A Very, Very Fine Line: Drawing on Pottery with Mishima


Mishima, mishima, mishima – try saying that five times fast. Better yet, try actually executing this slip-inlay technique on a bunch of pots! You’ll end up with a tied tongue or cramped fingers, but with the latter you’ll also get fantastic intricate surface decoration on your pottery.

I have coveted Lorna’ Meaden’s yummy surfaces ever since I saw her work for the first time a few years ago in Ceramics Monthly. And I have been wondering what technique she uses to achieve the super fine (in more ways than one) pin-striped decoration that graces a lot of her pots. Well, it’s the mishima pottery technique, and today, Lorna tells us a little about the process. Plus she shares some of her soda firing techniques. I am looking forward to giving the old mishima ceramics technique a whirl sometime soon! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.



Mmmmmmmm…Mishima Pottery!

meadenmishima_supp2Mishima pottery comes from the Japanese Island of Mishima, but it was originally transported from Korea around the 16th century. This surface design technique is a way of drawing by inlaying a slip of contrasting color into lines incised in leather-hard clay.

To create very fine lines, I use the sharpest knife I can find – a disposable scalpel – to draw on leather-hard pots. Then I fill in the etched lines with black slip, allow it to become leather hard, and scrape it off with a metal rib – the kind that comes in the beginner’s pottery tool kit. The photo at the right shows the lines before the slip is scraped off. The metal ribs are helpful because you can bend them to the contour of the pot. After the pots are bisque fired, I then go back and divide up the space, using wax and latex glaze resist to create sections of color.



Download Emerging Ceramic Artists to Watch: New Pottery and Ceramic Sculpture now to see more great work and hear what the artists have to say about their motivations, inspirations and career plans.




Soda Firing for Depth and Brightness

I fire in heavy reduction until cone 9 is down. I then close the damper of the kiln, and turn up the gas. This produces unused fuel in the atmosphere of the kiln, trapping carbon on thesurface of the pots. Then, I spray a soda ash solution into the kiln. I use a large amount of soda and water (5 lbs. soda ash to 3 gallons of water) and spray it in all at once. Afterwards, I let the kiln gain temperature until cone 10 is down. The finishing step is creating an oxidizing atmosphere to brighten the color of the glazes.


To see more of Lorna’s work, visit www.lornameadenpottery.com.


**First published in 2009
  • Lowell S.

    I teach HS as well and use an infant ear suction bulb to apply the slip in the scribed grooves. We use a combination of steel trimming tools and metal ribs to scrape the extra. If you are using a bulb to apply the slip you will have very little excess slip to scrape off.

  • Julia W.

    From photos I’ve seen of Lorna demonstrating, it looks like she trails the slip over the already-etched lines, which seems like a really efficient way of applying slip!

  • Melchor F.

    I take a different approach. I cut my lines deep, add the slip or engobe with a fine brush or hypo needle. Then when the piece is completely dry, I sand the piece down using screen mesh sand paper.

  • Donna K.

    Mudtools are far better than the metal ribs and not at all dangerous. They come in different levels of hardness. The hardest (blue) works well for scraping as does the next in hardness (green). The red is the softest and is nice to use as you would a chamois. What I like most about these ribs for this type of work is that they don’t pull out the grog and scratch the surface. They also bend to the surface as the metal rib does.

  • Dana J.

    I teach HS and have tried the metal rib with my students. We got diasterous results. Instead I use scotch brite pads now to remove the excess slip. Works like a charm.

    But I would also like to know what she uses to apply the slip.

  • I’ve been trying this very same technique, only I paint on the slip with a brush. It wastes alot of the slip so I’m anxious to read more and see how Lorna applies the slip. Ann E. Vreeland Ohio

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend