Slip Trailing Underglaze on Greenware

underglaze on greenware

Underglazes are wonderful and versatile because you can use underglaze on greenware and bisque ware. Kym Nicolas prefers to slip trail underglaze on greenware because it feels like an natural extension of the throwing process. It allows her to be spontaneous with the colors and design, which she prefers.

In today’s post, an excerpt from the May/June 2018 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated, Kym walks through her fluid process of slip trailing designs with underglaze on greenware. Though her process is spontaneous, she gives herself basic guidelines before filling in with the more intricate decoration. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Creating Designs with Underglaze on Greenware

Clay and Form

I start by throwing simple forms with White Millcreek Stoneware or K-4, a red-brown clay body, which is textured and a cross between stoneware and earthenware. I keep the forms simple because the underglazed surface design that I do is visually quite complex and I don’t want the two competing against each other.

I throw a batch of pots that will fill my small electric kiln. I trim the pots and let them start drying. I feel at this point in the process that I have a family of blank canvases staring back at me. I clean up my throwing and trimming tools and make sure my glaze bottles are filled and fresh, and my brushes are in good shape for applying underglaze on greenware. I use Speedball underglazes on greenware because they’re stable and have brilliant color. All of the decoration process is completed using a slip trailer and various brushes. 

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1 Center and throw a bowl on a bat on the wheel. Divide up the space with banding.

2 Divide and break up the vertical space into triangular shapes, then subdivide that space with dots on the band.

Deliberate Spontaneity with Underglaze on Greenware

I do my designing at the wheel so it feels like a natural extension of the throwing process. I choose the colors spontaneously, execute the design by feel, and explore the interplay of line, color, and symbol. I do all of this work starting on leather-hard clay as soon as the pots are trimmed. Sometimes the decoration work is completed on bone dry clay since the pots dry as I work on them.

The clay absorbs the underglaze quickly, making mistakes hard to correct, so if a drip occurs or a line is misplaced, I just go with it and integrate it into the overall design.

3 Apply underglaze water symbols within the upper triangle shapes.

4 Add more water symbols within the lower negative space, then fill in the center circle with repeating water elements.

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Decorating a Bowl with Underglaze on Greenware

Begin by centering a bowl on a 14-inch sticky bat from Ci Products that is on the pottery wheel and start the decoration process by dividing up the space with two or three different colors of banding lines while the wheel is spinning (1). After the initial banding lines are in place, start to divide and break up the vertical space (2) and then subdivide the vertical spaces further by adding target dots.

Use a pencil to draw and map out triangles, using the target dots to keep all the triangles approximately the same size. Create four new triangles to raise the design within the space and then apply symbols within the upper triangles. I apply water symbols within the upper triangles (3).

Continue to add more repeated symbols within the lower negative space. Use a royal blue color to fill in the center circle with repeating symbols (4).

To learn how Kim decorates the outside of the bowl and glazes her pieces, check out the May/June 2018 Pottery Making Illustrated.

You can see more of her work at and at


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