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Secret Sauce: Glaze, Practice, and Re-Thinking Clay with Ryan Rakhshan

What if pottery could float on glaze? What if glaze could be more than just function or ornamentation? Tomorrow we are hosting ceramics artist Ryan Rakhshan as he discusses his innovative glazing and firing techniques, focusing on the ways he pushes the boundaries of his medium. Below, we talked with Ryan Rakhshan about his process:

Ryan Rakhshan’s work is inspired by the intricacies of human relationships. He explores the human experience using ceramic vessels and objects which utilize both the natural fluidity and the rigidity of clay.

Ryan’s work is inspired by the duplicity of human experience. By that, he means that the ceramic vessels and objects he creates, utilize the natural fluidity and complex rigidity of clay. Ryan tinkers with the technical and chemical aspects of ceramics, focusing on the aesthetic and utilitarian aspects of the ceramics field.

“I’ve been interested in putting unconventional objects in the kiln ever since high school, when I would try to sneak paper clips and brass tacks into hollow sculptures, only to break them open later to see what my “experiments” had done.

    After a decade of education focused towards making functional work, I decided to let loose and make a few sculptures. Thinking about glaze as a separate entity from the ceramic sculptures came shortly after. Glaze on functional work has a very specific purpose; it makes things sanitary and impervious to water or bacteria. It’s a coating or a skin rather than a separate element of the art. Glaze on sculptural work can be anything; it doesn’t even need to be attached to the work.

    Although other people have used sculptural glazes similarly to how I’m using them, there’s no real blueprint or recipe for how to make these glazes. Usually glaze recipes are closely guarded secrets. All of my previous experience with functional glazes and strange experiments with foreign objects in the kiln came together to help me design and use my current body of sculptural glazes. And although there are a few dozen other artists using glazes similarly, I’m willing to bet that we all came to our process individually, resulting in the huge variety of objects currently being made in this style.” – Ryan Rakhshan

“Practice, practice, practice. The technical skill to make a really good mug took me about 10 years to get down. I have a huge mug collection at home, mostly made by other artists, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to consistently reach for one of my own mugs rather than someone else’s. Up until that point, my work simply wasn’t as nice as the other mugs in my collection. The same goes for glazing and glaze mixing. Each time I design a new glaze, it usually takes me about 40 hours of very focused and intense testing. Just this past week I’ve spent at least 20 hours making over 100 different test glazes (I’m currently pursuing a functional cone 6 floating blue glaze without any cobalt). Without putting in those hours, there’s no way I would be able to make the work that I make today.  It’s an ongoing process, and you’re never really done getting better, so you may as well enjoy the journey.” – Ryan Rakhshan

Ryan’s talk will be held from 7:00-8:30 on June 20 in The Art League Gallery. RSVP below to hold your spot.


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