How to Create Fabric-Inspired Surfaces by Layering Slips, Matte Glazes, and Bare Soda-Fired Clay!

Create insane surface depth!

Bare Soda-Fired Clay

With a seamstress as a mom, it is no wonder that textile-inspired designs have made their way into Colleen Riley’s work.

In today’s post, an excerpt from our book Glazing Techniques, Colleen shares how she found a way to create beautiful fabric-inspired surfaces by layering colored slips, saturated matte glazes and bare soda-fired clay. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

I admire the luscious bare clay surfaces produced in our soda kiln. But I’m also drawn to the rich, reactive surfaces of saturated matte glazes. In an effort to bring both into my work, I’ve refined a technique that exploits the best qualities of bare clay and glazed matte surfaces in a soda firing, while referencing the textures and patterns found in textiles.

Bare Soda-Fired Clay

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Bare Soda-Fired Clay

After bisque firing, I add another design by brushing with wax resist, envisioning a subtractive effect similar to batik (1). After the wax dries, I pour or dip the final glaze layer (2). To avoid opaque, dense-looking surfaces, my glazes are generally applied thinner than they would be for traditional stoneware firing. This allows the underlying colored slip and texture to bleed through, often creating a third different color. Since this surface can be complex, the interior of a bowl is glazed simply (3).

Bare Soda-Fired Clay

To create a subtle, ghosted effect I may add a complimentary design of the exterior in a slightly contrasting glaze underneath the liner glaze. Or, apply wax resist in a simple pattern near the rim of the glaze, keeping in mind that the soda is likely to affect bare clay only near the rim of the interior.

Bare Soda-Fired Clay

This two-step decorating process allows me to tap into my inner textile-designer self, giving great flexibility to explore patterns in a broad palette of slip/glaze effects. It’s taken a lot of experimentation to narrow down the most successful combinations, and every firing reveals yet more possibilities. The soda acts as a wash, softening the transition areas between bare clay, slip, and glaze, pulling the elements together into a more cohesive whole.

Bare Soda-Fired Clay

Colleen Riley is a full-time ceramic artist living and working just south of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. She is founder and past president of the Minnesota Women Ceramic Artists (MNWCA) professional organization, overseeing planning of annual exhibitions, events and programs for 60+ members.

**First published in 2015.

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