Return to the Salty Mug Project

A couple of years ago, I tried an experiment in which I poured super-saturated salt water into a stoneware mug and hoped that the salt would extrude through the micro-fissures in the mug walls as the water evaporated.  I did get a couple of reasonable attempts with this … but nothing that really screamed for competition season.

Last month, while on my way to Jeremy and Katie’s wedding, I stopped at a church thrift sale in Westerlo.  Not expecting to find anything short of a normal diversion of time, I spotted a stoneware vase.  I checked inside.  No glazing inside.  The price?  All of three dollars.  And no, I didn’t try to haggle it down to $2.50.

So let’s give this salt extrusion trick one more try, shall we?  😀

Here’s the stoneware vase.  There’s no glazing inside the vase, and there’s no glazing on the vase bottom.  I’m sure it will hold water, but I’m not sure how it will handle salt water.

My suspicion is that this was a hand-crafted vase, most likely as part of a personal ceramics class – with decorative figurines stroked into the glazing to give the impression that the vase was akin to collectible Native American art.

I checked my cupboards.  What do you know … here’s some leftover Kosher salt, probably not used since my last “bachelor cooking” recipe.  And some smoked Alder salt as well.  I poured what was left of my salt caches into the vase, then filled it to the brim with boiling hot water.  A few stirs here and there…

Now I wait.

And I didn’t have to wait long.

Less than twenty-four hours after poured the boiling salt water into the vase, there were microcracks in the glazing.  This is what happens when you don’t glaze the inside of your pottery AND then add Kosher salt and boiling water.  The salt membranes permeate through the interior like Play-Doh through an extruder.


So I figure if I leave this alone for at least a week, maybe two … I should get some nice salt-like noodles and strings dangling from the vase exterior.

Oh, and one other thing. I did NOT want to adjust or disturb the process in any way.  I’ve already placed the vase on a piece of black granite, and once i know that I have a successful experiment, I’ll place black fabric along the background.  This should allow me to take a decent picture of the vase without any disturbing wall backgrounds.

I also have to be careful.  I’m essentially destabilizing the vase with this project.  The more salt noodles that percolate through the vase membrane, the more likely that whole chunks of pottery might detach from the vase … creating a big hole, or even worse, an entire vase collapse.

But hey, I only spent three dollars on the vase, if any of you want to lend me some Wedgwood pottery or Royal Daulton mugs for my next experiment, I’m fine with that.

This morning, I took some pictures of the vase – just as a test to see how things are turning out.


Another close-up from the side.

That, folks, is four days of salt water oozing through the pottery.

This is fun.

So I figure … I’ll let this continue to develop, and after maybe a couple weeks of salt growth, I’ll take some macro pictures with my Mitakon super-macro lens, and see how things turn out.

And if I like what I see – then short pile for sure.

And if I don’t like what I see – no problem.  All it takes is another thrift store, another yard sale, another flea market, another $3 purchase, and then some coarse Kosher salt at the grocery store.

Because, as every bachelor who cooks knows, Kosher salt makes every meal much better. 😀