Sunday, March 30, 2008

Salt/ Soda Discussion Group

At NCECA I attended a discussion group that has carried on past Pittsburgh and is leading to some interesting post-conference disussions. At this year's conference, the discussion group, Salt Firing Verses Soda Firing was led by Joyce Centofanti. One of the other attendees, David Hayashida, came up with the great idea creating an email list so we could continue our discussion and share recipes and techniques after we returned home. David put the list together and there was instantly a lot of information being passed around. Another participant, Pamela Theis, decided to take it one step further and create an Ning group (an social network site) that will allow us to continue to connect with each other, but to invite others out there who weren't a part of the original group to add to the discussion.
So, if you're interested in salt firing or soda firing, or even a hybrid, join the group and join in the conversation! It just began a couple of days ago, so we're really just getting started.

Join the group Salt/Soda Firing

I've been playing around on the site and found that you can upload photos and create this little slide show creator that you see below:

Find more photos like this on Salt/Soda Firing

This is my page on the Salt/Soda Firing site, if you're interested in seeing what you can do. I'm excited about the possibilities with this group. Soda firing is still relatively new so I think that a group like this that will allow us to share, trouble shoot and brainstorm can have a big impact. I hope you join us!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Why Soda Glaze? - by Maryke Henderson

Although there is more all the time, overall there is still very little written about soda (soda firing, soda glazing, vapor glazing, etc...). When I come across something that's written specifically about soda, I get really excited and I want to share my find with all of you.


I recently came across this great article on the Australian ceramics website Avicam: Why Soda Glaze? It's a lengthy excerpt from Maryke Henderson's Bachelor of Arts research report from Australian National University School of Art in 2005. It covers everything from "What is soda?" and the historical background of soda to technical information on soda introduction and it's corrosive effects on kilns. There are profiles of contemporary soda artists as well as a statement about Maryke's own work.
The photos that I have included of Maryke Henderson's work are from Avicam. They are elegant pieces that both intrigue me and make me very nervous. Enjoy the article and the beautiful images. When you're done reading Maryke's article, spend some time wandering around Avicam. It's filled with interesting things to read and some really great pots to look at.




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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Surface Decoration Techniques: wax resist and underglaze/ slip inlay

This is the first of many posts in my new "Surface Decoration Technique" series.
I have been creating, soda firing and documenting simple straight sided cylinders with a variety of surface treatments for examples for my classes and this blog. The original idea was to create demos to show students that aren't specifically "my pieces." The fun result of this project has been that it's given me an excuse to return to things long forgotten, or try something new.
Watch out for upcoming tutorials with lots of pictures and slip and glaze recipes.

Wax resist and underglaze/ slip inlay
A great way to make a clean line without too much mess, step by step.

Step 1: Paint slip on leather hard piece.
I used several porcelain slips (grolleg mixed with Mason stains) on Lillstreet Soda Clay

Step 2: After the slip dries (no longer tacky), paint wax over entire surface.
Step 3: Using a small loop tool, carve in your lines.
Step 4: Paint underglaze into the carved lines.Step 5: Wipe away any excess underglaze.
This is a great way to get make a nice clean, sharp line in the leather hard stage.

The inside of the piece is glazed with a simple matte black glaze, and soda fired to cone 10 in reduction.
Because the line is inlaid, it's protected from the soda and doesn't "bleed" when hit directly.

