Thursday, March 7, 2013

So, Who Died and Made Cone 10 King?

When I was a graduate student, there was a kind of snobbery in academic circles about ^6. It was thought of as a thing you pursued only if you had no access to a gas kiln, a kind of fake stoneware. As recently as 10 years ago, when I bought the Watershed Glaze Book, it included earthenware glaze recipes, and ^9-10 recipes, but no ^6.

Cone 6, and thinking in the ceramic world, have come a long way. The days when ^6 necessarily meant oxidation are over, too.

Now I can look at potters like Mark Knott, Steven Hill and Julia Galloway, all firing to ^6, and it looks to me like this lower temperature can be every bit as subtle and compelling as ^10. We've long known that ^6 stoneware is just as durable. Since 30% of the fuel is consumed in the last 100 degrees of the firing, it leaves me with a question: why are we still firing to ^10?

Or at least, why am I?

An ancillary question is, how did ^10 become the standard in the first place? Who died and made ^10 king? Keeping in mind that I am just speculating (not to say "making shit up") but I imagine that, in those regions where stoneware is the naturally occurring clay, before the introduction of oil, propane, and natural gas, wood was the only available fuel that could create a sufficiently high firing to mature the body. And what do you get with wood? Why ash, of course! And wood ash below ^10 is lumpy and gritty - not the most utilitarian surface. (Crusty ash can be beautiful - don't take me wrong!) So any glazes would have been formulated to be compatible with the melting temperature of the ash. Make sense so far? And now we have this long and venerable history, not to mention about a bajillion favorite glazes, in ^10.

But it's just as easy now to make a body that matures at ^6, and just as easy to mix up glazes...it's just the long and arduous task of conversion.

That's where I come in. I've launched a Kickstarter project. to develop a new line of pottery  - which will very much resemble my old line, but fire to ^6. and because I am a ceramic educator as well as a potter, I will be sharing my process and glaze recipes with student, workshop participant, and - of course! - with readers of this blog. The bummer is all the test glazes, pieces, firings that will likely not produce any salable work for months. And the expense!

That's where you come in. I know many of my readers are other potters, who probably have no more money than I do, but if you can support the project, I'd greatly appreciate it. I am not exaggerating when I say even a pledge of $1 helps. If you can share it with other people who might be interested, that would be awesome also. Thanks for any help you can give, and watch here for details of the project as they emerge.
Thank you.
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