As a biologist by training, I am fascinated by both with the natural world and the attempts to recreate nature in the laboratory. Working with crystalline glaze allows me to combine art with my love of science. Crystalline glazes utilize specific chemistry and firing conditions to allow for the growth of crystals within the glaze. The zinc silicate crystals that form within the glaze are quite similar to the naturally occurring mineral willemite.
My work begins on the potters wheel and is primarily made of porcelain. Simple elegant forms are best to showcase the crystals. After an initial bisque firing, crystalline glaze is applied and the works are fired to approximately 2350F in an electric kiln. After reaching peak temperature, the kiln is cooled by a few hundred degrees to a range of temperatures where crystal growth occurs. These temperatures are maintained for 4-8 hours. By intentionally fluctuating the temperature, different effects can be created in the glaze. The crystal formation and growth cannot be exactly duplicated from piece to piece, so each item is unique.
In order for crystals to grow during the firing process, the glaze must be very fluid while molten. So much so that the glaze runs off the pot. This requires that each piece have a matching pedestal and catch plate to contain the run off glaze. After firing, the pedestal is removed and the bottom of the pot is ground smooth.
I mix my own glazes using formulas that I have optimized for my clay and firing process. Endless experimentation is possible by making small alterations to the glaze formula and firing temperatures.
Crystalline glazes are a challenging to work with, but the successes redeem the failures.