Making ceramic glazes from found materials with Miranda Forrest

Pottery and ceramics

Ref: S5D11985

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About this course

Make glazes from found materials local to West Dean College. You will collect and process materials, test fire and then glaze finished work as you learn to create glazes from any locality.

Course Description

Explore the possibilities for making glazes from found materials. The aim is to give you the ability to find your own personal glazes from any locality through the practical knowledge gained when we look for and experiment with materials local to the College.

The emphasis will be on empirical learning. The course will begin with explaining the fundamental materials that make a glaze and test firing them. The results will give a visual understanding of glaze making that will be built on through further experimentation culminating with glazing finished work. Both electric and gas kilns will be fired to discern the effects that different kiln atmospheres have on glazes.

Historically all glazes were made with locally collected materials. We will:

• Experiment with only using local materials to make glazes.

• Mix found and purchased material, as sometimes a necessary ingredient is unavailable locally or too arduous to process!

• Personalise a base glaze with a found material.

If you want to make earthenware glazes then a base earthenware glaze can also be personalized. If you have a favourite glaze that you use bring some with you for experimenting with.

Collecting and processing materials will form part of the course although owing to the natural cycle of plants, and the need for them to be thoroughly dried before burning, some preparation may already have been done. Also covered will be; a talk on the tutor's own work practices, including the perils of seaweed; the work of other potters who use natural glazes; question and answer sessions. The week will end with an assessment of the results of glazes, and a discussion on the ways forward for your own work.

Anyone who wants to bring some of their own local materials, like quarry dust, dug clay or plant ashes, and biscuit fired ware of the clay they normally use for experiments is encouraged to do so. Materials are supplied if it is impractical for you to bring any of your own work or samples. The course will equip you with the skills and knowledge to find your own unique glazes recipes when you return home.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Any clay, glaze materials or firing costs as used at the College.

What students need to bring

  • An old towel.
  • Overall/apron, covered footwear in the studio, plus outdoor clothing and footwear suitable for walking over rough ground when collecting materials.
  • Items listed below would be useful if you wish to bring them:
  • Notebook, silicone spoons/scrapers, loop tools, brushes for applying glazes (synthetic/bristle, not good quality), synthetic sponges, cup measure sets, digital scales, domestic sieve. 60 mesh sieve, any personal tools you like
  • Approx. 20+ yoghurt pot type containers + lids - to enable you to take home left over raw glaze material,
  • Biscuit fired test pieces in the clay you normally use. Approx. 50. (A saucer shape approximately 5cm (2 inches) made in any way). As natural glaze tests often run a saucer shape is necessary to save kiln shelves. It's important that you number and initial test pieces prior to firing.
  • If you wish to bring larger pieces for a final firing please ensure that these are also bowl/saucer shaped, up to approximately 20cm (8 inches) Please also number and initial.
  • Raw Materials
  • If you have a favourite or abundant plant please bring a dry sample, or preferably burn it and bring the ash.
  • If you have a local quarry you could ask them for a sample of fine particles. In the tutor's experience quarry workers are often interested and helpful but a little bemused by a request for dust.
  • Deposits of fine rock particles or clay are also worth collecting.
  • You are also encouraged to bring any examples of natural glazes you use. Also if you have a base glaze (plain glaze, purchased or your own recipe) you like using bring a raw sample to add found materials to. (500 ml to 1 litre liquid, or dry equivalent)

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pottery tools, pottery knife
  • Rough paper or sketch pad, and pencil
  • Natural sponge
Please email your tutor via prior to the start of your course in order to discuss amounts and preparation of any materials you would like to bring. Please note: once your work has been glazed and re-fired, it will be available for collection within six months. Course reading: it is not required that you read any books before the course but if you are bringing your own materials you may like to read the relevant chapters on preparation, including Health and Safety, in Natural Glazes Collecting and Making.


Miranda Forrest

Miranda Forrest has been a potter all her working life. When she moved to South Uist, Outer Hebrides in 1999 she started to explore incorporating locally found materials in her work. This became the subject of her book Natural Glazes: Collecting and Making, published by Bloomsbury in 2013.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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