Emmanuel Cooper – Glaze test tiles

Understanding glaze, its formulation, application and its final quality, are essentials to creating a successful final piece. The sheer breadth of quality and decoration that can be achieved through glazing is arresting. Earthenware or Stoneware? Oxidation, Reduction, Raku, Salt? Layers? Just endless possibilities . However, this area of ceramic practice is potentially the most volatile and impactful on your work.

Glazing is often considered an art form in itself. It can take years to become proficient, but the endeavour is rewarding  in the quality of the finished objects.

In its simplest form a glaze is a thin coating of glass that fuses to the clay body during the firing process. Raw materials are weighed to a recipe and mixed together in water before being applied.

The act of glazing is important on a number of levels. In functional pieces, glaze is used primarily to finish the fired ceramic surface, making it smooth, nonporous and hygienic. In a more artistic context, glazing is a mean of expression in its own right.

Glazes can be bought from pottery suppliers either as a ready mixed liquid or a powder to which you add water. However, here at our great facilities, we have an array of chemicals where we can basically mix any glaze and if we can’t find a specific compound there is always an alternative one. Whatever the medium you still need to observe the conventions of glazing and health and safety requirements.


A glaze is made up of three constituents: silica or silicon dioxide which is the main ingredient to form the glassy surface; a flux such as zin oxide or calcium oxide to control the melting point of the glaze; and aluminia or aluminium dioxide to stabilise the glaze and bind it to the clay body. Many materials may be mixed together, but they must still make up these three separate parts. Decorative qualities or colours are introduced to the basic glaze through the use of pigment or metallic oxides such as cobalt oxide.

Glaze presentation

We were taken on an induction on glaze mixing with Duncan, going through all the process and health and safety precautions. I had a looked at a few books from the library and looked at some recipes to work on. The actual process of mixing a glaze is quite simple, but needs to be precise. Simply, measure all the powdered chemicals separately add them all together mixing 1:1 them with water; then sieve the mixture through a 100 hole mesh ensuring you got the last bit of it, only this way we can be sure all the chemicals have been mixed uniformly together. And finally, add a label due to health and safety and simply for inditification prepuces. Its finally ready for testing.

On my first go I looked at 3 glazes,  a earthenware glaze, an opacifier glaze and a raku (yes, because we have an induction soon – can’t wait)

Really happy how this lead glaze with an addition of iron oxide came out. Really like how it affected the rim of this pinch bowl.

Lead Glaze with addition of Iron Oxide – 1080ºC

  • Lead Bi-Silicate                       65
  • Whiting                                      10
  • Potash Feldspar                       15
  • China Clay                                 10
  • Red Iron Oxide                         6%


Just seeing this picture makes my heart slowly sinks into the back of my soul. Me, being me, just brushed this opacifier glaze directly onto this bisque teapot; and this just shows the importance of test glazing and looking into application methods (dipping, spraying). So from now on, TEST GLAZE. Not only I risk damaging my work but I also risk damaging other peoples work and also kiln furniture as glaze can flow onto it.

Opacifier Lead Glaze with addition of Zirconium 1080ºC

  • Lead Bi-Silicate                       65
  • Whiting                                      10
  • Potash Feldspar                       15
  • China Clay                                 10
  • Copper                                       1.5%
  • Zirconium                                 5%

Here are some more examples of what not to do. I applied this white earthenware glaze by dipping  my pieces but I believe it was added too thickly therefore the glaze crawled.

Something really important in general in ceramics, specially when it comes to glazing is keeping a detailed record of your glazing experiments which will help you to reproduce effective glaze recipes in the future and well as you won’t forget them. You should record information such as firing range, thickness of glaze application and the outcome either on your journal or an app such as Ceramics Archives.

Even though my glazes didn’t go as I expected I just need to persist, by looking at glaze applications and test glazing glazes. It’s something that can be frustrating but I just can’t give up on my first try and that I actually am interested on.



Invisible Cities

tumblr_mwg5e7p9f51qzpyz2o2_1280.jpgOn this keynote lecture with Dr. Mahnaz Shah, we looked at Italian journalist and writer Italo Calvino and focused on his book ‘Invisible Cities'(1972), in which we explored the different interpretations that we as artists and practitioners experiment with.

Calvino’s book, ‘Invisible Cities'(1972), is about places he describes, they actually don’t exist on any map. Technically, it’s a novel, a work of fiction, but one without a storyline and its something that we as artists should consider in our own conceptual practice.

