Our customers often come into the store and want to know if we can reproduce a favorite pot that has been broken. Most of the time, we can reproduce the shape, however, matching the color of the glaze can pose a bit of a problem. A good thrower can pretty closely reproduce the shape of another pot, but getting the glaze color to match is totally a different issue. Replicating a glaze color is much different than taking a sample of paint down to the local paint store where they put it under a the paint scanner and out comes a perfect match with all of the numbers and tints. This is why each potter’s glaze of choice almost becomes his mark, as much as his name signed on the bottom of a pot. Some potters will have a glaze they’ve created named after them once they’ve made that color famous, like Montana potter, Dave Shaner.
There are some chemicals used in glaze formulas that are a given. Cobalt produces a blue color. Chrome usually gives a green tint. Iron oxide will typically be brown, and we have a red glaze in which copper oxide is the coloring agent.
Sometimes there are just lucky mistakes, such as the time we were running the kiosk at the Gallatin Valley Mall in Bozeman. I was glazing a kiln load and was running out of our most popular color (Mocha). I saw a 5-gallon bucket of mocha glaze that was dried out, so I put water in it, mixed it up, and poured it into the glazing bucket. It was more than enough glaze to finish glazing that load.
When the firing was done and I opened up the kiln door, something was drastically wrong. The load should have been a light tan color, but this load was all a dark grey/black color. I was short enough on pottery that I had to take it out to the kiosk. As I was placing the pottery out on the shelves, a lady came by and was watching me. She proceeded to pick out about $300.00 worth of our pottery with the glaze anomaly and bought it. It took me awhile to figure out what mistake I had made resulting in that Charcoal color, but after about two months, just as I was running out of that glaze which had been a very popular seller, I figured it out. I had mixed together a specialty glaze for someone and when it was dry, it looked identical to my old Mocha glaze. We’re still selling the Charcoal glaze today, and it is one of our most popular sellers.
Creating new glazes is an important aspect of any pottery studio. It is a process that takes a long time and many mistakes to perfect, but these are the signatures by which a studio is often known.
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