creation & developement 2014-15 · Inspiration/Musings

…parts of myself…pt 2

Clay. The concept of incorporating glass+clay gets me so dang excited!

I’ve added inclusions to glass in the past; copper wire, fine silver crocheted into balls, self primer, high temp wire, but NOW my mind is swirling with possibilities!

OK so, there are things I can’t do at home and things I can’t do at the studio (outdoors is necessary) and things I can do at home and things I can do at the studio!  Raku firing the clay- I have to build a garbage-can kiln (!!!) and use this outside. Backyard, you now serve a purpose! I have a kiln (many actually) that will work for firing ceramics. One is my Paragon Caldera that I’ve used to pull murrine! This I can use for small to medium scale sculptures at the studio. The garbage-can kiln at home will be used for medium to large scale and I will then have another can full of combustibles for oxidizing the bisque! OMG so, excited. At the studio, while even with my hardcore ventilation, I still won’t be able to work with combustibles inside so, hello Obvara!! For the past three days I have been doing nothing more than reading up on Obvara firing  (ok I’ve been doing other things like, showering, brushing my teeth, eating, playing with the cats, sketching and watching Peaky Blinders…)

Obvara firing apparently dates back to 12th century, Eastern Europe. Similar to Raku, bisqued work is brought up to 1650˚F  removed from the kiln and dipped in a fermented liquid (sour)dough then dunked into water to cool the piece. The effect is STUNNING! Nothing less than amazing. Patterns range from lichen-like growth patterns, bands, stripes, all highly organic and entirely random!! People are mixing up batches of Obvara using yeast, flour, water and sugar. Other artists use honey and milk rather than water and sugar.

Jane Jermyn's Obvara recipe
Jane Jermyn‘s Obvara recipe from Marcia Selsor’s site


There are some Obvara ceramicists that don’t like using sugar as they feel it blackens the work too much however, honey/ sugar is necessary for the fermentation process- the yeast wants/needs it! What I find fascinating is the use of ‘food’ as a means towards creating work/texture.

Mud (Earth), Fire, Water and Air all combined in the process yielding gorgeous work. In the recipe (left) are links to Obvara fired work by Jane Jermyn and Marcia Selsor. There’s also a Facebook group on Obvara!


I’m considering trying the water and milk recipes then mixing up batches of my own devise 😉 Kefir starters, cabbage(kraut) starters, maybe even Kombucha would work? I will post the experimental outcomes here.

Ultimately the bisques will be added to glass castings. While I won’t be water shocking my glass work I will be adding oxidation through combustible firings. Painting the glass old interiors with naturally coloured slip to add clay directly to the glass, in some cases.

OK. Now I am off to make up a batch of Obvara, which needs to sit for 3 days to start fermenting 😀

Meanwhile, look at this boiling mud..

boiling mud puddles in Myvatn
boiling mud puddles in Myvatn

Wonder if Icelandic ceramicists work with Iceland clay?

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