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Pippin Drysdaleís Tanami (desert) Traces
by Dr David Bromfield

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Originally published in Ceramics Art & Perception. Reprinted by permission.

Enlargement opens in new windowThe form of the vessels finally chosen with their slightly constricted lip an upper quarter was perfect for the sensation of a rolling horizon but tended to limit the size to 40-50 centimeters high, the maximum that could be thrown and turned to shape in one piece. Experiments with large sizes, made by inverting one wet pot over another and fusing the join with a blowtorch were only partially successful. Larger sizes tended to crack and distort in the firing.

Drysdale uses Southern Ice Porcelain, white fine, plastic clay, which is good for throwing but has a high shrinkage rate and must be left, to dry slowly over long time to avoid cracking and distorting. She is not interested in the traditional luminescence of porcelain but in its remarkable qualities as a subtle support of ambitious intensely bright, high Barium glazes, which produce rich colors and a sensationally resonant, satin surface, subtle to both eye and hand, with no trace of conventional brittleness or fragility.Her expressive experimental relationship to technique is maintained in every detail of the process. Like every other aspect of her technique the process is always aimed towards an intuitively felt but absolutely clear aesthetic outcome. The basic glaze recipe is mixed in the studio, 30 liters at a time then clearly prepared by sieving through 120, 150 then 200 mesh sieve over many hours to mix the particles, to eliminate everything that might disrupt the ultimate silken surface, anything that could cause unevenness or pin holing.The very expensive colors, stains and oxides are all added to the prepared base glaze and then treated similarly. Everything is prepared in the studio, on the work floor, as part of the act of creation. Drysdale has nothing but contempt for shop bought glazes and colors which, she says, are useful only for the most vulgar kitsch.Her base glaze Recipe is

Barium Glaze (Orton cone 6)

Potash Feldspar 60%
Whiting 10%
Magnesite (heavy) 10%
Bentonite (USA) 4%
Ferro Frit 4113 25%

The 20% Barium content, induces fabulous colors when blending stains and oxides. According to the percentage of frit (20-30%) used this enables you to fire from Orton Cone 5 to 7. 20%-30% of stain (per 100 grams of dry weight) and in some cases a small percentage of oxides can be added to the base which will create very rich color results. Line blends can also be used to establish the melting point and color saturation desired. Bentonite (USA) 4% is a must, this prevents the glaze settling out. All works are fired in oxidation in Skutt kiln top loading. Because of the painting medium applied all over there is a great deal of vapor due to the burning of liquidtex, keep lid up a few cms, and top bung out up to 600 degrees, then shut lid, place bung in, and put on high, the firing time is 7-9 hours. Fired to cone 6. (no soaking)The development of this Barium Glaze was greatly assisted by Ceramic Chemist Mike Kusnik who has played an important role through Drysdaleís career.Her main concern is color.

Enlargement opens in new window"I LOVE color, Iím passionate about it, I spend a great deal of time testing and developing many monochromatic variations and depth of color through the use of stains and oxides. There is no end to the constant discovery of magnificent rich and subtle colors Thereís also the added surprise and joy of the fusion due to the application of the layers of colors This creates interesting "one off" gems. So often, colors come and go never to be seen againÖ..but if you donít take risks and let yourself go, these types of results canít be achieved. Commitment thatís all I have to say."

© Dr David Bromfield 2002

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