Tag Archives: Ceramic glaze

Open Studio Update

Today was one of those days when I accomplished quite a bit, or so it felt. Of course, that feeling is a byproduct of the ceramics production cycle… When you have much to bisque or glaze, things are looking up! When pieces are drying and there’s not much action, I feel less productive, yet it’s all part of the cycle. Very soon, I’ll post photos! I had meant to take my camera in today, but I forgot…post-Thanksgiving trip mental fuzzies. So, no process-oriented pics yet, but will shoot finished pieces next week and get some process shots, then, too.

Christmas Decorations: I glazed the hand-stamped cut-outs I made, what, a month ago? My intention was to underglaze in bright colors, but expedience won the day because of the late date and I used glossy Red Chrome glaze. They are part of my favors for a Christmas Cookie Exchange party at my home this coming Sunday. Made with wooden German cookie molds, for me, the decorations are a lovely reminder of my childhood years in Deutschland and yummy Springerle cookies. (Pronounced “shpring’-er-lee”) Springerle dough is mild-flavored; the zing comes from impressing whole anise seeds on the undersides. When I was on Bowen Island this summer, I met a potter who used a Springerle rolling pin, which has designs carved into it, for relief on slab forms. Good idea…might try it with mine. Take a look at this pretty site to see what these cookies look like: The Springerle Baker. The section called ‘Original Molds’ features photos of some beautiful molds. Here’s a recipe for Springerle, too. Mine is slightly different, as I place the anise on the bottom, but I can’t find my recipe at the moment, so give you this one instead.

Northern Lights

Fish-eye lens view of the northern lights taken mid July 2004. The Big Dipper in the constellation Ursa Major is on the left and on the right is Queen Cassiopeia in the constellation Cassiopeia. Between them in the middle, is the Little Dipper in the constellation Ursa Minor. The end of the Little Dipper’s handle is Polaris, known as the North Star. Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada. Source: Image Editor via Wikimedia

“Snowfall” tiles: Nine tiles ready to be bisqued! Made of Navajo Red terracotta, I’ll be using Green Oribe and Cottage White matte glazes on them.

“Northern Lights” tiles: Have four ready to fire, but am testing only one first, as I want to see how it turns out. I’ve used broad bands of Green Oribe over Red Chrome, which produces an aurora-like green with hints of red. Solid black over the rest of the tile tile. I adore the Northern Lights. When I have seen, they’ve always been a beautiful green…

Escutcheon Tiles: Am finally at the stage where I’m painting decorative leaves, vines and berries in pale burgundy and green underglazes, lightened with Cottage White glaze, which makes up the background. I may have been a little too tired to work on them tonight, though. I used a watercolor and Chinese calligraphy brush and it felt a little like what China painting must feel like. I am going to clean them up considerably before they’re fired and I just might drop by the studio to pick them up to work on them at home. That way, they’ll be ready before next Tuesday’s Open Studio. I’d like to go in tomorrow night, but it’s a packed week and I can’t add anything more to my schedule.

Seminar: Tomorrow, I head down to Small Business British Columbia, in downtown Vancouver to attend a seminar in ‘branding.’ As a former graphic designer (actually, it never leaves you…), I am very familiar with corporate identity projects, but, thus far, I’ve never gotten the hang of what branding is in its entirety, so I’m taking a class that will explain all. Small Biz BC’s seminars are excellent and I’ve gotten so much out of each one I’ve attended. Last week, I had to postpone a slew because I had a cold, but I will catch up with those seminars in Dec., Jan. and Feb. and it might be better anyway, because there is a hefty learning curve with each seminar. Best to space them apart, really.

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Raku-U at Port Moody Festival of the Arts

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Who: You and your family

What: Raku-U at Port Moody’s Art 4 U Day *

When: Sunday, Sept. 25, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: Parking lot behind the Port Moody Arts Centre, 2425 Saint Johns Street, Port Moody, BC

Why: Decorate your own pottery and help celebrate Port Moody Festival of the Arts‘ Art 4 U Day!

* At Raku-U, families and individuals can take part in an outside pottery firing. Raku is a type of pottery that was originally made in Japan. It can have a crackle effect, be brightly colored or pearly or metallic. It’s very beautiful and fun to do!! Starting at 11 a.m., small to medium-sized ceramic pieces will be sold for $5-10 in the Raku Area (parking lot behind the Arts Centre). After choosing your pieces, you glaze them for firing. They will be fired in special kilns that are set up outside. (The kilns are roped off and the area is safe for family members.) After your piece has cooled, you can take it home to enjoy! Arts Centre volunteers are on hand to help you each step of the way. Many people have been making figurines that will appeal to children for the event and I know they will be sure to please… Come on down!

