Interview mit Peter Meanly

Von Sandra Nitz, Christiane Schlegel, Fritz Roßmann, Christian Sautier

Tja, das passiert halt doch nur hier am Salznabel der Welt. Peter Meanly aus Irland, welt­weit für seine salzglasierten Teapots bekannt, schneit ins Redak­tionswochenende und stellt sich freiwillig für ein Inter­view zur Verfügung. Wir haben uns ent­schieden, den O-Ton abzudruc­ken, die wichtigsten Fachbe­griffe sind übersetzt. Auf deutsch gibt es dann eine Zu­sammen­fassung.

Peter Meanly hat doch tatsäch­lich einen „Doktor für die Tee­kanne“:Seine Doktorarbeit um­faßt die praktische Ausführung (vieeeele Teapots), den philo­so­phischen Hintergrund der Tee­kanne und die Entwicklung spe­ziel­ler Werkzeuge für die Her­stellung von Teekannen.

Hier nun das Interview im O-Ton:

My name is Peter Meanly, I have come to Höhr-Grenzhausen because I have been awarded a 3 year research project from within the university where I work. The money has been given by the Arts Humanity Research board (AHRB), which are spread all across the UK Universities. And I put in an application to try to find out the conditions which would enable Salt Glaze and Soda Glaze Potters to build with confidence insulated kilns for Salt and Soda Glazing. I have a lot of information from my contact with potters in England, and chemics in England but I am aware to a certain kind of resistant materials available to potters in Germany, which may be different from our pottery equipment what are currently available. The plan is, that in the year 2003 I will publish the finding and Janet Mansfield has indicated an interest to publish it in her "Ceramics Technical" magazine in Australia.

Do you think you will find some good results over here which you can use ?

I am very interested already, Martin Goerg, has showed me a cement which he throws (schmeißt) on the inside of his kiln, which, although he has fired it only three times, looks very, very promising.

What I plan to do, is to use a wide range of different refractories some of them will be low temperature insulating refractories, some of them will be high temperature insulating refractories, some of them will be covered with very thin washes, some of them will be soaked in washes, some of them will be covered with castable cement or concrete, but certainly the wash or the cement which mud and ????? does look very very interesting.. He believes as I do that it is maybe necessary in order to get a perfect match to go up into a very high aluminium clay and I think he believes I might have to go to something like K 28 brick, which will be a brick that may have something like 75 or 80 % of aluminium within it. But I intend to test all different ranges of bricks and all different ranges of resists. So the answer is Yes. Something will help.

Have you heard of this ITC 100?

Yes, I knew I will be caught in, my feelings about that, I have just been asked what I think about ITC 100 the answer is not very much. I built a kiln in college which I think has K 26 bricks, which are something like 60 or 65 % aluminium, which is a good quality insulating brick and I applied 3 or 4 coats of ITC to it and after about 10 firings I knew that the resist was not working. Mike Casson, who is an English Potter visited the college at that time and he uses an English product called varnish coat which similarly does not work. He had one look at my ITC coating and he said, Pete, this is as bad as the varnish coat. I have now done 22 firings in this kiln and the bricks have became to spall and very seriously deterioration has accuring within the bricks, so I believe the ITC coating is not good at all. Jack Dauherty, who is a potter in England as well, phoned me about 3 months ago, he was building a kiln with a range of different bricks and I mentioned to him I am nicht begeistert, unzufrieden about ITC, substiquentely I met Jack last weekend, his kiln has now fired only 12 times and he said that the deterioration which it is getting with the coating ITC on his bricks is not good, the deterioration is pretty substantial.

