What are you calling this series of new ceramics?
Soda. This is a collection of my recent explorations into vapour glazing. Instead of glazing the pots before they enter the kiln, I introduce sodium carbonate into the firing at 1260 degree Celsius. This vaporises and is carried through the kiln with the combusting gas, fusing with the surface of the pots to make glaze.
What is the inspiration for these new ceramics as a collection featured at MADE?
I experimented with soda firing a lot when I was studying at Cardiff Met and apprenticing with Jeremy Steward at Wobbage. Soda firing has been something I have wanted to return to for a while. The colours the soda glaze creates are very different to my reduction-fired work.
Due to the unpredictable nature of vapour glazing, pots often have a range of colours and textures depending on position in the kiln. Soda firing also leaves a thin but hardwearing layer of glaze, highlighting the handling of the clay during the making process as well as any textures added in the making process. Traditional glazing can often feel like it is covering up or hiding these details.
What is the attraction of working with clay and these homeware items and how did you realise that working with clay was something you wanted to do?
My interest in clay was ignited when I was studying at Plymouth College of Art. Making on the wheel was my first obsession, followed by firing kilns or in other words, playing with fire. Function has always felt like a strong foundation for my making. It gives me structure that I enjoy and I take great pleasure in knowing that people use my pots in their daily lives.
Describe the activities & processes that inspire you?
For my soda-glazed work I start by making a specific clay body that is high in silica and low iron. This is because the soda vapour binds to the silica in the clay to make glaze. It is low in iron as I don’t want the pots to be too dark in colour and because iron resists the soda.
Once I have the clay I throw my pots on the wheel. I then apply clay slips to give different effects before firing them. All interiors of pots are glaze with a clear glaze as the vapour cannot enter the interior of the pots.
The firing is the part of this process that really stands out for me. It feels more like a conversation with the kiln where you are adding soda and letting it circulate with the fire, before checking its effects on the pots by removing small rings of clay from openings in the kiln. It’s a very exciting firing with a long time spent at top temperature (1280c).
What are your ambitions, creative or otherwise, for this year?
I want to continue to explore soda glazing and try and bring more of my decorative ideas from my other wares to this exciting firing technique.
Meet our maker of the month, Jack Welbourne, and his latest range of soda-fired ceramics, currently available through MADE.