You are currently browsing the surface decoration category.
This is just a quick tutorial on how to make a “Faux Bois” (fake wood) texture on a slab.
It is my impression that Faux Bois is all the rage and if Martha Stewart has Faux Bois wrapping paper, clearly, to be able to make a dish or box using it, it’s a GOOD THING™
It is also a good thing to do all the steps and do them in the right order.
Start with a slab that is about 1 inch thick.
Paint some slip on there or even underglaze in a fairly thick coat. I’m using chartreuse to make it particularly hard to see in my photos.
Take sheets of newspaper to “dry” the slip. Just lay the newspaper on there and watch as the moisture begins to show through the paper. When you pull up the first sheet, you may end up pulling off some of the slip-
just set that piece aside and keep drying with successive pieces of newspaper until there is no moisture being absorbed by the paper.
Here, I’m rubbing the paper down to aid in the moisture absorption.
At this point, if you wish, you can try to re-apply the peeled up slip. If you can get it to stick down to your now dryish surface, you may have to dry off the new bits with one more sheet of newspaper.
You are wondering why we need to “dry” the slip? We are going to stretch the slab under it. If the slip is wet, it will just stretch nicely with the slab and we won’t get any of the cool effects we’re trying for.
When your surface is not tacky or shiny, take a sharp tool like a needle tool and draw in the wood pattern. Basically you draw a few knotholes and then draw vertical lines that bend around them when they encounter the curve of the knothole. Take a look at some wood grains or Faux Bois wrapping paper for reference.
Don’t go too deep! You only want to pierce that dried slip layer. Also, draw it smaller and closer together because this pattern is going to
e x p a n d .
Next, begin to throw out a slab. This is a little tricky as you shouldn’t hold the slab on top and you can’t flip it over, you have to throw it with the slip side facing up the whole time.- my action shot of this did not turn out.
As it stretches, the faux bois pattern will become spread out and more proportionate.
I’ve found that if it has really sharp edges, once it is all the way thrown out, you can go over it gently with a rolling pin but I would avoid that if you can.
Then you can let it harden to leather hard and build something with it like a box, or you can drop it into a mold and make a dish.
Obviously you are going to need a transparent type glaze on it like clear or a celadone or even a shino depending on how dark your slip or underglaze is.
Posted 1 month, 2 weeks ago at 11:10 am. 7 comments
It is really wonderful to be part of a strong pottery community here.
Everyone is so supportive of each other and I like being with all of them; so when I noticed that our farm cats here were leaving squirrel tails lying around their feeding area (yes, our cats are better at actually catching squirrels than our enthusiastic but clueless dog), I asked Barbara Zaveruha if she would teach a brush-making workshop. My favorite liner brush is starting to wear out and I suspect it is made of squirrel hair or something similar.
Brushes Barbara has made.
My local women potter friends were invited and we convened in my studio one morning bearing various roadside finds and fur bits
to be converted into brushes for slip and wax.
I have a list of what you will need at the bottom of this post.
Step one is laying out the hair/fur. Set out a straight-edge of some sort and line your hairs up against it in a pretty thin layer.
Then begin at the end and pretend that the hairs are like a mat and roll them up. The first hairs in line will end up at the center of your brush. Those will be the tip.
Once you get a good shape, hold your bundle firmly and have someone (another good reason to make this a communal activity) wrap and then tie some dental floss around it where you want your brush to end. This may be the middle of the bundle or closer to one end. Don’t worry how long the excess is, it will be trimmed later. Try to wrap a bit of a band.
What we discovered: coarse hairs should not be tied super-tight. Finer hairs like fox and squirrel hairs can be tied tightly, this does not deform the tip of the brush- but deer hair is much coarser and -my suspicions confirmed from some cursory research on the web– hollow. Which means the tighter we tied the wrap around it, the more it compressed and splayed outward giving us these frustrating multiple-tips results.
It suddenly came to me that we should try to tie it looser and Barbara assured us that later gluing would keep the hairs in place. A gently tightened but not tightly pulled wrapping yielded the first decent deer hair tip.
Notes on what hair to use from where: Barbara was using deer tail. Colleen had some deer fur also; possibly from the belly or hindquarters? Not sure.**
I took the longest hair I could find on our poor fox carcass and it was in the area behind the head, between the shoulders. This will work too, even if your only hair source is your (living) dog – apparently the Japanese prefer Akita hair for their best brushes so go ahead and call Fido over.
