Tag Archives: colour

As colours go, yellow is complicated. I’m wary of it in clothing (not very flattering against pale skin) and is probably my least favourite colour for flowers (too brash against green). Yet I like it on walls – it can make a room feel warm and sunny. In the abstract I find it happy and uplifting and it can be lovely on a pot.

There is a long tradition of yellow in ceramics: the Chinese were producing yellow glazes on porcelain in the C16th (low-fired using lead and iron). Although it was rare and reserved for the Emperor.


A yellow glazed incised dish, China, Ming dynasty.

In the UK, yellow ware or “canaryware” was produced in the early C19th, again low-fired using toxic lead and antimony (and often causing blisters on the fingers of the factory workers who applied it). It is now very popular with collectors in America.


C19th canaryware mug with lustre decoration

Studio potters today are more likely to take their inspiration from (two of my favourites) the Danish potter Inger Rokkjaer (1934 – 2008) whose clean forms are raku-fired and have a sense of warmth and humanity (below left). Or the seductively modernist work of Lucie Rie (1902 – 1995) who’s uranium oxide yellow glaze is bright yet soft (below right).


160318_ocg_ir_0103-jpgcr                   download-jpgrie

During our apprenticeship I remember Rupert saying he wanted to make a buttery yellow glaze, then a few years after we left I saw this image of a tea set and was stunned by its elegance and minimalism.


A yellow tea set by Rupert Spira

Generally glaze colours today are much safer and easier to achieve thanks to commercially prepared stains, although we still carry out a lot of glaze tests to find the right stain, concentration, opacity, thickness and firing temperature.

yellow test tiles, line blends and test beakers

Yellow glaze test tiles, line blends and test beakers

This is our yellow glaze, which I think is particularly nice on mugs. As one of our Instagram followers said: “a great way to brighten up the morning”. We haven’t made many yet but there are a few available in our shop.

yellow breakfast mug by James and Tilla Waters

Yellow breakfast mug by James and Tilla Waters

new glaze colours

Yellow, white, lilac, tenmoku, celadon and persimmon glazes.

Recently in the workshop I’ve been sniffing out potential recipes for the new stoneware work.

Thinking that the stoneware suits a more traditional, rustic look than our porcelain has lead me to classic glazes like celadon, tenmoku, chun. Even the names are seductive: these glazes have been used and loved so much that they’re not called just black, green, blue. They have places, stories and history associated with them and when traditional thrown forms (as many of ours are) are combined with classic glazes, there is often a sense of “rightness”.

I had a different approach with our old porcelain glazes; they were about the pleasure of colour, usually relying on modern commercially prepared glaze stains for colour rather than metal oxides and combinations of basic raw materials. I suspect that my interest in current trends (I’m loathe to use the word “fashion”) influenced our glaze palette and appealed to our customers accordingly. I have always wanted our work to look contemporary: there are some potters around today who are highly skilful in making traditional pots in traditional ways (wood-fired, ash glazed etc.) but I have no interest in trying to replicate pots seen in museums made in a previous age.

So my challenge is to find glazes which have that quiet rightness; which suit the rustic quality of the clay and our hand-made process and would be at home in a stylish, modern context. This group has the traditional celadon, tenmoku and persimmon glazes alongside lilac and yellow which are a little more bright and clean. It’s important that each glaze is nice on its own and within the group. Not all of these recipes are finalised and in production yet, there’s a bit more fine tuning to be done (and there is a chun in the pipeline) but I think we’re getting close and I like using a bit of old and a bit of new.

We have a small group of stoneware in our online shop and if you’re in London a selection of pieces from the range can also be purchased at The New Craftsmen in Mayfair.

P1010026In my spare time I’ve been making ceramic beads. These are some of the latest – un fired as yet so the colours will be brighter when finished. I make them by rolling soft coloured clay around a paintbrush handle. My inspiration came from a necklace I saw at Oriel Myrddin made by Lovehate.

I’m particularly excited about the composite ones. (But also nervous that they will fall apart in the kiln). It’s really hard to cut at ninety degrees (a bit like slicing a loaf of bread neatly but more so) which is why some of them have wiggles – I decided to go with it and consider it a positive quality!

P101000223I’ve been doing lots of glaze tests recently. Partly because I’d always felt that our colours didn’t complement each other well enough to make a coherent range, and partly because we recently reviewed a book called “Developing Glazes” by Greg Daly for Ceramic Review (which will be in the next issue).

I love thinking about colour combinations and am excited about seeing the new glazes on our functional work.

Tilla    May 23rd 2013

neutral coloursThese are some pots we’re about to send to the Leach Pottery in St. Ives. Before they disappeared I wanted to record their nice quiet, neutral colours.

I particularly like the smaller decorated pourer and am looking forward to doing some more monochrome decoration.

Tilla   25th April 2013

snapshot 1It’s been one of those days when throwing has gone well and the shelves by my wheel are filled with exciting potential: today it has been about trying out ways of throwing with different coloured clays in the same pot. The pot in the top right has seven shades of grey graded from dark to light, bottom to top.

James     18th April 2013