How to Create Surface Patterns with Wax Resist, Slip Inlay, and Glaze

How to create a multicolored striped decoration!

Surface Patterns

When looking at Liz Pechacek’s work, one might think the decoration is made using the sgraffito technique. But Liz actually uses a combination of wax resist, slip inlay, and glazing techniques to created her multicolored striped decoration.

In today’s post, an excerpt from the Pottery Making Illustrated archives, Liz explains her process. I can’t wait to give these techniques a try! –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. Don’t miss Liz’s upcoming Workshop from Home webinar on February 16, 2021, at 1pm EST USA. Register here!


Surface Patterns: Inlaying a Slip or Underglaze

You could stop at this point to really highlight the two-clay technique, but I love the way different layers of texture and color combine to form the final effect of the serving bowl.

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1 Using a needle tool or similar sharp-tipped object, scratch lines through the waxed surface to be inlaid later.

2 Brush stained, diluted slip into the lines scratched into the waxed surface.

Lightly wipe down the whole piece with a hand towel, then invert it onto a bat. Water down some wax resist (⅓ wax to ⅔ water), and use a fan brush to apply an even coat to the entire exterior. Allow the wax to dry. With a sharp needle tool, scratch radiating lines from the foot to the base of the added coil (1). Wearing a dust mask again, brush the lines out as you progress around the piece. After the lines are completed, give the whole exterior a light brushing to remove most of the surface dust. Don’t forget to add a design or pattern to the bottom of the bowl.

Next, decide what color slip or underglaze you want to inlaid lines to be. Using a fan or large calligraphy brush, paint the slip or underglaze (watered down to the consistency of watercolor paints) all over the carved wax area and allow it to dry (2). Use a mostly-squeezed out sponge to lightly wipe any residue of the slip or underglaze off the waxed surface (3). Apply wax again to the bottom and scratch in your signature if you wish, then paint in another color before drying and bisque firing (4).

3 Wipe the residue of slip off of the waxed surface with a damp sponge, allowing slip to remain in the carved lines.

4 Paint an additional color of slip into the signature scratched into the rewaxed bottom.

Finishing Touches on the Surface Patterns

After the bisque firing, lightly buff any remaining residue of the inlaid color off the surface using a scrubby while wearing a mask and working in a well ventilated area. Carefully wipe down the piece and glaze the interior. Allow the piece to completely dry.

Now, decide where you want the added decoration of glaze stripes to appear on the outside of your piece. Mark the perimeter of the glaze area with a pencil, then wax just underneath the pencil line with a steady hand on a banding wheel.

To create the bands of glaze, use a squeeze bottle with a long narrow tip and a cap with a wire to keep the shaft clean and fill it with undiluted, water-based wax. Steadily trail stripes of wax, being careful not to blob or smear the lines (5). If a mistake occurs, scrape it off with an X-Acto knife. Allow the wax to dry for a few hours, then brush a diluted glaze of your choice over the wax-striped area with a fan or calligraphy brush (6). Wipe the rim and the edge of the glaze stripe area with a sponge and fire to glaze temperature.

5 Trail undiluted wax lines onto the rim of the bisqued bowl prior to glazing to create a resist pattern.

6 Brush diluted glaze in layers over the dried wax resist lines. The waxed areas will be a pattern of bare clay lines after the firing.

Liz Pechacek earned a BFA in ceramics and a BA in art history from Indiana University in 2012. She now operates her ceramic studio in Minneapolis and teaches at Powderhorn Park. To see more, visit www.lizpechacek.com.

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