An artist or someone with exceptional analytical abilities may distinct between the different elements from which the pieces are made.
My mother was a very talented self-taught painting artist. At one stage she was commissioned to paint an elephant. This elephant oil painting hung for many years in the entrance of the old Success Corresponding College in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her compensation for her work came in the form of a book about Michael Angelo. Maybe Angelo's beautiful sculptures, along with the sculpted landscapes in Namibia where I was raised, triggered my interest in pottery.
When Koos and I got married there were people trading factory rejects for second hand clothes in our neighborhoods.
As a newlywed, Koos and I were dirt poor. Both of us were raised in simplified, less sophisticated households, so the “pottery” that I bought at the time was very far from the real thing, but rather cheap replicas from molds. As my exposure to pottery grew, my knowledge and taste developed too.
These days I can glaze from a 2 oz. container with ease. Some knowledge and practice is needed to become successful with glazing, but at the time I made a very poor choice to buy 12 glazes. As it is, clay and glaze chemistry can be very confusing for young beginner potters, therefore it is better to get to know and understand one component of pottery and one material at a time.
It took me 6 years of experience into my clay career before I was thrown into the deep end to mix up my own glazes. I bought a pottery factory and had to work with the glazes used for the products. Was it not for one of the workers that was the glaze expert in the factory, I would never have gone further than commercial glazes.
At the time I had to re learn all the names and the behavior of the raw materials available in the USA, since many of the raw materials goes under brand names that was new to me and also because there are many that was not available in South Africa.
On the other hand, there are many potters that obtain existing recipes from books and from the internet. It is up to 5 times cheaper to use your own mixed glazes, but this option is not without its challenges. What appears to be a nice successful glaze for one potter, may be completely unsuccessful and ugly for a next potter. It is also possible that the glaze may turn out beautiful, but does not fit a specific clay body. It may be too soft or too toxic for the purpose it is needed for. This can especially be troublesome for kitchenware.
In all the above mentioned situations it is harder to be individualistic when the color pallet or specific glaze recipes are used by hundreds of potters. Therefor it is advisable that potters must have a clear understanding of the basics of glazes. It is good to know what causes crazing or shivering, dunting, crawling, scrumming, pitting and pin holing of glazes and how to fix these glaze problems.
When glazes are difficult to apply, it is good to understand the why and how to fix those problems. There are few things so discouraging as to struggle with a glaze, just to take the fired product from the kiln and the results is unsatisfactory. Glazes that settles into a rock in the bottom of a glaze bucket can be altered by the addition of glaze suspenders. Glazes that are too thin, or pudding like can all be altered to work well.
One of the big issues that porcelain artists, particularly those who do my porcelain hands-on or online workshops, run into as they learn to push the limits of porcelain, is the thin walls that will become saturated with water before the glaze can adhere sufficiently to the clay during glazing. There are a few alternative options to ensure the successful glazing of thin porcelain. One option is to spray glaze the work. Other options are to brush glazes on and a third option is to create a glaze that have less water, but is liquid enough to allow for it to be dipped. The key is to make the glaze thixotropic. For that a clear understanding of glaze additives are needed.
Place the cursor on images below to see the glazing method.
I will, with time provide you with more tips to use glazes to become very unique and individualistic in your decorating with glazes. Even the most used commercial glazes can be used in a unique way.
If you want a shortcut and learn all these techniques at once, over a period of 10 weeks, you may find it worth while to sign up for Glazing made Easy, an online workshop that Koos and I compiled and that can be studied from any place in the world as long as you can watch videos.