Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Word Has Gone Out!

The first mailing for Lowell Hill Pottery has been sent. It's just a postcard, but the intent is to let people know that I am here and gearing up for production. I don't know how many Rowantrees customers have heard the news, but in case some have not, they will soon.

So this post is for those who have just tuned in. I encourage you to read as much of this blog as you can. Then by all means, check out my web site.

If you have found your way to this blog and are trying to find the web site, you can click on the dinnerware picture to the right or on this link:

Lowell Hill Pottery

I am also looking for input still. My survey is still up and will remain there for some time to come. You can find it here:

Lowell Hill Pottery Customer Survey

The more I know about your wants and desires, the better equipped I will be to meet them!

On a couple of notes (progress wise), it is clear that Duckshead Black is a very popular glaze. At this point in time, I do not have a replacement formulated that satisfies me.That is due only tot he fact that the pottery has been closed for the winter because there is no heat in the building. As soon as temperatures rise above the freezing point for good, I will be back in there working on this issue. The black glaze I was using in combination with Moss Agate and Turquoise will not work any longer as I have increased my firing temperature (more on that in a minute). So there is nothing for it but to work from existing notes to develop a replacement from scratch. It should not take very long. The experience I have gained int he last year will serve well.

Why go to all this trouble?

Many of you may recall the the original Rowantrees Duckshead was what was known as a "scrape-up" glaze. It was made using remainders of glazes that were scraped off the bottoms of pots and the inside of the glazing booth and that were combined and augmented with coloring oxides to produce the unique black glaze with the slight gun metal sheen. Reproducing this is a challenge for a few reasons. First, using scrape-up material means that the exact formula of the glaze changes each and every time it is mixed. Over its history, Duckshead changed in appearance quite a lot. It was only when Sheila Varnum standardized the recipe that firing results were more consistent. Still, in using left overs, it can be difficult to recreate the glaze appearance reliably each time. Consistency is made even more difficult when metallic oxides are added to produce a black glaze. Adding too much can make the glaze soft and prone to leaching. While this doesn't necessarily mean a safety problem, it will cause pottery to become dull with use. If you bought a particular glaze pattern for its beautiful shine, you probably want it to stay shiny throughout its life.

So going back to formula and creating a replacement Duckshead that is exactly the same chemistry from batch to batch is the best way to make certain that the reproduction is faithful to the beautiful Duckshead that Sheila Varnum ultimately created. It also assures that Lowell Hill Pottery will produce a Duckshead that is durable and hard.

This also means that Lowell Hill Pottery can use the scrape up remainders of its glazes over again. White scrape up can be reused for white pottery and such. So the lack of scrape up glazed does not mean the end of recycling!

Another way to assure durability is to fire the clay to the highest temperature that it can sustain. Because Lowell Hill Pottery is using a clay that is different than the original Rowantrees (details in an earlier post), I want to make certain to vitrify the clay as completely as possible. A higher temperature makes for more durable pottery because moisture can not work its way into the finished product.

The philosophy is simple. Lowell Hill Pottery can not improve on the designs of Rowantrees Pottery, but we can do all that is possible to preserve its beauty and improve on its durability. By this effort, Lowell Hill Pottery can preserve the heritage of Rowantrees far into the future.

Welcome and enjoy the ride!

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