This year I celebrate my 19th year of pressing my hands into clay!
I am finding myself between two worlds lately in my ceramic tasks - the warm, cozy world of stoneware, and the light, delicate world of porcelain.
It confused me for a long time. Because I was trying to get my porcelain creations to work as vessels that I normally create out of stoneware. There are artists that do this successfully. I am not one of them, at least not at this point.
So I have divided the types of things I make between stoneware and porcelain. I will reserve porcelain for one of a kind, light, airy pieces, and use my beloved stoneware for vessels that are to be used daily.
Stoneware is, by its nature, bulky. Most often it contains grog, which is clay that has been highfired and ground to a fine grit and added to the clay to give it bulk. Some stoneware clay is heavily grogged - to the point where you cannot work with it on the wheel or it will destroy your hands. I am currently using two different stoneware clays - a white clay with 20% very fine grog and a leather colored clay with 20% coarse grog. These two clays produce two different types of pots.
It is extremely durable. Because stoneware is "high fired", meaning fired at a very high temperature, the glass in the clay (quartz) fuses with the glass in the glaze (quartz), forming a bond called vitrification. This makes stoneware able to go from the freezer to the oven and causes it also to be resistent to chipping. All of this makes stoneware a very good investment for generations.
I mix my own glazes. I take raw materials and mix them, caluculating how the glaze will function. Every glaze has three components - a silica (glass) component, a flux which makes the glaze flow at a certain temperature, and a refractory component, which acts as a brake for the flux. Getting these three components right for a specific firing temperature requires a deep knowledge of how these ingredients interact. I've been making my own glazes since 1999. Making my own glazes also lets me control what goes into the glazes. Although lead is no longer used in food vessel glazes, many other toxic materials still are. I can eliminate these by simply finding alternatives that are non toxic. This makes the process more complex and difficult, but I like having the knowledge that my glazes are healthy for people to serve food on.
Stoneware is very atmopheric and warm. It holds heat. A well made pot, in my opinion, will never outshine the food, but rather act as the perfect backdrop for a beautifully prepared meal. I favor stoneware's color palate - from warm grey and beige to cobalt and soft green - to the bright colors of low fire and majolica for serving food for this reason.
I'll have similar pieces in the shop shortly. Also, I am working towards a show - to be held in spring of 2017.