Mixing it Up: Using Stains and Underglazes to Create a Patina

Hunt Prothro’s rich surfaces are created by brushing stains into incised textures and wiping off the excess. Prothro then sponges on complimentary colors to enliven the surface.

The bold, expressive line work and warm color palette of Rohrersville, Maryland, artist Hunt Prothro’s work are born out of visits to Paleolithic cave sites in Southern France. Susan Chappelear attended a workshop given by Hunt Prothro at the College of Southern Maryland and gives us these details on how Prothro creates his beautiful patina. An in-depth article on Prothro’s inspirations and influences appears in the Ceramics Monthly archives. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


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Although Hunt Prothro’s underglazes are poured on a palette, he achieves all of the color mixing on the bisqued pot itself. He follows a sequence to keep all surfaces clean. He applies color to the foot, then the interior and, lastly, the exterior. The inside of the bowls are often painted in counterpoint to the exterior; related, but distinct. He says, “The rim is a third area, a point of transition, and a zone of change with all the attendant hesitations and gestures of finality.”

He applies broad strokes of black stain to all sgraffittoed surfaces, then gently wipes, leaving only the inlay to provide sharp contrast to the warm underglazes to follow. Without any masking, he carefully paints and dabs each piece to preserve a grid arrangement. In some of the pieces, figure and ground appear to be on the same plane, as hard-edged regions of color are juxtaposed to create contrasting tonal values and heighten each other’s vital nature. This interplay of shapes and colors, which have no representational associations, take on a painterly quality. In other pieces, he achieves coloration by scumbling layers of translucent washes, some of which he spritzes with water to promote color bleeding and to suggest distant galaxies. He preserves the color effects with a thin, Gerstley borate-based clear glaze and strives to achieve a patina rather than a true glaze.
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