Frequently Asked Questions
SolidagoCeramics is a small pottery studio in Menston, West Yorkshire run by Nadine Blakemore, me. I am a retired civil engineer and I am following my passion for clay. I opened the business in 2017 when my husband helped me buy a kiln.
I am a mum of 2 and was born behind the iron curtain in East Germany. My upbringing has significantly influenced my carer and the way I potter. I am a keen gardener and environmentalist.
How long have you been potting?
My mum took me to a pottery class when I was 10. I was hooked straight away and have been working with clay ever since. I attended evening classes when I lived in Munich and London, but are mainly self-taught.
Why did you name the business SolidagoCeramics?
Solidago is also known as Goldenrod. The plant grew everywhere when I grew up, especially in really impoverished soil
It needed little water and the yellow flowers inspired me as much as the long stems. Here in England, I have bought many cultivars of this plant for my garden, but it's not as common as back home in Germany and not all are thriving. It might have something to do with the rain. Although all is about to change with climate change and who knows, my grandchildren might be playing with it.... If I get any grandchildren that is.
What products are you making?
My functional work ranges from mugs to bowls, serving dishes, and lasagne dishes to pieces designed to be outside like garden planters. They are all designed to function well and serve a purpose. I also use the Nerikomi technique for creating more artistic pieces, please see below for more information on Nerikomi.
Do you hand-build or work on the wheel?
Both, I use the wheel for making mugs and bowls, but use hand-building techniques for other dishes. When hand-building, I prefer slab building to pinching and coiling.
What inspires you?
I really love a pot that looks good and works well. It bothers me enough to actually sit down and design pieces that work for me and my cooking. For instance, I designed my lasagne dish so that I can fit in the lasagne sheets without having to break off the edges. Equally, I like my mugs big and I like it when they sit well in my hands, without me burning myself, oh and I do like a thumb-rest.
What clay are you using?
I am mainly using a smooth stoneware clay, that fires to a light cream colour.
Stoneware clay vitrifies in my kiln at cone 7. It is very durable and more robust than Earthenware for instance. It is waterproof, frost-proof and pieces can be washed in the dishwasher.
What temperature are you firing to?
I fire to cone 7, which is ca 1240 degree Celsius.
Are your items food-proof?
Yes, all my glazes are food-proof.
What about food appropriateness?
Yes, all my items are suitable (when designed) for food. This is because my glazes are shiny and smooth and free of surface texture that could potentially trap bacterial growth.
Do you make your own glazes?
Yes, I have a number of recipes, taken from books that I have further developed so they work for my kiln and my pieces. When I left London, I was also given 3 glaze recipes as a "good bye" present by one of my pottery friends. This was one of the best present I have ever received and I have mixed the glazes up, and developed them so they work for me (it only took me 4 years ... :-)) .
Can your dishes go into the oven?
Yes, all my items can be used for warming, baking or cooking food in the oven to all temperatures a domestic oven can go up to. Please do not put a dish that was stored in the fridge into a hot oven though, this could cause thermal shock and the item will break.
What is thermal shock and when does it occur with ceramics?
Thermal shock is a variation in temperature which causes tension in a material. It occurs when a material undergoing sudden changes in temperature develops internal stresses that causes it to break. For instance if a very cold dish, that was stored in the fridge is placed in a hot oven. It is likely that the dish will crack and break into 2 halves due to the sudden and very big change in temperature.
Are your items/ glazes dishwasher-proof?
Yes, all my items are ok in the dishwasher.
Can the mugs/ dishes go into the microwave?
Yes, all items are ok to to into the microwave.
You may have noticed, that I am also working with porcelain with the Nerikomi technique. Here are a few answers to your questions.
What is Nerikomi?
Nerikomi is an artistic technique for creating pottery in multiple colours of clay/ different clays. The technique is also called neriage and in England it is referred to as agateware.
What inspires your Nerikomi pieces?
I love the idea of "painting" with clay, without the need to apply a glaze. Japanese painting and art are a great inspiration to me as well as the sheer unpredictability of this technique.
How is it done?
I use white and black porcelain, as well as commercial mason stains to colour the white porcelain. The different colours and clays are then put together in an artistic way.
Why do you like to work with porcelain?
I have tried working with stoneware, but was disappointed with the results. The white porcelain is so crisp and shows off the colour much better.
Do you sand your items?
No, sanding creates dust and this is a health hazzard. I tend to work very precise and only wet sand occasionally.
What temperature do you fire your Nerikomi pieces?
I fire them to cone 7, the same as my stoneware pieces.
Please get in touch is there is anything I have missed here. I am happy to answer all your questions - SolidagoCeramics@gmail.com.