How to Combine Stencils with Slip Transfer for a Great Surface Effect

Get the effect of a stencil and a slip transfer in one fell swoop!

Decorating a Platter

We have a number of posts on image transfer on Ceramic Arts Network, including this laser toner transfer technique from Lauren Karle and this cool technique using a commercial product called pyrofoto. And just when I thought I had seen everything, I found Naomi Clement’s cool technique in the latest issue of Pottery Making Illustrated.

In today’s post, Naomi explains how she combines paper stencils and slip transfer to help create layers on her surfaces. This way she gets the effect of a stencil and a slip transfer in one fell swoop! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Decorating the Platter

All of my work is decorated using a combination of underglazes, slip, and newsprint resist, with the majority of the decorating done at the leather-hard stage. I use Amaco Velvet underglazes, because I like how evenly they apply as well as the variety of bright colors available.

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Since I want to leave the rim of the platter undecorated, I begin by waxing this edge. After protecting this edge with wax resist, I am less conscious of it while decorating, resulting in more fluid marks. I then select a newsprint stencil (1) and get a rough idea of where I want to place it. The first layer I add is a ground color over the whole textured surface—here it’s the Amaco Velvet Bright Red underglaze, which I apply in one liberal coat. It’s important that the clay be at a stiff leather-hard stage before applying the underglaze; if the clay is too wet, the underglaze will take too long to dry between layers.

1 Create a newsprint stencil to use as a resist pattern on the platter’s interior.

2 Apply Amaco Flame Orange underglaze to the back of one of the newsprint stencils.

3 Place the newsprint (underglaze side down) on the platter. Press it down well.

Next, I apply a contrasting color directly to the back of the newsprint resist (Amaco Flame Orange in this case). I then apply the newsprint resist (2) underglaze side down to the platter, making sure to press it down well so that it sticks securely (3)—the underglaze on it acts like a glue at this stage and later as a transfer. I then add another layer of underglaze over top of the newsprint resist (here I’m using Amaco Bright Yellow). This adds more depth to the surface, and serves the dual purpose of sealing the edges around the newsprint resist, so that the final layer of white slip doesn’t seep under it. Other patterns and embellishments are layered on in additional colors (4).

4 Apply contrasting colors of underglaze over top of it, to add depth to the surface.

5 When the underglaze is dry, apply a thin layer of semi-translucent white slip.

Once everything is dry to the touch, a final layer of thin, semi-translucent White Slip is brushed on the whole surface, except the rim (5). The brushstrokes really show with the white slip, so I’m conscious to make confident and fluid marks. As soon as the white slip has lost its sheen, I peel back the newsprint resist using a pin tool—this is always my favorite part as it’s so satisfying to see the whole composition revealed (6). At this point, it looks like the slip has obscured all the layers underneath, but don’t worry, after firing, the slip is mostly translucent, and reveals much of the layers underneath.

The last bit of decoration is to add a thin sgraffito line through the leather-hard slip. Using a template shape that has been cut out of a thick cardstock or piece of Bristol paper, I place it lightly on top of the piece in the position I want, and then score around it with a thin plastic stylus, pressing just enough to carve through the top layer of slip (7). This thin line adds another type of line quality, which contributes to the overall depth of the piece. I let the piece dry slowly, and bisque fire it to cone 04.

6 When the slip is dry to the touch, peel away the newsprint stencil.

7 Add sgraffito lines, pressing just enough to carve through the top layer of slip.

  • I like the simple use of quick design from newsprint paper. Made me think of drawing out a design that would be cut into pieces for different stages of laying on slip. Or of printing out laser transfer with planned cutouts and letting that be part of the process. Wondering what the effects would be just to leave paper in for bisque firing, I suspect it would separate easily and pop off piece. More ideas to play with. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’m unclear of what happening in the explanation. It would be much more clear if you shared a photo of the finished platter.

    • Hi Donna, the finished platter is at the top of the post. Which step is causing confusion—hopefully we can get to the bottom of this together! – CAN Staff

  • Love this technique! After the bisque did you glaze it with clear to cone 6? Or is it finished after the 04 bisque?

    • Hi Lisa, Naomi applies a Clear Glaze to the interior of the pot and the lip. She wet sands the exterior twice: once after the bisque with 220-grit sanding sponge to smooth down any of the rough edges from the slip transfer, and once after the glaze firing with 320-grit wet/dry sandpaper to give a final polish to the bare clay sections. – CAN Staff

  • Melissa W.

    I love this method, but I’m not sure about the sgraffito. I don’t see the lines on either the final pic or the pic (7). Did I miss something? TIA

    • I’m curious about it too. In the final pic, I think I see faint cross hatching in the ochre color but this doesn’t correlate to the location of the sgraffito in pic 7.

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