An excerpt I wrote from an online discussion about women in ceramics:
" From Ladi Kwali¹ and Lucie Rie to Betty Woodman⁵, the work of women in clay has represented strong, diverse, creative, and inspiring voices since we started documenting the work of individual studio potters. There have been wild women, like Emily Carr, crafting their own unique path in clay, often drawing from un-named indigenous women’s work, and there have been women who work with their man, like Janet Hammer, Helga Grove, and Kate Fraser, and there have been collectives of women potters, like Cranberry Pottery which operated for 35 years out of Powell River, B.C.! I had occasion to train one of their apprentices; she was very skilled and a pleasure to work with.
My first teacher was a tough, no-nonsense Brit named Jane Williams. She used to make lovely black and white slip ware, and she dug her own clay from the local river bank. Like I said, she was tough, and a great teacher.
Currently I am finding mystery and pleasure in the work of a British clay maker, originally from Poland, Maggie Jablonska⁴. Some of the POV’s on her site crack me up, but her work cuts to the heart. It looks like she is starting to do time-based clay sculptures, as does Professor Linda Swanson³, at Concordia’s ceramics department.
I am sorry that I do not know much about Québec women clay artists, I am new to the scene. Perhaps it’s time for a book that bridges old and new? It would be great to see that. Where are those pesky biographers when you need them! P.S. I forgot to mention M.C. Richards², a giant in the field."
The following are just a few references to women who worked(ing) in clay:
Tasks Accomplished previously:
The last firing, cone 04, resulted in a sugary coating like an under-fired glaze.
Tasks to accomplish:
1. increase glass at cone 04.
2. develop colour.
3. measure linear shrinkage.
References: Alan Caiger-Smith, Robin Hopper, John Britt, Amy Waller
I left the test bar for B1 (fig.1) to dry for two to three weeks, much longer than I normally would. I noticed shortly before firing that the efflorescence seemed thicker than usual, and more blue than usual. I will experiment with timing.
The shrinkage bar for B1 resulted in a deep, intense copper blue. I quite like it. You can see on the bead (fig.1) that the oxide percentage may be a little too high; it's flat black in places. I used 3.5% copper carbonate; however, drying time seems to be a factor that increases the saturation of the colorant. The crackle pattern is appropriate for a decorative object, providing an engaging break-up of light. There is the possibility of staining the crackle. The surface is still filled with micro-discontinuities, which a soak would likely cure, or going up one cone, to 03.
The shrinkage bar is tricky to read. Shrinkage bars are fired without glaze, so it's easy to read the measure. But here there is no "without glaze", so it is a bit tricky to read the measure. It looks to be 14% shrinkage. I will have to make better marks.
Workability is not awful, but I did not push it. You can see in the pic below that it takes a ragged edge which means relatively low plasticity and limited workability. It is also somewhat friable in drying. I think it needs some bones.
B1 was the second iteration of a formula based on compositions by Robin Hopper and John Britt.
Robin Hopper's Egyptian Paste ^08
Ball clay 5
Sodium bicarbonate 5
Soda Ash 5
Calcium carbonate 4
Fine white sand 7
Flux: 50, Silica: 18, Clay 23.5
John Britt's Egyptian Paste ^06:
Soda feldspar 38
Ball clay 12
Soda ash 6
Sodium bicarbonate 6
Flux: 50, Silica: 38, Clay: 12
I decided to fire toward the upper end of the Egyptian paste range, about ^04. If you look at Hopper's slides, his glaze is sugary, not glassy, and it has large discontinuities. Britt's on the other hand is closer to what I want, a more continuous glass surface. I don't see a reason for Kaolin, it will make it more refractory, and I would in any case choose a more plastic clay.
So I came up with the following mix, B1 (fig.1), as a starting point:
Neph Sy 30.5
Soda Ash (lite) 10.5
Silica (400M). 30.5
Vee Gum T 3.5
Flux: 45.3, Silica: 30.5, Clay: 21
It combines aspects of both Britt's and Hopper's formulae. B1 is much higher in silica like Britt, and much higher in clay, like Hopper. I think clay is going to be important for a decent range in workability, and some bones to help knit the body together. Temperature at 04 seems fine.
1. Increased the glassiness of the surface
2. Developed an intense turquoise blue
3. Shrinkage is at 14%
Task to accomplish:
1. Increase plasticity
2. Decrease friability
3. Test for different drying times
4. Decrease soda ash
5. Do an absorption test
Egyptian Paste & the Salty Sea
BlogArgile's first posts are about my research into making an Egyptian paste. Amy Waller's site is a very good primer on the subject, and she has some great links. Egyptian paste is not suitable for food, it is weak and porous, and is used for making symbolic and decorative objects.
The first question might be why bother with combining glaze and clay? The short answer is that it bypasses the potter's Sisyphean routine of firing everything twice! As if once wasn't enough. This opens opportunities to produce work in small spaces, without the investment of a large kiln. It allows the making to be less technical, and therefore more people can avail themselves of it. It also lays the ground for the possibility of developing a slip glaze, i.e. a compound that applies like a slip, and fires like a glaze. Again the economy of single firing is attractive.
Sometimes this material is called Egyptian Faience; let's not get stuck on colonialist labels for now. What we are talking about here is a composed paste/clay with a range of variations in its ingredients and their composition, and none of them have anything to do with Faience. The earth in the region of the Levant and other nearby areas is very highly saline. For example, in the Red Sea, the saltiest body of water on earth, one is buoyed on the surface, never sinking, there is so much salt in the water. Salt is a flux, and if there is enough of it in a paste or clay body it will effloresce, i.e. migrate, to the surface as the paste dries. When fired, this migrated salt can help form a glassy surface.
I will return to the subject of efflorescence, because it is a key mechanism of this self-glazing paste. Efflorescence, from the French effleurer, or to flower, is an aptly descriptive term. We will look at how to encourage the flowering of salt with its pros and cons.