Stephen Kirkland’s love affair with ceramics started in 1967 when he was 14 years old, and his continuous work making pottery has yielded mastery at his art.
Stephen uses various techniques including pit firing, applying ingenious designs while the clay is on the wheel, and perhaps the most challenging, crystalline glazing.
In crystalline glazing, the crystals are made of zinc silicate. The glaze contains an overabundance of zinc oxide, and, in the slow-cooling environment of the kiln, the crystals grow. During the cooling, the temperature is held for several hours in the vicinity of 1900 degrees and that allows the molecules to move around and organize themselves in an orderly pattern. The process is much the same as the way rock crystals arrange themselves from materials within the earth.
Achieving the perfect thickness of glaze, the ideal amount of zinc compounds, and the optimum heating and cooling requires much experimentation. The porcelain Kirkland makes is very thin-walled and fired to the extreme temperature of 2400 degrees. Adding to the difficulties of the process, the glaze is very fluid and actually runs right off the pot as it melts. The pot must actually be chiseled away from its special clay pedestal after it is removed from the kiln. The base must then be carefully ground smooth.
In addition to working with crystalline glazes, Steve pit fires many of his pots. He finishes many of these by hand burnishing them for hours as they dry, using a small smooth stone in the traditional manner.
Visit Steve’s website for more information (www.stephenkirkland.com) and visit the Guild Gallery to see his work.