The fur/hair should have some kink or wave to it to hold the slip/wax/underglaze.
I don’t think curly coated dog’s hair will work nor the super-straight hair of say, a lab or pit bull (not long enough anyhow). I used the tip of a squirrel tail first and then the side hairs of the tail too- it all seemed to make a nice liner tip. Also, the finer hairs are probably best for smaller brushes and those larger thicker hairs better for big brushes.
Eventually we ran out of time, went in to eat soup and home-made bread (made by my talented husband) and scheduled a second workshop to finish the brushes. We all went off to boil our brush tips so they would be dry enough to clip and glue. This is a VERY IMPORTANT STEP because you don’t want your brush to reek after it has sat in water or worse, rot.
We reconvened on a snowy morning with boiled tips in hand and proceeded to finish the brushes.
The boiling loosened the wrappings a bit so I ended up re-wrapping all the the ends and what I found worked best was about a ½ inch of wrapping to make the base of the brush a solid cylinder.
Barbara showed me a terrific type of knot. Before you start wrapping, you run a loop up that lays along the area you are going to wrap and just past it. Then you proceed to wrap over the loop. When you get to the end of where you are wrapping, poke the string (or floss in our case) through the loop leaving a bit of looseness and pull on the other end of the loop- the end that is sticking out of the bottom of the wrapping where you started-pulling on it will pull the loop and other end of string under the wrapping; pull until it is about halfway down the wrapping and then cut off both ends.
Next we trimmed non-tip end of the fur to a very blunt end and then dabbed that end straight down onto a blob of glue and worked the glue up into the hairs. Sometimes we needed a second blob depending on how absorbent the hairs were. To compress the sides in- prevent flaring, we wrapped the end in tape but I did not tape 2 of the ends and that seemed to work too. You will have to judge which ends need the tape.
I had scrounged some bamboo pieces from our shed- formerly used to hold up plants. You can buy bamboo in varying thicknesses at garden supply stores . The narrow (usually green) I will use for my tiny liner tips and my two Fox brushes will go in thicker shafts.
Next you will have to drill out the right diameter in the bamboo. Look at the diameter of the bottom end of your brush tip and judge what thickness bit you need for your drill. It’s better to err on the side of too-small. As Barbara said, “you can always make it bigger.”
Where I chose to cut the bamboo shafts had to do with the “joint”. I wanted to have a good ¾ of an inch above the bamboo “joint” which provides a “floor” for the glue and brush tip to rest on.
The inside of the bamboo is soft and the joint floor is harder so your drill should sort of stop at the floor and if you don’t push really hard, you won’t go through it.
Barbara is holding the bamboo just below the “joint”.
Next try out your brush tip in the hole before you put glue in there! You may want to drill it out larger. Note: if your wrapping is nice and flat and not lumpy, you should be able to fit it inside the opening in the bamboo shaft. That’s why, when you are wrapping it, you want it to be tight and flat and very cylinder-like.
Note how different the end looks from when we first tied the bundles.
Once you can just squeeze the tip in, with possible help from the fettling knife to tuck a few stray hairs in remove it and put a decent sized drop of glue in there.
Re-insert your brush tip. Let dry and VOILA! You have a nice brush!
What you will need to make brushes:
- Fur with some waviness or kink to it but not curly hair. Squirrel, raccoon, deer or canine fur (fox, dog) is ideal.
- A straight edge of some sort.
- Dental floss or waxed string
- Water resistant glue- we used Duco, 5-minute epoxy would work too.
- Hair clippers are very helpful
- Fine saw
- Bamboo (from the garden store)
- A vice is very helpful
- Drill and variety of sized bits
- Paper plate for the glue (our glue started to dissolve a styrofoam tray I had)
- Fine scissors
- Tweezers can be helpful
- Fettling knife
- Needle tool
- Toothpicks for the glue
** The best information I found on hair were fly-tying sites and blogs! I wish we’d read this excerpt before we started!:
“For example, the body of a deer has hollow hair, the tail is solid hair. The body hair of a calf is solid. Tails of all animals, like squirrel, woodchuck, calf, are typically solid. Solid hair typically is used for wings and tails. It stays compact and does not flare and is relatively hard to stabilize on the hook because it is slippery. Hollow hair is typically body hair and is used for wings or for spinning where you want it to flare. It is used for tails as well, but there you want to control the flare by thread technique. If you look at the typical hollow hair, i.e. deer, elk, caribou, antelope, it looks like a carrot, thick tapering to thin, with the thick part being hollow and the thinner part getting less hollow until it is actually solid at the tip. It is actually honeycomb hollow if you look at it under a microscope.”
