Leonard Smith – Modern Jian Ware


Friend and fellow Oilspot fanatic Leonard Smith has put together some great videos on Chinese glazes. I’d highly recommend checking out his Youtube Channel and taking a look. This one shows a Chinese potter reduction cooling for iridescent oilspots!


Here’s an interesting one! Chalk (Calcium Carbonate – CaCO3) under a Scanning Electron Microscope:


Those little guys are similar to Diatomaceous Earth (Silica) in form, but are actually made from calcium and not silica. From reddit user Foramsgalorams:

Diatoms would be glassy rather than chalky, as their hard parts are made from silica rather than calcite. It would be difficult to tell the difference just by looking at a pile of diatom powder v chalk powder though, check out diatomaceous earth.

Anyway like the other person said, these are coccolithophores. Specifically they are Emiliania huxleyi, the most widespread extant species due to the way they do so well in waters of varying temperature or nutrient content. When you see satellite images of plankton blooms it’s probably E. huxleyi.

Also, these ones seem to be alive, or were very recently. It’s certainly not an image of actual chalk. After death all the coccoliths separate and sink to the seafloor as individual plates. The 100 metre high white cliffs of Dover on the south coast of England are made from countless coccoliths deposited during the Cretaceous.

This next one is climber’s chalk (Magnesite – Magnesium Carbonate)!




Ron Nagle

Ron Nagle is one of my all time favorites.

Moreschi, 2005
ceramic, 7.25 x 7.25 x 6.5 in., Ron Nagle

Here’s a great new video:

Ron Nagle: Compositions and Clay

Transcript from Video

San Francisco: renowned the world over for its progressive values, steep hills, and dollhouse architecture. And though plenty of people adore the “City by the Bay,” lifelong resident and celebrated sculptor and songwriter, Ron Nagle, isn’t one of them.

Ron Nagle: I hate it.

AJC: Consistently?

Nagle: Consistently.

Yet, at almost 80, Nagle has never strayed too far from his hometown. From his hilltop perch, he’s labored for decades to establish his signature style of colorful, small-scale ceramics. When he has left, it’s usually been to visit Los Angeles, where he first encountered the work of Ken Price, a fixture on the LA art scene who would become Nagle’s longtime friend and mentor.

Nagle: Kenny Price was the first to really celebrate the cup and make beautiful things—very poetic, small objects. Scale had a lot to do with it. I’ve always been drawn to small, intimate scale. And so the artists that I like are usually people who work small.

AJC: It’s also where you have the greatest possibility of failure, though.

Nagle: Yeah, you do, because simple is hard.

And throughout his life in art, Nagle has been incredibly hard on himself.

Nagle: I was my own worst critic. I mean, I broke almost everything. We’re going through a thing that we’re gonna have… It’s gonna be a show coming up in the next couple years, which should be sort of a survey. And, “Well where’s the old work?” And I broke it all, ’cause I just beat myself up. I was drinking a lot, and so I was, like, always bummed out. And then, “Well, that’s no good. Oh, that’s not as good as Picasso, so throw it away.” I mean, it was like that.

AJC: Really? That’s a pretty high bar.

Nagle: It’s a high bar, yeah.

AJC: But the guys who were your own contemporaries.

Nagle: Yeah, they accepted me.

AJC: Right. But you were as good, if not better, than any of them.

Nagle: Yeah.

AJC: But that wasn’t enough?

Nagle: No.

Lately though, it has been good enough for the art world, which, in the past few years, has developed a fresh reverence for Nagle’s work, exemplified by a Guggenheim Fellowship and inclusion in the 2013 Venice Biennale.

Nagle: It’s all fashion. Things lined up, if you know what I’m saying.

AJC: Your time came.

Nagle: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I could point to specific things. It was all of a sudden a recognition that what was happening in LA in the late ’50s and early ’60s was valid.

AJC: The point is that, isn’t it, they say that the greatest revenge is to live long?

Nagle: Yeah, but it ain’t easy.

And it would seem that it’s never been easy for Nagle. Before becoming an overnight sensation decades in the making, he fought many an uphill battle in the music industry. With better lawyers, he said, he might’ve retired off the songs he wrote for the likes of Barbara Streisand and Sammy Hagar. Instead, he and his songwriting partner Scott Matthews have spent the past 40-plus years making music for self-proclaimed pop purists like themselves.

