BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Most potters start with the form: Will the piece be a bowl, a vase, a teapot? Adam Egenolf starts with the glaze.
Egenolf says his crystalline-glazed pottery is “based on technology, but the result happens to be a work of art.”
The Brown County potter has been perfecting his crystalline glazes—a process that manipulates temperature and time to allow zinc and other ingredients to naturally form crystals—since his days as a college student.
His work is both functional and decorative. The functional pieces—bowls, mugs, and the like—are generally priced under $100. When a piece is scaled up (a very large platter, for example) it may no longer be functional. “But you can serve the turkey on it,” Egenolf says. He also makes decorative wall tiles.
An Indiana native, Egenolf, 37, has been a full-time artist for the past eight years. He grew up on a farm near Worthington, Indiana, and first began working with clay in an elective class at the University of Southern Indiana. But it was never just about the form. Egenolf says that in college he thought a combined degree in ceramics and science would be as interesting as a pure art degree. And his master’s thesis at East Carolina University explained the crystalline glazing process.
There’s a lot of science and technology in his method. Each porcelain pot is fired to a temperature of 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the zinc-saturated glaze to melt and spread over the pot. Then the kiln is cooled quickly, causing the glaze to stop running. The kiln is held at a lower temperature for several hours while crystals are formed.
The process, he says, has so many variables that it is almost impossible to predict the results: “Every time I open my kiln, I find out if I did it right.”
Egenolf Ceramics are available locally at The Venue Fine Art & Gifts in Bloomington and Spears Gallery in Nashville, Indiana. For more information, visit egenolfceramics.com.
See more of Adam Egenolf’s work in this photo slideshow. Photos by Frank Shweikhardt