I am thinking of trying to emulate this style of surfaces in our soda firing in April.
I cannot find any recipe for Jack Doherty’s slip but according to Gail Nichols (see previous post), it looks like I should aim for 2-10% copper carb (I’ll probably take the mid point). Unfortunately, there is no data sheet for the porcelain I am using either (I have contacted the importer -BotPot- of the Korean clay) so it will have to be an approximation and a lot of faith in the soda kiln “gods”.
Irish potter Jack Doherty lives and works from his home and studio in Mousehole, Cornwall, overlooking the sea. He makes porcelain vessel forms that are thrown on the potter’s wheel then carved and shaped when the clay is soft to reflect the fluidity of the material and physicality of making. The elemental colour and surface texture are created by the fusion of fire and soda in the intense heat of the kiln, leaving behind a subtle palette of smokey grey, lemon, russet and turquoise.
Jack’s pots are not glazed in a traditional sense. A smooth thin layer of liquid porcelain slip containing copper carbonate, as a single colouring material, is applied to the thrown and altered forms before firing. The copper mineral produces the characteristic blue and turquoise colours particularly associated with Jack’s work.
Jack has evolved his practice to use using only one single firing technique. Soda firing is a mix of chemical reactions and personal alchemy. The exciting process involves dissolving sodium bicarbonate with water, which is then sprayed into the gas fuelled kiln at high temperature. The vapour is drawn through the kiln chamber where it reacts with the silica and alumina present in the clay during the white heat of the firing to create a rich patina of surface texture and colour. Firing with flame and soda is a dynamic way of making ceramics where the kiln is an exciting and essential creative environment.
The resulting vessels combine a finely textured, painterly surface with a seductive palette of turquoise, lemon, cool grey, and russet orange, often showing ghostly shadows of vapour trails from other neighbouring pieces, sprayed and fired beside them in the kiln. For Jack the kiln is both a practical tool and a creative space. His family groupings of vessels consider how objects can be positioned in a confined space to develop dynamic relationships between the forms and fire.
‘The ceramic forms I enjoy most are often simple shapes that come from pre-history. Vessels and containers that in their time were essential to survival, storing food and keeping people safe in this world and beyond. My visits to Japan have shown me something of the immense diversity of contemporary ceramics practice but have also enriched my understanding of how traditional and spiritual values can be inspirational in a changing technological world.’ – Jack Doherty
Born in Co Derry, Jack Doherty studied at the Ulster College of Art and Design in Belfast as a painter, but after a visit to Lucie Rie’s studio he decided he wanted to make pots for a living. On graduating, he worked at the Kilkenny Design Workshops before establishing his first studio in Co Armagh. Later he relocated to Herefordshire. From 2008 – 2013 Jack was the first Lead Potter and Creative Director at the refurbished Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall, where he established the production studio and designed a contemporary domestic range of soda-fired tableware.
As a potter and ceramic artist he has gained an international reputation, exhibiting extensively in the UK and abroad. His ceramic vessels are represented in many public collections including the Irish Contemporary Ceramics Collection at the Hunt Museum, Limerick; the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin; the Ulster Museum, Belfast; Potteries Museum, Stoke-on-Trent; Liverpool Museum; Cheltenham Museum; Castle Museum, Nottingham; Mashiko Ceramics Museum, Japan and Princeshof Ceramic Museum, the Netherlands.
In 2016 he received the Janet Mansfield Memorial Award in recognition of his work with soda-fired porcelain. He currently works independently from his home studio in Mousehole and is resident potter at the Newlyn School of Art where he fires his gas kiln.
Jack Doherty has done much to promote and raise the profile of contemporary ceramics through lecturing, writing, curating exhibitions and organising conferences. he is a fellow and former Chair of the Craft Potters Association of Great Britain and was a founder member and Chair of the organising committee of Ceramic Art London for twelve years. He has been guest editor and a consultant to Ceramic Review magazine. His book, Porcelain, was published in 2002 by A&C Black. Most recently Jack has enjoyed travelling to Japan, China and Taiwan where he was invited as artist in residence and showcased his work at the Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art and Fuping Pottery Village, Xian.