Posted 5 months, 1 week ago at 9:31 am. 3 comments
I recently taught a workshop as a brief introduction to Majolica.
I used the word “creamy” very frequently. It really is the best word to describe the basic white glaze that defines the category and gives Majolica its distinctive look.
First of all let me say that most of what I know I learned from Kelly Kessler and I still find her work inspiring, thought provoking and beautiful.
I brought out some pieces by her,
two small boxes I’d bought in Italy, sitting next to an Angler Fish mug by Karin Kraemer
and a couple of old pieces of mine.
I wasn’t sure how long it had been since I really spent some time making Majolica work but the date on the bottom of the bowl was 1994!
Basically, Majolica was Europe’s response to Chinese Porcelain.
People were crazy for all that pristine white-ware coming out of China. This was eventually answered with a thick white glaze (made with tin)and colorful pigments that sink into its surface. This first began to happen during the renaissance in Italy so Italy is most famous for it’s Majolica but Spain, England and Mexico all have similar ceramic traditions.
Majolica, as it is practiced most commonly now is on terra cotta low fire clay which is dipped in or sprayed with a base coat of a creamy majolica glaze.
At Lill, we use a nice recipe from Linda Arbuckle (http://lindaarbuckle.com/index.html )and commercial pigments from Amaco™
After that dries, you can then apply your pattern or images. Some people draw very lightly on the surface with pencil- I’ve been known to use a highlighter even but for these I just had some sketches and applied it freehand. Good brushes are key. You need something that you can load up but will make a fine line. I like long thin brushes.
For the “sea weed” on the underside of my octopus bowl, I scratched through to thewhite but not down to the clay body.
Karin Kraemer uses this technique to good effect on her Angler fish mug. Also on her mug, you won’t see any of the white undercoat except for the belly of her fish. She painted the entire rest of the mug with a tomato red.
I also did a bit of scratching (sgraffito) on the octopus
Here it is fired. The main thing to know about majolica is that it’s not very forgiving of mistakes when one is painting on the colorful pigments.
You can see it is a lot more transparent- more than I wanted actually. Every brush mark shows so you really have to be careful how you apply the pigments- you can not just make an outline and daub it on to fill it in- it’s best to have some direction and grace in your application. Here is the underside:
This was fired at around cone 04. That is low fire and so the clay body won’t be as dense and therefore as strong as a cone 6 or 10 pot- but these pieces do hold up! Another student brought in commercially made terra cotta pieces: flower pots! and decorated those.
With Majolica the possibilities are nearly endless and it’s particularly great if you like bright colors.
But, as you can see in this Roberta Massuch piece, it can also be used to get a kind of pen and ink effect and it also doesn’t have to cover the entire piece. She’s used it selectively and contrasted it with texture on other parts of her pot.
This is terry’s test- she’s wanted to see how it works in dots!
I also copied one of my own pieces -what I call my “willow pattern”. Here it is before and after:
So there you have it, the very briefest of introductions to Majolica. What I like about it are the bright colors and the endless possibilities of surface decoration coupled with the near instant gratification of low-fire. This is not something that needs to be coddled along- you pop it in an electric kiln and voila! Something lovely, useful and sturdy.
If you want to look at more contemporary majolica work I suggest you poke around Arbuckle’s site and also that of Karen Kraemer or just google Majolica! I know there are countless more talented Majolica artists and you are welcome to put them in comments.
Posted 2 years, 3 months ago at 6:53 pm. Add a comment
It’s been a great class with really wonderful students. I’m always so thrilled to see what they are working on each week. Since this was the last week, I reall packed in the demonstrations.
