It’s been a personal goal of mine to make more things just for fun and just for me. As a full-time potter, I spend most of my time in the studio producing work for other people. I love my job, and I love creating artwork that lives in the homes and the worlds of other people. Somewhere along the way, I forgot the joys and pleasures of crafting something special for my own personal gratification. A set of ceramic coasters became that household object that I knew was missing in my life.
Living with art every day can be as simple as a handmade set of coasters on your coffee table or your nightstand. A coaster is practical and functional, and I think it might as well be beautiful too. Coasters can be used in every room of the house, on any surface area where you’d set a glass of water or an ice-cold beverage. They help protect your household surfaces by preventing any ring marks caused by cups and mugs of your various refreshments.
When you’re starting your own set of coasters, take the opportunity to play around with pattern and color. Working on a flat surface that won’t be used for serving food means you can experiment with different glaze textures as well as intricate, colorful designs. You have lots of opportunities to explore various shapes of coasters too. I went with the classic circle and square coasters for the set I’m making, but you can go wild with unique organic shapes if you like. Let’s get started!
STEP 1 Gently wipe clean any dust or debris from your bisque-fired ceramic coasters (1). Using your pencil, start sketching out the design or pattern you’re envisioning for the surface of your coasters (2, 3).
STEP 2 Using various fine-tip paintbrushes, start filling in your patterns on the surface of the coaster with glaze (4). If you’re brushing your glaze, it’s important to make sure you’re applying multiple coats of glaze on each section of the pattern, focusing on even coverage throughout the whole surface (5). If you’ve already spent time experimenting with your glaze testing, you should already know how many coats you need for each glaze to achieve the desired finish.
STEP 3 Using a small squeeze bottle is a quicker option since it only requires one layer of glaze application (6), but it does require more controlled movements and careful pressure so as not to release too much glaze and mess up the pattern. Go slow and fill in your shapes and patterns following the pencil lines as your guide. Let the glazes dry in between coats and when switching glaze colors.
STEP 4 Once you’ve finished your glaze layers and patterns, use a damp sponge to clean the edges and wipe off any drips of glaze on the underside of the coaster too. Let the glazes dry, then sign your name or stamp your logo and set each coaster aside for firing.
Excerpted with permission from The Beginner’s Guide to Decorating Pottery: An Introduction to Glazes, Patterns, Inlay, Luster, and Dimensional Designs (Quarry Books, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2023) by Emily Reinhardt. Emily’s book is available in the Ceramic Arts Network shop at mycan.ceramicartsnetwork.org/s/shop. Learn more at www.quarto.com/books/9780760381397/the-beginner-s-guide-to-decorating-pottery.