Nagle: ♫ That man, he just don’t love you ♫ Half as much as I do

Nagle: But I’m singing better than ever, ’cause I don’t have any range anymore, so I had to develop a new style. It’s very sad. It’s very venerable.

AJC: All joking aside, though, you have in the past admitted that you have, if not a love, but then definitely a tendency to wallow in the melancholy.

Ron Nagle: Absolutely. There’s no question about that, and I want that quality to be in my artwork.

AJC: All of it, music and ceramics.

Nagle: Yes.

AJC: Why?

Nagle: I’ve always loved sad. I don’t want to be sad. I’m prone to depression. Anybody that knows me’ll tell you that. I think most… I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. Most comics are usually depressed people, very depressed. I don’t know where that mix comes in. You know, you’ve got that smiley face and the one that goes like this. And they’re interchangeable and intertwined, in some funny way.

AJC: So the truth is that good art comes from great depression?

Nagle: I wouldn’t want to say that either. I mean, I don’t have to cut off my ear to make a good piece. No, I don’t believe that. I only feel better when I’m making it. It’s to get rid of the depression. It’s to say, “Okay man, outside this door, I’ve got a lot that I have to deal with. But when I get in here…”

It may be that Nagle’s creative processes are so engrossing because they’re so deeply intuitive.

Nagle: I just go, “Boink! Okay, what’s the next one gonna be? Nah, that’s too lame, sounds too much like the blues. Ahh, that’s too cheesy. Ah! Those two, bam, bam, bam.” And then, from there… So, one thing leads to another, and it evolves. We’ve got parts all over here, we’ll stick ’em together, “Nah, nah.” It’s all by feel. Kenny Price, he had a lot of great sayings, but he said, “A craftsman knows what he or she’s gotta do, an artist doesn’t.”

True and integral to his practice as it is, this artist admits that lately he hasn’t been able to stop himself from thinking ahead.

Nagle: I would say in the last, maybe the last year or two, all of a sudden, I started to—if I may be so profound—facing my mortality. Isn’t that a mouthful?

AJC: And?

Nagle: Well, I don’t like how it ends.

AJC: How does it end?

Nagle: You’re dead.

AJC: Sure, but do you not think about…

Nagle: What I’m leaving behind? No, I don’t.

AJC: You really don’t?

Nagle: No, I don’t care, ’cause I’ll be dead. I won’t know the difference. I’m sure this is a great debate we could have about this. Who’s it for? I mean, is my kid gonna care, is my wife gonna care? If I can make somebody else happy, or set a standard—I guess this is important to me—set a standard where some other kid that was, like, 20 comes in, and she says, “Oh my God, my mind was just blown. I saw this guy, Ron Nagle.” And I’m dead at this point. “And it just made me so excited, I must do this now forever.” That’d be good. What is making it? I don’t know, man, making it’s being happy. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. I am happy periodically, and I’ve surrounded myself—or they surround themselves with me, or something—of people who have good senses of humor. That’s, like, the most important thing. You’ll hear me gripe about a lot of stuff, but for all that I curmudgeonly think about, there’s probably just as much, if not more, stuff, that I could go on for hours about how much I love.

But regardless of what Ron Nagle’s legacy will be, he says that, from where he’s sitting now, things are pretty close to perfect. By almost any standard, he’s finally made it. 

John Britt explains Ian Currie Systematic Glaze Blend!

My favorite way to systematically tweak a ceramic “Base Glaze”. John does a great job explaining it!

He can be followed on YouTube @ https://www.youtube.com/user/johnbrittpottery

And you can find more on his website @ https://johnbrittpottery.com/



Copper Sand


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Remains of Maria Copper Mine, near Millford, UT


I talk a lot about the process of exploring and discovering in my work. Indeed, my MFA Thesis Show was all about giving a full context of how I go about adventuring, prospecting, developing, and ultimately making pots from the stuff I find.



I love the idea of being an alchemist – and I describe myself as someone who uses mineralogy, chemistry, and fire to forge beautiful objects and glazes. But I have to admit that more than anything, discovering the really compelling stuff is mostly a matter of luck, circumstance, and time. It’s very labor intensive, and I’d guess that for every 10 rocks I bring into the studio, it’s usually only one or two that have any real practical value in my work. I suppose that given enough time and enough firings, one could utilize just about anything under the sun… but in the real world there’s just never enough time – or test tiles!

