So it feels like it has been ages since I posted anything on this blog. But since I am investigating on how to set up my own clay-studio I thought it would be a good way to document all the steps necessary for that. It might be helpful for others who are going through the same trouble. Especially with all the translations from the american system to the german. When I came to the U.S. in 2015 I had never worked with clay before and soon fell in love when I was introduced to slipcasting and throwing. I actually wanted to do so many things at the same time that my teachers ordered me to focus on slipcasting for the first semester before I was allowed to get into the timeconsuming act of throwing. But once I started it was hard to ever stop again. I spend most of the evenings in the studio throwing, trying out printing techniques, getting into sgraffito/mishima techniques and getting myself a carpal tunnel syndrome while doing so.
And here I am trying to integrate all the knowledge I aquired into german clay and glazes. The books I brought with me from Chico are really helpfull, but the problem of translation remains. It took me a week to find out what Grolleg Kaolin was made out of and what to substitute it with. Luckily I got a lot of support from my former classmates and professors in Chico. In the end it will be a try and error situation. I just hope I can minimize the errors by gathering as much knowledge as I can.
I started with researching on what clays to use and what fireing temperatures are usually used in Germany vs. the US. When I stayed in Chico we glaze fired mostly at Cone 10 reduction in a gas kiln. In Germany we use more electric kilns, even at schools. We also do not fire as high as I did in the US. Most clays can only go to 1220°C/2282°F or a little higher which is about Cone 6 to 7.
There is no selection of porcelains. Most of the times – if at all – there is exactly one type of porcelain that is fricking expensive. A bag of 10 kg /22 pounds costs usually about 30 € (about the same in Dollars) or more. The porcelain slip is not any better, since it is also pretty expensive. Which is why I already thought about making it myself. I want to keep making slipcast potatoes and other fruits for my “Industrial Disease”-piece, so I need lots of porcelain slip. Luckily I used to make the slip in the US togehter with friends, which means I can hopefully do it here too. The recipe I got calls also for EPK but I found out that I could try to replace it with Grolleg since it is the only Kaolin available here. Also our defluccolents differ from the ones in the US. Next week I am going to pic up my freshly delivered Shimpo RK 3 E wheel at one of the biggest pottery supply stores in Germany. I plan on asking about the defluccolents and get to learn more about what is used in germany. Then I can at least already start to do some molds. The pottery #1 plaster I used in the US is called Supraduro in Germany. It is a high-density pottery plaster used for making molds. My dad is going to cut some coated boards for me that I can use to build the box for the moldmaking process. He will also bring some of the rubber-tiles we used to line our cellar at home with. They will be a good and inexpensive way to replace the plexiglass. I even found Murphy’s oil soap on amazon to seperate the two mold pieces with! As soon as I bought all the slip ingredients there’s nothing stopping me from getting into casting. I also compared prices. Of course it is a lot more expensive to buy a 25 kg bag of kaolin than it is to buy a 1 kg bag of read-to-use mixed slip powder, but if I compare the price of one kilogram of mixed powder from the store (4,50€ ) vs when I make it myself (0,66€) it is way cheaper. If I have enough time and money and maybe if my dad can help me a bit with the construction I want to build a wedging table out of the supraduro plaster too. I found a table like this on this website: http://www.lakesidepottery.com/HTML%20Text/Tips/Making%20Wedging%20Table.htm
Glazing is another topic I wanted to get into more. In chico there was a book on highfire glazes by John Britt. I really liked it because it explained the basics you needed to understand for making glazes. It explained what ingredients where used and why, it explained how glazes behave differently on different clay bodies, how a tiny addition or change in the recepie can make the whole glaze turn a different color or behave differently and a lot more. So I did some research and initially wanted to find a book in german. Unfortunatelly there is not as much literature as I wish there would be. A lot of those books don’t really explain anything and the ones that do are usually not able to be ordered. I wanted to get “Keramische Glasuren” by Wolf Matthes. He has two books, but I wanted to get the first one for people said it was necessary to understand the second book. The problem is, that it is sold out and I could not even find it on ebay for a resonable price. So I looked into other books and found mostly books, that were translated from english into german. So the problems stayed the same even if the book was written in my mother tongue the terms stayed the same. I ended up buying “Mid-Range-Glazes” by John Britt. It is just as informative as his book about highfire glazes. I enjoy reading it and am eager to try out a recipe or two. I only need to find out how to compare american Fritts to German Fritten. And I need to collect a lot of yoghurt containers to store my glazes in.
