Statement of Plans by Karl Martz at age 28 (1940)
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The statement below was found posthumously among Karl's files. It appears to be an application for a fellowship or grant, perhaps the Guggenheim application noted on the margins of some of Karl's early slides. (See the first three photographs of pots in the Karl Martz Gallery 1930's. His Guggenheim application was not funded.)

Karl majored in chemistry in college (1933), and was fascinated by glaze chemistry throughout his career, as reflected in many of the articles he authored for Ceramics Monthly in the 1950's and 60's.

Although the original document is undated, the year when this statement was authored is established by his reference to "these five years" (underlined below) together with his reference, in the first sentence, to having started making pottery in 1935.



Plans for Work

I have made pottery in my own studio in Brown County since 1935. Most of the pieces I make are thrown by hand on the potter's wheel; no tow are ever just alike. I sign each piece with my monogram and the year in which it is made.

As time has permitted I have experimented with glazes, varying their compositions. Some beautiful and useful glazes have come from these experiments. In addition, during these five years there have appeared three or four rather challenging results.

These results, which are of no practical value in themselves, do point the way to glazes of unusual beauty and rarity. One of these has plate-like crystals embedded in the glaze matrix. these crystals reflect light in a way similar to that of the opal. Another has small spots, some near the surface, some deep in the body of the glaze, which reflect light glowingly at angles where normally no reflection occurs. I have seen this effect only once before in a glaze that was green. In the glaze I have these spots are blood red.

To bring these glazes to a full development of their possibilities will require a great deal of time and effort, which is what I propose to do. Also, I propose to accompany this research with a few more closely related problems.

PART I - THE INVESTIGATION

A. Here I mean to obtain further experimental results from glaze compositions which have been found by ceramic practice to produce crystals.

Not to duplicate unnecessarily the work of previous investigators of crystalline glazes, I intend to spend the first thirty to ninety days of my proposed period of tenure in collecting copies of published reports on crystalline glazes. Also in taking notes from experimental reports of which published copies are not available and which therefore must be read in the libraries of the schools where the experiments were performed. Glaze compositions thoroughly investigated by others will be omitted from this part of my project.

B. In this section I will obtain experimental results with glaze compositions adapted from the chemical composition of minerals which occur in crystalline form.

The Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institute in Washington has done some important work on the synthesis of minerals which undoubtedly will be of great help.

In this section I intend to use an experimental kiln with special ports to permit the introduction of both volatile salts and gases or vapors. Thus, for example, a high lime glaze could be exposed to the action of zinc chloride in the presence of water vapor at red heat. This might produce crystals, however minute, of red zinc oxide, geologically zincite. To the best of my knowledge this procedure has never before been used in the production of crystalline glazes.

C. An experimental study of glaze compositions which by chemical analogy might have crystal producing properties. These compositions would contain materials chemically related to known crystal producers.

From this point of view would follow an examination of zirconium and cerium, related to titanium; an examination of columbium and praseodymium, related to vanadium; an examination of neodymium, related to molybdenum and tungsten.

D. In this division I want to obtain experimental results from glaze compositions subjected to reducing gases at some time during the firing period.

It has long been known that some of the most beautiful effects in all ceramics, as well as the most difficult of achievement, are to be found in the use of an excess of unoxidized gases surrounding the glazed piece in the firing chamber. These gases reduce certain metallic compounds from a high valence form to either a lower valence form or to the metal in elementary form, usually in the colloidal state. The wonderful "ox blood", "celadon" and "peach bloom" glazes depend upon this treatment. So also do the fabulous lustres upon whose beauty rests the fame of Maestro Georgio Andreoli.

I wish to investigate particularly the metals not commonly subjected to reduction but which from bead tests in a reducing flame promise interesting results. For example, uranium and vanadium greens in borax beads, tungsten blue and titanium violet in beads of a salt of phosphorus.

E. Here I will keep an experimental record of other glazes of special note.

All glazes exhibit certain properties. Some of these properties are: Degree of maturity; transparency, translucence or opacity; color and color variation due to temperature, thickness of glaze coating, coagulations of certain ingredients; fluidity; surface texture; inclusions of solids and gases. These characteristics in any one glaze are all interwoven and interdependent upon each other.

When one quality is sought after and developed at the expense of all the other properties of the glaze, strange and unexpected results usually appear along with the success or failure of the desired results. Some of these results are mere curiosities; others are truly beautiful or can be made so by proper use.

These results, while not aimed for, are nevertheless valuable contributions to the potter's art. Glazes of this type undoubtedly will appear during this investigation. I intend to take every advantage of such opportunities.

PART II - THE DEVELOPMENT

Here I hope to stabilize, in so far as it is possible, the most interesting of the experimental results selected from:

  1. The experimental accidents which I previously mentioned and have recorded.
  2. The reports of previous investigators mentioned in part I-A.
  3. My own proposed experiments described in Part I-B, C, D, E.
This stabilization will make possible, it is hoped, the control of those reactions which now occur so rarely as to be ceramic curiosities. These glazes may then come into more widespread use, at least by studio potters like myself and other individual workers in this field.

If this development proceeds encouragingly, I hope to have some of the best samples fired in the kilns of other potters of my acquaintance. This will test the dependability of these reactions under conditions other than those in my own kiln.

I intend to work on this project in my own studio, with the exception of the time spent collecting the data mentioned in Part I-A. At the beginning of the project there will be a more or less fixed period that will be relatively unproductive. This is the time that recorded data will be collected and the investigations of part I will be getting underway.

This unproductive period I judge may occupy five months. For this reason I suggest a period of tenure of twelve months, thereby providing seven months for more visibly productive effort. During this tentative seven month period, activity would be carried on in all three parts of the project simultaneously with Part III occupying ever increasing importance.

The reports on the experimental results from Parts I and II, which will be at the disposal of the American Ceramic Society, will add a compact body of information to the existing documents concerning this phase of ceramics.

PART III - THE CREATIVE APPLICATION OF THESE GLAZES TO CERAMIC FORMS.

This part is an once the raison d'etre of the preceding work and the most difficult of delineation because of its creative nature and its dependence upon the outcome of Parts I and II.

I will set down, however, the tenets by which I work.

A pottery form should exhibit cleanly, without confusion the character and quality of clay. This quality is its plasticity, its ability to be given any shape and to retain the slightest impress of fingers and tools. It almost invites abuse. With near reverence this plasticity should be fully spent - but not exhausted.

In the same manner, each distinctive glaze possesses its own peculiar character. This character must be revealed dramatically. It must pool in luscious ripeness, it must swirl and eddy over low relief or lie shimmering upon the swell of classic form.

The high goal to which I aspire is to conjure forth pottery with all the virile quality of clay, which yet retains all the responsiveness and delicate interpretive feeling that the exquisite plasticity of the clay opens to the skill of the potter. It is my sincere belief that the measure of one's artistic stature lies in his use of materials and methods, not in his possession of "secret" formulas.

The ultimate aim of this present work is to produce a few pieces of pottery which reveal to the fullest extent the most striking aspects of glazes which are in themselves rarities of the ceramic world. These to add their small share to the rapidly growing prestige of ceramic art in this country. For as the degree of civilization of any people is judged by the extent of its applied sciences; the cultural achievement of a nation is measured by the vigor and simplicity of its arts.