Wedgewood Jasperware color trials; Image: Ornamentalist
Ceramic glazes consist of three main components: glass formers, fluxes, and refractors. Heard enough? Luckily for the rest of us there are some people who find the former sentence intriguing, a new, exciting frontier, ripe for exploration–The ceramics engineer. If you have ever had the opportunity to be in a glaze chemist's 'office' you will no doubt see chips, tiles, trials of colored clay bits, all with numbers scrawled or written neatly. Indecipherable to the layman, these numbers and letters are the key to the fickle, magical world of glazes.
Our Ceramic Engineer Khai Lam is the newest addition to Fireclay's glaze specialty team. Khai has been involved in the ceramic industry for 15 years and recently worked in the new product development at Kohler for almost 8 years before joining Fireclay. With a degree in Ceramics from Ho Chi Minh City Polytechnic University, Khai has been captivated by the alchemy of ceramic glaze from the day he was introduced to it in a materials science class.
We had a chance to interview Khai and explore what makes a brilliant mind like his light up.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you found your way to the chemistry of glaze making?
Khai – I have always been a curious person as well as a thinker. There are always a lot of "whys" in my world about everything. However, it wasn't until when I went to college that I figured out what my passion really is. When I was introduced to ceramics in the Material Science faculty, I fell in love with it right away because of its mysteries. So I switched my major from Civil Engineering to Ceramics.
When you first arrived at Fireclay Tile, what surprised you the most?
Khai – What surprised me the most when I first arrived at Fireclay Tile is how Fireclay is willing to satisfy its customers–no matter how big or small the project is–we always try our best to fulfill their needs. I don't know many other companies willing to do that. I actually got my first custom color match for a small project in my first week at Fireclay Tile.
Do you have a favorite moment of the day?
Khai – Yes, I do, in a big way. My favorite moment of the day is whenever I have figured out something or matched a color for our customers.
What drives and inspires you?
Khai – Passion, history, technology and innovation.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young ceramic engineers?
Khai – I don't think I can give any advice but I can definitely share how I got to where I am now. First, the most important thing in my mind is my passion about what I am doing. It has been present all my life. Second, I always ask myself "why" and try to answer the question. If I am not able to answer the question, then keep it in mind. I often got my answers working in different projects. Third, I always get really hands on in order to fully understand the material or the process.
Thanks for chatting with us, Khai!