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Glass and Pottery Sellers’ Association - December 2006, Volume 36

Crystalline Glaze Ceramics Art and Nature Collaborate

by Catladykate Kathy

Crystalline glazes look rich and mysterious. When you hold a crystalline glaze piece you can feel like you are looking deep into a sea of color. Crystalline glazed ceramics have a wonderful range of color and form and are true art pieces. Click on any photo in this article to see a full size photo.

small blue plate detail Crystalline glazed pieces often look like snowflakes scattered on the surface. The snowflakes are actually crystals of the glaze itself. Think of Jack Frost patterns on your window this winter. In the same way glazes will coalesce into crystalline structures within the molten glaze. The difference is that Jack Frost crystals form at about 32 degrees and the glaze crystals about 1900!

gold micro crystalline vase The early Chinese potters discovered these glazes but did not know what caused them to form. The 20th Century Arts and Crafts potters, including Fulper, rediscovered these glazes and were able to apply science to understanding them. Today there are about 40 artists in the U.S. that use crystalline glazes extensively and sell their work commercially. The range of style, color and technique is breathtaking!

pink gold trim vase You may find art pieces with micro-crystalline glazes. These look like small sparklies in the glaze which are actually tiny crystals that did not continue to grow to form the fanciful shapes. The more familiar type of crystalline glazes have larger crystals up to several inches across that may be a completely different color than the background glaze. Despite looking so different, both types truly have crystals; the difference is caused by firing temperature and the exact glaze composition.

Christmas good round vase So what makes a glaze form crystals? Glazes contain ingredients such as frit, colorants like cobalt salts, opacifiers or fluxing ingredients, and usually silica. Most glazes also contain clay. Clay inhibits crystal growth. Take the clay out of a glaze and you have the potential to grow crystals. Unless you are able to find the optimum firing schedule the crystals will be small possibly too small to see, or possibly the micro-crystalline sparkly type.

small plate blue If you have the right firing schedule, one that allows the crystalline grown process time to work, and the right glaze, you are on the right track. Temperature is the key. Crystalline glazes must melt, but they cannot be too hot or the crystals will not grow. The ideal firing schedule varies for each glaze and clay body, but usually will call for a fast rise to cone 10 (about 2300 degrees) followed by 6-8 hours held between 1800 and 1900 degrees, with some deliberate variation in that range.

One reason more artists experiment with crystalline glazes now is that they can buy kilns with automatic electronic temperature control computers. In the old days a potter would adjust a kiln firing manually. Its easier today, but crystalline glazes still have challenges that are unique.

Remember that glazes cant have much clay in them if they are to form crystals. Clay is also the ingredient that keeps a glaze firmly on the piece instead of melting and running off which means that if you take the clay out of a glaze you will have a mess in your kiln from the melted glaze. Artists get around this by attaching a separate catchtray to the base of each piece to catch the molten run-off. The catchtray has to be thrown separately and is discarded after use.

As more artists get interested in these glazes we see a tremendous boom in exploration and new ideas. The traditional look is of a few very large, single crystals floating on a transparent background that is all one color without streaks. The newer look takes advantage of the full range of crystalline patterns that Mother Nature has available, and includes the backgrounds as full partners in the art. Weve seen artists who glaze only part of a piece with crystals and leave part plain white, and artists who combine metallic lusters and matte englobes and artists who deliberately grow all-over crystals, forming pieces that look like cloisonne. The results can be gorgeous!

PLEASE NOTE: These photos can be printed for your own collection files, but are not to be used for any Internet auction listings, websites, or any other commercial purposes. The photos provided for this article are from the personal collection of the author or with permission from the owner.

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Featured Sellers

Recently featured sellers in the GPSA in November were thetreasuredbutterfly, roxannesebastian, fanoffenton, rubycyn, and marketpl; and in December: bpprat, cranberrymanor, and lls231. We encourage you to click on their seller IDs and visit their eBay auctions.


Member’s Pick: Check out this Website!

by bpprat Bill

Jack-in-the-Pulpit Vases

Collectible Glass - Learn about Jack in the Pulpit Vases at Heartland DiscoveriesThis is a wonderful article about Jack-in-the-Pulpit glass vases. Enjoy!!

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Don’t You Wish You Had One of These?

by wgpaul Bill

Photo Courtesy of James Julia, Inc. of Fairfield, Maine
Wedgwood's Fairyland Lustre Covered Jar

If you are not familiar with Wedgwood's Fairyland Lustre series, here is a real treat for you! This gorgeous covered jar, known as a malfrey pot, was part of a series of pieces designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones. The first of the Fairyland pieces were produced in 1915. Many attribute the initial success of the line to the need for escape from the horrors of WWI. The line continued until 1929, when the line was discontinued.

The line has always been somewhat controversial. It was so distant from Wedgwood's other work that many collectors saw it as an aberration. Makeig-Jones was often referred to as eccentric or even crazy. At the same time, however, a strong following began among collectors, especially after a book by Una De Fontaines about Fairyland Lustre was published in 1975.

Today, Fairyland pieces are highly sought by collectors. Even the most common pieces routinely sell in the thousands.

The malfrey jar in our photo was offered via eBay live by James Julia, Inc. of Fairfield, Maine. In typical Fairyland style, it features an allover design with numerous fanciful animals and figures. This particular item is in the Ghostly Woods pattern. Clicking on our photo to see the larger version will allow you to see some of the wondrous components of this pattern, including the ghosts, trees and fanciful creatures that inhabit the Ghostly Woods.

This lovely piece sold at auction in December for $35,000.

Photo courtesy of James Julia, Inc., Fairfield, Maine.

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It happens every day! You anticipate receiving an item you won at auction. It arrives, and you open the box to see...pottery shards or slivers of glass!

Have you noticed how some auction photos just seem to scream “BUY ME!” while others are so fuzzy and far away you’re not sure what is being offered?

We share a few practical tips on the entire auction experience, from writing the auction, taking the photos, to packing the item to help you get that item safely to your buyer! Our GPSA website offers a more in-depth look at valuable packing and photo tips. Please visit and have a look around!

Auction tips

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No reserve clearance sales, less than TWO DOLLARS!

GPSA sellers are still listing clearance items. All items start at an opening bid of $1.99 or less. Don’t miss this opportunity to pick up a bargain from one of our reliable GPSA sellers! All sellers abide by the GPSA guidelines found on our home page.

Find a bargain! Deals and Steals!

To see Shazaam listings at any time, click here. Check back often — sellers add items all the time!


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Welcome New Members

We’re so happy to have you join us!!

Recently our Membership Committee discovered a problem that prevented the receipt of new applications for membership! If you applied for membership in GPSA between November 1 — December 11, 2006, please re-apply and accept our apologies for the technical problem.

Welcome New Members

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