Stay Put Glaze! A Great Tip for Transporting Glazed Pots

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Because kilns can have a hefty price tag, many potters just starting out rely on others to fire their work. It can be tricky transporting greenware around and resourceful potters have come up with ingenious ways to protect their work (here are two great ideas from the archives). As if ceramic glazing wasn’t challenging enough, transporting glaze ware can also be challenging because the fragile unfired glaze surface can be easily dinged or chipped. But things just got a little easier, thanks to Chanda Zea.

In this post, Chanda shares a secret she picked up during her time as a ceramics undergraduate student at Buffalo State College. So no more need to worry when your ceramic glazing needs to happen on the go! – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


 How to Transport Glaze Ware Safely

by Chanda Zea

In the summer of 2013, I did a one-month residency at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana with four other artists. As we have all experienced, time goes by really fast when you’re making, bisque firing, glazing, and firing lots of new work. Inevitably, we make more than we can finish, and are faced with the dilemma of what to do with the glazed pottery we didn’t fit in the kiln.

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1] Common spray starch available at the local grocery store. 2] Apply underglaze pencil or glaze and let dry. Using a banding wheel, apply an even coat of spray starch.

1] Common spray starch available at the local grocery store. 2] Apply underglaze pencil or glaze and let dry. Using a banding wheel, apply an even coat of spray starch.

When our group ran into this issue, I suggested using a trick I had picked up back in my undergraduate days at Buffalo State College. At that time I was applying multiple glazes to each pot using a spray gun, and was dismayed at how powdery the freshly sprayed glaze was. Sprayed ceramic glazes tend to be very porous, powdery, and easy to rub off your pots. Some of the glazes I was using were so sensitive that fingerprints from where I handled the pot would show up after the cone 10 firing.

One of the other students suggested using spray starch (1)—commonly used for ironing, and available at any grocery store. The spray starch, when applied in an even coat and allowed to dry, creates a hard surface that protects your glaze (2–3), but burns off in the kiln, leaving no trace behind (4). (Another variation on this trick is to use liquid starch, also available in the laundry section of your local grocery store, and mix it into your bucket of glaze—this will get moldy so mix it in small batches. If it does mold, just skim the mold off and stir well. Any remaining small traces of mold will burn out in the kiln.)

Preventing Smearing of Underglaze Pencils

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Spray starch was used on this pot to keep the underglaze pencil lines from smearing before it was glazed then fired.

More recently, I started using underglaze pencils to add some line work to my functional pieces, but was having a hard time with the powdery pencil marks easily smearing. I decided to experiment on one of my class demo pots, and see if the spray starch would also work under the glaze, fixing the pencil in place so I could paint on clear glaze with worrying about smearing. It worked like a charm. The pencil didn’t smear, and the starch burned off in the kiln, with no side effects (5).

Send your tip and tool ideas, along with plenty of images, to editorial@ceramicsmonthly.org. If we use your idea, you’ll receive a complimentary one-year subscription to CM!

**First published in December 2014
Comments
  • Seems a great idea – I don’t use starch on clothing but will buy some now! Many thanks Chanda. Also liked the bright, clear lines of the underglaze pencils. I had thought they would be pale but perhaps your glaze makes them stronger. Will really have to try them! Thank you again.

  • This is a great suggestion! I also use spray starch over fired glazed pottery when I need to put on another coat of glaze before re-firing; it helps the new coat adhere a little better. I have a question I’d appreciate any feedback on: Do you think a coat of spray starch would help on work I’ve decorated with underglazes, before dipping them into a clear glaze coat? I’ve been running underglazed pots through a 450 degree oven to fix the decoration in place, so that the clear glaze coat doesn’t cause them to run.

  • I wonder if the spray starch could also be used over black underglaze when doing sgraffito? I find it difficult to keep the black areas free of fingerprints and clay dust.

  • Thanks For great tip!

    Two question related to Cathy’s:
    1) If I use underglazes and then spray them with starch, will they stay if I dip in a glaze.
    Some underglazes contaminate the ttransparent glaze when I dip the item.
    2) will it hold glaze in place when dipping?
    I.e i first dip in dark Blue, then in white. When I do that, the white glaze becomes contaminated. (Does not happen For all Glazes. If I first dip in black matte and then in white it doesn’t contaminate.)

  • Thank you so much for the tip. I use paint on transparent glaze over my underglaze and found that the glaze jar end up with underglaze in it. I tried the tip and wallah, the glaze is still clear. Schellebelle Rose.

  • I absolutely LOVE this tip! I’ve been worrying about how I was going to get several pieces back home once I glaze them at our co-op studio. This looks like a viable answer. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Wow! I’ve been watching clips, buying bks and videos from CA for a long time, but this is the first time I’ve been here. Absolutely love it. I’m a newby. You all are so smart and creative! Thanks! Irene

  • Great tipp!!! I allways get mad when my underglaze collors wash away in glaze. I was wondering if this would also work with hair spray. We used it in college for drawing with coal. That was cheaper than fixativ. But mabe the glaze wouldn’t cover over underglaze collors if hair spray on… Hm, anyone tried that?

  • I use cheap hairspray, works well on fresh glaze as well as on previously fired glaze that needs to be ‘fixed’. I fire to cone5/6 .

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