Having a well-stocked glaze pantry is important when mixing glazes from scratch or when adding materials to a commercial glaze recipe or jar. Much like a kitchen pantry, there are staples for a great glaze pantry. Having a stockpile of materials on hand opens your options to hundreds of recipes you’ll be able to mix within minutes. 

A Good Foundation 

It’s important to start your glaze pantry with a good foundation of commonly used glaze ingredients. There are specific lists for each range of firing temperatures: low fire (cone 08–04), mid fire (cone 6–8), and high fire (cone 9–10). Many ingredients are shared between the ranges, but some, like frits, you will use in a higher percentage at lower temperature ranges. Others, like stains, need to be tested at mid- and high-fire temperatures before stocking up on them as potential colorants. 

While it’s hard to recommend material quantities without knowing what batch sizes you’ll be mixing, I usually provide the following guidelines: 

Test Mixing: If you’re mixing test batches, start with 5–10 pounds of the basics (feldspars, frits, kaolin, silica), ¼-pound bags of colorants, opacifiers, and stains, and maybe 1–2 pounds of rare ingredients. Planning ahead and buying in bulk may save you money in the long run. 

Large Batching: If you’re mixing larger batches (5-gallon buckets), start with 50-pound bags of the basics, 5 pounds of Zircopax, ½–1 pound of oxides and common stains, and 5–10 pounds of less common ingredients. I’d recommend using a spreadsheet or glaze calculation software to keep track of ingredients, amounts, and pricing. 

1 Scales, whisk, and sieves for mixing test batches and large quantities of glaze. 2 Various sizes of sieves for mixing small and large glaze batches.

Essential Equipment 

A great glaze pantry also needs the proper equipment: 

Scales: Having a good scale is critical to proper mixing and not wasting ingredients. I recommend buying two scales; one that is accurate to the 1 gram and has high-capacity (5000 grams) capabilities and one for small test batches that is accurate to one-hundredth of 1 gram so that you can measure expensive colorants accurately. The highly accurate scales generally have a lower-weight capacity (1). 

Sieves: Uniform and consistent glazes depend on the sieving of mixed glazes. I recommend a 40-mesh sieve for raku glazes and for granular ingredients; a 60-mesh sieve for the first run of a glaze; an 80-mesh sieve for glazes with fine colorants (i.e. oxides, stains, etc.); and if you are mixing high-firing glazes such as celadons, you may want a 100-mesh sieve (2). 

Storage Containers: Materials should be stored in plastic bags or plastic lidded containers (3). 

Paper bags can dry rot and the adhesive can dry out allowing chemicals to spill and cost you money. Paper bags also allow moisture to get through the bag and chemicals can harden. Always label your bags and containers with the chemical name (4). It’s a good idea to keep a record of where and when you purchased your materials in case you have questions later. 

3 Clearly label the container itself rather than the lid. Lids can be lost or switched. 4 Put bulk materials in clearly marked storage bins and keep them off the floor.

5 Create a materials storage and glazing area with test-tile wall display. 6 Set up a work bench for testing glazes and holding testing equipment.

Safety Equipment: Be sure to have a dust mask or a respirator; gloves; wet clean-up equipment such as a sponge and a mop; a well-ventilated area to work, whether that is near an open door or window or by a vented space. 

Color-coded shopping list: feldspars = blue; fluxes = purple (note: although separated here, feldspars are a category within fluxes); clays = orange; opacifiers = yellow; colorants = green, glass former = pink. * = materials recommended for bulk purchase.Miscellaneous Equipment: Scoops, buckets with lids, whisks or stirring paddles, labeling tools; MSDS sheets are also helpful to have. 

Shopping List 

Use the shopping list (right) to help you get started at your local clay supplier. The list includes the essential materials you’ll want to start a glaze pantry and labels them as “common.” Those that are less needed but occasionally called for in recipes are noted as either “occasional” or “rare”. 

Note: I have placed an asterisk (*) next to ingredients to buy in bulk if you’ll be mixing multiple batches or large 5-gallon buckets—although most ingredients can be purchased in various small quantities, 50-pound bags can save a significant amount of money. If it’s your first time mixing and you’re only mixing a few tests, a 5-pound bag would suffice. 

Once you have the foundations of your glaze lab set up, you may want to consider adding a few additional items: a drill mixer for mixing large batches of glaze in 5-gallon buckets; an immersion blender for mixing small test batches; a rack or rolling cart to keep bulk ingredients off the floor; a sturdy table for mixing; glaze software; and a vent equipped with a dust filter (5, 6). Have fun experimenting and building your glaze pantry! 

Excerpted from Off the Shelf, Outside the Box: A Guide to Experimenting with Commercial Clays, Glazes, and Underglazes by Deanna Ranlett, published by The American Ceramic Society, available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop: https:// mycan.ceramicartsnetwork.org/s/product-details?id=a1B3u000009udqpEAA.

*The chart to the left is a color-coded shopping list: feldspars = blue; fluxes = purple (note: although separated here, feldspars are a category within fluxes); clays = orange; opacifiers = yellow; colorants = green, glass former = pink. * = materials recommended for bulk purchase.