For the past nine months I have been working on a large sculptural plate installation. I was contacted by the client around this time last year, he had a large wall with plate railings already installed, that he wanted to see filled with my plates.
My usual glaze has a glossier surface than what the client was looking for, he preferred a more matte surface. I felt uneasy about applying a matte glaze to my plates, but ignored the feeling because I was super excited by the project: 200 plates, in four different sizes, all installed on one large wall. Beautiful. Or it would have been: if I would have stood up for the glazes I already work with. My glazes are all original recipes which I have developed over the past ten years. They work perfectly with my porcelain, which I also mix myself. Feeling invincible, I proceeded to explore totally new glaze colors and surfaces.
I spent four months testing glaze recipes from many sources. I tested seven different recipes and 45 different color mixes, until I found one recipe that beautifully carried the light colors requested by the client. The surface was a semi-matte. The glaze worked wonderfully on small plates (5" in diameter) that I used as test tiles. I proceeded to mix two-gallon batches and apply the glaze to the larger plates: 10", 11.5", and 13.5" in diameter.
I kept testing, and finally after many more cracked plates, by accident, got a new glaze to work. This new glaze turned out glossy on a first glaze firing, but then turned satiny-matte on the second, lower temperature fire. I was ecstatic, and as I sat down to write of this success to the client, I got an email from them saying that they are canceling the project. I was too exhausted by this point to argue. But here are the beautiful plates that I came up with for an installation that got cancelled after nine months of really hard research and development:
Did I get a deposit? Yes, I did. Did the deposit cover my expenses for this nine-month-long exploration? Not even close. Here are three very important lessons that I learned from this experience:
1. I should have stood up for the glaze I have been working with for the past ten years. It works and it’s beautiful.
2. If agreeing to test new glazes, I have to request a research and development budget. There must be an understanding that after the research and development stage is finished, there might not be a workable result.
3. For a project this size I must have a contract, spelling out detailed steps of the process, risks involved, and what happens when either the client or I back out.
There was no happy ending to this project, it put me under financially and emotionally, but I did learn a great deal. And, if anyone knows of a wall in need of a sculptural plate installation, give me a ring.