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Published Sep 29, 2023

Lana Wilson uses texture and clay slip to decorate much of her work. It's a a lot of fun to do washes of color on textured surfaces, leaving concentrations of the glaze or ceramic colorants in the recesses. But sometimes when the clay slip or glaze is washed off, the color loses its vibrancy. 

To solve that problem, Lana uses steel wool rather than water and a sponge and maintains the bright color of the clay slips she uses. Today, Annie Chrietzberg explains Lana’s process and shares the clear glaze recipe she uses to make her work food safe. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Lana Wilson’s work is mostly black and white with bits of vibrant color splashed about. She says, “I have a background in painting, and this technique really appeals to the painter in me.” She was inspired by the work of Denise Smith of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Claudia Reese, a potter from Texas.  

Simple Clay Slip

To prepare the clay slip, Wilson takes 100 grams of small pieces of bone dry clay and adds 10-50 grams of a ceramic stain. The percentages of stains varies according to the intensity of color she is trying to achieve. The clay Wilson uses is Half & Half from Laguna, formulated for firing at cone 5, though she fires it to cone 6. This clay body is half porcelain and half white stoneware. It’s not as white as porcelain, but it does fire white rather than yellow in oxidation, isn’t as finicky as porcelain, and works well with Wilson’s making methods. If you’re buying clay from the East Coast, she suggests a clay body called Little Loafers from Highwater Clays.

Easy Application of Clay Slip

The technique is simple. On a piece of bisqueware, first brush on black slip or one of the base colors (figure 1) then sponge it off, leaving slip in the crevices (figure 2). Then, using colored slips dab on bits of color here and there (figure 3). Remove some of that with steel wool (figure 4). “I can’t use water for this step or it will muddy the colors,” Wilson explains. CAUTION: You must wear a respirator during this stage. In the final step, she dips the piece in a clear glaze, and fires to cone 6. Through lots of experimenting, and with lots more to go, Wilson finds that ending with a dark color on top works best for her.

 Mixing Colored Clay Slips

There are two groups of colored slips. The first group Wilson uses for the base coat that she washes off, leaving color in all the recesses. The accent slips are more intense and removed with steel wool. All stains are Mason stains except for 27496 Persimmon Red, which is from Cerdec. Add the stains and bone dry clay to water and allow to sit for 30-60 minutes so it will mix easier. 

NOTE: Stain-bearing slips applied to surfaces that come into contact with food need to be covered with a food-safe clear glaze. Because of the many variables involved in glazes (clay body and glaze fit, variability in chemical content, temperature variability in kilns, organic materials, etc.), we cannot guarantee food safety on the recipes we post. The best way to be certain is to have one of your finished pieces leach tested by a lab.

Glaze Testing Resources:

To learn more about Lana Wilson or see more images of her work, visit

**First published in 2009