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Ha Austin

Ha Austin

Science and Art

I had put off using the artistic side of my brain and pursued a path in science and healthcare.  While teaching at a community college, I wandered into a ceramic classroom.  I was immediately overtaken by the endless possibilities and freedom to explore and express my artistic side.  Ever since that cataclysmic day, I have evolved from creating pots from earthenware to functional stoneware to decorative porcelain.  Since relocating to Oregon in June of 2009, I have directed my focus on crystalline glazes in a high-fire electric kiln and Sgraffito technique in high-fire gas and Soda kilns.

My forms are created on and off the potter’s wheel using porcelain clay.  My glazes are all hand-mixed.  The intricate and meticulous nature that is involved in measuring and mixing my crystalline glazes as well as the mystery surrounding the determination of the appropriate firing schedule, appeals to my science-based education.  Sometimes I feel like I am a mad scientist toiling in my lab, mixing up various chemicals to form the ultimate glaze and then “throwing the switch” to see what “life form” (crystals) will emerge from my kiln.  Crystalline glazes can be a time-consuming endeavor so to balance out the more intricate and meticulous nature of crystalline glaze work, I also decorate pots using the Sgraffito (to scratch) method to create whimsical images for my “Art for the Table” utilitarian daily ware.  My food-safe wares are high-fired making them durable enough to be placed in the dishwasher, microwave and oven.

Sgraffito Ware is produced by applying layers of under glazes or colored slips to leather hard pottery and then carving off parts of the layer(s) exposing the clay body below to create contrasting images and patterns.  The wares are then glazed fired in a Gas or Soda Kiln reaching temperatures of at least 2350 degrees F.  The combination of the high quality porcelain clay body used and the high heat makes your unique and handcrafted pottery food, dishwasher, microwave and oven safe.

Crystalline glazes are different then most glazes in that the pattern you see on them is created from zinc silicate crystals, similar to the naturally occurring mineral called willemite.  These crystals literally grow on the ware with careful attention to glaze thickness, glaze composition and a very controlled firing process.  The process and attention required pre-firing and post-firing of any crystalline glazed ware is a long and tedious path but the wondrous beauty of each successful piece makes the journey worthwhile.

No two pieces are exactly alike in form and crystal formations can never be duplicated.  Each piece is truly one-of-a kind.

When:   I joined Mossy Creek Pottery on June 25, 2018.

How:   It was a case of perfect timing.  I had been a patron of Mossy Creek Pottery and would always stop by for a visit when my family and I were in Lincoln City.  I always thought to myself,  "I should ask and see if they would be interested in my pottery".  After 5 years of thinking this, I finally took the plunge and asked.  Miraculously, the answer was yes and here we are through thick and thin.


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