October 6, 2023

Exploring the Composition and Creation of Pottery Glaze

Discover the ingredients that comprise pottery glaze recipes. Learn how clay, fluxes, stabilizers, and opacifiers combine to create dazzling glaze effects.

Mixing glazes

Pottery glazes - an enchanting mix of various components that form vibrant colors and mesmerizing effects when combined correctly. These combinations result in glass-like coatings that are equally admired for their aesthetic appeal and practical use. Here, we delve into the intricate world of glaze components and illustrate how a mastery of glaze recipes can provide potters with unparalleled creative control.

Key Ingredients of Glaze and Their Roles

While glaze recipes can exhibit significant variation, certain fundamental components are consistent. They harmonize to achieve the glaze's overall structure and appearance:

  • Clay: Clay provides the alumina and silica necessary to form the glass structure. Commonly used clays include kaolin and ball clays.
  • Flux: Flux acts as a melting agent, lowering the temperature required for the glaze to flow and fuse. This can include substances like feldspar, calcium, and boron.
  • Stabilizer: Stabilizers prevent leaching and enhance glaze fit. Commonly used stabilizers include zinc, tin, and alumina.
  • Opacifier: Opacifiers contribute opacity and whiteness to the glaze. These can include titanium, zirconium, and tin.
  • Colorant: Colorants introduce color to the glaze. This is usually achieved through the use of oxides or stains like cobalt, copper, iron, and chrome.

Striking a Balance: Glaze Chemistry

A successful glaze requires a careful balancing of these ingredients to produce a stable, vitreous coating:

  • Flux allows the glaze to melt and flow onto the clay body.
  • Clay and alumina contribute to the structural integrity of the glaze.
  • Stabilizers aid in vitrification at the correct temperature.
  • Opacifiers provide a backdrop for color and help to achieve a white glaze.
  • Colorants introduce various hues through oxides.

Master potters meticulously adjust these ratios, conducting numerous experiments with test tiles to perfect the balance.

Base Glaze Recipes

Base glaze recipes contain only the essential glass-forming ingredients. Colors and special effects are added later in the process. Here are some basic recipes for different cone firings:

  • Cone 6 Oxidation Base
  • 25% Kaolin
  • 25% Ball clay
  • 25% Silica
  • 25% Feldspar
  • Cone 10 Oxidation Base
  • 20% Kaolin
  • 15% Ball clay
  • 10% Silica
  • 40% Feldspar
  • 10% Whiting
  • 5% Zinc oxide

Creating Glaze Recipes from Scratch

Creating an entirely new glaze recipe requires an intuitive understanding of the roles of the ingredients and the chemistry involved:

  • Clay ingredients offer vital fluxes, particularly potassium, calcium, and sodium.
  • Fluxes work synergistically to reduce the melting temperature and facilitate fusion.
  • Alumina thickens and stabilizes the glaze.
  • Opacifiers render the glaze a white canvas for the introduction of colors.

Formulating food-safe, functional glazes that are suitable for firing demands comprehensive testing. Mastering glaze chemistry is indeed a lifelong pursuit.

Recipe Modification

Experienced potters often enjoy getting creative by tweaking known, reliable recipes:

  • Alter clay to flux ratios to adjust melting temperature.
  • Introduce a new flux, such as dolomite or lithium, to improve flow.
  • Substitute whiting with tin or zircopax to increase opacity.
  • Use ball clay instead of kaolin to enhance glaze fit.
  • Introduce color by adding oxide stains in small percentages.

Even minor changes can significantly influence glaze results, making rigorous documentation crucial.

Testing New Glazes

No glaze should be directly applied to your finest ware without thorough testing:

  • Test compatibility with your clay bodies.
  • Fire at multiple temperatures to identify the glaze's maturity point.
  • Adjust and re-test the recipe until the desired results are achieved.
  • Look for potential defects such as crazing or shivering.
  • Check for application flaws like crawling or pinholes.
  • You apply the new glaze to production work only once you achieve consistent results.

Storing and Mixing Glazes

When storing and mixing your glaze batches, always follow the best practices:

  • Store glaze materials in airtight containers, away from moisture.
  • Always wear PPE, like masks and gloves, when handling dry materials.
  • Measure ingredients meticulously, following the recipe.
  • Mix dry ingredients thoroughly before adding water.
  • Only mix as much glaze as you will use to avoid waste.
  • If you have leftovers, store the mixed glazes in airtight containers.

Understanding the roles of each ingredient and how they interact is essential for true recipe mastery. A world of discovery and limitless creativity awaits in the mesmerizing realm of glaze chemistry.

Get our email when new blog posts go live

Recent posts

Browse all posts