I make pots like most potters do. I shape stoneware clay, bisque fire to about 1650° fahrenheit, glaze and fire again to about 2350° fahrenheit in a natural gas-fired kiln.
Different from most potters, I use glazes which are sediments from the ocean floor, which I get because of science research. I keep location information with each sample, thin them with fresh water, and store them in labeled buckets and bags.
When I get new samples, I test-fire swatches. The results aren’t repeatable because outcomes are influenced by thickness, color of clay, temperature, and atmosphere. Weather always effects firing. Initial testing shows if samples are light or dark, patterned or smooth, clear or opaque. Outcomes trigger hunches, and imaginings of what to try next.
I do trial and error testing. My visual memory is good, and I love beauty so I remember what appeals to me and others – I’m amazed by how many people agree on what is beautiful. The bowl above is a result of the process I use repeatedly – pouring diluted sediments into a bowl, emptying it with a shake to help distribution, and letting the fire do the rest.
No matter how much I try to repeat something . . . another outcome appears.
Example of a swatch test: Inside reports ship name is R/V Knorr, cruise is KN158-4. Exterior bottom numbers report multicore numbers on each bag of sediment. These MC numbers refer to a spreadsheet from the cruise which gives me details about latitude, longitude, and depth.
The more I use a sediment, the better the outcomes are, usually . . . but then they'll be gone, so I'm always testing some while relying on others I know better. I have over a hundred glazes, including some untested from recent cruises. That’s why my work constantly changes.
In my experience, not one sediment from the Pacific Ocean has made branching patterns - they are all brown. That's why I make many Atlantic/Pacific pieces, where I use the stable Pacific ones on the exteriors, and let the branching-patterned ones run wild on the interiors.
For a glimpse of the geographic distribution of my samples, visit the Places Page.
To see pots that you can make your own, visit the Soft Earth Online Store.
To learn more in 4 minutes, view The Soft Earth video here. (Quicktime movie).