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Published Jul 22, 2022

wax resist water etchingWater etching ceramics is the process of painting a resist pattern onto a leather hard or bone dry piece of pottery, allowing the resist to dry, and then wiping clay away with a damp sponge. As the surface is wiped, a raised pattern forms under the resist. This technique is often done with shellac and referred to as shellac resist. It's a great technique but shellac is not the best stuff to inhale, which wouldn't be ideal for the K–12 classroom.

In today's video clip, an excerpt from her video Teaching Clay in the Classroom, Part 4, Jeni Hansen Gard demonstrates how water etching ceramics can be done with wax resist and be safe for kids! If you are looking for a fun and simple way to create surface texture, this video will show you the ropes! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor


This clip was excerpted from Teaching Clay in the Classroom, Part 4, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Network Shop.

Tips on Water Etching Ceramics

Water etching ceramics works best on a clay with little to no grog. However, if you use a clay with grog and desire a rough surface, it can be a fun effect.

Rinse your sponge often when water etching ceramics - especially with wax resist. If you allow clay to remain in your sponge, it can abrade the wax.

Make sure your wax has thoroughly dried before you begin wiping the clay away. If your wax is not completely dry, it will smear and ruin your design.

The drier the clay, the easier it will be to remove clay. However, you should be very gentle working with fragile bone dry clay.

Apply resist to the parts of the piece that are not going to have patterning (such as the rim or the foot) so that they maintain their integrity during this process.

Jeni Hansen Gard is an artist and educator. To learn more about her and her work, please visit

**First published in 2018.