November 25, 2019
I've become smitten with ceramic. After many years of working stone, I adore the material, but the process is loud, slow, and very hard on my hands. I yearn for the ability to test and try new things quickly, a more varied production process, and a world of color that is prohibitively expensive or doesn't exist in stone. I genuinely enjoy working beautifully colored rare materials like chrysoprase, sugilite, and lapis lazuli. Still, there's something to be said for the idea of affordability and accessibility to color, and ceramic is the ideal material for that conversation.
My stone and metalwork aren't going away, but I am looking to shift more focus into exploring ceramic. My wife has also been learning and helping. Suzanne was instrumental in doing the firing shrinkage calculations, and she has done much of the glazing. The collaborative effort has been a lot of fun.
I wanted to start with a product that is as simple as possible, so we've created new ceramic color-front plugs in a range of gorgeous colors. From there, the size range can grow, and concaves and some of my carved styles such as flowers and trumpet flares can come to fruition.
I think it's a unique material that deserves more attention. Some of the world's first body jewelry was ceramic, primarily porous low-fired earthenware. As cultures discovered other materials and how to work them, they moved away from ceramic in favor of more valuable or desirable materials such as jade and gold. Meanwhile, ceramic technology continued to progress, and now we have both the ideal materials and grasp of science to give it another shot.
From a business perspective, ceramic offers benefits to both me as a maker:
and you as a customer:
Yes! I've spent nearly a year selecting a clay body and formulating a base glaze that I believe is the ideal mix of safe and durable. The ingredients of both the clay and glaze are finely ground minerals and oxides and are 100% natural. Most of them are the same base materials and colorants that make up the stone and glass body jewelry we already wear.
My porcelain body is an inert, very fine-grained clay composed primarily of silica, kaolin, and feldspar. When fired to vitrification (the transformation of a substance into glass) at 2232°F, it forms a tough, solid, non-porous material similar to glass and stone. It has an absorption rate of about 0.5%, which means it is functionally non-porous, similar to a high silica content stone like an agate.
My base glaze for wearing surfaces is a borosilicate (boron + silica) mixture containing nearly identical contents as the clay. With the addition of more silica (a glass former) and feldspars (a flux, which lowers the melting point of silica), the powdered materials melt and transform into a thin layer of glass fused to the porcelain surface.
Just as not all wood, stone, or metal are safe for body jewelry, it's worth noting that not all ceramic is ideal or safe for wear in contact with the body. There are situations where a poorly formulated or underfired glaze may leach materials, and many clays have high absorption rates that lead to increased porosity. I also can't guarantee that my ceramic will be ideal for everyone. Bodies are wild, and they vary significantly in sensitivity to materials. Some people are allergic to titanium and pure gold, which is nearly impossible, but it happens.
I've spent a great deal of time researching and testing to develop the best product possible, and I welcome feedback to make it even better. That's one of the most exciting facets of the ceramic medium - there's always something to test or explore.
Ceramic color-front plugs will be available for purchase starting 11/29/19 (Black Friday). We're working on building stock, but some sizes and colors will require a short 7-10 day production time while we see which are the most popular. Process and photos of the colors are being posted to Instagram @onetribejewelry in the days leading up to launch. Click here to join my mailing list and be notified about the launch time as well as the first look at a rad secret color!