After having had discussions with a coworker of mine about glazes, glaze application and what we offer beginning students I began to wonder about certain glazes. Glazes like Yellow Salt, Woo Blue, and Shino are instantly recognizable to many of us who work in clay and if you are from the one dunk school of glazing these glazes can become boring to the viewer because of their predictability. But just because they are predictable doesn’t mean that they have to be boring. Like with many things in life I would say that it comes down to the way that they are used as to whether or not they are interesting. I would hope that I am not becoming jaded on the subject but I always find in disappointing when I instantly recognize a  glaze. I find those pieces and people who can use a glazes that draws me in most alluring.

I will draw this analogy… Vincent Gallow or Franzia wines that are blended to be exactly the same every time vs. boutique wines that reflect an individuals taste/vision and the weather and location of where it was grown. In short does it have character? Does it challenge your pallet or is it something that you don’t have to think about and can just crank out? I feel that I should premise this with  the thought that the glaze should enhance the pot. So in some cases maybe salt yellow would be the right choice.
This afternoon I was doing research on low and mid-range soda firing and found myself revisiting Julia Galloway’s web page. She has this to offer on “types” of glazes:

I put glazes into a few different categories to help me better understand them and their content.
First is a “paint chip glaze:” a glaze of straight color. It’s extremely reliable and what you see is what you get, over and over again.
Second is a “historical glaze:” a glaze with strong historical ties. The glaze itself can become the content in the work.
Third is the “phenomena glaze:” a glaze that changes when it is fired. From it, you gain a sense that the material has had an experience of firing or time passage.

Obviously the Salt Yellows and Woo Blues fall into the first category of Paint Chip Glazes and glazes like Shino, Celadon, and Temmaku’s are of the Historical Glaze type. Recently I had a commission for some pieces glazes in a certain manner and this put me to thinking of the pseudo-predictability of the majority of the glazes that I currently use and how to express that to clients who are interested in certain colors or effects. I realized that most of my glazes are Phenomena Glazes and while I have an idea of what they can do it is always an educated guess as to how they are going to turn out. This is not to say that I am surprised every time by my pots because there is a good amount of predictability to what I use. Having just changed to a new kiln which fires differently than the one I have been accustomed to for the last few years this has become more evident to me.
If you get the chance Julia’s Alchemy page is well worth reading if only for her thoughts on glazes and how her glazing developed.

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