Egyptian Paste (aka Faience)

Experimenting in all facets of Egyptian paste, mixing clay, construction techniques, firing solutions, and finishing ie. cold working is in the scope of our discussion. Perhaps we will have time to get around to some practical uses of Egyptian paste, but mostly research into what works will with this media and what does not.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Tried-and-true Recipe

There are dozens of Egyptian paste recipes and where to start is not always apparent. Add to this the fact that you can buy premixed; however manufactures can change formulation without informing you and it’s rather dear. This recipe from an old ceramics monthly (Behrens) was chosen for a number of reasons. First is mixed by measures, so there’s no need for gram scale. Secondly, there is no clay in this formula; it’s mostly quartz, which is close to the composition of the archaeological finds. Third, there are very few ingredients and it’s inexpensive. And lastly, it can be modified easily. For those unfamiliar with studio, hygiene I am mentioning this: it is IMPERATIVE TO WEAR RESPIRATOR when measuring and mixing anything that contains free silica. The recipe is as follows:

16 parts, silica (325 to 400 mesh)
4 parts, bentonite .
2 parts, baking soda
this is the basic mix to this add one half part copper carbonate for turquoise color. I’ve tried a few other recipes but this one is tried-and-true; it is adequate for the time being.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

How can clay self-glaze? Efflorescence, that's how!

Every week I will introduce one little nuance on Egyptian paste. At this rate, we will acquire 52 characteristics of Egyptian paste in a year. Theoretically, anyone who can name 52 characteristics of Egyptian paste is somewhat of a master on the subject, no?
Moving on, efflorescence, is the term this week. I would describe it as a wicking of the salts in the Egyptian paste to the surface as it dries. The Egyptian paste has soluble salts in it; that is salts that are dissolved in water.
Here is an image of our miniature milking stool again; both before and after the firing to cone 06 (about 1000 C. degrees). It’s hard to see and photograph, but in the before picture there is a powder on the surface. The powder is like growing salt crystals. I’ll try to get a close-up photograph of the surface next time I fire a load of paste.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Working in Egyptian Paste

If Egyptian Paste is defined as self-glazing clay then this blog will consist of my adventures of trying to create with it. More than likely more pictures will be posted here rather than text, because pictures tend to be self-explanatory. It is hoped by sharing ideas, techniques and problems in working Egyptian paste with you that it will aid me in understanding this media.

I should sidebar here to say that Egyptian paste is not true clay but rather pulverized glass; it's about as pliable as wet sand. To the right is a little three-legged stool I formed (from a recipe I shall divulge further down the blog). I haven't learned how
to put captions on pictures yet, but that won't stop me from enclosing them just now.
Furthermore, why the antiquities of this media are labeled Faience is beyond my comprehension. Faience is a majolica pottery made in the town Faenza, Italy. I visited that town years back and noticed that Egyptian paste looks nothing like Faience. I've read that the Egyptians themselves referred to it as "tjehnet"; a Google search on tjehnet will yield a few of the artifacts but the same search on faience will overwhelm one. In researching Egyptian paste numerous archaeological references were discovered, but little in actually working the "clay". Therefore this blog is to be the first comprehensive guide in working with Egyptian paste. Only you will be working alongside me as I discover this trail.

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