Course outline: we will develop the skills and knowledge necessary to work with percentage and unity formulas so that the glazes can be analyzed, compared, altered, new glazes formulated, and glaze faults identified and corrected. The characteristics and choice of raw materials and their role will be studied using line blends and other testing methods to create various effects mindful of health and safety issues.
We meet with Michael again. He has already prepared us for this week when he was teaching us hand-building. He told us it was going to be a very difficult and intense week. The tone is set. Our class has mixed feelings about it. Some are really excited and can’t wait to learn more about the glazes, the technology and the chemistry behind it all. Others just want blue out of a bucket and don’t necessarily want to know how it got to be that colour. We have to work in teams, and I am partnered with Ruth. This has some advantage and some disadvantage. The advantage for me is that she is really into it, and wants to know every little tiny bit there is, chemistry wise & technology wise. She is eager to learn, to investigate and to do research and she understands most of it. The disadvantage is that she wants to know EVERYTHING about it. I don’t share her enthousiasm. Fluxes, stabilizers, I am not really interested. Obviously she doesn’t have an advantage of having me as a partner.
I am also not having a good week, because someone who I felt really close to passed away this weekend and now I want to be at home. Where everybody knows me and where I can talk about how I feel. So if we get green, purple or blue, I don’t really care.
I am lucky that I know a bit about computers, now at least I don’t feel so overwhelmed by the program (Insight) we have to use. Michael is very excited about it all and he has a lot of knowledge about the subject. He loses my attention in the first 5 minutes, but then, I didn’t really give him a chance. It reminds me a bit of at home where Gary, one of the people in our guild, patiently explains about opacifiers and glass formers.
We do line blends and colour respond tests. We get crowded in the glaze room and dust up a storm. I am the only one with a proper mask, and feel that the school should have required from all of us to have one. The flimsy white ones don’t help much, and some people are already not wearing them. The glaze room is also connected with our studio without a door, so the glazes settle in the studio as well as in the glaze room. Not that healthy. After we have all finally done our test we all get to pick our dream glaze and have to find the right recipe. If you find a nice one right away, Michael will adjust it so it is not perfect anymore and you have to fix it. We start working on the computer and the program sort of does it all. Ruth is typing away putting in one test after the other, and I am reading her the amounts of silica, frit and nephsy we should use.
I understand the idea behind it., but our first crackle glaze turns out very nicely and after testing 8 more, the end result is that #1 was the nicest. Some of my classmates are very upset. 3 days later the supposedly red glaze is still god awful brown and the nice turquoise transparent glaze is not very transparent and they are staring at the scale, wondering why this is happening. They feel stuck and frustrated and don’t really know what they’re doing. Others are happy as a clam. They are adjusting chemicals, reading up on stabilizers and find out why some fluxes work better than others. Our class is split in half for the first time and when our week is over, we have some happy, some confused, some frustrated & some indifferent students.
Me, I just want to go home, crawl into bed and cry for a while. I miss home and I don’t care which colour my uneven bowls will turn.