when it reaches around 800/900c it is lifted out with tongs. The work is then placed into a sawdust bucket which bursts into flames. A lid is placed over the bin to exclude oxygen and the glaze cools rapidly, crazing the piece in a random fashion this attracts the carbon and smoke onto the surface of the work. This is completely random and cannot be controlled, therefore no two pieces will look the same. When removed from the sawdust the work is washed down which has the effect of cooling the work rapidly the resist slip falls off taking the sacrificial glaze with it. This leaves behind a beautiful smooth piece decorated by the smoke and carbon, which has been able to be absorbed onto the surface through the crazing. The work is non functional and should not be used for food or to hold water, as it my still be porous. In May 2019.
I attended a workshop tutored by American ceramicist. Marcia Selsor who demonstrated other open firing techniques including Obvara, Foil Saggars, horse hair and feather horsehair decorating and ceramic saggar firings with soluable salts. This work is purely for decoration, not for food. Email George