Break All the Ceramic-Glazing Rules with Isabel Halley
When it comes to glaze-firing her ceramics, Isabel Halley knows how to finish strong. The potter is a master of tweaking existing formulas to create dressed-up—but not too fancy!—glazes that look unlike anything else we’ve ever seen. “It’s a lot about play for me,” explains Isabel. “I’m always exploring color—for example, right now I’m obsessed with a really specific shade of red plastic!” While we anxiously await the results of that infatuation, we asked Isabel to break down three of the super-fresh ways she makes her hand-pinched pieces shine.
“The process of making the speckles is totally time consuming, but I cannot stop doing it. I mix mason stain to slip (which is a liquid clay) to achieve the color. After mixing, I lay the colored slip thinly out onto newspaper. I let it dry, and then I crumble it up into teensy pieces, almost like a powder. I put those pieces in a bowl and fire them. Once the speckles come out of the kiln, I rinse them to make sure I only have speckles and no leftover mason stain. The speckles then get kneaded into the porcelain.”
MOTHER OF PEARL LUSTER
“When I first started using luster, I was only using gold. It was so expensive—and it only came in two-ounce bottles—so I would use it sparingly, in thin lines. Then I started using mother of pearl —it comes in a ten-ounce bottle, so it felt like a lot of product. I felt much more comfortable using a thicker line. The mother of pearl feels trippy and beachy.”
UNDERGLAZE AS OVERGLAZE
"For my Of a Kind planter edition, the black stripe is made with underglaze, meaning it would be usually finished with a clear top glaze. In this case, I applied the stripes once the piece had been finished with a clear glaze and then re-fired to give it the black stripes a velvety finish. I am interested in applying color before and after firing because I find that I have more control that way. A lot of potters enjoy the organic process of letting the kiln dictate the color, but I can't handle it."