search  current discussion  categories  glazes - chemistry 

glaze calculations . girls v boys...don't let intuition argument

updated sat 12 feb 05


Craig Clark on thu 10 feb 05

shut you out...this has nothing to do with boys and girls

Apologies in advance but I am going to have to call you on this one
Pat. Your statement , while it may be true for some in the small world
of potters, is retrogressive and borders on chauvenism. The use of the
word "thingy" brings to mind the giggly blond (usually) airhead that
everyone loves for the blissful euphoria that she brings to the gravest
of situations.There are a number of women on this list whom I suspect
are not amused by such associations.....perhaps I am mistaken about this.
The comparison of glaze chemistry to cooking is an interesting one
when you talk about the so called intuitive aspect of the equation. For
the record I am the cook in our household. My spousal unit, the Mighty
Kravetz Woman, burns water. Her mother ain't much of a cook either,
despite having raised four children. Her pop was a research chemist and
she has degrees in chemistry and mathematics. Sometimes I feel a little
intimidated with my degree in art despite having a working knowledge of
both math and chemistry.
When cooking I have found over the years that so-called intuition is
really the end result of many, many rounds of tests. When a "proper"
balance in a sauce is achieved the result becomes encoded in the way I
prepare that sauce in the future, unless I decide to try something
radically different. There are some things that work and others that
simply do not. I learned to cook from my mother, father, reading cook
books, watching cooking shows and most importantly, asking professional
chefs how to go about doing certain things. It is the pros who have
given me the most help.
When cooking I usually don't measure my spices. I kinda know how
much to add and do a whole bunch of tasting along the way. This is
decieving though because what seems to be an intuitive approach is
actually something that is carfully assembled. There is a structure and
balance that works right for a particular application. A similar model
applies to glaze making in my opinion.
I do not have any glaze software. I'm one of those fools who likes
to calculate things out long hand when I actually "make" a glaze that I
have not tried before. . I do have a basic understanding of glaze
chemistry and I can even tell you about a Mol. But the "new" glaze that
I could actually call my own hasn't really happened. I have adapted and
slightly changed glazes that were already in existence or used them as
written, as I suspect is the case with many potters. I run through glaze
calculaitons to understand the relationships of the ingredients in the
The use of a computer program, is not much unlike the use of any
other tool. It is a means to an end. It is meant to make that end more
easily accessible. When I hear that folks don't want to let something
muscle in on their "intuition" I wonder if they are saying that because
they do not have a real understanding of what is occuring, specifically
in a glaze in this instance, and do not want to go through the trouble
to learn.
It is a real pain in the butt to spend the time to get comfortble
with all of those numbers. But keep in mind that the code of the
software is only a means to analyze a recipe. This enables the glaze
maker to quickly taste what happens when addition ingedients are added.
Because of this time and money may be saved.
One cannot do a literal taste-test of a glaze as one does with a
sauce. It is only after the firings that the results are known. This
gets expensive, especially when changes are in the realm of color
shifts. Some of the oxides we use are costly. I don't know about you but
I want to experiment with Cobalt Oxide/Carbonate as little as possible.
The Carbonate goes for about 28$/lb around here. Glaze software really
helps to customize glazes within parmaters that will work so that the
glazes may be given that individual flavor.
In the world of functional glazes the age old "intuitive" approach
may actually be hazardous. If glazes are to be stable, durable and
non-leaching, as Ron and John have so eloquently stated in their book,
then an understanding of the chemistry of glazes is important.
I have come to believe that the application and understanding of
basic chemistry is a means by which to know why things happen the way
they do in the world around us. This type of thinking may be applied to
glaze chemisty in general and to the code written to facilitate the
analysis of those glazes in particular. The software is merely a means
of discovery. Don't let the old intuition argument shut you out of this
Just a few thoughts
Hope this helps
Craig Dunn Clark
619 East 11 1/2 st
Houston, Texas 77008

mailtoandrew@FSMAIL.NET on thu 10 feb 05

shut you out...this has nothing to do with boys and girls

Hello Craig,

Thanks, I enjoyed your clear and well reasoned post.

And if I may I d like to extend the cooking and glaze chemistry analogy to
include all ceramic raw materials and bodies; so how about
.... ceramics: where geology and cooking meet?

Kind regards,


Lee Love on fri 11 feb 05

shut you out...this has nothing to do with boys and girls

I use both glaze calculation and also the more traditional
method with natural/unrefined materials (that don't have accurate
analysis for calculations.) What is so great about our craft is that
there are many ways to enter it. There are a variety of ways and
methods to explore.

But I would beware of anybody who tells you they got the "one
true way." You need to find a way to approach glazes that is suitable
to you. You really don't have to use a computer or do calculations
to get great glazes. You just need to be willing to test and explore.

Also, certain methods tend to lead to certain kinds of work. The
process effects the final outcome.. Before you take anyones word
about which is the best method, take a look at their work. Is it the
kind of work you want to make? This is especially true when you are
considering the advice from "technical" experts who might not understand
the aesthetic aspects of our craft.

Lee in Mashiko, Japan WEB LOG Photos!