Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Doing Some Homework...

One area I’ve been meaning to read more about is the Chemistry side of ceramics. Of course it’s perfectly possible to be a potter all your life using all sorts of different clays and glazes without ever needing to know what they’re actually made up of. But that’s not how I do things! I’m one of those analytical creatives who like to know the nitty gritty details of where the materials come from, what they’re called and how they work together. So to brush up on my Chemistry homework, I recently popped into my local library and booked out a rather formidable looking AS level textbook…

It took me a few evenings to read through and gave me quite a lot of head scratching. But once I got past the scientific/robotic language and reassured myself no one was actually going to test me on this (!) I started to get more of an understanding of things. There was even a chapter dedicated to oxidation and reduction featuring pottery kilns as an example, which made me feel justified in making the effort.

Once I got through it, my next point of call was my copy of ‘Minerals, Rocks and Fossils’ published by Philip’s. I’ve had this on my shelf for ten years now and whenever I’ve tried to read it I couldn’t quite get my head around it. It’s full of chemical formulas, geological language and pictures of pretty rocks in crystal form. This time though it all made sense! In fact it read like a natural progression from the Chemistry book and now the poor thing is covered in post-it notes and scribblings about minerals with particular colour properties.

Getting this background information and putting a context to the chemical side of ceramics has cleared-up a lot of vague fuzziness in my head. I feel much more confidant about what the ingredients in a glaze actually are, instead of just taking the names written in a glaze recipe book for granted. I’ve still got more reading to do though before I can start doing some experiments of my own: but it just goes to show that doing a bit of homework really does pay off!

Here are some links to books I was using:

Minerals, Rocks and Fossils (Philip's)

The Glaze Book: A Visual Catalogue... (Stephen Murfitt)


  1. Hee hee..! I do think it is good to challenge oneself once in a while, keep the brain cells active :-} I have a few books like that on my self gathering dust.

    HUGS Lorraine

    1. Thanks Lorraine - not just me then...!