Each short chapter describes a different city, 55 in total. These are fantastical places, where things are never as they seem. Each city represents a thought experiment.

“Octavia, the spider-web city, whose residents live suspended over an abyss, supported by a net they know won’t last long”

“and Argia, a city with earth instead of air.”

Nothing of fiction comes from nowhere. It’s an abstraction from reality, in which its Calvino’s method of using fantasy to address reality. In structural terms these books also codify his passion for beginning and mistrust of endings, positions that perhaps explain why he habitually moved from one obsession to another, looking for the next impossible thing to write. Is the blurring of the boundaries between fiction and reality descriptive of the world we live in? Does it indicate a sense of uncertainty and uneasiness in the world?

We need to look at things not for the sake of reality of dreams but for the sake of what is the narrative behind it and how can we use these narratives within our own practice and understanding within our own subject.


Fenella Elms

One of my biggest inspiration throughout my practice as a ceramicist is Fenella Elms. I came across her work while doing my A-levels and since then she has played a massive roll on my creative outcome.

Fenella Elms’ porcelain wall mounted pieces are aking pieces that alter in pattern or give an illusion of movement and depth by using clay’s potential for creating surface texture and building sculptural dimension. I love the idea of having single elements transform into one single unit as if there is a breeze blowing across a field.

I have taken inspiration in natural forms using the same principal as Fenella Elms in previous work. And similarly the work of Belgian ceramicist, Jeanne Opgenhaffen, visually evoke that sense of movement my the use of repetition, geometry, colour.

I went to the Ceramics Art London 2015 and finally met Fenella Elms, and it was a great opportunity and experience to see her work in person and talk to her. She touches the points in which I’m interested in ceramics, the process and stages clay goes through, from liquid as slip to malleable, breakable to finally hard,fine and sharp.

While at the Ceramics Art London event it was amazing to see other practitioners there including our very own Cardiff Metropolitan Graduates, JongJin Park and Jin Eui Kim. Other notorious faces included Peter Beard, Ashraf Hanna and Christiane Wilhelm.

Something that still hast stopped from amazing me is the endless possibilities this essential primitive material that is clay can brings.

Popular Culture Theory

What we started looking on this session was that there are many theories of Popular Culture and many difinitions. It’s broadest definition which is the one we mustuse in a broad overview is “a set of generally available ar tefacts: films, records, clothes,TV programmes,modes of transport, etc.” (Hebdige, 1988, p.47)

Today’s Popular Culture comes from everywhere, films, fashion, social networking, music, etc.

Early Theories of Popular Culture:

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 18.10.10

Linked with the rise of a market economy as far back as the 16th century. Associated with ideas of a national consciousness in late 18th century. Argued that popular culture comes out of the mechanisation of the industrial revolution. Others argue that circuses of the Roman empire were examples of popular culture.

 Much has been made of the distinction between ‘popular’ culture and ‘high’ culture. There seems to be a shift in perspective of popular culture between the 18th and 19th centuries. Early Ideas of Popular Culture – inferior kinds of work which deliberately set out to win favour and thus compromise on quality. Current Ideas – work made by the people for the people.

The 1920’s and 1930’s are often seen as key in the development of ideas and theories of popular culture, technological developments such as cinema and radio, mass production, mass consumption.

Mass = Great unspecified quantity

Masses = Ordinary People

Mass: Production, Consumption, Culture, Media, Society

Mass Society refers to the relationship between people and the social order not numbers. For example, India has a massive society, but it’s still fairly simple in nature; it’s not a mass society.

According to the theorists, mass society has a few characterist. People are psychologically isolated from each other. They are relatively free from social obligations. Characteristic of complex cultures. People are interdependent but have no central unifying value or purpose.

The individual is isolated and is required to judge everything for himself and find his own criteria. He is responsible for his own decisions, both personal and social, he/she must rely entirely on his/her own resources.

Mass Culture Theory

Mechanisation + Urbanisation = Atomisation

Mass society theory has grown out of this concern, individuals can only relate to each other like atoms in a chemical compound. The essential condition of the society is the contract, so no bonds, feeling or individually inherent value is assumed, value is based on what a person can do rather than who the person is.

The permanent uncertainty, social mobility and absence of sociological protection and of traditional frames of reference, leave the individual defenseless, thus becoming an easy prey for,mass media, propaganda, mass currents, mass culture, direct integration into mass society, influence and exploitation by the state. Intellectuals in Western Societies have historically been fearful and anxious about where the rise of mass society and mass culture will lead us, and this has led to much of the debate around the subject.


Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 21.12.58.pngNot many films, programmes or newspapers need to be produced to reach a wide audience. Its no longer considered art, not of the people and content decided upon by a few higher up people.

Mass culture is popular culture produced by mass production, industrial techniques and is marketed for a profit to a mass public of consumers.


“All Germany hears the Führer on the People’s Receiver.” Nazi Propaganda Poster


The main determinant of mass culture is the profit that production and marketing can make from the potential mass market. In order to sell, and be cheap to produce and to maximise profits, the product must be bland and standardised to a formula, squeezing out authenticity and originality. Standardised, formulaic and repetitive products of mass culture are then sold to a passive audience, prone to manipulation by mass media as a sop to prevent discontentment and uprising. Mass culture theorists argue that both folk and high art are at risk from mass culture. Dominic Strinati summarises the theoretical arguments about the dangers of mass culture thus: “Mass Culture represents a debased, trivialised, superficial, artificial and standardised culture. One which saps the strength of folk and high culture and challenges the intellectual arbitration of cultural taste”(1995).


American popular culture is seen to embody all that is wrong with mass culture. America is the capitalist society most closely associated with mass production and consumption.

Looking into an Art&Design Context in America:

Insitence on distinction between Fine Art and Popular Culture

“Young working class people do not consume….in a passive and unreflective manner. They consume styles in images, clothes and music in an active, meaningful and imaginative fashion, thus converting them into distinct sub-cultural tastes”

– Hebdige,1979

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 22.15.08.png

Beyond the youth cultures there are a whole range of individuals with different life experience, disposable income, varying educational backgrounds, etc. Therefore popular culture must be diverse because it is open to diverse uses and interpretations by different groups in society. Likewise Popular Culture must be diverse in it’s nature due to the varied set of genres, texts, images and representations which can be found across a range of different media. Within this diversity there inevitably exist tensions and conflicts and it would therefore be impossible to describe it as homogenised or standardised. Audiences, crucially are now able to be pro-active in contributing to popular culture.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 22.20.57.png

In Conclusion, mass culture theory lacks an adequate understanding of social and cultural change, and therefore undermines it’s own theories. Audiences are more knowing and more discriminating in their consumption of popular culture than ever before.


IKEA: Development of Ideas,Decals Photoshop: Matt Leighfield

The whole idea of tradition, culture, branding, whats real and whats not has been playing on my mind and i began to think on how i could introduce these into decals.

I started to look into logos of branded teas; bold, straight to the point. Some pretty famous brads, PG Tips, Twinings and Lipton. Visual culture imagery that tells the viewers what I’m talking about. After, collecting some logos, I started to get quite a few comments on my work as perhaps not being exhibited due to copyright issues, and this of course didn’t leave me completely satisfied. Why can’t I just present an idea I have?Copyright? I call it horse crap. But in a way, I probably wouldn’t like someone to just copying my work with out my consent. So maybe I was being a bit selfish. Or is it just me? Looking back at the whole idea of English teas not really being British, where is the whole reference/copyright of other teas being basically substituted by something that we think is British.

Continuing with the tea logos, I looked into food/coffee chains (Costa, Pret A Manger, McDonalds) and supermarket stores (Tesco, ASDA) that either had their own tea brands  or sold teas from other brands which is particular more common in supermarkets. This interested me as perhaps is not obvious I’m talking about tea and its the whole idea of hipping something.

Tacking the copyright issue into account, I started to experiment with the different tools in Photoshop (Im literally not any good with this technology malarkey) and began mixing logos together, and really started to like the results as then we couldn’t note what logo it was and once again something being hidden away and reclusive. A lie? Unknown?

Finally, I collected images of some countries outlines that produce tea and maybe if you are not a geography  expert (such as me) you couldn’t really tell what these lines meant or perhaps what country it was as these are not placed proportionally.

