Docent English Course Elenor Wilson, Instructor June 4th, 2011 SURFACE & FIRING A VERY Short History: The

Greeks were the first burnish clay surfaces to achieve a gloss-like finish and make it water-tight. They also invented sigillata which is a very fine slip applied to the outside of a clay pot before firing to create a satin-like smooth finish. The use of highsilica content material for ceramics dates back about 5,000 years to Egypt and Syria. Lead, a low-melting-temperature material was introduced to glaze materials about 3000-2500 B.C. In 1500 B.C. kilns were developed in China that could fire to much higher temperatures. This in combination with the availability of stoneware allowed the Chinese to develop higher temperature ceramics and glazes. They continued to lead the world in clay and glaze development, and during the Song Dynasty, 960-1220 A.D. porcelain wares were developed. Jumping a long way forward in time to the late 19th century, a German man named Dr. Seger developed what we now use as modern glaze formula and calculation based on the periodic table of elements, eutectics and other physics and chemistry stuff. Here is a contemporary sample glaze formula: Basic Celadon (Chün) Glaze Feldspar (high-silica clay) 37 Kaolin (China Clay) 18 Silica (glass) 28 Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) 12 Dolomite (CaCO3 MgCO3) 03 Bone Ash (3CaO P2O3) 02 (100) Iron Oxide (FeO2) + 1.5% or less

Typical Stages of Clay to Ceramic firing:

Greenware: unfired clay wet=malleable “bone dry” = no water, ready to be

Bisque ware: once fired clay, will absorb water/glaze

Glaze ware: ceramics with an outer coating of glass, usually to make the ware


Glaze/Surface Application Techniques NAME 1 brushing DESCRIPTION applying glaze or slip in a traditional painting manner with a brush quickly applying glaze by dipping the piece in a large vat of glaze using compressed air and a spray gun to apply glaze holding the object while pouring a glaze over all or part of it using a sponge to stipple slip or glaze onto the surface use a squeezebottle to draw thin lines of slip or glaze onto the surface covering the surface with a colored slip, then carving away to reveal a contrasting color or texture using hot or cold wax to stop glaze from going onto the surface carving into the surface then filling the carved lines with color applying a metallic or color enamel on top of the glaze surface STAGE slip – green glaze – bisque OTHER






green or bisque

can achieve a very thin layer



bisque can get an even coating by hand or add visual depth with different glazes/colors



green or bisque



green or bisque



green (typically)

nice for graphics


wax resist




green or bisque

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More Descriptive Vocabulary: matte – dull, not shiny, textured surface, opaque satin – a little shiny, smooth surface, opaque gloss – very shiny, reflective, very smooth transparent

crystalline – crystals form in the glass during cooling; some produce colors

transparent – can see through, like glass translucent – light can pass through, or illuminate, but it is not clear; you cannot see through

opaque – the opposite of transparent and translucent

colorant – a chemical or combination of chemicals added to a glaze to produce a color


Kiln & Firing Vocabulary: low temperature – up to 1100˚ Centigrade (Celsius) mid-range temperature – up to 1220˚ Centigrade (Celsius) high temperature – around 1300˚ Centigrade (Celsius) and higher electric kiln – uses electricity to heat a metal coil, “oxidation” atmosphoere gas kiln – burns propane or natural gas to heat the kiln, typically “reduction” atmosphere; can produce beautiful rich colors; celadon and “copperred” glazes are produced this way oxidation – lots of oxygen in the kiln reduction – almost no oxygen in the kiln wood-fire kiln (i.e. Anagama) – wood is the fuel used to heat the kiln; wood ash combines with the silica in the clay to produce a glaze on the surface of the pot; flames leave their print on the surface as well. Raku kiln/firing – low temperature firing in which the molten pot is removed from the heat, put in wood fiber to create a metallic surface through a reduction burn, then cooled quickly in water. pit firing – low-temperature firing in a hole in the ground, usually gives a “smoky” or black patterned surface salt firing – salt (NaCl) is put into a gas-firing kiln at 1060˚C or above to create a glazed surface by combining with the silica in the clay soda firing – Sodium Carbonate (NaCO3) is put into a gas-firing kiln at 1060˚C or above to create a glazed surface by combining with the silica in the clay; many artists/potters use applied glaze in addition to the sodium carbonate to 4

create a variety of colors and surface textures


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