Making is the heart of what we do at Arran Street East. With our hands, clay and our wheels, we craft each object from start to finish in our central Dublin studio. Join us every Monday for Studio Stories, where our creative director Laura and our potters Patrick, Gayle, and Sheenagh share their insights, their wisdom, and (just occasionally) their frustrations with working with the remarkable material that is clay.
This week Sheenagh talks glazing, timing, and the coming of new technologies.
Last week Patrick discussed drying time in the studio which reminded me of just how important timing is in ceramics. Catching pots at the best time to turn a foot-ring, to soaking a kiln for five minutes longer can make a massive difference to both production speed and the final finish of a pot. However, it can be very much a love/hate relationship and generally speaking it’s only through experience, research, and lots of testing do you find a rhythm which leads each firing to be an improvement on the last.
My area of making at Arran Street is centred around glazing. The glaze has a few functions – it is what gives the pot its colour and finish, but also what makes it suitable to be used as tableware for everyday use. I am involved in testing new colours, adjusting recipes and viscosity, and mixing batches of our standard glazes. Day to day I glaze each pot that Gayle and Patrick have thrown on the wheel before I repack the kiln for the final firing.
It’s a combination of the inward and outward forms, along with the fruit and vegetable colours that I think gives Arran Street East pieces their distinct quality. The colours didn’t evolve over night and although the tones group together effortlessly now, a lot of time (and patience!) was spent getting the balance right. The timing of the firing cycle, both when and how long for, is absolutely crucial for quality and consistency of our glazes.
Making pots by hand is very labour intensive and the studio is always looking to make the process more efficient while still achieving the same high quality and staying true to its ethos. Over the last few weeks we have been discussing the arrival of a spray booth for glazing. At the moment each piece is glazed by dipping it into the glaze, but the semi-matte quality of the glaze is very unforgiving which makes it necessary to do a lot of fettling back.
We hope the spray booth will help to reduce the need to fettle back and also give us the opportunity to develop larger products and different surface finishes in the future. I am both apprehensive and excited about beginning to spray the glaze – I know there will be an adjustment period, and lately I feel that we have been getting into a nice cycle in the studio. However, I think that the spray booth has huge potential for Arran Street East and fits well with our interest in combining a traditional process with a contemporary aesthetic. I’ll let you know how we get on!
Gayle, our other thrower, is up next week.