Founded in 1984 by Mechthild Surmann and Jürgen Klück, BOTZ glazes are well-known and loved by ceramicists all over the world
Daniel Schulze Zur Verth, executive director, has been with the company since 2008 and explained its history. “Jürgen was running a ceramic goods dealership back at the beginning of the 1980s and began developing glazes and then teamed up with Mechthild in 1983/1984 to found Surmann & Klück, the company that went on to become BOTZ.”
The basic concept was to develop and manufacture exclusively lead- and cadmium-free brush-on glazes. The company ethos was, and remains, not only the promotion of ceramics as a whole but the development of health-conscious, environmentally friendly products, outstanding customer service and to have a great relationship with their distributors.
The decision to develop and manufacture liquid glazes was based on health and safety. If you work with clay and glazes, you’re handling raw materials that can be harmful. It’s essential to be aware of these potential hazards, to avoid them if possible and to be able to manage the residual risk. Mixing your own glazes from powders carries with it a risk of dust inhalation, which can affect the respiratory tract. The advantage of brush-on glazes: they are liquid and don’t make dust!
Lead has been – and still is – added to glazes as a fluxing agent to reduce the melting point and generate specific effects. If lead enters the body, it can have very unhealthy consequences, particularly as small quantities of lead can also be released from the glaze after firing through low acidity (lead solubility). For this reason, BOTZ products don’t have any lead added to them.
Cadmium, another material used in glazes, is toxic in its free form. BOTZ uses cadmium encapsulated in zirconium silicate (ie, bonded), meaning it is warning-label-free. Any other hazardous substances in the raw materials are in such low concentration that they’re deemed non-toxic.
With over 250 different glazes currently on offer, how does the company develop new colours and ranges? Daniel again: “We are very open to customer feedback, we follow colour trends, and we love to be innovative – not only in terms of colours but in improving the ease and quality of application, user experience, etc. For example, the development of BOTZ PRO glazes for a broad firing range (1020-1280°C) was to facilitate firing issues, eg in communal studios.
“It can take anything from seven days to two years to develop a particular glaze, and it goes through as many stages as it needs to until it’s perfect. We produce our own binder (the liquid part of the glaze) and have our own recipes for every single glaze… the rest is a company secret! It consists of many different steps and has been developed and optimised individually for almost every single glaze. Our machinery is completely self-built because there’s no such solution to cater for every glaze product we have.”
Sometimes certain glazes are ‘retired’. “We mostly take out ones we can’t manufacture any more because of raw material limitations. We try only to remove glazes when we have very similar ones still available,” explained Daniel.
In July 2019, BOTZ moved to new premises, double the size and four times the volume of the old site, offering even more space for the practical workshops and presentations that are available. The company is very active in promoting the use of its glazes. In addition to workshops and demos, it has DVDs, a YouTube channel, social media and a very comprehensive catalogue, which is available in six languages and contains many examples of how to combine glazes to achieve different looks, tips on the use of each and potter profiles. Special pictographs make it easy to instantly understand the characteristics of each glaze, eg if they are glossy, or recommended for dinnerware or raku etc.
It’s clear that BOTZ values its staff, who are integral to delivering outstanding customer service, and its distributors in 36 countries, with whom they enjoy excellent relationships. Not only that, but the company is an active supporter of the non-profit organisation pro filia (profilia.eu), a charity that provides education and health services to girls in countries where they face serious physiological, psychological or social disadvantage due to prevalent cultural or religious traditions. At present, pro filia focuses specifically on the support of Nepalese girls who have been trafficked into Indian brothels or are in danger of being trafficked.
From 20 glazes 30 years ago, to now over 250, sold in 36 countries, BOTZ’s dedication to social and ethical responsibilities, and environmentally friendly business is clearly paying off.
Find out more at: botz-glasuren.de
Ranges (all available in 200ml and 800ml pots)
• Brush-on, earthenware, 1020°C-1060°C/1100°C.
• Earthenware, wide range of colourful options, including matt, crackle, speckle and metallics.
• Glimmer 900°C-1060°C. Between engobe and glaze: apply and wipe back to reveal the glimmer effect.
• Engobe 900°C-1100°C. Stunning bright colours, equally effective glazed or unglazed. Available individually or in sets
• Unidekor 1000°C-1250°C. Liquid decorating colours for painting in majolica-, underglaze and onglaze-techniques
• Stoneware 1220°C-1280°C. Plain coloured and effect glazes for high firing. Mix and combine for an almost infinite range of colours
• BOTZ PLUS, additive, 1050°C-1280°C. Increases the effects of stoneware glazes. Becomes a satin crackle glaze, if used solely on stoneware
clay, fired at 1050°C. Results in an exciting crystal glaze if fired solely at 1250°C.
• BOTZ PRO 1020°C-1280°C. Fires to earthenware and stoneware, brilliant contemporary colours with an exceptional glassy, semi-transparent finish at high temperatures.
• TA 103 settling tank. Easy to install under your sink, prevents drains from blocking and protects the environment.
You can request safety data sheets with all the relevant information about the products directly from BOTZ.
BOTZ – key moments
• First colour catalogue in 1985
• Establishment of a national dealer network and further BOTZ glaze developments from 1985-1990
• Formation of SKG GmbH; development of decorative colour ‘Unidekor’ in 1990
• Tenth anniversary in 1994
• Stoneware series; expansion of the programme and international dealer network 1996/1998
• First BOTZ homepage in 1999; represented in 20 countries
•Office building extension in 2000/2001
• Retirement of the shareholder and managing director J Klück; development of a workshop for consumers in 2007
• Introduction of IT-supported production planning; 25th anniversary; charity project pro filia in 2008/2009
• 2010: New BOTZ website; sales to more than 30 countries
• BOTZ DVD in 2012
• Change of company name to BOTZ; CEO Mechthild Spener (formerly Surmann) in 2012
• Managing director Mechthild Spener elected ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2013’ for North Rhine-Westphalia; excellent corporate management was awarded in connection with the social commitment pro filia in 2013
• 30 years of BOTZ; more DVDs; books; Facebook; BOTZ YouTube Channel in 2014/15
• Appointment of second managing director Daniel Schulze zur Verth in 2016
• New company location in Münster from July 2019
• Daniel Schulze zur Verth becomes a shareholder in BOTZ as of 2019
This feature first appeared in issue 36
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