That Looks Fishy: Diana Pittis’ Raku Glaze Recipes

Using a combination of two glazes and several sprayed stains, Dianna Pittis makes fish sculptures that accurately mimic the markings and colorings of the fish in nature.

In a previous feature, Diana Pittis shared the innovations she made to her raku firing technique to make firing her fish sculptures as efficient and successful as possible. Check it out here to see her specially fabricated firing tongs and the raku cradle she made for her fish. Today, we bring you her glaze recipes and decorating techniques for acheiving realistic-looking surfaces. Through trial and error, she has come up with a way to stay true to the form she is trying to replicate. It looks fishy to me!—Sherman Hall, Ceramic Arts Daily

I knew that if I was trying sculpturally to make a fish that had the proportions of a real fish, I should also try to stay somewhat true to their actual colors. I used a couple of books that were given to me by a friend (which I understood to be “fishermen’s bibles”) to help me get the colors correct.
I applied a clear glaze on portions of the Alligator Matt White glaze to break up the very matt look. I currently use only two glazes: Alligator Matt White and a White Crackle glaze, fired to cone 05. I rub stains on the bisqued fish to highlight the scales, spray one of the two glazes, then spray stains and oxides over that. Then, perhaps, I’ll spray one of the two glazes again. It all depends on what the particular fish species needs.

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Finishing Touches The final step in completing these fish is to attach the stand. I turn them upside down in a foam-padded holder, stuff rags into the bottom opening of the fish to block the mouth then pour a liquid mix of concrete into the opening at the bottom of the fish with a funnel. I then position the iron stand and wire into place so that the fish will sit at the proper angle. The mounted fish range in length from 11 to 26 inches and weigh anywhere from 8 to 16 pounds—clay, concrete and iron combined. The final step for each fish is to be signed on the bottom.
  • I am a high school art teacher. I have been talking with the chemistry teacher about making our own glazes. When we looked at recipes the chemistry teacher wanted to know if the percentages are by weight or volume. Can any one answer this question? Thanks.

  • Mark L.

    Mark Lusardi
    Directions pottery
    1411Hidden Oak Trail
    New Richmond, WI 54017

    I have been making and firing Raku pottery and glazes since 1986 and I have adapted my glazes to new materials as old materials like colemanite or Gerstley Borate are no longer available. I know that you can get still get Gerstley Borate, but it hasn’t been mined since 2000 and the potters in my area have found that this material doesn’t respond like it used to. In 2003 I reformulated my glazes and came up with a base that is similar to the old Paul Soldner recipe, and acepts the addition of colorants just like the old base glaze. i just wish that when we are printing new material that we look into the possibility of using the materials that were designed to replace the out going product. The glazes that I use incorporate Gillespie Borate a product of Hamill and Gillespie the company that was mining and supplying Gerstley Borate. I find that the color is more vibrant and that the flashes of copper patina have stayed the same since I made those changes and that my work is selling due to the stronger pallet. I have listed below a couple of glazes that utilize Gillespie Borate and would encourage other Raku Artists to give it a try.


    Clear Base ^06-^04
    Gillespie borate 62.5%
    Nepheline Syenite 8.9%
    Custer Feldspar 8.9%
    Epk 11.0%
    Silica/flint 8.9%

    For Copper Glazes follow below:
    base 100%
    Copper Carb 2%

    Copper Penny
    Gillespie Borate 62.5
    Nepheline Syenite 8.9
    G 200 Feldspar 8.9
    #6 Tile Clay 11.0
    Silica 325msh 8.9
    ochre 8.0
    Black copper ox 2.0
    cobalt ox 1.0
    Harvest Wheat
    Base 100%
    Copper Carb 4%
    Yellow Ochre 8%

    Copper flash
    Base 100%
    Copper Carb 5%
    Stannous Chloride 2%
    (Mother of Pearl Luster also works at 1/2 an oz per gallon) this addition will also thicken the glaze, but produces wonderful purples/gold/copper patinas

    Sandy Scott Revised
    Gillespie Borate 38.00
    Lithium Carb 17.00
    Spodumene 19.00
    G-200 Feldspar 8.50
    Superpax 10.00

    Copper Carb 4.00

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