I started off by throwing a bowl with about 3 pounds of clay. People wanted a refresher in how to throw a larger bowl. This was a good item to demonstrate banding with slip while it was still on the wheel. One of the most common and annoying problems with banding is that the slip doesn’t just glide on there in a steady stream leaving a perfect highway of color on your pot. Especially if you are applying it to a leather surface, the clay can suck up the moisture from a thicker slip and give you a very uneven, often kind-of pitted surface. If you are applying to leather hard it helps to spritz it with a bit of water ; wait a few seconds for the water to sink in a little, otherwise you lay your slip down onto a thin layer of water and it can drip and not stick well.
If you are applying to a freshly thrown pots (which is ideal for bonding for porcelain slip bonding to stoneware) you still have to dip the brush more frequently than you’d think. Just keep the wheel going steadily and hold your hand steady too. You can always clean up the edges with a metal rib or stick tool. Here I used my rib to put a little wavy edge on my band.
Next I threw a low terra cotta bowl so we could do some stencils using leaves. I also showed how you can take something like a fork and with an even motion while the wheel is going slowly, make another kind of border around the rim- this time on the inside.
I had some problem getting the leaves to really lay flat but Kristina solved that problem by using some newsprint to really presss her leaves down flat.
Here is the plate after she pulled the leaves off
Beautiful. She will go back in when the slip is leather hard and clean up any places the slip snuck under the leaves.
Jennifer put some on the outside of her mugs which also turned out great. It’s important to think about how the leaves will fill the space. I think all these examples (except mine) are excellent.
Another thing you can do with two or more colors of slip is to marbelize- like the fancy paper you often see. I think for this you need a fairly flat, contained surface. I had a small stoneware plate which I poured some blue slip into and then dotted and trailed green on top of that in a fairly random pattern. then I dragged a very pointy brush (you could use a feather or pointy stick too) through the dots. I was inspired by plant forms.
When I trim the plate, I’ll go in and clean up the edge of the inside too.
The one thing to be careful of when marbelizing is that it adds a LOT of moisture to your pot. Make sure your form is supported or dry enough to absorb that moisture and keep its shape.
Then I did my surprise demo. This was “etched” clay. Really, I would only recommend this technique for porcelain as you will soon see why. I threw a tumbler and set it to dry. When it was hard leather dry, I painted a pattern on it in wax. After the wax was completely dry (and you can do this technique with varnish was well) I began wiping at the surface with a wet sponge. The wax protects the surface beneath it but the surrounding surface is removed. If this was stoneware, it would just be horribly gritty.
After a few wipes, I decided to scratch into my wax a little to get a more detailed resist area.
This will look great with a breaking glaze like Shino, Celadon or even Josh Green.
Kelly took this idea and ran with it – here is her process: and she got the brilliant idea of inlaying black slip into the wiped away areas. She painted it on and the wax resisted it over the raised areas. She sponged away all non-adhering slip and here is the resultDoesn’t that look cool?
Another variation on this idea is to paint your entire surface with slip, then a pattern over it in wax and then when you wipe away, you leave the color where the wax protects it and the color is removed everywhere else. Kristina suggested this and I can’t wait to try it!
Posted 2 years, 10 months ago at 5:31 am. 1 comment
Slip ‘N’ Surfaces, Week 2
It was a very quiet class this week with just 3 of us but we had a pretty fun time with stencilling.
I did my popular “Birch Platter” demonstration.
I have posted this before but in case you haven’t seen it and don’t want to endlessly scroll backwards through this blog, I will post a quickie verion and also a photo of the ugliest “birch platter” I have ever seen.
The birch platter has the virtue of of having three layers of color with only two layers of slip.
I make a drop platter of stoneware (with iron) and immediately cover it with white slip so that the surfaces have plenty of time to bond. When that slip is not sticky to the touch, I tear newspaper into narrowish strips. You want to tear the strips, not cut them- they stick down better.These I spritz down with water and also the surface of the tray so that the newspaper adheres.
Next, paint another darker color over it- blue for example. Remember to paint in the same direction that the strips run or you will peel up the strips with your brush.
After the (blue) slip is no longer runny, you can pull up the strips.
Now you have a cool striped plate. You could stop there but I like to go in and make birch markings.
Here is a photo of real trees just to remind everyone.
I had a lot of fun this time because I decided the “devil’s hoofprints” (as one student told me) look like eyes and I put lots of faces in my trees for people to find.
My students seemed to really like this stencil idea and each went with it in their own direction and did a great job:
Jennifer went vertical- on mugs:
Richard did a bowl- and stenciled over slipped circles:
Kelly went non-representational with this pattern:
I also tried another thing- something I haven’t done before.
