Monday, September 28, 2009

Glaze Mixing Combinations and Kiln Firings

I would like to introduce some of my new fall colors here very soon...
But first, here is a bit of background of how I use commercial glazes to mix them to get special color combinations...
Above is the first step: line blending of 5 glazes.
Basically you take a test tile (this one is a 4" square) with my CS texture in my Porcelain Clay.
And you run each glaze vertically down the tile, then horizontally across.
About 2-3 coats of each glaze in each direction.
Fire in kiln to maturing temperature, let cool, then take notes on which combinations have potential for use...
NOTE: Horizontal vs Vertical positioning of tile will give different glaze results due to glaze movement down the tile and interaction with texture. Use this to your advantage!

Here I've got my test tile, my notes, measuring cups, marked for even ratios of glazes (I use water to fill and measure each one), rubber gloves, sharpie marker, and of course: glazes.

Here I've used my Sharpie to mark the cups with the glaze codes I'm mixing, then I make up a code of my own: such as 1A, 1B, 1C, etc and take notes. You can see in the picture above how some glazes just sit in layers.

So you've got to mix them up thoroughly...
Make sure to wipe excess glaze off into it's container, then clean your brush thoroughly.

NOTE: if you constantly wash your glaze brush off in your sink, you are going to clog your sink. So I recommend a cup of water to rinse your brushes in. Then in a day or two after the water has separated from the heavier glaze particles, you can slowly pour off the water, and let the glaze particles dry, then dispose of properly (I've got a friend that uses the dried glaze for a liner glaze, so it doesn't go to waste). These glazes all fire to the same temperature range!!!

So here are all my new glazes waiting to be put onto pendants to see how they interact with my textures and being fired on a vertical surface (see kiln loaded pictures below).

I work in batches. One glaze and a bunch of pendants. And small plastic food container cups (not ever used for food in my studio) to sort the pieces for each glaze.

Above is how I like to work - paint the front of the pieces with multiple coats - work according to shape and size, then flip over and glaze the backs. I then clean out each bead hole and go back to touch it up. So it is important to keep the pieces grouped within their glaze group until they are absolutely ready for the kiln.

This glazing part is where I can zone out for hours...
I think I must've been a painter in a former life, if that actually happens, because I love to paint!

This is my kiln room set up with rolling tables and temporary iPod for glaze kiln loading.
It can take upwards of three hours to load a kiln with all the pieces you see in the black tray to the right of this photo.

Ok - better shot of the black tray with "to be loaded" pieces. And my nichrome wire hooks - three gauges of wire, multiple size hooks all on my rolling table (which according to my Grandma Neal was the old butcher block used in my grandfather's restaurant to wheel out and serve and slice the prime rib at table side). Don't worry though - that was like 35+ years ago... and it sat in her garage or barn in her old farmhouse for most of that time... That was until I got my hands on it... It's a perfect fit between the kiln, wall, and myself when I'm loading the kiln. Then it wheels out when I clear the room for a firing...

This is the bottom layer of my "papa bear" kiln being loaded. See what I mean about the Vertical surface? The pieces are all hung vertically in the kiln, so the glaze runs down the piece and interacts with the textures instead of just sitting on the piece and puddling on the Horizontal flat surface if it were glazed only on one side (like one of my buttons or cabochons).

Bottom shelf bead trees are full, next level of shelves are being loaded...

Bottom shelf ate up a bunch of the larger pieces, and some small ones... Still a lot to go though. The little ones take so much longer to load and they like to jump off hooks often. Temperamental little buggers they can be! Especially when they like to land on the shelf below.

Here is the upper shelves loaded to the max. It takes a VERY steady and patient hand to load a kiln like this. I find that I can only do this in the mornings without any distractions. So everyone in the family knows if they call, and Dave says I'm loading a kiln, they won't hear from me for hours... and no, I won't just quick get the phone... Gotta love that man for fielding calls and doorbell rings like that for me!

