Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era because I just love old things: antiques, weathered old buildings, vintage clothing. If you can relate, then you’ll love today’s feature because we’re going to show you how to create a crackled, craggy texture on your pottery using a sodium silicate pottery technique.
The late Canadian potter, Robin Hopper, explains how some heating, some stretching and a little sodium silicate on pottery can transform a freshly thrown pot into what looks like a weathered antique. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.
PS: For more information on creating cracked texture on your pottery, check out this post on intentionally creating glaze defects.
Interested in pottery surfaces? Try this sodium silicate pottery technique!
Brushing the surface of a thrown pot with sodium silicate, quick-drying the surface with a heat gun or blowtorch until the surface no longer is tacky, then expanding the form from inside can give a piece of pottery an aura of instant antiquity.
The sodium silicate is a thick liquid salt solution that forms a thin skin that, with applied heat, quickly hardens on the surface, encasing the soft and therefore, still malleable, clay cylinder beneath. Normally used as a deflocculant for casting slips, in this use it is quickly dried to the touch with some heat from a blowtorch. At this point, it is like a candy apple, crunchy on the outside and soft inside.
When the form is then expanded with pressure from inside, the skin surface cracks enlarge in size depending on the amount of pressure and expansion. In this sodium silicate pottery technique, the residual sodium silicate gives a slightly glazed surface like a thin salt glaze.
Variants that will also work are a thick salt (sodium chloride) solution or sugar pancake syrup (Aunt Jemima’s, for example) solution (which produces great caramel smells from the caramelizing sugar during the firing!). The essence of the process is in the speed with which it is done, as the coating needs to stay hard and not absorb moisture from the soft clay beneath.
The late Robin Hopper and his wife Judi Dyelle owned and operated Chosin Pottery in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Visit www.chosinpottery.ca to see images of their work and learn more about Chosin Pottery.