How to Create Clay Stickers for Slip Decoration

Using Thick Slips, Clay "Stickers," and Transparent Glaze to Create Depth

Clay Stickers for Slip Decoration

Potters are often looking for ways to add depth to their surfaces—especially when firing in an electric kiln. And I saw another great example of this in the March/April 2021 issue of Pottery Making Illustrated. In today’s post, an excerpt from that issue, Catherine Satterlee explains her process for creating appliqué flowers, and applying them to a thick layer of slip, and then topping it all off with a flowing, green, transparent glaze. Beautiful! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

Preparing the Flowers and Slips

To create the flower stickers, roll out a thin slab of white clay (I use Highwater’s Little Loafers) with the slab roller on the narrowest setting (about inch thick). Smooth it out and brush on a coat of Amaco Jet Black underglaze. When the underglaze has fully dried but the clay is still moist, incise small flower designs with a needle tool, bamboo stick, or an X-Acto blade point, and then cut out each shape with a knife (1). Make the cut wide enough around the incised line so that it is still visible as a drawn graphic.

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Because the flower “clay stickers” are cut from the slab are usually thicker than I want for pressing, and the edges too sharp, I like to gently flatten them by rolling them with a dowel (2), which also nicely softens and distorts the shapes (3), creating a lovely, subtle surface—this was my second surprise. Place the flowers on newsprint, and wrap them in plastic to stay pliable until needed.

The slip I use is thick, sometimes velvety and viscous like mayonnaise, and sometimes thick and groggy like mortar. It is a simple mixture of bone-dry clay bits soaked in water and forced through a 60-mesh sieve. For the dark slip on the bottle, I used Standard Clay’s 710. The white slip was made from Little Loafers.

1 Incise lines in a thin slab coated with black underglaze, and cut out the flower.

2 Flatten the edges of each flower by gently rolling them with a small dowel.

3 Once the flower shapes are thinned and at your desired diameter, soften the texture of each piece.

4 Brush on a thick dark slip using a painter’s brush to leave a nice texture.

Adding Slips and Attaching Flowers

Slather the dark slip onto the leather-hard bottle using an inexpensive painter’s brush to create a nice texture (4). After the dark slip is firm, slather the bottle’s front and back with white slip (5) and immediately press on the flowers (6). Be sure to press the flower edges as well. Because the flowers are so thin and moist, there is no need to score them.

Once the white slip has dried and the flowers are firmly set (7), wrap the bottle in plastic and leave it to set up overnight to be sure all the elements equalize in moisture content. Open up the plastic gradually over the next few days until the bottle becomes bone dry.

5 When the dark slip is firm, brush on a thick coat of white slip.

6 Immediately begin pressing on the clay flowers while the white slip is damp.

Firing and Glazing

Bisque fire the bottle to cone 06–05. I used a dark rust-red glaze for the interior. For the exterior, I wanted to emulate the dark green glaze of Oribe pottery, so I added some copper carbonate to a clear glaze, let it dehydrate to a mayonnaise consistency, and painted it on with a thick brush (8). Caution: When working with copper carbonate, wear gloves and a professionally fitted respirator, and work in a well-ventilated space.

Remove the green glaze from the flowers with a rubber rib and wipe them with a damp sponge, then brush on a clear glaze to cover them. Once the glaze is thoroughly dry, fire the bottle in an electric kiln to cone 6.

7 Cover the bottle in plastic and let it dry slowly. Bisque fire when bone dry.

8 Pour glaze in then out of the fired piece. Brush a thick glaze over the flowers.

  • Christa S.

    a great reminder to get out of your rut. Thank you. A suggestion: clear glaze and wax the flowers first, then cover all with glaze of choice. You won’t disturb the underglaze .

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