Barium carbonate has long been used as an ingredient in high-fire glazes, sometimes conferring unique properties upon glazes. One of the alkaline earth carbonates, it has also been used as rat poison (large doses can be toxic to humans as well). Glazes containing it ought to be checked for barium leaching if they are intended to hold food or drink, or reserved for surfaces that do not come into contact with food. It is not my intent to present the research on barium toxicity here, but to present a course of action for replacing it in glazes.
One of the more fascinating, sometimes frustrating parts of ceramics is learning to balance the innumerable factors that affect the outcome of a firing. Glaze ingredients, the clay body used, firing cycles, atmospheres, kiln-stacking techniques and geography (to name a few variables) can all affect firing results.
My studio is located behind my house in Saratoga Springs. Both structures were built in 1892, and the studio originally served as separate living quarters. It is a very bright south-facing building, but is a pretty small space, measuring about 500 square feet, so all of my firing is done off-site. During the summer I work both inside and outside, and in winter I finish some of my fired work in the basement of the main house.
Focus: Pots and Function
Several potters included in the 2009 Strictly Functional Pottery National discuss their pieces in the exhibition-from teapots to egg trays, from the kitchen to the living room, from concept to execution-and the qualities necessary to make those pieces successful. Function can mean different things to different people, and these potters all bring something insightful to the table.
I value the time it takes to throw each cup and the variation found in
each cup. The work hints more at a practice than a final object. Beyond
that, the cups need to hold liquid of some sort—preferably whiskey.
The addition of a lid or cover on a form adds additional complexity to
the making and the composition of both form and surface that I find
challenging. The covered form allows for play in scale of form and
surface treatments as well.
I am fascinated by the ideas of intended use and actual use. My
intention is to celebrate handmade utilitarian work on two different
levels, both as symbolic objects that affect our lives on a purely
visual level and as objects intended for use.
If I make a piece for function, then it needs to work. Although, I
think that if your main focus is function then a lot of times you leave
little to no room for creativity, which is my first priority in making
I have more questions to ask than to answer, particularly about the
various meanings of function. Is there a distinction between function
and utility? Do we use the word functional when we mean to say
tableware? Is function inextricably linked to food? Is containment an
essential parameter for function? There aren’t necessarily answers; I
am more interested in the conversation.
I think it is important for the pot to clearly speak of function, but I
am not concerned with what the user ultimately puts in it. I did have
in mind the ceremony of preparing, serving, and eating food while
making this piece. For me, the daily ritual of eating and the aspects
involved in getting ready to eat, such as grocery shopping or
gardening, are tied together with making pots.