Understanding Glazes – How Glazes Work – Level 1

This is a Level 1 class for ceramic artists who make their own glazes (or plan to) and want to better understand how glazes work. (Note: This is not a class about how to mix or apply glazes. Those subjects may be covered in future classes.)

What’s happening when you put your piece in the kiln? What are those materials that you’re mixing together? When you run out of a glaze material, or a recipe calls for something you don’t have, do you know what you can substitute?

Knowing these things is going to help you strengthen your entire studio practice.

How much time have you spent worrying about a kiln opening, or researching a glaze problem? All that time could be spent making pots, or exploring new glazes.

Glaze recipes follow a formula that determines what they’re going to look like and what temperature they’re going to melt at. When you know how the formula works, you can make any kind of glaze you want, at any temperature.

Have you ever had a glaze that you loved but it ran onto your kiln shelves? Or it crazed over time? Or you wish it was glossier? More matte? Satin? Your clear glaze isn’t that clear?

These are all problems that can be solved by chemistry. We can fix, adjust and adapt glaze recipes to get them working the way we want them to.

Even if your glazes aren’t giving you troubles, you might want to try something new some day.

Knowing a small amount of chemistry is going to help you make better decisions when deciding which new glaze to choose.

Knowing a little more chemistry will give you the freedom to create your very own glaze recipes from scratch!

Disclaimer: You have to be willing to do the work. I’m going to give you a map and show you a path. But having a map can’t help you if you don’t start exploring and walking down the path.

Understanding glaze chemistry doesn’t mean you no longer have to test glazes. It also doesn’t mean there will never be any mystery and excitement to the glazing process. What it means is that your tests will be more successful, your problems will take less time to solve and your exploration potential becomes limitless.

Class Outline:

  • What is a glaze? The basic components that make up our glazes.
  • The periodic table of elements – which elements are used in ceramics and why?
  • Glaze materials and their function in a recipe.
  • Glass formers, stiffeners and fluxes – where they come from and how they all work together.
  • Opacifiers and colourants – how to go about finding the colours you want?
  • Cone 10 vs Cone 6 vs Cone 04.
  • Intro to chemistry and why we need to learn it.
  • Unity Molecular Formula (UMF) – analyzing glaze formulas with glaze calculation software.
  • Glaze durability – what makes a glaze durable and why durability is important for functional ceramics.
  • The Stull map – a guide to making matte, satin and glossy glazes (and more).

Upon completion of the class, you will be invited to join my private Facebook Group where you can ask questions as they come up in your studio. We’ll continue learning and sharing information, together as a community.

Once you complete this Level 1 class you will be eligible to take any of my upcoming Level 2 classes.

Class is presentation style, handouts and note taking paper are provided. Presentation slides will be emailed to participants after the class for future reference.

There will be a visual display of test tiles to demonstrate class concepts. Class includes interactive activities and time for questions and discussion.

Supply List

Bring a tablet or laptop if you would like to follow along during the last portion of the class where we learn to use glaze calculation software. (Optional)

If there is a glaze you have a question about, bring both the recipe and a sample (physical or photo). Time permitting, we will examine and analyze your recipe as a group. (Optional)

Date: Aug 11, 2018

Time: 1:00 – 5:00pm

Location: Coast Collective Arts Centre, #103-318 Wale Rd, Victoria (Colwood), BC

You gave a wonderful and well-prepared presentation! You have a very clear, friendly speaking voice and it is evident that you know a LOT about this topic and enjoy talking about it with an interested audience. Your teaching style is natural and engaging. Great job!

Kit Maloney

Workshop Participant

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