Monday, June 3

Piha Iron Sands Glaze (possibly)

There has long been something of an orphan pot in this Titian collection. The pot is a standard form V119 (Vase shape number 19), probably from the late 1960s with a glaze that I am not familiar with. It was interesting enough to keep on the back of a shelf. It has a glaze more in keeping with what a 1960s New Zealand studio potter might have striven for, than anything approaching the art glazes Titian Studio is better known for.

Then, a couple of months ago, I received an email from Peter Savoy who is currently doing research for a possible book on Titian. He had found something in the archives at Auckland museum, and kindly sent me images of two pages out of the 2004 Titian Studio Retrospective Exhibition's visitor's book. The two pages had been written by Stephanie Buckle, daughter of Reg Taylor, who was one of the more important post-war English glaze makers employed by both Crown Lynn and Titian. The key piece of information Mrs Buckle imparts, that cause a penny to drop in this house, is that her father conducted experiments in the use of Piha iron sands for Cameron Brown, to achieve glaze effects. Could this pot be evidence for the use of Piha iron sand at Titian?

It certainly has the dark metallic lustre sheen in places than is similar to some of the Peter Stichbury plates I have seen which employ iron sands. For example:

It is very hard to see from these photos, but there are similarities in the flesh.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who knows if this theory might stand up. My sincere gratitude to Peter for providing this information, which suggests there might be a whole other range of Titian glazes out there. I will use more information Peter has found in a later post.

Ev from has sent me a photo of a pot with a glaze that has rutile in it, to compare with this one. The dark blue streaks from the rutile does appear to be similar to the one above.

Note: this is not a Titian shape


  1. Hi there, not sure about your ironsand theory as Peter Stichbury placed this on top of pieces that were already glazed and the ironsand melted into the glaze. The above glaze looks like one that I used myself in the 1970's and it was the rutile used in the glaze that went blue in places.

  2. Hi Ev
    Thanks for your helpful comment. You may well be right. I don't know enough about this glaze or how it would have been applied. The pot above looks more like a test piece in that you can almost see the brush marks where the glaze was applied. This was the closest thing I had to anything approximating the description Peter found in the Museum archives. If anyone has something that looks like a bonafide Titian iron sand glaze I would love to hear.

    Ev, your descrition of the two step glazing process used by Peter Stichbury when using iron sand is interesting; do you think Titian would have done something similar, or had a single-step iron-sand integrated glaze? What do you think such a pot would have looked like?

    About the glaze appearing to have some rutile component: it turns out that this may not be inconsistent with an iron-sand, or iron sand-derived glaze. Rutile (composed of mostly titanium dioxide with a bit of iron) is found in significant quantities in some New Zealand coastal iron sand deposits (not sure about Piha though) and can be separated easily using water because of the different densities of the various component minerals in a typical iron sand.

    The quote below is from

    "Ilmenite is another mineral that contains titanium and iron. Coastal ilmenite deposits are known from the South Island’s West Coast, with the two largest deposits at Barrytown and Greymouth comprising a total of around 12.4 million tonnes. This can be processed to produce high-purity rutile (titanium dioxide), which is used as a paint pigment. No deposits have been mined in New Zealand. Beach sands have concentrations of 10–25% ilmenite, while dunes generally have less than 6%... Offshore, the ilmenite concentrations are uneconomic – generally less than 0.17%. Localised ilmenite deposits also occur in beach and dune sands of eastern Coromandel beaches and Matakana Island in the Bay of Plenty."

    Would this square with what you know?

    1. Here is a great pic of Piha iron sand

  3. Peter Stichbury only used his ironsand technique on flatware, e.g. platters, plates, serving dishes etc. It would be difficult to apply his method on anything other than flatware I would think.
    Iron sand is heavy and would sink to the bottom of a liquid glaze. Perhaps one could mill it into a powder, but I'm not sure about that. I have used ilmenite in glazes to produce a speckled effect. Rutile gives wonderful effects as an added oxide to glazes and is exciting to use at high temperatures as it breaks and flows, shimmers and glows, though one has to take care as it can run right off the pot!
    To my way of thinking, iron sand is another form of iron oxide, as is rutile and titanium

  4. Ev, thanks so much - this is great information, as was your identification of rutile in the glaze above. From your words it sounds like iron sand would have been difficult to apply to non-flatware. The tantalizing quote from Stephanie Buckle is:
    "My father assisted Cam with many other ideas, including a wonderful black glaze (I don't see an example here [in the exhibition]) made from Piha black sand. It was used on a lamp base which I still have... [Reg Taylor] was also responsible for Cam's green and honey brown glaze."

    Wouldn't it be great to see that lamp base!

    Peter Savoy has kindly made an enquiry about the glaze:

    "I asked a member of the Brown family about the Piha Sand and he could not recollect that glaze but mentioned that Cam and Reg did lock themselves away for days on end in the room they called the laboratory."

    I imagine that this means quite a lot of samples were produced from these efforts, including some work on Doulton-like rouge flambé glazes that never went into production, according to Stephanie Buckle. The glaze on the pot above is quite thin and not applied over the whole surface, as can be seen where the brown slip is visible around the base. If the glaze is an iron sand-derived glaze (perhaps not iron sand per sé) do you think the lighter minerals like ilmenite and rutile could have been refined out, milled and applied?

    1. The rouge flambe glaze was indeed used. I have an amphora vase in the flambe glaze which is quite stunning. It is one that was part of the auckland museum exhibition. The use of this glaze was also confirmed by a member of the Brown family who confirmed that the glaze was one produced by Cam and Reg in the Lab.

    2. Hi Peter
      Really! I haven't seen a Titian rouge flambe glaze. We have some photos of the exhibition but I didn't take them so can't really put them online unfortunately. I have had a look through them and much to my chagrin cannot see that vase. You probably have something quite special there.

  5. How extremely interesting and so lucky that Peter found this information!
    Could the vase above be the Green and Honey Brown Glaze..... one of the Brown/Taylor experiments and not a Piha iron sand glaze? It certainly looks like an experiment piece with the different thickness of glaze which is usual when experimenting. The similar glaze I used [I still have a piece but don't know how to put a photo on here] was a mistake glaze of a friends that I coveted.
    The black glaze made from Piha black sand is very intriguing. Black is an expensive coloured glaze to make as it uses cobalt oxide, so perhaps they found a way to make a black glaze without using cobalt? So intriguing!

    1. Hi Ev
      If you send a photo of the glaze to titianpottery{at} I would be more than happy put it up. Thanks so much!

  6. I went back to Stephanie Buckle's hand writing and found I had left an 's' off the word glaze, so it should read "green and brown glazes", so I don't think this would be one the glazes she is recalling. I have some pots with a honey brown glaze that I intinctively feel might be at least the brown glaze she is referring to. I will put them up in a later post.
    It might be be worth trying to approach Mrs Buckle in Aust. and asking for a picture. It looks like she would very much like her father's work to be appreciated.