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Book Review

With a Little Help From My Friends
by Tom Coleman. Review by Steven Goldate.

Tom Coleman The ceramics community is truly a wonderful one, where potters are willing to share their experiences, techniques, recipes and production 'secrets', in the knowledge that while they are helping their colleagues in a communal, spiritual sort of way, they can rest assured that outright copying is rare and seldom rewarded.

In this spirit, Tom Coleman's manual With a Little Help From My Friends, Glazes Clay and Ideas has a very apt title. In this self-published edition, Tom shares with us 20 years of experience and insights on clays, glazes, firing, kilns and more. There are numerous recipes for porcelain and stoneware bodies of various kinds from a pure white porcelain right through to a buff stoneware. There are hints on firing gas and electric kilns and practical tips on glazing with a bit of glaze philosophy thrown in for good measure.

Terry Charbonneau (Captain Fire)

The larger part of this manual is where the friends step in. Tom has gathered together an impressive crew of potters, who are also willing to share their knowledge with the public. They include (in order of appearance) Mike Sherril of Hendersonville, North Carolina, Craig Martell and Patrick Horsely, from Portland, Oregon, Lance Hendrikson, Kurt Weiser of Tempe, Arizona, John Hopkins from Grand Terrace, California, Elaine Coleman, Terry Charbonneau, Jim Robinson of Phoenix, Oregon and Pete Pinnell from Lincoln, Nebraska, who contributed a particularly large number of glaze recipes. There is also a special chapter on Shino glazes, an area where Tom has considerable expertise.

Pete PinnellThe idea behind this manual is that the clay and glaze recipes offered have been tried and tested many times over by studio potters with considerable experience. These are recipes that should work, although differences in locally available ingredients need to be factored in. All in all, there must be hundreds of glaze recipes in this manual, not to mention the clay and slip bodies.

Tom Coleman

With a total of 74 letter size pages, this is a medium sized manual, but packed with plenty of information and color reproductions of the artists pots. More attention could have been given to the index, which is pretty minimal and I would have liked to know something about the featured potters' backgrounds, so a short bio would have been a good feature. I also think a glossary would be helpful, especially in regards to some of the ingredients, which seem to be geared towards US readers. I for one have never heard of 'Ione Grain 35 F'. What are some of these lesser known ingredients and where can we get them? Or if we can't get them, what might we substitute? Having said that, recipes' molecular weights are given, for those who know how to use glaze calculation software.

Elaine Coleman

One last observation is that Tom could have paid a little more attention to spelling and grammar. There are some inexcusable errors in the text, although they shouldn't distract the enthusiast too much from making good use of the information offered. Many years of experience by a knowledgeable group of potter friends has gone into this manual.

With a Little Help From My Friends can be obtained directly from Tom and Elaine's web site, http://www.tomandelainecoleman.com.

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