Some close up images

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ceramics Classes

Soda firing classes with Emily Murphy
at Lillstreet Art Center, Chicago, IL
fall classes begin the week of September 10, 2007
_________________________________________
Soda Firing Fundamentals
This class is for the advanced student of ceramics who is interested in exploring a varied and unpredictable surface for their work. Soda firing is an atmospheric firing that produces flashes of color, a textured orange peel surface, and reacts in a variety of ways with different slips, glazes and clay bodies. We'll delve into forms that work well to accentuate the soda process, play with surface decoration with particular focus on slips and textures, and experiment with glazing for the soda process (including the use of the spray booth). Kiln loading will be taught and all students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class.
Tuesdays, 6:30pm - 9:30pm
Starts Sept. 11, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________________________

Advanced Topics in Soda Firing: Surface Decoration

This class is for advanced students with previous experience in soda and atmospheric firing, who are looking to investigate the process more deeply. This class is going to focus on surface decoration in the soda kiln. We’ll explore texture from stamping to carving and how to enhance the surface in soda. We’ll delve into slips from flashing to porcelain with a variety of application techniques. The ultimate goal is to enhance your forms with surface decoration in the soda atmosphere. Open to students who make both functional and sculptural work. All students are required to share loading and unloading of kilns on evenings outside of class. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.
Wednesdays 12-3pm
Wednesdays 7-10pm
Starts Sept. 12, 2007

LAC Members $340 / Nonmembers $350
Soda Firing Lab Fee: $60
register here
____________________________
I thought I'd share a sampling of work from some of my student's (past and present) that have come through the soda firing program at Lillstreet over the past couple of years.
You'll see many have their own websites, or albums with more images. Just click on a linked name to see more!



Greg Schultz

Beth Burkhart

Nancy Pirri


Fred Follansbee

Robert Milanowski

Lalitha Bardalaye

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Artist Statement, April 2007

Looking back and moving forward.

Clay is one of the oldest materials used by humans, and its place in the lives of humans has changed and evolved as we have. It's had a central place in a community as vessels that store water and grains. Today we most often see clay in the form of toilets, sinks, heater elements, and our molded dishes. With modern manufacturing we have personal spaces which we can easily fill to overflowing with things, so that few people can really say they lack any quantity of items. We store water in disposable plastic bottles, we store our food in layers of boxes and plastic bags, and once we've used these up we store the garbage in more layers of plastic until they can be taken away in the metal boxes on wheels. Things just flow through our hands, from factory to landfill, each item indisguishable from the next and inevitably forgotten once sealed in the earth.

So the place that clay has in our world today is much different than it's been before. Clay is still plentiful, but it's never been disposable. And clay as art still has the intention and purpose behind it that long ago would have been present in every vessel. It can be something to stop our busy lives for a few moments in the morning to meditate over our morning coffee out of our favorite mug. It can be a vase that with or without flowers, we can stop to think about how it is one of the few objects in our lives that are hand made and individual.

Each and every piece that I make is one of a kind. I often make pieces in a series, but because they are hand crafted and fired in a soda kiln no two pieces are identical. I'm drawn to the pieces with a depth that you can explore, with subtle nuances in the texture and patterns in the glaze. A piece where you can always look a little closer and see something new. You aren't going to see that in a mass produced plate from Target, or a ceramic mug from Ikea. Our lives are busy and we often don't allow ourselves to slow down and take a moment to reflect. I see clay/pottery/ceramics as a way to feel a connection with another person, and an excuse to slow down for a moment.

Clay is a material that has a long and rich tradition. I try to reference that history, but in the context of our contemporary world. This is why I love the process of soda firing, also a contemporary adaptation of an older process.

In the 14th century potters began using a technique called salt firing. By adding salt into a kiln, the pieces would be glazed without having to individually apply glaze to each piece. This was great for the very utilitarian pieces like sewer pipes and whiskey jugs. But by the 1970's there were problems with the technique – black smoke comes from the chimneys, and it wasn't very friendly to the environment or your neighbors. So another technique was developed, using soda ash and baking soda. The kiln is gas fired and this soda mixture is added to the kiln near the end of the firing (around 2200°F); the soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln. The soda reacts with the pieces, changing their color and texture. The variations you see on the pieces come from the variations in the kiln – how close a piece is to the burner, how much room there is for the flame to flow across the piece, even the temperature outside or the humidity can effect the outcome. Even after firing soda kilns hundreds of times there are still surprises to be found in how the pieces react. The pieces that I have created for this exhibition are tributes to the unpredictable and unique effects of this process.