This weekend I am going to check out the space at my aunts place where the studio shall be. My aunt lives in the countryside not far from where I am studying, so she has a lot of space in her basement. The only problem is, that last year the basement was flooded due to heavy rains and it is still taking some time till everything is ready to use again. But the drying-maschines did a good job and there’s already plaster and paint on the walls. But the floor and part of the walls in the studio will get tiles and those aren’t going to be installed till mid of march. So there’s a lot of time to get familiar with the kiln my aunt owns. She used to work in clay when she was younger. Later on she somehow didn’t keep up with it anymore. But when she saw how much fun it was for me to learn all these new techniques she wanted to get into it again and bought a new kiln (the old one drowned in the flooding). The new kiln is a Naber kiln from 1972 and if I understood it correctly we don’t have a manual for it… I hope that people form the supply store will be able to help or that Nabertherm will be able to hand out a manual to us if they still have any. The kiln is also super huge and I am a little worried that if we ruin something by fireing it the wrong way it will destroy a looooot of thins instead of a tiny amount when owning a tiny kiln. Also it will probably use a lot of energy to run. Luckily we have solar panels on the roof that are linked direktly to the house. So if we fire the kiln we will do it when it is sunny so we will mostly use up the energy that is produced on the roof anyways.
While researching different clay-types and fireing techniques I also thought about how to organize my pots. In Chico every pot was given a number and while galzing I noted what kinds of glazes I used on them so I would be able to reproduce the effects if desired. I also signed my pots and sometimes destroyed the bottom while doing so. Since there was a lot of space in the studio and it was well organized switching up clays and putting them in the wrong glazefireing (we also had lowfire clay and lowfire galze fireings) was not a problem. But at my aunts place I might not have that much space and putting clays in the wrong shelf might be a problem. I plan to fire at least my porcelain mugs and slip-cast-thins at Cone 10 and therefore want to be clear on what clay it is. This is why I had some stamps made at the copy-shop around the corner. They happen to have a laser-maschine that cuts into wood. I created a Cone 10, Cone 6 and a signature stamp that I now will use for signing and marking my pieces.
While reading on glazes I also did a lot of research in the internet and stumbled upon some pretty cool artists. A lot of them also worked in sgraffito or mishima which I really enjoied. I texted some of them about glazes and their techniques and even got a reply by Yoko Sekino-Bove already! She was really nice and explained what kind of glazes she used. There’s also some pretty cool glaze recipies on her website for free! And the very funny part is, that she also did a series of beautiful pots and vessles about the differences and similarities in languages and cultures, opening up an intercultural conversation. I really loved those pieces, they are pretty funny too. Take a look! And since I am already listing artists that I really like I also should mention Rachel Donner. Her work is so cool! Also take a look at Shoko Teruyama, Clare Twomey, Allison Rose Craver, Kelly O’Briant. I love Shoko Teruyama because of her nice glazes and the hand building technique. Just asl I love Kelly O’Briants graters and the rather conceptual approach of Clare Twomey. I will keep a list of Ceramic Artists and hope to expand it during time.
But back to the glazes: I was looking for fake celadons that would also melt at Cone 6 temperatures and without a reduction athmosphere. Through Yoko Sekino-Bove I found out about Amaco Celadon Glazes that are mixable and can be used to create celadon effects. They’re not available in germany but I hope to be able to import them from the UK soon.