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Emerging Artist 2012: Christopher Melia – Denton, Texas

Lidded serving bowl, 9 in. (23 cm) in height, thrown porcelain, soda fired to cone 10.

CM: With precise, controlled functional forms like yours, how do you use a relatively spontaneous glazing and firing process to compliment those forms?


CM: I submit my work to an atmospheric environment in a cross-draft soda kiln and allow the soda to gently enhance my glazes. I’ve carefully formulated matte glazes with specific colorants that, when fluxed by soda fumes, become rich and glossy. This creates soft transitional effects across the surface that enhance the form’s subtle changes. 


Placement of each piece is crucial to achieving this effect. Considering the path of the soda fumes through the kiln, I mindfully position my forms and glazes to best capture the soda-glaze interaction.


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Spaghetti jar, 12½ in. (32 cm) in height, thrown porcelain, soda fired to cone 10, 2011.

I exercise control where I am able: the forms, the glazes, the placement, and to a degree, the firing process. I closely monitor the reduction/oxidation atmosphere and the temperature throughout the kiln. I methodically spray a precise amount of soda at a given temperature and allow it to soak for a specified amount of time. 


This controlled creation process works with the relative unpredictability—or “spontaneity”—of an atmospheric firing. It allows each piece a blush of soda while still maintaining a soft, subtle feel consistent with my forms.