I do not think very much of ITC. I think that my own resist, that I had on my own kiln which is a mixture of siliconcarbonate and aluminium, 1 part SiC, 5 parts Al 203 and I think its 2 parts molochite and 2 parts china clay is a better resist than the ITC. But I am absolutely convinced that the material that I was talking about earlier is likely to do much better again. Or that similar potters will have hundreds and hundreds of ideas of a combination that my be more successful, or there will be other manufactured products on the market which will be more successful. When I contacted a group of English chemics in Stoke on Trent they provided me with a range of about 20 English companies, who made resists for the metall-industry, for the glass-industry as well as for the ceramic-industry, the bottling industry. And currently I am contacting all of them. To identify the resists which may not have been abused previously in salt or soda connection. Which may prove to be valuable. And that is the purpose that I am here. Perhaps you have made the resist which are not being used and are not even known about it as well as the resist with maybe being used and maybe is turning out to be consequencefull. My so purpose is to try to advice potters in the future of combination with remarkable being successful. I am not doing this for any kind of glorification of myself. I want to make pots and to some extend I do not particularly want to be associated with somebody who is actually writing art reports. I want to get back to my own responds.

But at present, I am in the middle of this thing and I want to try to associate through to a successful conclusion. I don't believe, that there is any ultimate solution where if you do this to a certain range of refractionments tools you don't ever have to worry about the kiln. I think always you would have to do some remedial repairs to it after 30 or 40 or 50 firings. But I think, that we can find combination kits which will be very substantially successful.

As you know I did an apprenticeship in a pottery, here in town. And they used to have a kiln which must be by now about 30 years, and it is still working. Sometimes they had to replace some stones in special areas

..fachbegriff.... and every week they still do a firing, and the stuff, what they use is protecting the stones. (Fritz Roßmann)

What is your impression of Höhr-Grenzhausen?

Generally, I arrived last night at half past 12 at night. The place is lovely, the accommodation is lovely, I did not sleep terribly, the bed was very comfortable, but I did not sleep, that is the weakness in my mind. It looks very beautiful, I mean, certainly, Grenzau, where we are. Very, Very beautiful. Just to walk into the breakfastroom, and to look out of the dorms, well, the building was built in 1630 and these lovely beams in the ceiling. It is very beautiful.

Do you think, the salt glaze has a future?

I certainly hope so, in Belfast, just 2 days ago, a letter arrived which my head of department brought me, where the building next to the college has put a complained in, that we have been burning rubbish, and the smoke has been seemed to be coming out of the ceiling. They did not see, nor did they know that we where doing salt firing. It is not necessarily the toxic nature of the gases, it is the fact, that we where producing smoke in a smokeless area. If it was the toxic gases, I could defend myself, because my own research would defend it. We have analysed the admissions and we could say exactly what is not there. No natron fumes, no ammoniac, no chlorine, there is between 50 and 90 parts per million of acid gas, which is very small. We can say, what there is not. But the fact, that we are seeing, it is smoke, makes it very very different.

How did you find your way to the salt glazing?

In my own practice, I salt in a rural area. My neighbours are very good. I try to make the smoke emissions between 9 o clock at night and 1 o clock in the morning and I only fire about 8 or 10 times a year. And I always give my neighbours a ceramic Christmas card, if you know what I mean....

So, they are very nice. I try not to annoy them, we are in a close community. I know, they will complain.

Why do you salt glaze??

For me, it is very important, I have been making pots for 35 years. I am very stupid and very slow in making connections. For about the first 15 years I would work very hard with the clay and quite good technically. I would have made a wonderful thrower, but by turning, by extruding, by modelling I can get the forms that I want. But I used to fight, weather to use oxidised stoneware or reduced stoneware in salt kilns. I would often go to the kiln and open the kiln door and feel this disappointment. The kiln did not turn out to my expectation. And I realised, from looking at English lead glazed earthenware from the middle of the 18 century. There was a potter in the 18 century, who was the original master, and then. There was a college, who worked first with Wedgwood and his name was Thomas Wheeldon and he made this very gothic ware. I have seen similar things in France. It is a little bit like the Tang-Pottery, where you get different colours, and different melts all working together. But I recognised with that, that salt glaze will give me an unpredictical quality. I recognised that time, that I do not have to go to low temperature earthenware, I have to go to salt glaze. Because the salt glaze gives an accidental quality which would provide a sense of humanity for my rather hard forms. So I came to salt glaze because it would marry much better with the kind of spiritual unity. If that makes sense...

In recent works I used different highfluid glazes from salt together with my experience. So I salt, because I have to salt because I know, when I go to the kiln with any look at all I have a reasonable expectation of some peace's that would may appeal quite good.

