Bruce Girrell on wed 18 oct 00
I wanted to express my thanks to Ian Currie and the Village Potters Guild of
Plymouth MI for the excellent workshop this past weekend.
It was quite an experience to see Ian's method operate in a mass production
setting*. Making the tiles was the first thing done so that the firing could
get underway. Each group had five participants working together to obtain
ingredients, weigh, mix, measure, and apply the glaze combinations. Despite
people moving everywhere and doing different jobs, this went really smoothly
thanks to good preparation and instruction. The preparation of the test
tiles took about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The Guild fired the tiles overnight and
we examined them the next day.
After the tiles went into the kilns, Ian explained the theory behind his
method. Using slides, fired test tiles, pottery samples, and a good dash of
humor, he showed how his method has evolved into what it is today. Some of
the glazes that have come out of his experiments are absolutely beautiful.
Although the amount of effort required to prepare the tiles is far from
trivial, the information obtained is most certainly worth it. Glazes
immediately adjacent to one another on the test tiles often had vastly
different qualities. There is _no way_ that these results could have been
anticipated through the use of a glaze calculation program. Many of the more
interesting results were outside the range that produced "good glass" or
else were right on the edge of it (especially the opalescent effects).
Without Ian's systematic approach, you could mix recipe after recipe after
recipe and never stumble upon these beautiful glazes. Yes, it is pretty much
just a fancy line blend, but Ian has taken a lot of the calculation work out
of the process - so much so that I believe that even the complete glaze
novices there understood how to do it by the end of the workshop.
The most difficult part of Ian's method is deciding what your base set of
fluxes will be. For that, Ian provides some guidelines based on the desired
firing temperature. I believe Hamer and Hamer has a chart that indicates
appropriate fluxes to be used for the different firing ranges, as well.
I doubt that we've seen the last book from Ian. As we were examining the
tiles, it became evident that we were serving as worker bees for a much
larger experiment. As Ian goes from workshop to workshop, he varies his
standard glaze sets bit by bit. With each new firing he expands on his
previous results. You could almost see the gears spinning in his head as he
compared our results to previous glaze sets.
Special thanks go to Nancy Guido, who organized the workshop, Paula (sorry
Paula - I didn't think to get your last name), current Director of the
Village Potters Guild, and to those who helped set up, fire, and clean up.
Bruce and Lynne Girrell
in northern Michigan. Maybe not this next bisque, but surely the one after
that is going to have a batch of test tiles in it. Can't wait to try some
variations on what we've been using.
*There were at least two of us who had worked through Ian's method on our
own prior to the workshop, based on the instructions at Ian's website:
(http://ian.currie.to/). All the technical information that you need is
there. What you get from the workshop that you can't get from the website
are the little things, like how to hold the syringe to better control
application to the tile, why the glaze is applied thin and super thick, etc.