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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.