O. K. jetzt is gut, oder....

Thank you very much, Peter Meanly..

Hier nun der D-Ton:

Mr. Meanly, was führt Dich nach Höhr-Grenzhausen?

Ich arbeite an einem dreijähriges Projekt. Es ist an die Universität angeschlossen, an der ich lehre, und es geht darum, gute Isolierungsmöglichkeiten für Salzbrennöfen zu entwickeln, die haltbar sind. In England habe ich schon viele Informationen zusammengetragen, ich hoffe nun von den deutschen Töpfern Informationen über Schutzüberzüge für den Salzbrand zu bekommen, die bei uns nicht bekannt sind.

Denkst Du Du kannst hier brauchbare Entdeckungen machen?

Ja. Martin Goerg hat mir einen zementartigen Überzug aus Feuerfestmaterial gezeigt, der sehr vielversprechend aussieht.

Mein Plan ist, verschiedene Feuerleichtsteine (mit hohem Aluminiumgehalt) mit verschiedenen Schutzüberzügen auszustatten, und zwar vom Auflegen einer dünnen Streichschicht bis zum kompletten Vollsaugen lassen der Steine. Der Überzug selbst muß auch stark aluminiumhaltig sein.

Was hältst Du von ITC 100?

Ich habe am College einen Ofen gebaut und es dort ausprobiert. Nach zehn Bränden mußte ich feststellen, daß der Schutz nicht hält. Nach 22 Bränden hat sich der Zustand der Steine sogar sehr verschlechtert. Auch einige andere englische Töpfer (z.B. Mike Casson) sind der Meinung, das Zeug taugt nichts. Ich habe eigene Schutzmischung für meinen Ofen, ich glaube die ist besser als ITC 100. Und überhaupt bin ich der Überzeugung, daß es jede Menge Töpfer gibt, die eigene brauchbare Mischungen für Überzüge entwickeln. Diese Leute und die Firmen aus industriellen Bereichen ( z.B. Glas, Keramik, Metall ) haben auch Produkte entwickelt, die sich auswerten lassen. Diese Informationen zu sammeln und auszuwerten ist meine Arbeit. Ich glaube nicht, daß es eine endgültige Lösung des Problems gibt. Man wird den Ofen immer wieder ausbessern müssen, aber dann vielleicht erst nach 50 Bränden und nicht schon nach 10.

Ich habe meine Ausbildung hier in Höhr gemacht, in einer Salztöpferei, die seit über 30 Jahren jede Woche einen Ofen gebrand hat. Die hat mit einem zementartigen Überzug aus Feuerfestmaterial Ergebnisse erzielt, die Deinen Vorstellungen sehr nahe kommen. (Fritz Roßmann)

Hat die Salzglasur Zukunft?

Ich hoffe es. Am College habe ich jedoch gerade mit Beschwerden wegen der Rauchbelästigung zu kämpfen. Es geht nicht um die giftigen Gase, denn diese Belastung ist wirklich sehr gering, sondern um den Rauch in einer „rauchfreien Zone“ (im Wohngebiet, Anm.d.Red.) Mein eigener Ofen steht auf dem Land und die Nachbarn sind sehr nett. Da sind die Probleme nicht so groß. Auch salze ich möglichst nachts und brenne auch nur 8-10 Mal im Jahr.

Wie hast Du persönlich zur Salzglasur gefunden?

Ich mache seit 35 Jahren Töpfe. Bevor ich gesalzen habe, war ich immer so enttäuscht, wenn ich den Ofen aufgemacht habe. Es war nicht das, was ich erwartete. Ich habe mich dann mit alter englischer Irdenware und Tang-Keramik beschäftigt. Und da ist mir klar geworden, daß mir die Salzglasur die Qualität liefert, die ich will. Sie hat so eine menschliche, warme Seite, die für meine doch eher strenge Formen gut paßt.

In letzter Zeit beschäftige ich mich mit leichtflüssigen Glasuren in Kombination mit der Salzglasur. Wenn ich jetzt den Ofen öffne habe ich doch das Gefühl, es könnten ein paar gute Stücke rauskommen.