Pick up a little dish soap and a plastic straw before you head to the studio, because achieving specific effects on your pieces sometimes requires nontraditional studio tools and materials.
Tools and Materials
The materials you’ll need (1):
• Small container
• Dish soap
• Banding wheel
• A piece to glaze
Potters are constantly looking for creative, inventive techniques; the latest one I’ve been experimenting with is bubble glazing. I was shown this technique by a skilled artist named, Robert Crisp who works at the same studio as me. I had been looking for a way to imitate a marble effect in my work, and I was inspired to use the natural colors of marble to create the design.
Dip the piece in a base color glaze first; if the glaze is applied with a spray gun, the powdery residue of the glaze will blur the lines of the bubbles. Fill a small container with a contrasting colored glaze, and add some water to thin the glaze to adjust the intensity of the lines as you see fit. Add 4–5 drops of dish soap and mix it up with a straw. I’ve found that the best brand of dish soap to use is Dawn; the glaze does not bubble as well with the other brands that I’ve tried. Use the straw to blow into the glaze/soap mixture and it will start to bubble out of the container. Hold the container right up against the piece, so that when the glaze starts to form bubbles and overflow out of the container, the bubbles immediately pop against the piece (2). The upside-down cup is used to prop the piece up above the wheel to provide better access to the sides when you glaze. The faster you blow through the straw, the more the bubbles are mixed around and the smaller they will be. The bubbles are much larger if you blow into the glaze slowly (3).
The best way to get an even application of bubbles is to spin the piece slowly on a banding wheel and hold the glaze container level with the piece. If you hold the container above the piece and let the bubbles drop onto the piece on their own, gravity will pull the excess glaze down to the bottom of the all of the bubbles. This will form unwanted drips and leave splatters as opposed to open circles of glaze.
Dump out the glaze and mix a fresh container for every few pieces you glaze, as the mixture of soap and glaze will start to congeal and become too thick to work with. Wait until the bubbles have evaporated and the glaze is dry before you pick up the piece and be careful not to smudge the lines. If the dried bubbles leave behind thick crumbs of glaze, you’ve applied too much. The lines of glaze should be thin and smooth against the piece. Fire it in the glaze kiln and enjoy your new, bubble-patterned piece!
the author Hedy Yang is a ceramic artist from Novi, Michigan. She is a studio technician at the Michigan Art Center and started working toward a BFA at Michigan State University this fall. To learn more, visit www.hqpottery.com.
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