Trials and tribulations


Yesterday, with a certain amount of trepidation, I tried throwing with porcelain. I’ve read a lot about it being tricky to use, and it is. I don’t throw with a lot of water, but a number of times the pot I was throwing collapsed, because the walls had become too soft and I’d gone to thin for this particular clay. I’m going to persevere though as I’m sure I’ll get used to its idiosyncrasies. What I did love today was turning the surviving pots, burnishing them, and adding handles. In it’s leather hard state porcelain is amazing. It’s so fine and you can get it incredibly smooth. We’ll just have to see what happens when they’re fired.

I’ve been trying the porcelain because I want to find the right clays to commit to. Living where we do delivery costs are expensive so it makes sense to order large quantities. For the domestic ware I want something that fires white or very nearly white. I had high hopes of the extra white stoneware I’ve been using to date, but it’s been firing to a creamer colour than I had anticipated. Plus I’m having problems with speckles, probably caused by an increased level of iron in this particular batch. I’ve tried a porcelain/stoneware mix before, with good results, but it costs more than the stoneware. The porcelain does too, but with that comes increased strength and the possibility of translucency too. Hmmm.

I’d also hoped to use the same clay for both my domestic ware and raku pieces, but again what I’d originally been using doesn’t seem to be cutting the mustard, even though it worked fine when I used it at Grays. I’m going to trial some alternatives here too.

I’ll let you know how I get along, and post results when I can.



14 thoughts on “Trials and tribulations

  1. I’ve also been trying a bit of porcelain lately along with a few other clays, I’m with you on the extra white stoneware, it’s definitely not as white as it used to be and I’m not sure I want to continue using it. Your results look great though, I’m sure practice will make perfect! I once had the opportunity to throw with Limoges porcelain which was like throwing with butter, it was so smooth. I just wish I could afford to use it all the time!

    • Hi Jo, yes, I’m so disappointed about the EW Stoneware. I’ve written to the supplier to see what he says about exchanging it for something else. There’s always something isn’t there. I look forward to see how you get on with your other clays too.

  2. Not every porcelain will be snowy white… especially in electric kilns it also sometimes becomes more of an off-white or even greyisch colour. Real whiteness and translucency comes with firing in a gas-kiln…unfortunately 😦 Lately I have been throwing with ‘Royal Porcelain’ which is the whitest one so far (in my electric kiln) and can become translucent, but only if you trim verry thin! Good luck!

  3. If porcelain clay is more expensive as it is, I can’t see any problems with charging more for those made with it. higher production cost , higher price, not difficult.
    Next thing, you can use porcelain clay for raku by mixing in molochite. I use any sort of clay for my Raku, and have for years.

  4. Pingback: An Artisan’s Perennial Issue – Quality Raw Materials | Agnes Ashe

  5. Juliet – I so admire your perseverance. In my experience you have to go through all this frustration of things turning out not as you planned. It’s all part of the process. I have absolutely no doubt that at the end of your road is the perfection you deserve.

  6. Ah yes, the best things come to those who wait and all that. The fact is that I’m loving every minute of it, even with the occasional knock back. It’s all such good experience and hopefully will make me a better potter at the end of it. Bless you Alison for saying such nice things. X

  7. I am an hobby thrower. I have used both porcelain and porcelain white stoneware clay. As noranauyts says, they don’t become white in electric kiln at 1260 c.They are ivory. Porcelain becomes blush white in reduction fired up to 1300 c. I usually thrown quite thin, so mine becomes translucent in either firing. You should also remember that porcelain shrink more than white stoneware, so it becomes thinner and smaller after firing than white stoneware. Thus you don’t have to throw it as thin as white stoneware, but it becomes more expensive material when you make same size pots. Hence you need higher retail price for them. Something to consider, if you are planning to sell them.

    • Thanks Midori, that’s really helpful information. You’re right about the Porcelain White Stoneware coming out ivory, but I still prefer its lighter colour to the stoneware that I’m using. I’ve made some porcelain pieces too, now I just need to confirm which I like better after firing.

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