Because I suck at slip-trailing, I thought if I did it onto a plaster mold I might have more control- so I drizzled and painted on a vine. and then laid a slab over it and pressed it down with a brayer. when I pulled it off, the vine was inlaid into the clay but the leaves decided to stay on the plaster mold.
and here is the dish:
I would not call it a success but I think that anything that was a bit raised- that had any thickness to it, successfully inlaid. Possibly next time, I would spritz it before laying the slab on to facilitate bonding.
Lastly, I promised you a photo of the ugliest birch platter ever. A friend has this- I think it looks like a tree that maybe could be related to a birch caught smallpox or maybe just the victim of a tree surgery gone horribly awry.
So I hope to see you all next week!
Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 5:39 pm. 2 comments
I am teaching a 4 week class this June called Slip ‘n’ Surfaces.
I have a lovely group of students and I’m really excited about teaching surface decorating techniques.
This first class we started out discussing slips. What is slip exactly?
The slip at Lill and in many places is simply liquid porcelain with pigment in it. Here we use Mason stains which are very dependable. The key to using slip well is to understand its properties. Because it is clay, it will not run or flux as glaze does and so you get great sharp details and precision but it does shrink as it dries. So you must apply it in time for it to bond to the surface of your clay and for them to shrink together. You have a a much bigger window of opportunity when applying slip to porcelain than to stoneware because porcelain and stoneware have different rates of shrinkage.
I gave a demo of my favorite texture and color technique- what I call the Eric Jensen technique- I’ve posted about it before so I will be very brief in this description:
Start with a thick pad of clay- at least an inch thick, spread slip on it and then “dry out” the slip with sheets of newspaper.
Once the slip is “dry” (you can touch it without it sticking to your hand- it’s a kind of a leather feel to it) then you can add a second slip or stamp it or even draw in it. If you add more slip, you must dry it out again and then you can begin to throw the slab out.You can put two colors down with out drying in between but they lose their definition and blend as above.
The key to this stage is that you must keep the slip side up while you are throwing the slab. Because you’ve dried the slip, it will break up instead of stretching with the clay and you get a great texture. If you’ve incised lines in it, the surface tends to break along those lines.the line around the perimeter of this slab was made with a spiky wheel normally used for patterns in sewing.
Then I took that piece and put it in a mold or “drop mold” so named because to settle the clay into it, you drop it once or more.
This is a different slab and you can see it tore where the clay was uneven or had air bubbles.
To adapt to the shape of the slab, I took some extra clay and built up part of the mold. Next week I’ll put little legs on this tray.
Next I demonstrated painting and sponging on slip by doing some of these summer trees. A sponge with a rough surface is excellent to get the slip applied so it emulates the transparency and distribution of leaves.
I then go in and clean up the trees with a stick and loop tools as I have more control with those than the brush or sponge.
This is almost the finished product.
Lastly, I did a brief demonstration of what I do the most, cover the surface with black slip, draw an image with a nice wooden stylus (you can see some of my sticks in the upper left)
and then carve away negative spaces with a fine loop tool.(and here you can see some of my fine loop tools)
Today I went back to my leather hard pieces and used a sure form to finish the edges. This is a tool often used for plaster and can be found in most hardware stores.It’s a very handy tool!
Posted 2 years, 11 months ago at 6:23 pm. 5 comments
Apologies as I’ve neglected my blog for some time now.
I thought I would just post some pictures of the various things I’ve been up to.
I am currently very busy teaching but also trying to prepare for as many as FOUR art fairs!
That is my first and most exciting news: I’ve been accepted into the following fairs:
The 57th Street Art Fair June 5 & 6
Krasl on the Bluff in St. Joseph Michigan July 10 & 11
The Kohler in Sheboygan Wisconsin July 17 & 18 and
The Powderhorn Park Art Fair in Minneapolis August 7 & 8 !
Also I am lucky enough to be working again with the 6th graders at Murphy School to finish our Mosaic Time Line. This year we are doing: Feudal Japan, the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration.and for the Age of Exploration a globe with a ship sailing on it.
Whenever I get any chunk of time, I am making work for the fairs. I am excited about the images I’ve recently carved on some salad plates and casseroles.(I’m so mad I cropped off the bottom of the plate when I was shooting!)