Collected and Melted Materials from near Red Lodge, MT


In this post I thought I’d share the background of the material that I’m calling Copper Sand. It can be summed up in a single sentence: “I was adventuring in the Utah Desert and found some mysterious green dirt which I collected and put in a 5 gallon bucket, then after not immediately being able to use it as a glaze, I tried, tried, tried, and tried some more to find a way to use it.” The longer version of the story starts the summer earlier. In looking around the internet and researching Kaolin materials, I surfed around and found mentions of mining activity near Eureka, Utah, for a somewhat exotic Kaolin-like mineral called Halloysite. Halloysite is a mineral of great interest to material scientists, as it’s chemically identical to Kaolinite,(Al2Si2O5(OH)4) but rather than having a plate like molecular structure, it’s shaped like tiny tubes and needles.

For many years Halloysite was used primarily in industry as a cracking catalyst in petroleum refining. Nowadays it’s being researched in a whole range of commercial and scientific applications. Of course after reading about it being mined in Utah, I wanted to get my hands on some. After a few emails went unanswered, I did what I recommend to anyone in this kind of thing – I just showed up! I met the right person at the right time and eventually got access to some very cool places and some very, very cool materials.


The next summer, I planned a week-long digging and fishing excursion throughout west Utah. I thought I’d begin my trip from Eureka, and after calling my friend, it was decided that we’d meet up and head down to Topaz Mountain. We both wanted to go check out some old Flourite mines in the Thomas Mountain Range.


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Flourite and Bertrandite


On our trip, we were accompanied by a geologist who was an old hand in Nevada gold fields, a rockhound, and a hell of an interesting guy. I mentioned to him that I had plans to drive around rockhounding and asked if he knew where I could find some copper. He started rattling off a bunch of places and told me that in the 80’s, his mineralogy field trip went to The Old Maria Copper Mine and they found all kinds of flashy malachite and chacopyrite among the piles of old copper ore tailings. It was a few hours south, and seemed like an interesting place to go poke around. I pulled out some maps, he pointed to the vague area, and told me to go drive and look around. And that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

Here’s a video from one of my camps near the Wah-Wah Mountains in Utah.



Outside of Millford, where the geologist had pointed out the old mine – I was surprised to find a very large and very active copper mine. After driving around and staying outside of fences and no trespassing signs, I drove up to the security gate. I mentioned that I was a geology student from USU, was interested in the mining activity area, and wondered if the foreman or anyone had any time to show me around or give me any info. The answer was a definitive “No.”


Current CS Copper Mine: Photo Credit Ken Lund


After a few more questions, I pointed to some old buildings and tailings piles and asked if I could poke around. To my surprise, I was told, “Yea. You can help yourself to any of that stuff. Just stay out of the buildings, don’t touch the generator, and don’t do anything stupid.”

Remains of the Maria Mine – Summer, 2016


I spent a day slowly working through the piles of boulders (tailings), finding a whole range of malachite, azurite, chrysocolla, arsenopyrite, chalcopyrite, calcite, and quartz samples.



I wouldn’t say that I found any truly world class samples, but there was interesting shit everywhere! It didn’t take long to run into the classic rock hound conundrum – finding way more than the vehicle weight limit.

Throughout the piles, I kept finding bright yellowish green rocks that were soft and weathered. Geologists describe these rocks as ‘friable’ and they crumble readily. Having had, now, enough experience hammering boulders into gravel with a sledge hammer, I tend to seek out friable materials and places where mother nature or mining activity have already given me a head start on the milling process.

With my jeep packed to the gills, I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and filled it with the weathered, disintegrated green sand from a particularly bright green rock. I was thinking at the time that it might just make for an interesting glaze (honestly, I think this about every material I collect!). I had no idea what it was exactly, but it had me curious, and that’s really the only thing one needs.

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Back in the studio, I went through my usual process of melting, experimenting, and researching. Fusion tests suggested a material with a lot more copper than I expected. Analysis showed peaks of Magnesium, Iron, Copper, Titanium, Zinc, Silver, Lead, Calcium, Sodium. There’s a lot going on with the composition and chemistry of this bucket of material, and if I were to crush it all and blend it, I might end up with a mixture that’s something like:

  • Calcium Carb 40%
  • Copper Carbonate 20%
  • Silica 10%
  • Alumina 10%
  • Magnesium 10%
  • Iron 10%


X-Ray Diffraction of the melted material suggested Augite and Chalcopyrite.



