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A Dozen Quick Ceramic Tips from Potters

We’ve gathered a dozen quick ceramic tips from other potters and from our reading around the web. Got more quick ceramic tips? Post in comments, please.

  1. Liquid, premixed, commercial glazes that you buy in 2-ounce, pint, or gallon containers are typically formulated for smooth, easy brushing. the manufacturers add ingredients like gum to keep glaze components suspended pretty permanently. These glazes flow nicely off your brushes. They’re convenient and easy to store, making them the perfect choice for a small studio relying on brushing rather than dipping.
  2. Dry powdered commercial glazes (with all the ingredients pre-combined) are meant to be mixed with water. They are most appropriate for dipping or spraying. the same is true of glazes you formulate yourself from dry components. In either case, it is still possible to use various glaze additives to adapt these types of ceramic glaze to make them more amenable to brushing.
  3. It’s essential to follow a glaze recipe or formula carefully, paying exact attention to measurements and percent of each ingredient. Sloppily mixed glazes can produce weirdly surprising results.
  4. There are all sorts of glaze additives:  Spectrum Brushing Media, Magma, CMC Gum, Apt II Ceramic Enhancer, Spectrum Suspender, bentonite, Veegum-T, to name a few. Your best source of information on these is often your local ceramic supply dealer.  Most keep glaze particle suspended longer and extend the drying time so you can brush them out rather than have them clumping on the brush. You can add these products to dipping glazes, as well.
  5. You must convert powdered CMC Gum to a liquid solution. Recipe: mix 1 to 2 tablespoons CMC Gum per gallon of warm water. Let stand for 24 hours. Add drop by drop to liquid glaze until the solution seems the consistency you want and brushes nicely.
  6. Some ceramicists say a few drops of liquid dish soap added to a glaze can improve brushability by reducing the glaze’s surface tension.
  7. Potter Petra Stephens shares her single fire technique for clay workers looking eliminate bisque firing. Petra used the program on her kiln for a slow bisque fire, changed the temp to 1220° Celsius, added 2 extra hours (just in case). She also increased the hold a little.  She said the wares came out as she had hoped —absolutely no difference in her surface decorating and glaze compared to firing twice.
  8. Lisa G. Westheimer, a potter active in social media, gave some great advice to an artist whose bisqued plates had fine cracks develop in the glaze fire along the scalloped edges. Lisa suggests making a very thin coil, tapered to a point at each end, out of the same clay as the plates. Bisque the coils, and rub the points into the cracks so the dust from the coil fills the cracks, then glaze. The plates may not be sales perfect, but they won’t be wasted.
  9. Lid sticking to your pot? Put the pot in a sink full of warm water and place an icepack on the lid. You need to be patient, because ceramic materials do not transmit heat well. About ten minutes and the lid should be removable.
  10. Try cold finishing a piece with spray paint instead of glaze. Fire the item to vetrification. Make sure ceramic surface is clean, dry, dust-free. Plan to spray outdoors or set up a quick spray booth with a large, three-sided cardboard box. Hold paint sprayer or can about twelve inches  away from the ceramic surface and move back and forth, going past the edges of the piece at each side. Spray evenly and avoid overlapping. Dry for at least twelve hours.
  11. If you have a favorite non-functional piece that breaks in firing and you can’t bear to part with it, try Japanese Kintsugi technique. Using a strong glue, reattach the broken piece as well as you can. Fill any gaps perfectly with wood putty. Then, using a good quality metallic paint — usually gold, maybe silver or copper — and carefully paint over the putty and the crack. It’s known as respecting the imperfections and it can be strangely attractive.

    repair ceramic bisque
    Completed repair, a surprising outcome. Note gold fill along the large crack on his jaw.
  12. Want to attach something to a finished and glazed pot, like maybe a fancy finial on the lid? A friend told me to try Glass Bond cement by Hammerhead America. It’s made for slick surfaces like glass or glaze. Hobby Lobby has it. I suspect most hobby stores do. About $4 a tube.

There you have it. An even dozen quick ceramic tips to enhance your studio life!