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NY Times: Lead contamination in Chinatown glazes

Chemical symbol for lead

When I saw the porcelain spoons in the photo on the Times site, my eyes grew large. The turquoise, yellow, and red glaze looked very familiar. I cannot tell you if the glazes on the spoons I saw in Vancouver were contaminated with lead, but, according to what I read today, it appears there is a high likelihood. Dr. Gerald O’Malley, who specializes in Medical Toxicology, studied bright glazes used in ceramics in Philadelphia’s Chinatown and found enough lead contamination to cause health problems. The story reporting this study was found in the online edition of yesterday’s New York Times. I saw the photo and thought, “Oh, my!” I have seen many such glazes here in the Vancouver metropolitan area…on porcelain spoons and matching bowls and tea pots. After reading this article, I would not want to take a chance on them without having a stamp of approval from health officials. The ceramic pieces O’Malley’s team studied, which proved to be contaminated, came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Chinatown. In addition, The Times quoted O’Malley as saying, “If it’s happening in Philadelphia, it’s happening in other Chinatowns in other cities.” (I am now wondering about my white porcelain spoons I bought in Chinatown in Vancouver. They have a clear glaze and no decoration.) The Times story made me think not just of the Chinatown in Vancouver’s east side, but also the huge Asian malls in nearby Richmond and smaller ones scattered around the area. In addition, many local mom and pop stores  often have tiny Chinese ceramics sections. There have been many scares pertaining to Chinese goods here, from tainted melamine to heavy metals in pharmaceutical preparations to dangerous chemicals in Chinese wines sold in Chinatown. A widely publicized toy scare hit North America a few years ago. It’s okay to say buyer beware, consumer beware, but there is no way to tell with some of this stuff. So I am grateful for this article. In the story, O’Malley made clear that the stores were not at fault, saying “the vendors should have the assurance that they’re buying from sources who are in compliance.” He continued, saying, “The vendors are getting bad press here, but we want them to be helped by this, not hurt. I’m hoping that the F.D.A. will do a formal investigation and in the end track this to the source.” I wonder if Health Canada will follow suit here. Environmental contamination that we cannot control on an individual basis is such an issue, we need to be vigilant about the areas we can act upon. Countries that import products from China must take an active role in ensuring the safety of these products because such oversight will not or does not take place in China in a manner that inspires confidence. I also feel very badly about the production potters who must work around such toxins in China.  At home, here, it is up to the health, environmental, and import agencies of the countries of the importers to make sure ceramic ware is safe for the public. If glazes in Chinatowns throughout the world are selling wares that may have lead glazes, action needs to take place immediately. Pieces here need to be tested, then the results of the testing need to be made public…as soon as possible. The dangers of lead poisoning need to be reiterated to the public. Chinatown, Chinese mall and small-business vendors need to be made aware of the potential for danger with the ceramic wares they sell. (It is possible the City Desk at the Vancouver Sun is already aware of this Times article, but the matter will be brought to its attention tomorrow during the Sun‘s daily editorial meeting.) There are Mexican import stores here, too, and the ceramic wares sold in these outlets should be checked, too. In addition to lead, all of these wares need to be checked for cadmium, too…. I don’t want to sound alarmist, but this area has a huge Asian population, many traditional wares are imported and sold here and I want to know if they are safe. I am sure citizens in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and elsewhere will do the same. I just googled O’Malley’s name and there are multi-lingual references to him in current news stories on the web, so maybe change is on the horizon. Now let’s see, what is Canada’s equivalent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency….

Additional Information:


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Bells Toll for Ceramist Toshiko Takaezu

“I never had the sense of myself as an accomplished artist, and I always had to work three times as hard as anyone else to make my pieces as good as they could be. I am never completely satisfied. There always seems to be something just beyond my reach.”

Japanese-American ceramist, sculptor and weaver Toshiko Takaezu passed away March 9th in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was 88. A pioneer, she made a considerable impact in the art world. Hawaiian-born of Japanese parents, she traveled to her ethnic homeland in 1955 to study traditional Japanese pottery and Buddhism. By this time, she had studied ceramics since 1948; her work was influenced by the ‘mother of American ceramics,’ Maija Grottell. Takaezu taught ceramics at Princeton for 25 years and, after retiring in 1990, she worked as a studio potter in Quakertown, New Jersey. Later, she returned to Hawaii. She had a no-nonsense approach and demanded that all students cut their fingernails, celebrities included. At the beginning or her own artistic career, Takaezu created functional pieces but later she began making monolithic pieces, organic sculptures with closed tops. Of her glazing technique, Jay Jensen said, “She’s using the clay surface as sort of a canvas – just the broad brush strokes, and Mrs. Takaezu letting the glaze run and pool and drip.” A curator at Hawaii’s Contemporary Museum at Makiki Heights, Jensen said, “I would describe each of her works as a little world” in an interview for Midweek Artbeat. The following tributes from newspapers and blogs further illustrate Toshiko Takaezu:

Books written about or by Toshiko Takaezu:

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