Mishima Ceramics: Creating Fine Lines with Slip Inlay

Mmmmmmmm...Mishima Ceramics!

mishima ceramics

I was first introduced to Mishima ceramics decoration when I attended a Lorna Meaden workshop years ago. Before that I wondered how she made such beautiful fine lines on her pots. If you have ever wondered the same thing, today’s post will shed some light on the mishima ceramics technique. Today, Lorna gives an overview of mishima and explains how she soda fires her work for more depth. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

mishima ceramics - in process

Mishima ceramics process: Slip has been applied to carved lines on this tumbler. When the slip is leather hard, the excess will be scraped off, creating fine lines.

Mishima ceramics 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.

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mishima ceramics mug

Mug with Mishima ceramics decoration

Soda Firing for Depth and Brightness

Teapot with Mishima ceramics decoration.

Teapot with Mishima ceramics decoration.

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 the surface 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.

**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

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