And here it is folks - my moment of pure delight - an empty black box!

Then it's up to the kiln and weather to decide the final outcome of the pieces.
Which is why opening up a glaze kiln is often described as "Christmas Day"...
It's like getting a ton of tiny little gifts all at once if all goes well...

The next posts will contain some of the fired results of these test glazes, the names some people have picked, and a chance for your input to name one or more of them (I get to pick which names I like the best, and which ones have a code that will work in my catalog system). If I pick your glaze name, you get $50 to spend via my online shopping cart!

And I'll announce the names of the people that suggested names via Bead Fest Wire (May 2009) and Bead Fest Philly (August 2009) that won $50 gift certificates to the Marsha Neal Studio online shopping cart.

I wanted to have a big to do on here, but have decided I liked the names I got already for the bulk of the glazes from these two shows, and there are a few I'm stumped on and would like extra input from you all...

And time is running out for me because I'm trying to update my 2010 pendant catalog, Marsha Neal Studio website and need names and codes for the new glazes ASAP...

So let's see how this week goes and if I can get the pictures posted of the new glazes!
Check back soon!!!


    Notes? Organization? Color Codes? I am light years behind ya! I think it is fantastic that you took the time to document all of this and this will really be helpful to alot of people! I really enjoyed reading your blog today it was great! I adore your new banner pic! Awesome Choice! I believe I will stop by here again and revisit this "trip" to your studio every time I glaze to remind me I can do maybe 1 of these things!

    xoxoxo Lisa

  2. Hi Marsha - did you make those bead trees your self? They look great. I use posts on their sides.
    And yes I understand, the kiln can take hours to load!

  3. What a wonderful post into your process. The way you load a kiln is so interesting. You can certainly get it full. The hooks you use on the rods are a great idea. Thanks for taking the time to show and write about your process in such detail.

  4. Wow. I know how you do all that, and I never cease to be amazed. Detail, organization, concentration...Cant wait to see the glaze mix results! Now that I have tried loading a kiln with your system, whew! Were you a natural at "Operation" as a kid?
    Maybe lunch next week - I have your bead tree...

  5. that is such a great idea the way you test your colors! i love these kind of blogs where we get to see what you do... i think it gives a greater appreciation of the time and care it takes to produce the beautiful pieces that come out of your kiln... i am needing dude and aut small pendants bad! they are so my favorites!

  6. I have never thought to do glaze testing the way you are. I suppose because I make my glazes I tend to do additions to 100 gm tests. Well now I'm off to do your method. This makes so much sense!

  7. I've often wondered the process that you go through to make your beautiful pendants - I loved this post for a behind the scenes view!

  8. Thanks everyone... Sometimes I look at my methods and think: I must seem a bit OCD and nutso at times...

    But I think my glaze methods are based in a mix of my scientific background and glaze experimentations from college. I was often told by my professor "I know you like doing glaze testing, but remember form". And when I first started to work with clay I was so intimidated, I had to have someone explain to me what "texture" meant - seriously... talk about dense...

    Then you throw in odd jobs like shoe sales at Sears for 7+years, bartending, working for the USDA Beneficial Insects Research Lab in quarantine, and working for a lighting company doing cut sheets (for architects and engineers for their projects) and you get this brain that likes to keep track of everything in an organized, yet very messy manner.

    Very messy because you should SEE my "organized piles" around the house. My goal right now is to get it all in one place - the basement studio... Until then - almost total chaos... and that has been going on (and off, and on, and off) for months now...

    Oh, and Jen, I use commercial Roselli bead trees, modified slightly with additional nichrome wire at the top to give me a little extra height for the larger pieces..

  9. Fantastic pictures Marsha! It's such a trial to fish out the little "jumpers" from the bottom of my small kiln, I can't imagine you doing it in your Papa Bear! (I use my super long copper tweezers to play Operation) I love your organization and so admire your kiln loading skills :)


I would love to hear what you think…