Emily Murphy

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Soda Fired Work by Emily Murphy

Here is a virtual tour of the exhibition that I'm currently having at Haus in Chicago through May 6. It is a body of work that I have been working on for months, and had in my head for the last year or so. It is really excited to have the group of work finished and exhibited together. Click on any of the images to see them larger. I hope you enjoy your visit to the gallery...

This is the front of the gallery with my large bottle forms on display in the window.

Here are some images of the installation of the show.

I have a series of squared platters that I really see as canvases. The surfaces are a combination of layered slips, sprayed glazes and the soda kiln.

I have taken the idea of my surfaces being canvases one step further. I have made a series of wall pieces. These are forms that I have been playing with for a while, but this is the first time that I have exhibited them.

And here are some mugs that echo the grid of squares above...

Chicago artist Amy Lemaire designed floral arrangements in my low oval vases. These are pieces that stand alone as sculptural forms, but come to life with greens, branches and flowers in them. This is just a selection of the pieces. I took these photos on a white piece of paper so you could see them a little bit better.




The show will be up until May 6, 2007 if you'd like to see it in person. There is going to be a "Wine Walk" in the Andersonville neighborhood (where Haus is located) on May 6th. We're going to take this opportunity to have a closing party. If you'd like to participate in the Wine Walk, you can purchase a special wine glass for $20 and you can wander the neighborhood and taste 40 different kinds of wine. For information on this event, visit In Fine Spirit's website.

The previous post is my artist's statement for this show.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Soda, Clay and Fire: a new book on soda firing

It is finally here, Gail Nichols' new book on soda glazing: Soda, Clay and Fire. This book is based on her research from her PhD in Material Science on Soda Firing at Monash University (Australia). I just got my copy from Amazon (click on link to order)- so I don't feel like I can actually review it yet. But I wanted to share with you that it is finally out in print. There is still so little information published on soda firing/ glazing- this literally doubles the number of books published exclusively on the topic.



Also, in my neglect of my blog recently, I have not mentioned on here that 500 Pitchers came out in the spring. I was lucky enough to get another 2 images published in the latest publication from Lark Book's 500 series.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Study of Continental Clay Bodies

I have recently done a little study of the high fire clay bodies from Continental Clay in Minneapolis. I made teabowls out of each of the clay bodies, and fired one in c. 10 reduction and one in soda (also c. 10 reduction). They are both glazed in a luster shino glaze which shows off the differences in the clay bodies beautifully. The c. 10 pots are glazed both inside and out with the shino glaze (left). The soda pots are glazed on the inside, and on the rim (right). There are 9 clays that I tested in total- so keep scrolling down... Enjoy!
**be sure to click on the images to see a much larger image and really see the details.**

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Soda Firing Workshop with Emily Murphy

Soda Firing Workshop

with Emily Murphy

Interested in soda firing?

This workshop is the whole soda firing process packed into
one weekend at Lillstreet Art Center.

This workshop is for intermediate and advanced students, amateur potters, and professional ceramic artists who want to have an introduction to soda firing or to expand their soda firing knowledge. Workshop students will learn how to load the soda kiln: no kiln loading experience necessary!

Soda firing is an atmospheric firing that produces flashes of color, a textured orange peel surface, and reacts in a variety of ways with different slips, glazes and clay bodies. The “soda” in soda firing is a combination of baking soda and soda ash. The soda mixture is introduced into the kiln near the end of the firing. The soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln. Wherever the flame travels, the soda travels and reacts with the pieces in the kiln to create a glazed or flashed surface.

Come to the workshop with an assortment of bisqued pieces. Variety is best. Please come with 6 – 10 pieces. You’re not guaranteed to get every piece into the kiln, but we’ll try to get in at least 6 pieces, depending on size. The more variety of forms, sizes, shapes and clay bodies, the better for loading! The clay must be rated to
Δ10. If you’d like to purchase some of Lillstreet’s special soda clay body ahead of time, you can make arrangements for that. You will be contacted via email prior to the workshop with suggestions of commercially available clay bodies, as well as some slip recipes that you can mix to use on your greenware.

