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Published Aug 25, 2014

Ceramic artist Bede Clarke has explored a number of different paths in his career. Recently, after focusing primarily on wood firing for a number of years, he shifted his concentration to painting on the slipped surfaces of earthenware pots to satisfy a love of painting. In today's post, an excerpt from the Ceramics Monthly archive, Bede explains his decorating process. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

PS. Check out more from Bede Clarke, including both high- and low-fire clay, slip, and glaze recipes in the September 2014 issue of CM!

Recently I have been bringing together two old friends in the studio: pots and drawing. Simple cups and bowls are providing a familiar foundation from which to challenge and explore surface work, color and line.

These simple shapes seem to need a bit of help. In the past I have wood fired shapes like these and under the spell of the wood kiln they can become something. But, I am always interested in finding ways to give the pots a new life—in this case a life of color and line and drawing.

The exterior is painted with a black slip, allowed to dry and then dipped in a white slip. Fingermarks and areas of thick/thin slip contribute depth and touch to the surface.

For the drawing, I have been using an underglaze of 3–4 parts Gerstley borate to one part Mason stain by volume. This recipe is really more commonly used as an overglaze, but it works fine on leather-hard pots as well. Because there is no clay or opacifier added, the color is more intense than in a traditional underglaze or slip.

There are two secrets to getting the line quality you want. One secret: get some liner brushes (long and thin) or script liner brushes (longer and thinner). They are designated as #1, #2, etc., the lower the number the smaller the brush. They honestly do half of the work when creating thin painted lines.

The other secret is to just start!

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