Creating Surface Designs with Glaze, Wax and Underglaze

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I am always looking for new ways to add designs and imagery to my work and I am always amazed that I keep discovering new techniques. Case in point: this Brenda Quinn technique, which I might never have come up with on my own! Hooray for sharing techniques!

Brenda creates lovely surfaces by drawing a design on top of the glazed surface, then waxing over it, then carving the design through the wax and brushing a diluted underglaze into the carved areas. Pretty cool. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.


After cleaning the bisque-fired surface with a clean damp sponge, use your fingertip or a brush to dab on dots of a light-colored underglaze, covering the ends of the piece. Pour a colored transparent glaze over the dotted sides. Once the glaze is dry, cover the glaze with wax to protect it from any additional glaze layers. Remove any excess glaze from the surrounding areas by scraping it off and then sponging it clean.

Next, dab on more dots of a light-colored underglaze to the top portion of the vase, both inside and out. Tip: Hold the vase at a slight angle so the dots pool to one side, creating an interesting effect and bringing depth to the finished glaze surface. Pour a clear or light-colored liner glaze into the vase and over the outside of the top portion. Remove excess glaze on the slab area of the vase.


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Brenda Quinn is just one of the many top-notch artists showcasing a technique in Pottery Making Illustrated. With more than 14,000 subscribers, Pottery Making Illustrated has been the leader in providing potters with creative techniques and valuable information for the studio for more than 15 years. Whether you handbuild or throw, get the best techniques delivered to your doorstep.

Using a pencil, draw the pattern you want on the glaze surface, then protect the area with wax. Repeat these steps on the belly of the vase, drawing a pattern after glazing with a semi-matte, darker glaze, then covering it with wax. The glaze and wax need to dry for at least an hour—the longer it’s allowed to dry, the less fragile the wax will be. Use a mini-ribbon tool to carve away the wax and the glaze over the drawn lines. This creates dust so wear a mask. Use a stiff-bristle brush to gently knock away wax burrs and glaze dust in the carved lines, and a damp sponge to blot the piece and pick up excess dust.

Water down a darker underglaze and inlay it with a brush into the carved lines. Use a damp sponge to blot away excess underglaze. I choose not to put glaze on top of the underglaze as this leaves the underglaze somewhat raised and a little rough, creating a nice contrast to the smooth glazes.

This multi-technique process can be used to create an endless number of forms. A great way to expand on your own designs is to make numerous slump molds of various shapes and use those parts as building blocks for new forms. By taking a slumped slab, looking at it from all angles, and thinking of cutting it into smaller pieces or adding coiled sections, you will be able to visualize how versatile these pieces can be.


**First published in March 2013.
Comments
  • I wonder… do you feel like shearing your glaze-recipe? I have tried underglazes, but the colours have burned out…

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