A Course in Ceramic Materials for the Studio Potter

Mimi Obstler’s Out of the Earth, Into the Fire studies glazes by examining the connection between the ceramic raw materials and the surface of a ceramic form. This book presents a twofold approach to the study of claybodies and glazes that is both empirical and historical in nature. It is empirical because it seeks to create and understand ceramic surfaces in terms of a hands-on experience with the primary minerals of our earth. It follows a historical approach in its focus on a single mineral as the core of the glaze or the clay body. Since only hands-on testing produces the information needed to really understand ceramic materials, this book is one of the most valuable resources for potters who want to develop a true mastery of their materials.

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Hardcover | 319 Pages | Order code G049 | ISBN 978-1-57498-078-3

 

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Learning about materials

The approach used in the book does not deny the validity of more technologically advanced methods. Obstler maintains that computer glaze software provides valuable information after the potter is familiar with the working properties of the ceramic materials of a glaze. In Out of the Earth, Into the Fire, glaze calculation techniques are viewed as useful diagnostic tools for the solution of glaze and clay body problems or substitutions, rather than as an essential means for the creation or understanding of ceramic surfaces. The four chapters in the the book exhaustively cover the materials you need for a good understanding of each topic.

   

Glaze cores

Chapter 1 discusses glaze cores such as feldspars and rocks, and also includes lithium glaze cores, volcanic ash glaze cores and rotten stone. Obstler concludes this and subsequent chapters with labs delineating specific tests you can run and what to observe. This testing is key to understanding how all these materials react when fired.

   

Clays and clay bodies

In Chapter 2, Clays and Clay bodies, you’ll discover the unique characteristics of different types of clays: kaolins, ball clays, stoneware, fireclays, and iron-rich clays. Obstler maintains that if pottery is to thrive, we must understand the nature of clays, and she provides ample information. Each type of clay is discussed including the characteristics, its clay body function, and its glaze function. Labs at the end guide you through exercises to help you gain a deeper knowledge of this critical ingredient.

   

Auxillary melters

Chapter 3 discusses auxiliary melters—materials added to the glaze-core to help it achieve a greater melt and fusion. There are many different kinds of melters, but at stoneware temperatures, it is the limestone or calcium-based melters that are most important for stoneware glazes. The internal oxide structure of limestone is mostly calcium carbonate so whiting, wollastonite, dolomite, gerstley borate and colemanite receive primary attention. Labs are included for whiting, wollastonite, wood ash, bone ash, fluorspar, boric oxide, and magnesium oxide.

   

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Silica and alumina

Rounding out the critical components are the auxiliary silica and alumina minerals discussed in Chapter 4. In discussing silica, Obstler touches on the qualities it lends to a glaze: hardness, glassmaker, crystalline formation and the effect on fluidity and melt. Alumina posseses many unique properties as well and these are covered in depth. Labs at the end of the chapter lead you through tests for flint, ball clay and kaolin.

   
 

 

And much more . . .

Obstler includes scores of recipes and images of fired examples in low, mid-range and high fire work. The emphasis of Out of the Earth, Into the Fire is on what makes a glaze and how all the components work together. The book can be used as a course book and followed systematically from beginning to end, or as an invaluable reference book to explore any single element.

 

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