One of my ceramics professors told me that as much time and care should be taken glazing a piece as forming it.
While glazing pottery can be a meditative act, I have to admit that it is not one of my favorite parts of the ceramic art process. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is not the nature of the Glaze Beast. A dark gray liquid glaze, when fired, becomes a matte green. A deep orange liquid fires to a brown-speckled black. If I want spontaneity and immediate gratification, I have to paint on canvas or paper.
After glazing all those test tiles (My Eyes are Glazing Over), glazing cups, platters, bowls and other functional ware seems like a breeze. As I work, it gives me great pleasure to imagine someone drinking tea out of one of my cups, or serving a beautiful array of hors d’oeuvres from one of my platters.
First, I apply liquid wax the foot and bottom of each piece. When I’m forming a piece, I usually create a “glaze break,” a carved line near the bottom of the piece to catch glazes that might run during the firing. This makes glazing much easier, but it’s not always possible. I wax up to the line for a cleanly-glazed foot, or, with as steady a hand as I can manage, I wax up to an imaginary line. Later, when I brush on the glaze, it beads up on waxed parts and can be easily wiped away where it is not wanted.
I let the wax dry for a day before I glaze, so I don’t have problems with rubbing off the wax or inadvertently spreading it onto areas where I want the glaze to stick.
Some of the glazes I use are dipped into a bucket of glaze; other glazes must be painted on in layers. Starting with the inside of a piece, I brush on the first coat of glaze in one direction, and when that dries, I brush on another coat in the opposite direction. Some glazes look better when I dab them on unevenly. At least two coats of glaze must be applied, although with experience I’ve learned that some glazes require a thinner coat to achieve the effect I want, and others need a heavier application.
I make application notes with a Sharpie on each container of glaze. I also make notes about which glazes I’ve used and how they were applied on a drawing of each piece. I make noted about the clay use and the firing methods. That way, I can know which applications or combinations of glazes and firings work well, and which don’t.
After I’m done, I load up the kiln, program it, and push the “start” button. As I close the kiln lid, I have a massive sense of accomplishment and a sense of anticipation until I open it again to reveal the magic and mystery of heat and earth, combined.
Shiny, matte, smooth, rough–what are your favorite glaze colors and textures?