Here’s another plate- this shape was inspired by a great plate I bought from Bob Briscoe
side view :
and I want to do more of these! Perspective
from aboveLastly, I am currently in a faculty show at Lill Street. It opened May 1.
This is one of my Kelp Vases and it was Soda Fired which was just the right treatment for that surface.
Stop by and see it in person as well as all the other amazing work by my colleagues at Lill!
Posted 3 years ago at 6:44 pm. 2 comments
I’m so excited about these new carvings that I am posting pictures of green, freshly carved pots.
I was recently in Santa Barbara, visiting a family member and once again, I saw a lot of kelp washed up.
Last time I saw it in the water while looking down from the pier. It is most likely giant kelp which grows several inches per day!
This time I was struck by the almost formal arrangements that lay in the sand.
They reminded me of bookplate designs in old books.
When I got home, I looked at photos online taken by people who were swimming amongst the kelp forests.
The difference between beach-bound kelp and underwater kelp is that the blades (or leaves) are floating every which way. Additionally, the blades are often ripped away by the time the kelp has washed up leaving only the rubbery stem and bladders.
In the (extremely copyrighted) underwater photos, you can also see the overlapping as the leaves are actually slightly transparent and although I couldn’t replicate that translucent quality, still, I was really happy with the result.
You’ll also note that I’ve taken pains to make my carving marks as watery and curvy and flowing as the kelp.
I tried to capture that feeling of motion; the swaying back and forth with the currents and surf.
I think what makes this pleasing to me and also creates good visual tension, movement and balance is the contrast between these wildly unpredictable twisting and flowing forms and the dependable regularity of the spacing between each bladder where it comes out from the stem- each one continuing on into a blade. I know there is some correct botanical term for this…
Okay, so I looked up Kelp on Wikepedia I found this:
In most kelp, the thallus (or body) consists of flat or leaf-like structures known as blades. Blades originate from elongated stem-like structures, the stipes. [that’s the word I was looking for!] ……. Gas-filled bladders (pneumatocysts) form at the base of blades of American species….and keep the kelp blades close to the surface, holding up the blades by the gas they contain.
and most interesting to me and other potters :
Through the 19th century, the word “kelp” was closely associated with seaweeds that could be burned to obtain soda ash (primarily sodium carbonate)….The word “kelp” was also used directly to refer to these processed ashes.
and what do you know? The slip that into which I carved the images of Kelp on contains Soda Ash!!
So I can’t wait until these are fired - stay tuned!
Posted 3 years, 3 months ago at 8:19 pm. 3 comments
We had another successful Sgraffito workshop Saturday.
I thought I’d post again, not only for the attendees but also because we covered a couple of new things.
The workshop explored the various ways you can add surface decoration to your pots. We explored ways of making lines in negative and positive ways to make images or patterns; the ideal times to apply slip to your pots, address the differences between the clays and also slip vs. underglazes which can also be used in sgraffito; the best glazes here at Lill and various ways to apply them.
Slip application – It is important to remember that slip is clay therefore it shrinks as it dries-if the surface to which you are applying it, is already bone dry and done shrinking, it will flake off as it shrinks; apply it to leather hard clay or wetter!
The slip at Lill is made of Grolleg Porcelain which shrinks at a slightly different rate than the stoneware. Sometimes, if it’s not properly bonded, the slip can flake off as late as days after it comes out of the glaze kiln.
To make sure it bonds well when applying it to stoneware, apply it as soon as you are able. This can mean painting it on while your pot is still on the wheel or in the mold.
I threw this bowl and immediately applied the slip- then dried the surface so the slip would expand along the lines I incised. Then I pressed outwards under the slip. (photos)
The important thing to remember in this case is that if you are really slathering on the slip- the moisture from it is partially absorbed by the clay beneath it and in certain cases, it can cause your pot to collapse- but that is usually on unsupported surfaces where gravity causes the moisture to go down into the clay.
Most often I am applying slip to freshly made trays in their slump or drop molds and because those are supported (by the mold), that is an ideal time to apply the slip.
If you are painting several layers of slip- like, for example, white and then blue -let them dry to matte in between applications.
Underglaze can behave very much like slip- it doesn’t run and it can be applied to almost any wetness of clay from just thrown to bone dry surface. It will apply differently depending on the surface. Also bear in mind you are not really adding much thickness with underglaze. With slip, you are changing the quality of the surface and giving yourself almost a cushion of surface clay in which to work. The analogy in class was that ink is to paint as underglaze is the slip.