Im still not completely sure as to how I’m going to add these to my mugs (or if I have enough) but I’m thinking on adding them by categories. Below you can see the whole sheet of my decals and how i filled every inch and cranny with an image, even if not for this project i can use them in the future. And in fact for it being quite expensive to print and many people not opting to do them due to pricing, but thinking that these could perhaps be in an exhibition and possibly be sold one day I felt that it was an investment really. Decal

Notes from Photoshop session:

Company: Digital Ceramics


  • Image Resolution Minimum 300dpi
  • Max Print: 30×43 cm
  • Actual Sheet Size: 32×45 cm
  • Files Accepted: jpegs or pdfs

Photoshop: Creating New Document:

  • File
  • New
  • Set to International Paper
  • W: 45 cm
  • H: 32 cm
  • R: 300 ppi
  • CM: CMYK Colour

Margins of 1 cm:

  • View
  • New Guide
  • 1 cm Vertical                 44 cm Vertical
  • 1 cm Horizontal           31 cm Horizontal


  • File
  • Save As
  • Format either jpeg or pdf
  • Max quality 12

Colour Spectrums:

“The Analysis of Beauty” – the line of beauty

The Analysis of Beauty plate 1

I came across with a book by the English painter, William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753, where he emotes whats beauty. Hogarth had one big theory and that was, beauty came from variety and it came from curved lines, not straight. His basic premises is that beautiful things have a inner undulation, a variety, a sense of grace.

And i must agree to a certain point, curved lines are beautiful. But wait, what about straight line?  Someone needs to stick up for straight lines. This is mere someones opinion, and you ask yourself; but whats beauty? I had a look at the dictionary for pure curiosity to find out what the word beauty meant.

Beauty (noun-plural: beauties): A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”

Beautiful (adjective): Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically”

We, as humans find different things beautiful and different people have different ideologies of beauty. I personally find repetition of lines, shapes, forms and objects beautiful. And this is just my own opinion. And there might be someone in a few years commenting, “Toni De Jesus says that beauty is found in repetition, Whaatt? Howw?”.

I aesthetically enjoy how my mind views images or objects with an element of repetition, geometry, shape. Usually these are found in nature, natural forms,the microscopic world but also in architecture and manmade structures.

Somehow i would like to start bringing these ideas and sense of repetition, geometry and form to my own work. And in my own view a sense of beauty.

Teenage Kicks: Cultural Approaches to Dr Martens boots

With Cath Davies, we looked  at the ideas of analysing all aspects of art and design from a cultural perspective beyond that of functionality. It wasnt really a lecture about Dr Martens boots but a way of thinking and dissecting meanings inherent within objects and how we can think about objects in relation to narratives in relation to identity. We only looked at Dr. Martens  boots as a way of thinking through some concepts in our own practice or to help us to think about how we use objects in our practice either designing or making objects. The key concept was to think about how objects are embedded with meaning that are beyond its function.


blog_ln_1197Dr. Martens boots are a brand and an object that we are familiar with. Its function is to keep our feet warm and dry and this keynote lecture was there to suggest there are far more meanings embedded in these particular boots and brand and it made us think when we take an object or an image how we would go about finding different ways of thinking about that object.

One of the key concepts that we looked at was the notion of objects having a cultural biography (Kopytoff, 1986). According to Kodpytoff, objects are a “culturally constructed entity, endowed with culturally specific meanings”, (Kopytoff, 2001, p.68). And this is important as one of our jobs as artists is to consider, culturally specific meanings within our work and other people’s work to. So when we are identifying a cultural biography, simply what we are looking at is “what are recognised ‘ages’ or periods in the life and what are the cultural markers for them”, (Kopytoff, 2001, p.66).

Looking at wider contexts of meaning that all of us to think about new meanings that in relation to objects and our own practice researching wider contexts and coming to our objects and work, having identified new concepts in wider research.

How to identify “cultural markers”:

  • Investigate its status within different periods and cultures
  • Investigate its production process who made it, for what purpose?
  • What role it played at different stages of its career?
  • Why has its usage changed over time? What are the contexts for this development?
  • What are the different connotations/associations that are attributed to the objects?

Dr. Martens boots original incarnation as workwear due to functional design. However, from the 60s onwards, the brand adopted by youth street scenes who were attracted to the anti-fashion characteristics of the initial workwear branding. Youth scenes, such as, Skinheads and Mods in the 60s, Punk, Two Tone/Ska revival/skinhead revival in the 70s, Goth, Psychobilly (punk and rockabilly fusion) in the 80s and Gruge and Britpop in the 90s, in which inscribed the brand with non-conformity connotations through its alterative function as part of youth subcultural apparel (the very opposite of its original function).

Dr Martens Visual History

The idea of how an object can change when taking away the function is quite amazing. Customisation is something we see all the time in fashion, the ability to adapt something to your own tastes, is really interesting as the Dr. Martins acted as a blank canvas. People modified them differently throughout the years to create a statement. This is something they never thought of as a brand and this has become their identity. From this you can see now that is their clear unique selling point.