Dealing with Mutts, Duds and Clunkers, Our Wayward Pottery Children


Mutts.  Duds.  Clunkers.  Everyone has them coming out of the kiln.   What to do with them?  Ceramic pieces are durable goods made from ingredients mined, mostly in third world countries.  As a potter I never forget that and don’t take my choice of medium lightly.  I try to make every piece count.  Not every piece comes out of the kiln the way I want it, in fact, quite the opposite.  Given that they are the product of my hand, heart and energy, AND durable goods, I try to give them the best shot at a long and useful life.  Thus, I am famous for re-fires.  My motto being, “fire it til you like it or it breaks!”

Here are the befores and afters:


Check out the bright blue bowl, the small vessel to it’s left, and the small bowl on the far right. These were my “almost but not quite” keepers.[/caption]

“Almost but not quite” keepers are definitely annoying.  I scrub at them them, hoping against hope that what I’m seeing is something that is some sort of water soluble layer hiding something truly amazing underneath.   But no, I rub furiously at it like an Alladin’s lamp, wishing, just wishing that my tired, filthy and sore body didn’t go through all that work for nothing.   But, with a heavy sigh and heart I realize it just wasn’t meant to be and that glass of wine I reach for is for consolation not congratulations.

That blue bowl- yes, it’s an amazing color blue, for bowling balls, not for bowls.  And those yellow patches where the glaze ran thin, can we just not mention them please?  The little green vessel to its left- that one falls into the “close but no cigar” category.  It’s a pretty glossy green but it was supposed to be satin turquoise blue damn it!  What’s up with that, huh?!  And that poor green bowl to the far right.  Can we talk?  The glaze was so thin the grog showed through.  And can I confess:  I’m sick of green raku glazes.  (or at least I have so many of them at home that I don’t need another new one from a workshop, not to be ungrateful or nothing.)

There were also, not pictured because they are heart breaking, 2 large white stoneware bowls that were complete and utter failures.  One just got a layer of flashing slip, but because it was raining so hard the humidity would not let the poor thing dry.  I tried everything:  I put it in the drying closet, hit it with a heat gun, blotted it with paper towels.  I finally gave up and just stuck it in the shino kiln thinking that maybe it would get visited by the kiln faeries who would wave their wands and turn it into something amazing.  Let’s just say they passed me by or were off that night or grounded by the rain because it came out a matte gray color what I imagine dolphin poop looks like.

The other was a tragedy.  I carefully glazed it for the soda kiln and had what I thought was a real winner on my hands.  Bruce looked at me sheepishly as I stared down at the matte brown and yellow mess in my hands as we unloaded the shino kiln, and confessed that it didn’t fit in the soda so he stuck it in there instead.  What a pal.  So I needed to see if I could work a little magic on those and learn a new trick or 2 while I was at it.

So I reached into my bag of tricks. For the raku pieces, I slapped on some Egyptian Turquoise blue that I got from a Myra Toth workshop at Beatrice Wood in 2008 and got busy.

E voila! As they say in France:

This one is now a winner!  Added a coat of “bowling ball no more” on top!


Still green, but now interesting copper red flashing and turquoise blue and a nice glow.  Toned down the grog feel a bit too:





And my little vessel has more intrigue, depth and texture, especially on the bottom (that you hardly every see, this is my luck again)


So 3 are salvaged, phew!  Big sigh of relief and high fives all around.


Those 2 other bowls?  Why no pictures of before or after?  They fall into the “you win some you lose some” and “once a mess always a mess” categories.  I added my most dependable clear satin cone 6 glaze, “Pauline,” from my days as a student at MSU and fired them in my electric kiln.  All I can say is, the yellow one is less unappealing as the grey one and they are both now pressed into service in my kitchen, where all my problem studio delinquents wind up.  My kitchen cabinets are like a pottery home for wayward children, but they are getting used.

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