On His Art
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My interest in the teaching process is selfish. At the age of seventeen or eighteen, I wanted to be an artist. From that time on I've concentrated most of my energy into developing skills, techniques and knowledge to use in the production of my art objects. In essence I have become my own work. Much of the knowledge I've achieved has not been verbalized; but some of it has been objectively produced into a style of ceramic sculpture which attracts attention from other people who inevitably demand a verbal explanation. I equate the successful explanation of my sculpture plus the explanation of the process by which it is made to equal my ability to teach ceramics. The imagery of my style is considered to be a refreshing alternative to production pottery and classical functional ceramic forms. An opportunity is presented to create a personal visual narrative using a tactile vocabulary in clay starting with abstraction, moving through textured patterns towards a motif that is personified, characterized, and finalized with a molded anatomical personality, all existing within a single unit of ceramic sculpture. To arrive at this point I have refined or invented various building techniques and tool assemblages which properly shared with students may improve the quality of handmade ceramics from that of craft to fine art in this century which is my long time personal goal.
To balance the complex imagery I've researched glaze composition. Glazes and glass represent a very separate discipline that must be united to the finalized clay form by means of extreme heat or firing within a kiln chamber over relatively long periods of time. The development of glaze and glass colors involves continuous experimentation into applied chemistry. Using atomic and molecular theory and molecular weights of the various inorganic raw materials which are combined to form clays, glazes and glass; a person can calculate a formula for a glaze which will melt within a specific time/temperature range and fit onto the clay object to which it was applied with predictable results. Invented around 1900 and referred to as the Segar Method, this theory allows the glaze maker to see the relationship of the (12-16) fluid elements in glaze recipe (the flux) compared to the more refractory elements, alumina (matrix former or nitrates) and silicon (the glass former). From this technique, limit formulas have been suggested which state the quantity of flux necessary to melt a quantity of silicon in the presence of alumina at each temperature range. With insight and practice one learns that certain combinations of flux produce a wide variety of colors when small amounts of metallic oxide, termed, colorants are added and the glaze melted. Color changes are found at each increase in temperature and also dependent upon the amount of oxygen or carbon that is present within the firing chamber atmosphere while the glaze is melting. Different studio glazes that I've used have melted as low as 900° and as high as 2500°. Since individual glazes are useful only between a span of 50°-100° of their melting point, it is critical to know proper glaze formulation. A survey of raw materials used in glaze making and clay body formulation will link ceramic study with geology. Recognition of geological time in creating the clays, Feldspars, silicates, metallic oxides, and the variations from strata to strata within each deposit of each material will offer another reason for continuous application of the Segar method of calculation. Although one may use the same recipe for a claybody or a glaze, there is constant change which should be accounted for by additions or substitutions of ingredients supplied by different sources.
After all the building techniques, modeling the plastic clay and controlling the image of the sculpture; after all the calculations, preparing glazes, testing glazes and meticulous application of glaze to sculpture; there remains the test of firing. Each object is subjected to this unique, remote controlled transformation by intense temperatures where the clay body is vitrified and the glaze melted and fused to the clay body. The experience of being alone with a kiln loaded with months of prepared objects bathing in over a million B.T.V. of heat per hour for six or ten hours or longer to arrive at Cone 10 or 2400° is indeed a most strange finishing touch to an object of fine art. Each firing is unique and demands . . ..