The art & chemistry of ceramics

A Moment of Science

“One of the interesting things about art is that there is this synergy between science, craft, and art.”

Fiorenzo Berardozzi balances both in his workshop.  Creating plates, dishes, and cups which he doesn’t see as cut & copy stoneware. 

“When I create a plate or a cup, I see it as an individual sculpture,” says Berardozzi. “I may make two, three dozen of them but I really make one plate at a time and they don’t look the same as I stop it when I see something interesting is happening.”

Clay, not mud

It all begins with clay. It may simply look like the mud we’re closely familiar with here in the Lowcountry, but pluff mud and this clay certainly aren’t interchangeable as Berardozzi explains,

“The biggest difference is that clay is an inorganic material. Pluff mud is an organic material.”

That scent that we all know all too well? That’s decaying organic material, mainly plant matter, that makes up the majority of pluff mud.

“All that organic material breaks away, there’s nothing to hold it together. In clay we need things like feldspars, which form crystals. So one clay doesn’t do it all.”

To create what’s known as a “clay body” he must mix different types of clay, minerals, to create a medium that’s workable, sturdy, and stunning when dry. It’s a combination of chemistry, craftsmanship, and preference- different clays have different grain sizes. 

“Like porcelain which is superfine- almost buttery.” Berardozzi says. “To the other side of the spectrum is the one that I use. It has what’s called grog in it, it has these larger particle sizes that helps it stand.” 

When dried, his unfinished works of ceramic art take on the natural color of the clay- a warm, earthy brown. Additional colors and textures are generated with a glaze- containing heavy metals & minerals which brilliantly shine when fired and finished. Cobalt, for example, creates a vibrant blue.

When it comes to using these glazes, he uses less- highlighting aspects of his stoneware but generally allowing the coarse clay body to be the main star.

His work has been a hit with local restaurants, like Butcher and Bee, Husk, and more who have used his plates to serve their own works of art.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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