My clay is a mixture of ball clays, china clay and sand mixed to enhance the soda glazing process and encourage the typical orange peel texture and warm body colour, which results from sodium vapour glazing. The colour is further determined by slips into which the pots are dipped or which are brushed or trailed onto the pots. The slips are based on a mixture of china clays and ball clays to encourage the orange colours. I also use a black slip, which has a combination of manganese, iron, cobalt and sometimes chrome to produce a deep bluish black finish.
All of my work is thrown, manipulated, altered and assembled while freshly thrown on the wheel. I work on a momentum wheel built by Brian Guest. Since the way I work calls for pots to be completed as they are made, I tend to make pots in small series or families rather than as a larger production process . Moving house and studio to Norfolk in early 2004 has opened up many new opportunities. I now have a studio and showroom in a 1000 sq. ft. barn, and have a new LP Gas and wood kiln.
The new kiln was designed by Joe Finch and built in the spring of 2004 by Ruthanne, Joe, Richard Godfrey and Kevin de Choisey.It has been designed to be fired with a combination of LG Gas and wood so has fire boxes which are large enough with firebars and separate stoking door to accommodate wood as well as an opening below the firebars for the LG Gas burners, which are diagonally opposed, one front and one back.The combination of wood and gas allows for one person to fire the kiln while being more versatile and benefiting from the added sparkle and softening that comes from the wood ash.
The pots are all raw fired. The stacking of the kiln is carefully considered to encourage the flow of the flame and the vapour through the chamber and around the pots. To avoid having pots stick to kiln shelves with the melting sodium vapour, a mixture of china clay and alumina hydrate made into a dough-like consistency is used as small “wads” to separate the pot from the shelf. Often I use cockleshells filled with wadding to set the pots so their marks are left behind on the pot as a decoration and as one further indication of the process the pot has been through.At approximately 1260 degrees centigrade (cone 8) I alternate stoking the kiln with wood on which I have painted soda “paste” with spraying a super saturated solution of sodium bicarbonate into the fireboxes, above the flames. This is repeated every 15 minutes for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours until test rings pulled out of the kiln at regular intervals show that the build-up of sodium on the clay is sufficient.The pots are fired to 1300 degrees centigrade or cone 10 flattened. The atmosphere for most of the firing is a reducing atmosphere, with a long oxidising soak at the end of the firing, before being clammed up and left to cool for 1 1/2 days.
To get a detailed explanation of soda glazing techniques used by several different potters, see “Soda Glazing” published by A&C Black in the UK and University of Pennsylvania Press in the USA.