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A guide to glazes

A Guide to Crafting Colorful Glazes for Studio Potters


For studio potters, glazing is a transformative stage that adds the final touch of beauty to their creations. Colorful glazes have the power to elevate pottery from ordinary to extraordinary, infusing it with vibrancy and personality. In this blog post, we will delve into the art of creating a range of captivating glazes for studio potters. From understanding the basics of glaze composition to exploring different colorants and application techniques, this guide will empower potters to unlock their artistic potential and breathe life into their ceramic masterpieces.

Glaze Composition Basics

To create stunning glazes, studio potters must have a fundamental understanding of glaze composition. Glazes consist of three primary components: silica (glass-forming ingredient), flux (melting agent), and alumina (stabilizer). By varying the proportions of these components, potters can manipulate the glaze's properties such as texture, color, and opacity. Understanding the role of each component and their interaction is crucial in formulating glazes.

Colorants for Glazes

Colorants are the magical ingredients that inject life and visual interest into glazes. They can be minerals, metal oxides, or stains. Here are some commonly used colorants and their effects:

a) Metal Oxides: Iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, and chrome oxides are frequently employed for their ability to produce vibrant hues ranging from earthy tones to brilliant blues, greens, and reds.

b) Stains: Commercially available stains offer an extensive range of colors and are highly predictable. These stains are pre-mixed colorants that can be added to glaze recipes to achieve specific shades.

c) Mason Stains: Mason stains are finely ground ceramic pigments that allow potters to achieve intense and consistent colors. They are often used in small quantities to create intricate designs or highlights within a glaze.

Formulating Glaze Recipes

Creating glaze recipes requires experimentation and a balance of key components. Here are some factors to consider:

a) Cone Temperature: Glaze recipes must be formulated to match the desired firing temperature. Different cone temperatures require adjustments in the glaze composition to ensure proper melting and desired effects.

b) Glaze Base: Choose a glaze base that provides a stable foundation for your colorants. Common bases include clear, white, or celadon glazes, which allow the colorants to shine through.

c) Testing and Record-Keeping: It is essential to test glaze recipes before applying them to finished pottery. Create test tiles or small sample pieces to evaluate the glaze's appearance, texture, and compatibility with different clay bodies.

Application Techniques

The application of glazes is a vital step that determines the final outcome of the pottery. Here are some techniques to consider:

a) Brushing: Brush application allows for precise control and can be used to achieve solid coverage or decorative effects. Different brush types and strokes can create unique textures and patterns.

b) Dipping: Dipping involves submerging the pottery into a glaze solution to achieve consistent and even coverage. This method is efficient for covering larger pieces or achieving uniformity in multiple pieces.

c) Spraying: Spraying glazes creates a smooth, even layer and allows for creative blending of colors. It is commonly used for larger or more intricate pieces.

d) Layering and Overlapping: Experiment with layering different glazes or overlapping colors to create depth, texture, and unique visual effects.

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