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.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Firing Egyptian Paste, Houston We have FAIENCE!!

Opening a fired Egyptian paste kiln is one of the more exciting occasions in the studio. You always know you will get some little gifts. If you're like I am you will have an experiment or two running. So there's going to be some disappointments too. I really shouldn't call them disappointments; we need to think of them as learning experiences. There's serendipity too!

This last Egyptian paste kiln firing was no exception to the excitement rule. The paste goes in the kiln so nondescript and comes out so vivid. There were some surprises. Just 2.5 percent pansy purple mason stain yielded a much deeper color than expected; I can cut that down to 1% in future firings. The base recipe for Egyptian paste without colorant came out a pale gray, nearly white. I imagine with the addition of tin oxide or zinc oxide a true white may be obtained. That is the basis for another future experiment. I had a few experiments going on in this kiln that will be covered later on. For now, I can say that over all I was pleased with this firing.

My bead island performed marvelously as expected. The beads came off quite easily. Of course there was a layer of shelf primer on the peaks to keep the bead holes from sticking. Painting them with a layer of wax resist will keep the salts/fluxes from being absorbed by the clay of the island. In this firing, I neglected to do this wax coating and yet there was little sticking.

This firing was cone 06, that's about 1800 Fahrenheit/1000°C. A cone firing is a measure of work done by heat rather than temperture; the cone is formulated to melt at a certain temperature so when it bends the kiln is said to have reach temperature. Were I firing by pryrometer I would probably have to hold the kiln at temperature. Most potters just fire up to cone 06 then shut the kiln off. In my case, the “kiln sitter” shuts the kiln off. My next firing I'm going to try taking the kiln up one cone hotter to see if I can get the paste to flux a little bit more. More variation in the color would be nice. The the beads look a little too controlled, not enough like the ancient Faience. Even so, some of the ancient Faience is this turquoise.

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