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Published Apr 15, 2024

Decorating a Platter

We have a number of posts on image transfer on Ceramic Arts Network, including this laser toner transfer technique from Lauren Karle and this cool technique using a commercial product called pyrofoto. And just when I thought I had seen everything, I found Naomi Clement's cool technique in the Pottery Making Illustrated archive.

In this post, Naomi explains how she combines paper stencils and slip transfer to help create layers on her surfaces. This way she gets the effect of a stencil and a slip transfer in one fell swoop! - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Decorating the Platter

All of my work is decorated using a combination of underglazes, slip, and newsprint resist, with the majority of the decorating done at the leather-hard stage. I use Amaco Velvet underglazes, because I like how evenly they apply as well as the variety of bright colors available.

1 Create a newsprint stencil to use as a resist pattern on the platter’s interior.2 Apply Amaco Flame Orange underglaze to the back of one of the newsprint stencils.

Since I want to leave the rim of the platter undecorated, I begin by waxing this edge. After protecting this edge with wax resist, I am less conscious of it while decorating, resulting in more fluid marks. I then select a newsprint stencil (1) and get a rough idea of where I want to place it.

The first layer I add is a ground color over the whole textured surface—here it’s the Amaco Velvet Bright Red underglaze, which I apply in one liberal coat. It’s important that the clay be at a stiff leather-hard stage before applying the underglaze; if the clay is too wet, the underglaze will take too long to dry between layers

3 Place the newsprint (underglaze side down) on the platter. Press it down well.4 Apply contrasting colors of underglaze over top of it, to add depth to the surface.

Next, I apply a contrasting color directly to the back of the newsprint resist (Amaco Flame Orange in this case). I then apply the newsprint resist (2) underglaze side down to the platter, making sure to press it down well so that it sticks securely (3)—the underglaze on it acts like a glue at this stage and later as a transfer.

I then add another layer of underglaze over top of the newsprint resist (here I’m using Amaco Bright Yellow). This adds more depth to the surface, and serves the dual purpose of sealing the edges around the newsprint resist, so that the final layer of white slip doesn’t seep under it. Other patterns and embellishments are layered on in additional colors (4). 

5 When the underglaze is dry, apply a thin layer of semi-translucent white slip.6 When the slip is dry to the touch, peel away the newsprint stencil.

Once everything is dry to the touch, a final layer of thin, semi-translucent White Slip is brushed on the whole surface, except the rim (5). The brushstrokes really show with the white slip, so I’m conscious to make confident and fluid marks.

As soon as the white slip has lost its sheen, I peel back the newsprint resist using a pin tool—this is always my favorite part as it’s so satisfying to see the whole composition revealed (6). At this point, it looks like the slip has obscured all the layers underneath, but don’t worry, after firing, the slip is mostly translucent, and reveals much of the layers underneath.

7 Add sgraffito lines, pressing just enough to carve through the top layer of slip. The last bit of decoration is to add a thin sgraffito line through the leather-hard slip. Using a template shape that has been cut out of a thick cardstock or piece of Bristol paper, I place it lightly on top of the piece in the position I want, and then score around it with a thin plastic stylus, pressing just enough to carve through the top layer of slip (7). This thin line adds another type of line quality, which contributes to the overall depth of the piece. I let the piece dry slowly, and bisque fire it to cone 04.

**First published in 2019.