Friday, April 21, 11am-6pm
We will meet to get an introduction to soda firing, glaze, slip and wad pieces. When the pieces are glazed, we will load the soda kiln with everyone’s work.

Saturday, April 22, 5-7pm

Saturday is firing day. This timing is approximate- we will be mixing up the soda and putting it into the kiln around this time (Δ9).

Monday, April 24, 3-6:30pm
Unloading time! We’ll unload the kiln and examine our results from the soda kiln.


Lillstreet Members $135 / Nonmembers $140
Soda Firing lab fee: $30


To sign up for this workshop, go online to lillstreet.com, or call: 773.769.4226

For more information about the workshop, or to learn more about Emily’s work,
please visit: sodafired.com or email: emily@sodafired.com


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Monday, January 16, 2006

What is soda firing?

This post is part of a handout that I give to my soda firing students at Lillstreet Art Center. It is an attempt to explain a little bit about the history of soda firing, and tries to help answer the question, "what is soda firing?". It is not the full story, but I hope that you find it helpful.

Soda firing is an atmospheric firing technique where “soda” is introduced into the kiln near top temperature (2350°, ∆10). The soda that we use is: sodium bi-carbonate, also know as baking soda (the Arm and Hammer™ kind), and sodium carbonate, which is also known as soda ash.

“Soda ash is the trade name for sodium carbonate, a chemical refined from the mineral trona or sodium-carbonate-bearing brines (both referred to as "natural soda ash") or manufactured from one of several chemical processes (referred to as "synthetic soda ash"). It is an essential raw material in glass, chemicals, detergents, and other important industrial products.”
USGS

The soda vaporizes and is carried on the flame throughout the kiln. The soda vapors create a glaze when it lands on a piece (or a kiln post, or the wall of the kiln). Wherever the flame travels- so does the soda. When placing the pieces in the kiln during loading, you have to think carefully about when and where you want a piece to get lots of soda, or when and where you want a piece to be more protected. The kiln must be evenly loaded because the flame will travel on the path of least resistance (and therefore the soda will also be traveling on the path of least resistance). You also have to think about whether or not the piece is glazed. The soda is basically a glaze, and when two glazes mix, they can react chemically with one another and run down the side of the piece. It’s beautiful when you can control the run- but can be disastrous when it gets away from you!

What is the history of soda? Where did it come from?

The predecessor of the modern day soda firing, is salt firing. It is believed that salt firing began in Germany in the 13th century. As many things go, it was most likely come upon by accident. Perhaps some salt soaked wood (from pickling barrels?) was tossed into the kiln for the wood fuel. The salt vaporized and glazed the pieces inside the kiln. It was a great time saving measure. No need to glaze the pieces before they went into the kiln. Old German jugs were salt glazed, along with tankards and sewer pipes. The pieces that we think of as early American traditional ceramics from the southwest corner of the US were also salt glazed. Can you picture a big whiskey jug with cobalt blue decoration on it? Those were salt fired. The process that I’m talking about is wood firing with salt thrown in. The salt easily glosses up a piece and helps the wood ash flux out. Salt vaporizes at a fairly low temperature and can work its way into all sorts of nooks and crannies. In a salt firing, the salt vaporizes and the sodium chloride splits into sodium and chlorine gas. When the chlorine is exposed to moisture, it forms hydrochloric acid. The acid goes into the kiln atmosphere and is released from the chimney. The remaining sodium combines with alumina and silica in the clay to forming a glaze on the surface of the piece.

