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Published Jul 18, 2022


Because kilns can have a hefty price tag, many potters just starting out rely on others to fire their work. It can be tricky transporting greenware around and resourceful potters have come up with ingenious ways to protect their work (here are two great ideas from the archive). As if ceramic glazing wasn’t challenging enough, transporting glaze ware can also be challenging because the fragile unfired glaze surface can be easily dinged or chipped. But things just got a little easier, thanks to Chanda Zea.

In this post, Chanda shares a secret she picked up during her time as a ceramics undergraduate student at Buffalo State College. So no more need to worry when your ceramic glazing needs to happen on the go! - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

In the summer of 2013, I did a one-month residency at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana with four other artists. As we have all experienced, time goes by really fast when you’re making, bisque firing, glazing, and firing lots of new work. Inevitably, we make more than we can finish, and are faced with the dilemma of what to do with the glazed pottery we didn’t fit in the kiln.

When our group ran into this issue, I suggested using a trick I had picked up back in my undergraduate days at Buffalo State College. At that time I was applying multiple glazes to each pot using a spray gun, and was dismayed at how powdery the freshly sprayed glaze was. Sprayed ceramic glazes tend to be very porous, powdery, and easy to rub off your pots. Some of the glazes I was using were so sensitive that fingerprints from where I handled the pot would show up after the cone 10 firing.

Apply underglaze pencil or glaze and let dry. Using a banding wheel, apply an even coat of spray starch. Spray starch was used on this pot to keep the underglaze pencil lines from smearing before it was glazed then fired.

One of the other students suggested using spray starch (1)—commonly used for ironing, and available at any grocery store. The spray starch, when applied in an even coat and allowed to dry, creates a hard surface that protects your glaze (2–3), but burns off in the kiln, leaving no trace behind (4). (Another variation on this trick is to use liquid starch, also available in the laundry section of your local grocery store, and mix it into your bucket of glaze—this will get moldy so mix it in small batches. If it does mold, just skim the mold off and stir well. Any remaining small traces of mold will burn out in the kiln.)

Preventing Smearing of Underglaze Pencils

More recently, I started using underglaze pencils to add some line work to my functional pieces, but was having a hard time with the powdery pencil marks easily smearing. I decided to experiment on one of my class demo pots, and see if the spray starch would also work under the glaze, fixing the pencil in place so I could paint on clear glaze with worrying about smearing. It worked like a charm. The pencil didn’t smear, and the starch burned off in the kiln, with no side effects (5).

**First published in 2014.