Julian came to pottery late in life but was immediately taken with the mix of hands on manual work and endless artistic possibilities.
After starting evening classes at the local adult education centre in Gravesend he widened his experience by attending throwing courses at the Maze Hill Pottery in London, Raku courses with Tim Huckstepp and other specialist courses. Determined to make beautiful tactile pottery, he soon bought his own wheel and kiln and started practicing at home.
Julian also wanted to create his own glazes but frustrated by the lack of courses available brought his own chemicals and started experimenting in his garage.
It was around this time that he heard about Raku firing, an exciting and seemingly easy way to make beautiful finishes. After attending courses with Tim Huckstepp, Julian built his own gas fired raku kiln and started raku firing his own pots. The raku technique involves firing the pot to 1000 degrees and then taking it out of the kiln (causing the glaze to crackle) and putting it into a reduction kiln with newspaper, sawdust and other flammable items. This then bursts into flames and the kiln is closed causing the fire to draw oxygen from the clay and turning any unglazed clay black. The cracks in the clay also turn black creating interesting patterns. Also any copper in the glaze will change to a copper colour wherever there has been a reduction.
Julian then heard about saggar and barrel firing and was intrigued by the idea of creating beautiful colours and patterns in the clay using everyday items such as banana skins, seaweed and miracle grow.
After making his own clay saggars that he used in his electric kiln, he built a gas fired down draught barrel kiln, and started firing his pots in aluminium foil saggars.
To obtain a good finish, saggar fired pots require a lot of work burnishing the clay with a stone and then painting them with terra sigillata, (a refined clay slip) before bisque firing to 950 degrees. The pots are then wrapped in foil with various ingredients and fired in the barrel kiln. The results can be amazing, with impressions of animals and even faces occurring within the finish. Opening the kiln after a firing is an exciting experience because you never know what gems you are going to find among the ashes, or indeed, if your pots had survived the firing.
Time and experience has meant that Julian has gained a good understanding of what he can or can’t get away with but he is constantly trying new ingredients to try and obtain a new colour or pattern.