Earth, Clay, Glaze and Fire

earth plaster for window sills
For me it is the direct contact of artist to material which is original, and it is the earth and his contact to it which will free him of the artificiality of the present and his dependence on industrial products.                            ~Isamu Noguchi

early morning fog---burned off by 10 am---and we enjoyed it so much we stopped taking photos
We took a few days on to celebrate Earth Day. We went up to check on the windows on the P.S. ( I call it that because its a passive solar house.) I was tickled to see the buckets of earth plaster in the entryway.  I can't seem to get away from buckets filled with mud!  It was Earth Day after all!  I will have more photos on 1 Simply Home this week. It was stunningly beautiful on the coast. All the poppies and ice plants were radiant.  It was hard to come back, but we have work to do here, too.

Golden Gate bridge

Month of May I plan to test glazes.  I have changed clay bodies and with the new kiln I am finding that both changes are giving me some surprises.  Good. Bad. So So.   I know that that's part of the charm and magic of working with earth and fire.  Except I like some expectations to reach realization.  Or at least promising compromise.

The round plate is a piece of porcelain slab that dried pass the softness I usually use in a sculpture.  I have an old rusty wok that I use for a hump mold sometimes.  I decided use the slab as a test plate and formed it on the wok. The rust transferred to the slab. I liked the pattern it left, after all it is an oxide, and did some quick brushwork.  I needed to test the orange to cone 6 and some Chun I had made up.

It is a beautiful glaze finish.  Just enough shine, some pale turquoise pooling and no crazing.  The black brushstrokes are brighter than it appears in this photo. 

fresh out of the kiln today

Too bad this is on a test plate!  The glaze is beautiful on it.  Satiny finish with nice crystals and a faint sea green.  It is a cream cone 6 glaze that I made up last fall.  I had to sieve it and test to make sure it was going to work!  Some glazes don't age gracefully.  The tile was dipped in a 4 x 25 slip, bisqued to cone 04.  When it came out I did a very watery wash of 50/50 copper carbonate/RIO. Brush on some satin clear on the sgraffito.  I then brushed on the cream.  Fired to Cone 6 with a soak of 30 minutes at the end.  Slow cooling. 

glaze buckets lined up in studio


  1. Thirty minute soak, wow that is a lot, do you set the top temp or use a cone fire and then a soak? What a great idea to use the wok and leave the rust stains I like the test plate.

    Is your coast home straw bale, where does the earth plaster come in? I thought it was all timbers and wood?

    1. I'm using a firing schedule from when I had a job as adjunct faculty at CSUH. I took care of 12 kilns, making glazes and the printmaking studio. Then came the lay-offs. I went to from all those lovely gas and electric kilns to a small, electric kiln with a Dawson kiln sitter! I am fond of satin glazes with lots of crystals which takes a long soak. As to the straw bale....we had all the plans for a straw bale, but after 2008 no one would give us a construction loan for a straw house. We are building the same house with SIPS, natural insulation, etc. The earth plaster is for the windows.

  2. Love the Noguchi quote. And your tests sure look promising. Working at ^6, I had my best glaze results by holding at a sweet spot around 1600 and then soaking at the end. I also discovered some of my glazes liked more oxygen than others and left some peeps open for those.
    What a treat to spend Earth Day at your new property. I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures.

    1. Thanks for the info! I had an old kiln with a Dawson sitter and had to time it right to run out and push that thing back up! I put satins in the middle, glazes that tended to pin-hole on the bottom and ones that love the oxygen on top. It worked for the most part. It's not a soda kiln, but at least I have a controller now.

  3. The tests look wonderful..the brushwork over the rust patterns is very effective. I've never thought of combining copper carbonate with RIO as a wash, I must try it some time.

    1. Thanks, Mark. It's a nice break to test new glazes and new clay bodies. Testing isn't stressful and there's no oops or disappointing. More enlightening.


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