With the initial melt tests and info I’d gathered, it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be as simple as ball milling it and then dipping pots into whatever came out. One of my last glaze firings in Utah was a soda kiln with about a dozen porcelaineous stoneware cups with this green copper material wedged right into the clay body. I used a few glazes on hand; a celadon, an oribe, and green salt. They all came out looking like pure hot trash! Crusty, pitted, pinholed, metallic charcoal black – not the surfaces I was interested in at all. I needed a new glaze and a new approach. Unfortunately, it had to wait for the dust to settle from my graduation, and move from Logan, Utah, to Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana.

A cup from the 2nd series


For the past few months I’ve worked on the aesthetic and technical issues of incorporating course rock materials into porcelain clay and high temperature glazes. It’s taken about 7 series of cups to find a process that works for me. In the first series everything was too dark, too much copper, incompatible glazes, pinholing, cracking, etc. In the second series I sieved and measured the material before wedging it in, and tried new glazes – results were better, but pinholing and foodsafety was still an issue. The 3rd and 4th series were about more refinements in sieving, measuring, incorporating and and wedging, but this time I lined the greenware cups with porcelain slip thinly, then thickly. I also tried a few new glazes, had a better firing and payed closer attention to glaze application. The results were better, but the interiors were still pinholing and cracking.


Cup from 3rd series


With the fifth series, I didn’t wedge in the material, but made a viscous, partially deflocculated slip with a handful of copper sand blended in. I dipped the cups into the slip, leaving the interior as bare porcelain clay. Results were better, again, but getting the slip mixed and applied right was tricky business.

Cups from 4th and 5th Series


With the 6th series, I tried mixing the material into a shallow bowl of deflocculated slip and using a brush to apply the rock/slip mixture. I also improved my glazes, settling on a white, blue celadon, and oribe glaze. Results were better yet.


A cup from the 6th Series


In the 7th, and most recent series, I made and bisque fired the bare porcelain cups. I then brushed on a mixture of rocks and glaze using a hake hair brush and a series of shallow bowls that I could mix in varying amounts and grain size of rock.


So that’s about where I’m at now. I’ve got a lot of things dialed in with this last round of pots, and in the next few series I’m going to to be exploring heavy reduction, heavy carbon trap soda firing with these reduced copper red colors. I’m also planning to sneak in an oxidized oribe firing for some bright vivid blues and greens.


Stay tuned on Instagram @bluepotter for regular updates!



Copper Sand cups from multiple firings and re-firings.


SEM Images of Ceramic Glazes

      These are a collection of high magnification images of the Oilspot droplets and interesting surface features that are forming on the surfaces of my ceramic glazes. I took all of these images at Utah State University, in the Core Microscopy Facility using a Quanta II Scanning Electron Microscope.
       I came to USU because I wanted to go really deep into the technical aspects of material science and glaze chemistry. I didn’t anticipate getting down to the nanoscale, though. This year I was given a scholarship to do just that – to get trained and learn how to operate a Scanning Electron Microscope so that I could research my materials and glazes with some of the most powerful microscope technology that exists. The learning curve was incredibly steep, and the deadline for my show didn’t allow for a more in-depth and rigorous suite of chemical and elemental analysis. But with that said, they did give me the keys and put me in the driver seat to do whatever I wanted.
        Being an Artist, I approached the machine from a very different point of view. I was interested in finding compositions and interesting structures – and then imaging at the highest possible resolution settings. I knew I wanted to print these things BIG, and the 24×36″ images I printed for my show took approximately 30 minutes each to scan – which was a very long time for an image. The scientist in charge of the machine thought I was crazy, and wasting my time – but when they were scaled up and printed, it proved to be worth the effort! I was very happy with how they all turned out.

Fiske Hare’s Fur Oilspot Glaze – Stoneware, Cone 11 Oxidation

 Fiske Lava Oilspot Glaze – Porcelain, Cone 12 Oxidation


Manganese Saturate Glazes – Porcelain, Cone 10 Oxidation