January 30, 2004, Newsletter Issue #168: Earthenware Bodies

Tip of the Week

Temperature
Along with the color range, this is one of the more attractive reasons to use white earthenware. Firing to cone 06-cone 04 is well within the range of even the most geriatric kilns, and standard elements will last much longer than they will at stoneware Temps!

White Earthenware
Bright candy colors, lightness, low-fire...these are a few things that describe white earthenware clay. Cast items are most often made from this type of clay. When an earthenware piece is struck with an object it often makes a “clanky” ring, while stoneware and porcelains are more likely to make a bell-like chime. Earthenware clays normally rely on talc (magnesia) as an active flux (melter), and ball clay as a source of silica, alumina and plasticity. The end result is a clay mixture that fires bright white between cone 06 and cone 2. Above cone 2, many earthenware bodies will begin to melt and slump and liquefy above cone 6!
Artists often choose white earthenware clay because the color palette associated with the temperature range is very broad. It is fairly easy to identify earthenware pieces in a gallery, they often announce themselves with loud colors! Decorating white earthenware is a little like working on a white canvas; when used in conjunction with modern underglazes and glazes, the artist is presented a “what you see is what you get” design situation. White earthenware is sometimes described as “short” or non-plastic because of the high percentage of non-clay materials. But it needn’t be that way. Minnesota Clay’s white earthenware is well-suited for throwing and handbuilding techniques.

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