These pots are all made from porcelain, strong white clay. Porcelain was described as 'stronger, whiter, finer, lighter' in a recent TV programme on ceramic material. In terms of clay, that's exactly what it is.

The pieces are made on the wheel, painted in their raw (unfired) state and then biscuit fired. After the biscuit firing comes the glaze firing for which I use a transparent matt glaze.

The glaze is sprayed on; in theory this gives an even, non-drippy, smooth surface. In practice it's not so easy. I was taught to spray glaze by a master (Richard Slee since you ask) and I hope it would amuse him if I say that I often think of him when I'm glazing. It's a tricky, messy and often cold process as maximum ventilation is required. And so is a respirator style mask, technically termed 'pig face'. Everything must be right, the consistency of the glaze, the porosity of the fired clay, the pressure of the compressor, the thickness of the glaze layer and the patience of the sprayer. It's the second-to-last process in a string of processes. If this isn't right then all the time spent on the earlier processes is wiped out.

Then comes the last process, the glaze firing, also tricky. I don't have, and have never had, a pyrometer. I use cones, tapering triangles of ceramic material made to bend at a precise temperature. Cones are a marvel as long as you can see them. They are placed close to the bungholes and, as the colour inside the kiln gets near to the 'right' colour (white-hot for porcelain), the cones need frequent checking. It would be much more sensible to have a pyrometer but there's something about those triangles as the heat reaches bending temperature, the cone begins to lean in a graceful little arc. It is proper to use three cones with a few degrees difference between them; one to show the right temperature is approaching, one to bend at perfect temperature and one to show you that, if you take your eye of the ball, at the very last stage of the very last process, you risk finding the pots welded to the kiln shelves by puddles of overfired glaze.

Phil de Burlet

I currently sell work through:

Devon Guild of Craftsmen
Hybrid Gallery
Artisan: 68 The Square, Chagford TQ13 8AE