Carving & Scratching. I find it best to carve when the pot is leather hard for several reasons:
- so you don’t breathe in the dust.
- The pot is not as brittle and less likely to develop fine cracks from being handled. Those cracks show up in the glaze firing.
- I like the line quality better.
note* I use fine wire loop tools and wooden sticks. I prefer various sized wooden sticks to a needle tool because you get a lovely variable line quality and because it is easier to control the depth of the line. I have a photo up of my tool kit on my last Sgraffito workshop post.
Some types of Sgraffito carving:
- simple line drawings (note, I “dented” the surface inside the drawing with the rounded end of a tool – I didn’t break through the slip but simply changed the texture.)
- Stencil with lines incised
- negative /positive space- this is the type of sgraffito I do the most. I draw an image and then remove the black slip around it with a fine wire loop tool.
- Minimal sgraffito to clean up painted images
- Inlaid slip-in this case I made the ultra fine lines with an odd toothed wheely-tool on a long rectangular porcelain tray. ( PHOTO of actual work to come) I found out this tool is to make lattice work pastry! You can buy them online on cooking supply websites.
You can incise a line drawing or pattern into the surface. I painted over the entire surface in black- my students didn’t think that such fine lines would even get the slip in them- I let it dry to almost bone dry (but not quite! remember: the clay is more brittle and prone to break once it loses its flexibility!!) so that the slip was pretty stiff and wouldn’t smear at all and then scraped it off with a metal rib. You should make a conscious decision about the size of the line you are putting in when you inlay slip. A wider cut needs to be deeper also or you will end up scraping out the slip that is meant to be left behind.
There was considerable discussion about what glazes to use. It is a hard lesson to learn, when you’ve spent hours carving your pot, only to have it disappear beneath an innocent looking glaze job.
Choice of glaze as well as application are key.
It is important to understand that most of the glazes (at Lill) are at an ideal thickness to really give good coverage-which means way too thick for sgraffito! I always rinse my pots in clean water just before dipping them. As the pot is already holding some moisture, this serves to lessen how much glaze they can absorb. Remember, the thinner the walls of your pot, the less moisture you need- it can’t hold much! The opposite undesired result is an application of glaze that is almost non-existent. It runs right off your pot.
I mostly use “breaking glazes” these are glazes that thin at edges or high points and pool in low points.
Here is my list for the Best Glazes for over Sgraffito at Lill:
1.Shaner’s Clear** Again, I lightly rinse my pots in water just before dipping to thin application of glaze. Shaner Clear is especially forgiving of extra drips etc. However; I do find the Clear gives bare Stoneware a dead gray look so I only use it over Porcelain.
2.Celadon – almost as clear with a green tinge – I use this for Stoneware as it brings out the iron in the clay nicely
3. either of the Shino’s- here we had a lengthy discussion about application. I often use Shino water (which is soda water) and if I apply the glaze, it must be thin! sometimes I wipe it off with my hand immediately after I dip it. this can give you a very uneven result. there is quite a range of results that can be achieved with shino.
here it is over white and also colored slips-note the spots where the glaze is thicker- it is white.
here, it is quite thin and so it is orange.
Soda water- also known as “shino water” which is a good non-glaze sealant that also brings out the brown/iron in stoneware. (when I say “sealant”- unglazed porcelain can absorb dirt over time)
4. Josh Green – this is NOT a forgiving glaze every drip will show but again, you can get some great results from it and as with the others, thin is better.
5.Rutile Blue- I prefer this on stoneware actually. Again, you can see the area where it is thicker.
6. Shaner white** – this mutes your colors and lines but your work will show through! Don’t forget, I rinsed these thoroughly in water before dipping them.
This one below is a special case- I threw this vase in B-clay (a mix of stoneware and porcelain) and it turned grey under the clear so for this one I dipped it in Shaner White and rubbed it off all the carving so that the glaze was sort of inlaid. I really like the way it turned out but it was a lot of work and you have to have just the right touch.
**It is important to remember!!, that the Shaner White or Clear absorb red iron! If you have red iron slip decorating your pot and you dip it in clear, much of your pattern will just disappear.
