Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Based on 'Rock glazes of NZ' Minna Bondy
Sample 91. Takaka River Sand
Principally composed of fine-grained tiny pebbles of argillitic rocks with odd small grains of quartz and or feldspar
This song started to play in my head as I started to write... down to the nitty-gritty! literally!
This journey has definitely shaped my knowledge and understanding of glaze making. After many conversations with other potters, I feel much more prepared to approach these samples at a molecular level.
Potters have dedicated their careers to understanding just how these molecules behave with heat and have demystified the process of glazing and convinced me it can be done, even with mixed samples such as river sand.
When looking at a river such as the Takaka river we know it runs through an area most valued by New Zealand potters. The ranges that form the Takaka valley are rich in feldspars, silicas and other materials that make great glazes.
When working with river sand I thought that would be near impossible. However, I have been advised that once fired the properties of these materials will be obvious in the melt to the trained eye... not mine! but all in good time. I'm hoping through testing individual samples in their "pure" form I will be able to learn to identify their specific melt characteristics.
And from there I can use the Seger Method or Unity Molecular Formula to refine the properties of the glaze. In Bondy's original test she attempted to follow Seger methods but without testing chemical structure first there was little success.
Imposing this control does sway my original views on embracing the impurity of natural glazes. However, I don't feel like natural glazes will ever truly be tamed unless they were refined to there purity first and where is the beauty in that?
I guess through this process I will find my place and just how far to go, creating my own perception of beauty.
That is what I love about ceramics and studio pottery, that the mark and style of the maker show so well in a piece. The institution of art school taught me that knowing when to stop was always the key in art practice, in pottery this consideration seems so obvious. The moment where a maker chooses to leave a piece defines studio pottery and sets it apart from industrial design. This topic within New Zealand ceramic history showed up in many of my conversations with potters... I will leave that topic for another day.
I look forward to writing the next few blogs as I move toward the North Island, where this change in mindset influenced the way sourced materials... keep posted.