Ceramic Decorating Tool Techniques: Decorating Pottery with Wax Resist, Slip Trailers, Clay Stamps, Carving Tools and More

Make surfaces that stand out with the help of this FREE PDF!

We all love tools, especially pottery tools, and we normally think about forming when we talk about tools for ceramics, but the most useful clay tools we have, besides our hands, are tools for decorating our ceramic work. A decorative surface, of course, is the first thing noticed about a piece of pottery, and as with all things made by hand, the right tools make all the difference. Ceramic Decorating Tool Techniques: Decorating Pottery with Wax Resist, Slip Trailers, Clay Stamps, Carving Tools and More explains those tools in detail and shows you how to use them for the greatest effect for your own ceramic surfaces. Make your own ceramic colored pencils, or try using a combination of dry and wet decorating techniques to get maximum depth out of your work. For a more traditional approach that has your own personal touch, try making your own brushes!

Check out this excerpt:

Considerations for Carving

by Emily Reason

Dinnerware is a challenge to make because it demands specific qualities. It must be consistent in design, size and shape if it’s to be a set. I find that if I don’t make all the plates or all the bowls for a set in one sitting, they’ll vary from one series to the next. Dinnerware pieces should also nest and stack well, and be durable, yet lightweight. In addition to the challenges of making dinnerware, there’s the logistical challenge of efficiently loading a kiln with mostly broad and flat wares. The variables in reduction firing present further challenges in attaining consistent glaze surface. I therefore try to fire entire sets at once. Dinnerware needs to fit in well with daily lifestyle, including the ability to go in the dishwasher.

Know When to Say When

I’m currently obsessed with carving. Very few pieces I make aren’t carved. Clay is truly the ideal material for creating texture; especially since clay objects are so often meant to be touched. Making functional ceramics with texture is therefore fitting for me. Creating beauty, while maintaining a standard of usefulness, is my major goal. It’s important that my carved and slip trailed surfaces don’t deter from the function of the piece. My dinnerware design has a scalloped service rim that is carved. The food surface itself has no texture and a glossy glaze for easy cleaning. It’s easy to get carried away with making texture, so I try to leave quiet areas on each piece where there is none.

I use a homemade carving tool, which was modeled after a tool used to create carved patterns on Chinese Yaoware pottery (see page 49). The L-shaped blade, set in a bamboo handle, is used to create a pleated pattern of lines. For me, carving lines is a rhythmic motion that achieves even, consistent marks. The corner of the L, carves into the leatherhard clay, making the deepest part of the recessed line. The tool is effective in achieving a line with depth, allowing the glaze to vary as it pools in the deepest part of the line.


The dinnerware I make is pretty labor intensive, so I have to price it accordingly. My customer demographic for it tends to be folks with disposable income. They also seem to be people with knowledge of and an appreciation for fine handmade craft. I’m still learning as I go about marketing strategies for selling my work. I know for certain that professional quality photographs are where good marketing begins.

Emily Reason lives and works in Marshall, North Carolina. To see more of her work, visit www.emilyreason.com or http://emilyreason.blogspot.com. Her tableware was included in “Table Manners,” at Lark & Key Gallery (www.larkandkey.com) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Great Clay Stamps in 30 Minutes

by Virginia Cartwright

Making your own stamps is a great way to personalize and expand your pottery tool kit. Polymer clay makes it simple and fast, so you can get ideas into clay quickly.

Using Simple Tools to Decorate Ceramics with Complex Designs

by Molly Hatch

Sometimes the simplest objects are the best tools for decorating pottery. Using a pencil and laminated paper stencil, Molly Hatch walks you though how to transfer a design to a pot and then layer color onto the surface for a striking result.

Making Brushes for Pottery Decoration

by David Gamble

There is nothing more satisfying than making your own pottery decorating tools, and this step-by-step project shows you how to make personalized glaze brushes.

Bisque Texture Rollers

by Sarah Pike

Sarah Pike explains how she makes bisque-fired texture rollers and how she uses them to make her handbuilt teapots.

Download the free guide right now, and become a better ceramic artist tomorrow. That’s our promise to you from Ceramic Arts Network!

Best regards,

Jennifer Poellot Harnetty
Editor, Ceramic Arts Daily

PS: Remember, the artists featured on Ceramic Arts Network are among the top ceramic artists in the world today, who excel in everything from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. When you download one of our free guides, you get the best possible advice available and you become a part of our community – enjoying our artists’ stories, gaining inspiration from their work and finding confidence to try new techniques every day!

PPS: Even if you’re not brand new to clay, this guide is bound to have some tips in it that you’ve never heard before – and remember, it’s absolutely FREE, so why wouldn’t you read it today?

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