Lustre or luster glazes refer to metallic and shining glazes on ceramics that are creating during the kiln firing process. Mineral elements interact with each other at high temperatures in the kiln to form opalescent and irrisdescent glazes. Lustre-glazed ceramics, originally only available to monarchs and nobles, historically traces back to the middle ages. To obtain this effect is no easy task. The glazes must be layered on the ceramic pieces in such a way that the different elements interact chemically at designated high temperatures. In hearing Artists Myra Toth and Sooz Glazebrook refer to the process, one appreciates the difficulty and rarity of firing a ceramic piece to emerge from a kiln with a specific opalescent surface in mind. There are many go-rounds in the kiln until a desired or “surprise” effect is achieved. The results are sheer magic, and the three women in Three Lustrous Women are all ceramic glaze alchemists in their own rights. In their studios you’ll find shelves of jars with colored minerals and raw material elements, along with coded notes and tests of how they achieved their coveted results. The road to obtaining their iridescent, shining surfaces is a long one, and it’s no wonder they wish to keep their glaze recipes secret.
Myra Toth discovered ceramics and sculpture at a young age and studied with Antonio Prieto, Robert Arneson and Ruth Duckworth, amongst others. She received her B.A. from Mills College and M.F.A. from San Francisco State University. She is as adept with use of the wheel as she is with her hand-built sculptural ceramics which are inspired by subtle natural forms. She became a master of lustre ceramic glazes decades ago, and taught art, ceramics and glaze-making at Ventura College and at longtime-friend Beatrice Wood’s studio in Ojai. Currently, she is offering lustre glaze workshops at her Pyramid Studio in Ojai. www.Pyramidstudio.com
Mary Galbraith on Myra Toth (from Focus on the Masters):
"Myra Toth is a bit of an alchemist, at home with hundreds of jars filled with chemicals that transform clay into objects of stunning beauty. ..... To say that Myra draws her inspirations from nature somewhat misses the point. Myra is able, in a most intimate way, to connect twigs, branches, ears of corn or a bird’s nest with clay, taking us with her on a spiritual journey."
It was at one of Myra Toth’s glaze-making workshops at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in 2009 that Sooz Glazebrook and Isabella Kocum met. They were both artists and ceramicists themselves but wanted to learn the art of applying and firing lustred surfaces to their works. A friendship was struck between them and Myra Toth and the three of them have been in touch and inspired by each other since.
Sooz Glazebrook grew up on a sheep farm in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand that according to Ms. Glazebrook provided an “endless variety of artistic inspiration.” She received her B.F.A. from Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University, New Zealand, moved to Ojai in the late 1990s, and has been creating ceramics, jewelry and bronzeworks since. Gardening, color and spiralic shapes inform her work as does the magic of kiln firing. www.soozglazebrook.com
According to Sooz, she enjoys
“the thrill of never exactly knowing what a ceramic glaze or lustre will be when opening the kiln."
London Artist Isabella Kocum studied Art and Gold-leaf Gilding in Bern, Switzerland and then spent many years as a Dancer in New York via the Alvin Ailey Dance troupe and in Paris where she received a scholarship for Dance from the Cite des Arts. She moved to London in 1990 where she returned to Art and Gold-leaf Gilding which led to frame restoration at the National Gallery where she works currently. In 2008, she took up ceramics and has been incorporating gold gilding and lustre firing into her pieces. Her works incorporate figurative elements and are inspired by Dance. www.IsabellaKocum.com
According to Isabella Kocum,
“When light hits a golden lustrous object, a spectrum of colours reflects as if it has a soul within itself.”
--Kelly Luscombe Bea