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Published Jul 17, 2023

bell-695Scot Cameron-Bell has never been afraid of color. Living by the motto that “your art does not have to match your sofa,” she has been creating brightly colored pottery for years. When she found some old pottery shards washed up on a beach, she was inspired to add a weathered, crackle effect to her colorful surfaces.

Rather than using a crackle glaze, Scot wanted to stretch the clay and create crackles in a more deliberate fashion in specific areas of her drawings. In this post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archive, she shares how she gets the look she wants using a damp box, clay wax, and black stain. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

P.S. See how Scot Cameron-Bell designs her vases and learn about how she glazes her work in the January/February 2017 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

Clay Wax Technique Helps Create an Aged Look

Designing a Surface

Remove the vase from the moisture box. First, I sketch on the pot with intended drawings and color selections, then I lightly draw on the vase with a sharp wooden skewer to create a visible outline of the narrative. I paint the drawings with bright shades of AMACO, Duncan, and Spectrum commercial underglazes (1). When the underglazes are dry on the vase, I use a cosmetic sponge to gently wipe off some of the color to give the vase a weathered look (2).

Fig 1 Fig 2

Drawing and altering to bring form and surfaces to life!
It’s one thing to decorate on the surface of pottery. But to truly integrate the surface and the form, makes pots stand out! In her video,Gestural Imagery & Form, Mel Griffin shares her techniques for making pots that truly merge form and surface into a cohesive (and beautiful) whole. Along the way she throws in throwing and trimming tips, a wonderful drawing primer, and tons of information on her slip, terra sigillata, and glaze techniques!

Because I want a crackled surface to emphasize the weathered appearance, I coat the exterior with clay wax (I use Forbes wax) (3). After it dries, the wax cracks when manipulated. I find that more cracks result after I use thicker wax. I let the wax thicken by a exposing it to the air until it reaches a cream-like texture. After applying wax, I put the piece back into the damp box to dry the clay wax, but not let the clay dry out. I still need the vase to be flexible.3 4

I carefully take the waxed vase out of the damp box. The surface should not be sticky. I begin to gently use my fingers or my long-handled handmade sticks to push out and shape the vase from the interior of the pot (4). Cracks will appear on the surface of the wax. At this point, I can decide how many cracks I want on the surface, then I let the vase dry under plastic for a few hours to set up.

Fig 4 Fig 4

Now, I use a wooden skewer to outline the drawing through the wax (5). Wearing rubber gloves, paint a black stain wash all over the vase. The black wash seeps into all the drawing lines and wax cracks (6). Let the vase dry overnight; then, put your gloves back on to wipe off the wash with a damp sponge. In addition, I wipe the surface with a green kitchen scouring pad sponge to soften the burrs created from the drawing stick.

Fig 5 Fig 6

Allow the pot to fully dry. I bisque fire to cone 06, firing the ramp/cooling schedule as advised in the Skutt kiln manual.

**First published in 2017.