the Alchemy

Usually when people see the work, they have a lot of questions, because most coffee mugs do not look like this. So here is the run down.

"I (Andy) start each piece on the potter's wheel. I use the #257 English Porcelain from Standard Ceramic. It is an extremely pure, consistent and clean clay body which is of the utmost importance for the glaze. I throw the body on the wheel, I wait a day for it to dry, then I flip it over and trim the foot. I attach a lump of clay to the rim and pull the handle off the pot. I do my attachments when the work is as wet as possible and then dry every piece slowly to avoid cracking. The porcelain I use is a beautiful thing but comes with the high price of being more difficult to throw and cracks easily if I am not careful.

Once the piece has dried completely, I can do the first preliminary firing which is called a bisque firing, going up to about 950 C.

While the work is being bisqued, I will mix my glazes. One thing that makes my glazes unique is that they grow Zinc Silicate crystals, but that power diminishes as the glaze ages for even a month. This is a problem that exists almost no where else in ceramics, but because of this, I always need to mix my glazes fresh.

After mixing the glaze, I need to get the perfect application onto my piece. I sieve the glaze and use a hydrometer to make sure it is the right consistency and then dip the piece into it, so that I get an even coating.

Finally, I mix EPK with glue and attach a glaze catcher and it is ready to be fired.

Once in the kiln I do a rather complicated firing, bringing the kiln up to almost 1300 C and then dropping down and zig-zagging the temperature. Where the crystal looks flat in the middle is where I held the temperature. The rings are created as I zig-zag the temperature up and down. While this is happening the glaze is like molten lava and the crystals are sliding down the pot which is why the crystals near the rim usually don't get as big.

After the kiln has completely cooled, I can unload and take the glaze catchers off. As the glaze ran down the pot, the glaze catchers hold that excess glaze and fuse to the pot. I use a hefty stone grinder to grind off the glaze catcher and then a diamond lap to clean and polish the foot. Sometimes I am lucky enough to get a 2nd use out of a glaze catcher, but 95% of the time, they must be discarded and made a new.

Lastly there is one more step where I soak the piece in acid. This strips any metals off the surface of the glaze, ensuring that none will leach into food and gives a boost to the color. Afterwards I soak it in a mixture of Baking Soda and water to neutralize the acidity. For any aspiring potter's out there, I would recommend avoiding the use of acid. Even when you know what you are doing, it is dangerous to store, dangerous to use and dangerous to dispose of.

After all that, it is finally done!"