In Conversation with Andy Brayman Part 3: sustainability & innovation in ceramics

This blog is the final installment of a three-part profile on Boston Valley Terra Cotta Research and Development Specialist, Andy Brayman, and his thoughts on sustainability and the innovation of architectural ceramics.

In the previous blogs, Andy discussed his process of developing glazes and his experience working with architects. His professional background as an artist brings a new perspective to Boston Valley, which allows us to explore the possibilities of recycled material glazes and other sustainable processes.

Sustainability in glaze development:

Sustainability is a vital topic in the architectural industry – lowering the carbon footprint of production is a huge, but necessary, responsibility to take on. We can look to ceramics as a natural material that may help us lower our environmental impact. One of the focuses of Andy’s work has been the development of glazes that use recycled materials. Glazes with recycled glass are common in tile production, but they tend to be indistinguishable from other types of glazes. Andy’s interest in recycled glazes led him to explore that area in depth, assessing what techniques could potentially be scaled up for architectural use.

“We’ve been able to develop countless glazes, but we’ve chosen five that come from this process of development. Where we replace what is called a virgin material with post-industrial waste from another industry and find out how that can be done to scale.

And we’ve created glazes that look just like the regular glazes at Boston Valley and a subset of glazes that look like specialty glazes, that can do unusual things. They look like the surfaces are really unique and different. That’s an area of research I’m really pushing. I like the idea that you’re taking post-industrial waste to create a glaze that is beautiful and long-lasting and has a lower carbon footprint if that material wasn’t used.”

Here are a few variations of recycled material glazes that are currently being tested by Andy at the Matter Factory.

These test tiles show how this particular glaze looks on different clay bodies with varying levels of application. The lighter the application, the more crackly the effect appears.

Ceramic Innovation:

The ACAWorkshop has played a big role in the development of innovative processes and technology, generating new possibilities for ceramic production. Since the formal inception of the workshop event, every year each team is given the opportunity to explore facets of architectural ceramics that are not typically implemented in the plant, encouraging the development of new techniques.

“This can be a painful process, since it’s hard to integrate new things and new processes in the plant. But of course there’s this framework where it’s designed for this. It’s super smart that they’ve come up with a way where Boston Valley foster innovation, and to push themselves to do things in a more formal way instead of solving a problem for a deadline.”

A range of glaze samples of varying blue, green and cream hues. The particular shape of the test tile helps showcase how the glazes sit on a ceramic with edges and pools.

 

Even before we started organizing the ACAWorkshop in 2016, Boston Valley’s commitment to improving our processes has always remained true. Innovation is a core component of our business; as a result, we are committed to improving efficiency and reducing environmental impact in the production of our quality terra cotta products.

“Boston Valley has innovated for years prior to using digital tools. The whole side that is restoration, on one hand people may not understand how much innovation is required to imitate a building from a long time ago, but they’ve had to do that on the fly. There’s countless numbers of innovations they’ve come up with in house.

Oftentimes it happens through people who are knowledgeable and work with the material every day. They get together and try and solve the problem at hand. They want to try a new method and becomes integrated and that becomes a part of their toolkit. That stays within the knowledge of the plant and that happens with both analog processes they use and digital processes.”

 

Various glaze and claybody samples prepared for the upcoming Architectural Ceramic Assemblies Workshop.

Boston Valley Terra Cotta’s Research and Development Specialist, Andy Brayman, will again be a part of this year’s ACAWorkshop.

Read the first two installments of this three-part profile:

In Conversation with Andy Brayman Part 1: working with Boston Valley Terra Cotta to develop glazes
In Conversation with Andy Brayman Part 2: working with architects to prepare for the ACAWorkshop