Posted 3 years, 3 months ago at 10:07 am. 3 comments
We had a delightful sgraffito workshop Sunday, October 11, at Lill.
I started with the basic question of what is slip?
In its simplest form, slip is clay that has had water added to it, possibly pigment and been sieved to make it very smooth. At Lill, we use Grolleg porcelain and Mason stains for colorant.
I talked about application.
It is key to understand how slip works – a wrong application will just come off your pot.
Because slip is CLAY, it shrinks. That means you can not put it on a bone dry pot. Your slip will shrink as it dries and simply flake off.
Because it is Porcelain, it shrinks at a slightly different rate than stoneware and therefore when you apply it to stoneware, you have to be more careful that it bonds to the surface or again, it will come off- sometimes even after the glaze firing.
Here is an example of Porcelain on porcelain- THICK and I know (because I watched her) that this was put on with a frosting bag onto leather hard porcelain. This is a photo of the bisked piece- it made it through the drying and firing process without coming off:
So while it is pretty easy and forgiving to put a porcelain slip onto porcelain pots,
I have a couple of tips for applying it to stoneware.
First of all, the more “wet” your stoneware, the better – although the other end of that spectrum is, that your pot will absorb some of the liquid from the slip and could, conceivably, collapse from absorbing too much moisture.
That is the beauty of the slump mold- it can just lie there, bonding while it dries.
You can see it’s white slip over stoneware if you look at the edge.
It also helps to put it on thinly
and lastly, it helps to burnish it on to further bond it with the surface of your pot. You can do that when the surface is leather hard.
What I do for application is fairly ideal; I put the slip on my porcelain pots after they are leather hard and I’ve trimmed them.
I then “carve” (or sgraffito) them while they are still leather hard.
This also reduces my chances of breathing in a lot of clay dust as my shavings are still wet.
Because those shavings dry quickly and then they do become dusty, I then dump them in a little cup or bowl of water to keep them out of my lungs!
Now that the pots were ready, I started in on the fun stuff.
Basic sgraffito is just scratching through slip. that’s what I did for this rabbit plate.Here is an example of the same technique (and her inspiration!) by one of the students. This is slip over Terra Cotta.
Isn’t that cool?
Here are two more examples from the shelves of Lill- these are both with a dark slip and white of the porcelain showing through- quite the reverse!
The next type of sgraffito uses the negative space to make the picture: in this case an octopus.
There are several ways to do this- one is to rough in the basic design without covering the entire pot with slip. This has the advantage of saving time and guiding your design but it can be limiting in that you have to stick with the lines you painted on.
And then after carving:
If you cover the entire piece with slip, it becomes a blank slate upon which, you can draw anything. If I don’t know what I’m going to draw ahead of time, I will paint the whole thing and look for inspiration in the patterns and textures of the slip when it’s on the pot.
Layered slip gives you some interesting lines qualities- in this case I started with white over stoneware. Once that was bonded and the piece leather-hard, I put on a layer of black, waited for that to stop being shiny and added a layer of aqua.
I drew fish with simple lines.
Here is the tray with layered slip (blue over green over white on stoneware) I did from the last workshop. It is glazed in Celadon.
Inlaid slip is the complete reverse of the technique I used to draw the rabbit. There are several helpful things to know when you are inlaying slip. It is probably more important to make your lines deep than wide since you will be scraping off a thin layer of the pot, a shallow line can disappear. The drier the slip and the pot, the cleaner the line will appear when you are scraping. This is what a partially scraped inlaid piece looks like (black and a little blue in porcelain)
Here is an example of Jeanne’s. Here is the tray in inlaid for the last workshop. It is glazed in Shaner clear mixed with Temoku.
Here are a couple more examples of (really great) student work!Seeing this last example reminds me to tell you that:
A.. this technique is great for a delicate and intricate design and
B. CLAY BURRS- these are the bane of any sgraffito-er’s existence. You must have the patience to let them dry before you try to get them off otherwise they will stick back down onto your pot. Usually they dry pretty quickly as they are so small and sticking up, they get a lot of air around them.
Once they are dry, you can easily knock them off with a brush- another caution: DO NOT use a stiff bristled brush or you will scratch your slip surface. I use a makeup brush. These are idea, soft and easy to find – either in a pharmacy or the garbage on moving day!
Posted 3 years, 7 months ago at 5:37 am. 3 comments