As a potter I am interested in those moments when friends, family and even strangers come together to share some time over food and drink. There is an element of ceremony in these events, a vestigial reminder of our tribal past. I try to create a focal point, a vehicle for those moments to occur. Aesthetically, the diverse flora and fungi found in the woods and pastures of my youth are my strongest influence; the soft luminous interior of a water lily cradled by the ragged and weather-beaten leathery exterior. Or the volume of a morel mushroom, hollow, creating structure only with its skin. It is the subtle tensions caused by this juxtaposition of hard and soft, smooth and rough, interior/exterior that I love to explore.
I prefer to "soda fire" my work as it allows for originality with each pot and is an endless source of exploration for me. At around 2200 degrees fahrenheit, I spray dissolved soda ash (sodium carbonate) into the kiln. The ressulting vapor moves throughout the kiln to both flux and create glazed surfaces on my work. Due to this approach I am forced to relinquish control on some level and each piece becomes its own by virtue of location in the kiln and the path the vapor takes. Like all of us no two pieces are ever alike
A Brief History of Soda Firing
The earliest form of soda glazing is Egyptian paste, which dates back to 5000 B.C., and involves the use of a 'self -glazing' clay body. Soluble soda bearing marterials, introduced as components of the body, migrate to the surface of the ware during drying and form a glaze when fired to low temperature, approximately 1652 degrees Ferenheit. Soluble forms of soda are also used in high-temperature vapor-glazing processes, but in this case they are vaporizd and brought in contact with clay surfaces in the hot kiln, 2102-2372 degrees Ferenheit.
The use of salt in vapor glazing developed in Germany during the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. Through this long history and widespread industrial use, the term salt glazing became synonymous with vapor glazing. Industrial salt glazing declined in the mid-twentieth century, in favor of more efficient, economical and environmentally acceptable production methods. But the aesthetic merits of salt glaze continued to be valued and pursued by studio potters. During the 1970's, environmental concerns led many potters to experiment with sodium carbonates, seeking environmentally friendly chloride-free alternatives to salt glazing. For lack of a better name, this new form of vapor glazing became known as soda glazing. Technically, both salt and soda glaze are formed from exposure of clay materials to sodium vapor. The term soda glazing is generally used to denote sodium carbonate vapor glazing and distinguish it from salt glazing.
- Soda, Clay and Fire by Gail Nichols