Vases with crystal glaze / Bjarne Nielsen

Sep 12, 2018Julia Kahrs

Bjarne Nielsen makes vases, bowls and dishes in porcelain with different crystal glazes, and for Norway Designs NÅ Vol. 5 IDENTITY he presents three vases turned in porcelain clay, glazed with a crystal glaze colored with copper oxide and a hint of cobalt oxide.

Making crystal glazes is an attempt to imitate processes that took place in the earth's crust during the cooling of the globe. These processes took place over thousands of years, and Nielsen tries to achieve this in his oven within a few hours. He repeats the process under extremely controlled forms and obtains two-dimensional crystals.

Nielsen makes products in porcelain clay and the objects are glazed with a brush in a layer approximately 3 millimeters thick before the glazes are fired at 1270 degrees. The crystal formation takes place during cooling, and for Nielsen's glazes this happens at between 1020 and 1120 degrees (the "holding time"). The longer the cooling time, the larger the crystals, and convex shapes give the best crystal formation. Nielsen uses a base glaze consisting of feldspar, zinc oxide, quartz, bentonite and titanium, in addition to metal oxides such as cobalt, copper, manganese and iron which form the color in the glaze. Small amounts of metal oxide, down to 1/64%, together with the peak temperature and level of the "holding time" are decisive for the shape and color of the crystals. During the firing, quartz and zinc oxide form a new mineral, willemite, which together with titanium forms the seed for crystals. These grow in diameter when Nielsen keeps the temperature at the same level for a longer period of time.

Every product Nielsen makes is completely unique; the result of a burn will never be 100% repeatable. Where the crystals occur and how the surface cracks will always vary from object to object.

About Bjarne Nielsen

Bjarne Nielsen (b. 1945) is originally a trained teacher from Denmark with physics and chemistry as special subjects, which has come in handy during the development of crystal glazes.

Nielsen has worked as a ceramicist for 45 years. After a year as a civilian worker in Greenland, the reward was a stay at a folk college in Denmark, where the choice fell on the Academy of Arts in Holbæk. When he finished his stay, Nielsen bought a pottery kiln and set up a workshop in the teacher's accommodation. In recent years, he has concentrated on what has become an obsession and passion: crystal glazes.

Nielsen works on a daily basis at Tornes Keramik- og Tekstilverksted. The workshop is a former small farm near Hustadvika in Northwest Norway and consists of a ceramics workshop, textile workshop, exhibition room, photo room and Galleri Gløtt.

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