Although the previous paragraph doesn’t help sort out what soda firing is, it does give some important background information. Salt firing continued to be a technique used by potters up through the 1970’s (and is still is used as a firing method today). In the 70’s as people became more aware of the environment, they realized that the black smoke and hydrochloric acid wasn’t such a great idea. A couple of graduate students from Alfred University, NY studied sodium alternatives to salt firings, hoping to find something that was more environmentally friendly, and maybe even something that could happen in an urban environment.

The results were soda ash and baking soda. They produce carbon dioxide instead of hydrochloric acid. The soda doesn’t get into all the nooks and crannies like the salt does, but it does produce brighter and more vivid colors. Pots are usually glazed with an interior or “liner glaze” because the soda vapors won’t work their way into those hard to reach places. You can achieve a rich glossy surface that is heavy with soda, or a pebbled surface that is also referred to as an “orange peel” texture. This is often juxtaposed with a “drier” area of the clay that wasn’t hit directly with the soda. It’s all of these varied surfaces together that make up the rich look and feel of a soda fired pot. 30 years ago, when soda firing first began, most ceramicists were just trying to mimic the effects of salt firing. In the last 5 years that has changed. The true characteristics of soda firing are unique and are something to explore and achieve.

The soda vapors aren’t actually colored, but they are reacting with the alumina, silica and iron in the clay (and slips) to create the various colors of flashing, and associated textures. The resulting colors can be a range of oranges with yellow and red tones, to rich browns, golds and tans. If there is some copper in the kiln, there can be pink blushing. Or a cobalt glaze on a piece can cause a blue twinge to the soda. Sometimes the carbon from the firing can add a gray hue that can look like shark skin on porcelain.


So perhaps now you know a little bit more about soda firing.


I've included the recipe that I use for my soda firings below.

My soda recipe: (a variation on Gail Nichol's process)
2 lbs. soda ash
3.5 lbs. sodium bi-carb
5.5 lbs. whiting (calcium carbonate)
Mixed with ½ of a 5 gal. bucket of wood chips, and water

*mix the dry stuff with the wood chips, and then add COLD water. Just enough so it sticks together. It should have a consistancy similar to oatmeal cookie dough or tunafish salad.

-Add soda into kiln when ∆9 is soft. Add 1 ½ angle irons full of soda mixture through each port. Wait 15 minutes between additions. Usually takes 3 turns to add in all of the soda.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Mark of the Flame

Throughout the Spring session at Lillstreet Art Center, my Advanced Topics in Soda Firing class worked on putting together an exhibition of their work- from developing the idea of the show, to producing the work. I'm really excited about the direction this project has taken. The results can be seen at the opening of the exhibition on July 16. Please see below for more information.

The idea of the exhibition is that each set or series of pieces was designed and placed in the kiln to intentionally mark the surface with the pattern and shadow of the flame. All the pieces are fired in the soda kiln, where the soda vapors are being carried with the flame. The results of this are some really exciting pieces that tell the story of how they were made. Photographs of the pieces in the kiln (like the ones seen below) will accompany the displayed ceramics. Please click on image to see it larger-and to read all the details.


The opening reception is Saturday, July 16th at Lillstreet's Gallery in Chicago. There are several openings happening at the same time- it should be quite an event! If you need directions- please click here.
I hope to see you there!

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Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Soda Fired" Mug

This is the sort of mug that I think of when I think about what a soda fired mug is. Warm, rich coloration from the flashing. Orange peel texture built up on the high points.



This is also a soda fired mug:

John Norris has come up with this hilarious idea. It's a standard, industrial produced mug with the IMAGE of soda firing wrapped around it. It's the "perfect" soda mug.

I enjoy the cleverness of this, but it also helps remind me what I'm doing making handmade pots in a world of industrial pots. Making something that is beautiful in surface and form; designing a form that is not only visually pleasing, but ergonomic. And perhaps most importantly, making a human connection between the maker and the user.

I came upon this essay, "Potters, the Values of Craftsman, and Living True to Self" by Nathaniel Pearlman on his blog: Political Mammal, and I encourage you to read it. It puts into words another reason why potters make.

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