Porcelain

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Porcelain has fascinated makers and collectors for centuries. Its translucency marks its difference from all other kinds of clay. To achieve this sought-after quality, it is fired to the highest temperature of all the clays, around 1280 - 1300C.

 

Porcelain also has a reputation for being the most temperamental of the clays to work with, requiring a level of skill above that of other clays when throwing on the wheel. It has a tendency towards sudden collapse, both at the throwing stage and in the firing. It also has an infuriating quality referred to as 'memory'. If a pot goes briefly oval when it is pushed off the wheel, it doesn't matter that it was thrown as a perfect circle, nor that the oval shape is corrected and it is dried as a perfect circle. The porcelain will remember that ten seconds it spent as an oval pot, and it will quietly revert to that shape when fired in the kiln, smugly revealing itself to the disheartened potter at the unloading.

 

Modern porcelain is used by potters in all kinds of ways. Some love the translucency and whiteness. Some like the colour response of glazes applied to its surface, which are brighter and exhibit an intensity not found elsewhere. Still others colour the clay itself resulting in a myriad of new effects such as nerikomi.

 

A porcelain potter is not only lost to the wheel, she is lost to the clay. She may work in stoneware, and toy with terracotta, but her heart always lies with that lustrous whiteness, that delicate translucency. that perfect pot which is always just out of reach.