What Does Float Mean When Talking About Pottery Glazes?

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Started by the Egyptians for the first time in the 1st century BC, glazing gradually occupied a place in the world of pottery decoration. It then became famous in China and countries of the Middle East and later on disseminated across the entire world. Glazing is one of the most effective ways of turning an ordinary piece of pottery into a marvelous form of art. Not only the touch of aesthetic beauty but also the increase in durability, waterproofing, and food-safe qualities are the added benefits of glazing.

Different patterns of glazes tend to appear when the glazing components come in contact with fire inside the kiln, and these turn into incredible designs after being fused and melted. Floating is one such glazing pattern that appear when you try to work with two or more layers of glazes.

What is floating?

Floating is one of the popular methods of glazing that is used by potters over the years to make pottery glazing look marvelous. This effect is created by using a specific recipe of glazing that makes the colors dance more when the chemicals of the glaze fuse during the cooling session. This famous glazing process became popular with the book of James Chappell’s, named “The Potter’s Complete Book of Clay and Glazes”.

This extraordinary recipe of glazing contains ingredients like Gerstley Borate, Nepheline, and Silica, which are mixed to form a highly melted transparent fluid. Along with these, colored pigments and rutile are added. Due to the ingredients, the colored areas of the glazing seem like floating in the transparent mixture.

This varied pattern of glazing is caused by the variegation of multiple mechanisms that work behind this floating pattern.

  • The sparkle of the glaze is caused by the growth of titanium crystals in the matrix. Also, the opalescent calcium borate, along with boron blue crystals, grows together in the glass.
  • The color and opacity of the glaze vary due to the thickness, and it creates irregular kinds of highlights on the pottery body when it is fired.
  • The dark ring-like patterns around the light-colored glass are caused by the emission of bubbles, while the glass starts softening with the final temperature of firing.
  • The regions of differing colors and phase separation areas of the translucent matrix are the reasons behind the swirling of colors that makes the fluid glass flow all around the surface.
  • Iron is the influencer for the formation of small black speckles of the glazing texture.

The term ’floating’ in the context of glazing is also popularly known as Floating Blue, which is an ancient recipe for cone-6 pottery glazing.

So now, let’s have a look at the recipe:

Ingredients Amount of the ingredients
Gerstley Borate26.00
Nepheline Syenite45.90
Ep Kaolin5.7
Cobalt Carbonate1
Red Iron Oxide2

Due to the troublesome nature of Gerstley Borate, following this classic floating blue cone-6 glazing recipe by David Shaner might be a bit difficult. However, if you learn a little bit more tricks and techniques, then you can be much more efficient in preparing this interesting and traditional glazing recipe. For creating the classic float pattern, you need to be at home with the techniques of glazing and know how to deal with the components of the recipe while applying multiple layers and firing them after placing them inside the kiln.

Variations of float glazing

Potters create a variety of float effects on the glazing by applying different kinds of techniques and tricks to make unique and beautiful designs every time. Different effects can be created depending on the thickness of applying the glaze. Too thin or too thick application influences the effects of glazing while melting the glaze components inside the kiln.

Let us now have a look at the different types of float glazing based on the thickness of the glaze material applied on the surface of the pottery:

Medium float glazing:

The medium application of the glazing compound has a certain amount of thickness that allows the compounds to float on the surface of the pot. Depending on the thickness of the glaze, this type of glazing tends to form a ring-like structure prominently on the clay body. The layering of the enamel becomes more visible under the influence of the floating effect.

However, this effect won’t appear in the glaze, if applied in a very thin layer. The materials will not float on the top of the glazing surface due to the thinness of the coat. So, it is essential to apply a thick layer of the glazing compound to get the desired floating effect.

Heavy float glazing:

Based on the thickness of the application layer, heavier float glazes will create a contrastive floating effect of the glazing compounds over the darker-colored base of the pot. As these effects become more prominent with the increasing heaviness of the glazing materials, floating gives full coverage of the excess material that might crack on the surface of the pot to float and, in turn, provide a beautiful texture. Cracking of the float materials is suitable enough for applying multiple-layered glazing.  You can buy Duncan Pure Brilliance Clear Glaze for giving a translucent and shiny gloss to your glazing.

Metallic float glazing:

When it comes to metallic float glazing, metallic materials of the glazing mixture float on the top of the glazing surface and give it a reflective and glossy appearance. Again, it is vital to have the perfect thickness of the glazing layer, as a thin layer of glazing will not allow the metallic components to float on the surface.

As soon as the glaze starts melting with the increasing temperature, it becomes flowy and allows the metallic compounds to move freely and show up in the front of the surface, which in turn gives a beautiful glossy and metallic appearance to the pot.

Wrapping Up:

The various effects and crazily beautiful designs of glazing have always given stunning and marvelous results that have created remarkable notions in the genre of pottery glazing and pottery decoration. Floating is one of those techniques, which is hard to learn but not impossible, and it gives quite perfect results when followed with proper steps and methods. Beginners need to acquire the basic knowledge of glazing first and then move on to the floating technique to create mesmerizing designs and patterns on different pottery pieces. We hope that this article has managed to increase your knowledge about this incredibly beautiful classic method of pottery decoration.

Happy sculpting!

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