Saturday, September 03, 2011

On Show

The brand-new Beit Benyamini Ceramics Center has a shelf of my recent saltglaze pots on display for the next few weeks; it's a great facility,and well worth a visit,especially to see the long-awaited exhibition of the late Maud Freidland's pots. A click on the title should get you to the site- the center is in south Tel Aviv between Florentin and Yaffo. This is the text I wrote to accompany the pots:

Salt-glazing is a technique that was used widely in Europe from the 15th century,starting in Germany,spreading to Britain and France and later to the United States and Japan. It was used for industrial and domestic wares,only declining in popularity with clean air legislation in the last century,the banishing of potteries from city centers and the advent of plastic.
Born in England to German refugee parents,there must have been some residual salt in my blood-stream; the technique has always intrigued me,and the contemporary salt- and soda-glazing potters have been a strong influence and inspiration [some of you might have noticed how many of them were guests in the early days of the Tel Hai Pottery Symposium].
I built a small catenary-arch gas-fired salt kiln in Tsfat nine years ago;I later rebuilt it at the Rosenstones’ studio in Yesod HaMaala,where Sydney and I fired it around 30 times. The pots on display here were fired at a similar kiln built a few years ago by a student at Tel Hai.
The pots are covered in silica-rich slips,coloured with either cobalt [blue] or iron [ochre/brown] and bisc-fired to speed up the salt-firing cycle. Coarse salt,wrapped in newspaper and dampened,is thrown into the kiln over the flame-path of the two gas burners starting at 1250º and continuing until rings drawn from the kiln show sufficient glaze has developed and the kiln has reached 1300- 1320º.The glaze and characteristic ‘orange-peel’ surface is formed by the interaction of sodium from the salt with silica in the slips and clay.Currently the kiln needs 7 kilos of salt in 1/2 kilo doses,and the firing lasts for 9-10 hours.
Each different type of kiln and firing suggests to me a different style of making- the pots I make for my reduction gas firings are not the same as those for crystalline/electric,anagama or salt. Salt firing brings out relief patterns,so most of the cups and bowls on display here were built from slabs,to enable me to use deep wood-block stamps and wire-cuts,and then finished and shaped on the wheel after assembly. The glazes and slips are food-safe and lead-free,oven- but not flame-proof; they are dish-washer-safe [although I prefer my pots to be washed by hand!] and are made to be used.


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