Published Aug 8, 2022
In today's post, an excerpt from Surface Decoration Techniques, Ben explains how he uses slips, wax resist, sgraffito and inlay techniques to create his own interpretation of this historical style. - Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor
It’s important to have a vision for the finished piece in order grasp the steps and work backward. I find it helpful to sketch my ideas on paper prior to applying slip to the surface of the pot. Once the pot is on the dry side of leather hard, begin to apply colored slips by starting with the darkest color, in this case black. After allowing the black slip to dry, apply the next color of slip—I used Amaco Velvet Underglaze V-388 Radiant Red.
Once the slips are dry, cover the entire pot with wax resist and allow it to sit overnight so the wax hardens (figure 1). The longer you let the wax dry, the easier it will be to draw clean lines.
Incising and Inlaying
Use a tool with a point that gives the line quality you desire—anything from a ballpoint pen to a needle tool will work. Another contributing factor to line quality is the moisture content of the clay. The drier the pot, the sharper the line (figure 2).
Throughout the drawing process, pause occasionally to brush off the burrs of wax and clay that peel up as you draw so they don’t accidentally get pushed back into your lines. Be patient and wait as long as it takes for the burrs to dry. The drier the burrs are when you brush them away, the cleaner the line will be (figure 3).
Once the drawing is complete, use colored slips to fill in the lines (figure 4). After each color is applied, sponge away what doesn’t adhere before applying the next color (figure 5). The overlying color should wipe away easily due to the layer of protective wax resist still on the pot.
After bisquing the pot, use a damp sponge to clean the surface before applying glaze. This removes any dust that developed from the wax burning off in the kiln and allows for a consistent and clean coat of glaze. Apply areas of colored glaze (figure 6), allow them to dry, then apply a thin layer of clear glaze on top of the entire pot (figure 7). Wipe the bottom clean, allow the glaze to dry, then fire it to temperature.
Ben Krupka is a functional and sculptural ceramic artist and educator living and working in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He has been teaching ceramics at Bard College at Simon’s Rock since 2005. Prior to this he completed a two-year residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. To see more of his work, visit www.benkrupka.com.