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Published Feb 26, 2024

I love love love Ian Bassett's soda-fired work in the Ceramics Monthly archive. He makes fresh, beautiful surface marks by essentially "finger painting" into leather-hard pots after dunking them in flashing slip. So I thought I would share an excerpt today. 

Although Ian's pots are soda fired, I could see this technique also working beautifully on slipped pots that are then covered with a breaking glaze. Experiment away, my friends! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor

Decoration for Soda Firing

I apply the flashing slip when the pots are leather hard. Slipping a pot that has been bisque fired will not work with this technique. The porous bisqueware absorbs water and dries out the slip too quickly, not allowing time to draw through the wet slip.

Once I trim, add handles, and complete pots in the leather-hard stage, I wax the bottoms. The wax protects the foot or the bottom by preventing the freshly applied slip from pooling and absorbing into the pot when it’s placed upright. It also helps prevent the pot from sticking to ware boards and makes it easier to clean slip off of the foot.

1 Wax the foot of a yunomi using a brush and banding wheel.2 Dip the pot into flashing slip, then let it set up to the point where it is still wet but won’t run down the surface.

The surface decoration is created after the slip has been applied to the pot, but before the slip sets up. Timing is everything. There is a narrow working window before the slip fully sets up during which I can make marks that are smooth and fluid. In the working window, the slip needs to be set up just enough so it won’t run down, distorting the designs. At the same time, the slip needs to be wet enough that I can to draw through it to expose the clay body underneath. In essence, this is a form of the sgraffito technique, using my fingers to draw through the wet slip rather than carving through to the clay body. I have tried other approaches, but enjoy the line quality that my fingers have more than that of a tool. The sensitivity and control of my fingers really allows me to feel the pressure and make specific adjustments to achieve a fluid sense of movement and texture. The exciting action of the decorating process makes it my favorite step. 

3 Make marks starting at the top. The slip dries at the rim of the yunomi first. 4 Make gestural marks using the index, middle, and ring fingers in one smooth motion. 5 Rotate the yunomi using your palm and hand on the inside to decorate new areas. 6 When the cup is completed, clean the foot with a damp sponge.


the author Ian Bassett lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is adjunct faculty at Los Medanos College and a lecturer at Sonoma State College. More information can be found at or at @craftrider on Instagram.