Pottery Tips and Techniques
HOW TO CLEAN BASIC CERAMIC GREENWAREUsing a sharp cleaning tool, remove the seam lines on the greenware by scraping them off diagonally being sure not to gouge the ceramic.
Carve any detail back-in that has been removed during the cleaning process.
Gently sand over the seam lines with a sanding pad.
With a dust brush, brush the dust from the greenware and then take a damp sponge and go over all of the seam lines and other surfaces that needs smoothing.
If you see the hard spot, which appears like a round lighter colored spot, place a little slip on your sponge and cover over the spot.
Neither paint or glaze will stick on a hard spot so it is very important to try and cover it when you are cleaning your ceramic.
HOW TO DRY BRUSHApply color to the tip of the brush.
Remove excess paint and work the remaining paint into the brush by stroking it back and forth across a piece of paper, paper towel or old blue jeans.
Apply color to the desired areas by going across the ridges of the detail, keeping out of the crevices.
Repeat process until desired effect is achieved, allowing paint to dry between coats. Clean brushes with soap and water and be sure they are dry before each use.
HOW TO APPLY GLITTERWhen using a loose glitter, you will first need to apply a glue or liquid glitter or snow.
While it is still wet, sprinkle on the loose glitter.
It will adhere to the glue and will deepen the glittery affect.
Shake off the excess glitter onto a paper so that it can be put back into the bottle.
When using a liquid glitter, just paint it on as if base coating.
This may require several coats to achieve desired effect.
Be sure to let the glitter dry thoroughly.
HOW TO APPLY NON-FIRED SNOWMix well before using, you can add white stain if it is too thick to apply.
Use the appropriate cleaning tool, brush, palette knife or tweezers to apply snow to the desired areas.
Apply glitter over snow while it is still wet and let it dry overnight.
Clean brushes with soap and water and stand them with the handles down in a jar or similar container to let them dry.
HOW TO APPLY DECALSWith alcohol, clean the surface of the ceramic that you want to put the decal on, decals will not fire onto the ceramic where there is any oil.
It is very important to have a dark glaze on your ceramic, if your decal is light colored, likewise, if your decal is dark, you should have a light colored glaze on your ceramic.
Pick out the decal that you want and trim it with scissors.
Soak the decals in warm water, allowing the decal time to release itself from the paper backing.
When loose, gently pick it up and place in desired location on the piece.
Hold in place with a finger and remove the backing by sliding it from underneath the decal.
Keep the decal secure and using a damp sponge, move the air bubbles and excess water to the edge of the decal and pick up the water with a paper towel.
If all the water is not removed or if there is an air pocket, your decal will not fire correctly.
Anywhere the decal is not attached to the glaze, the decal will burn away.
They are usually two piece molds and sometimes they are three or four pieces depending on how complicated the finished ceramic is.
Before you pour a mold, make sure that it is held tightly together by a strong, large rubber band or nylon band that can be tightened by pulling and flipping a metal buckle over to keep it tight.
To make a ceramic item, one pours a liquid mud, otherwise known as slip into the mold.
Plaster has an attraction for water, so it absorbs the water out of the slip leaving a thin layer of clay, sticking to the insides of the mold and taking the shape of the mold.
Slip is kept in the mold for anywhere between five and thirty minutes, depending on the size of the mold.
You have to watch the fill hole and when the slip goes down, fill it to the top again. After it has set for the allotted time, it is then poured out and the mold is turned upside down and allowed to drain.
Usually the slip remains in the mold for about 12 hours, until it hardens up enough to be able to stand on its own, and can be easily taken out of the mold.
If it does not release from the mold, let it set for a few more hours, don't ever force it because you will pull it out of shape.
This is called the leather hard stage.
GreenwareOnce the item is taken out of the mold, it is called greenware.
Attachments like separate arms or legs are attached by scoring both surfaces and using slip as the glue.
This has to be done at this stage, because if you try to attach a wet piece to a dry piece, it will fall off.
If you are attaching a large piece, you might have to use something to support it while it is drying and firing to keep it from falling off.
Cut outs, such as windows in buildings or stars in lamp shades have to be made while the greenware is wet.
Any other similar adjustments to the greenware are made at this time also.
The greenware is then allowed to dry further until most of the water has evaporated out of the piece.
It is important to note that greenware is extremely fragile from the time it comes out of the mold until after it fires in a kiln.
Remember that it is only air hardened mud!
FiringIt is very important to make sure that your ceramic is bone dry before firing it, because if it is put in the kiln wet, it will blow up.
A good way to check to see if it is dry enough, put it up to your cheek or wrist and if it feels warm, it is dry, if it feels cold let it sit for another day or so.
After the greenware has been cleaned it is put into a kiln and the temperature brought up to around 2000˚ F.
It takes about 3 to 6 hours to get to this temperature.
Once the kiln shuts off after reaching this temperature, the piece is allowed to cool for about 17 hours in the kiln.
This slow cool down keeps the piece from cracking which would happen if it were taken out sooner.
BisqueWhen the piece comes out of the kiln, it is now called bisque.
The piece is now less fragile and can be handled without worrying that it will break.
It will still break if you drop it, but it won't disintegrate in your hands if you clutch it too hard as would the greenware.
The bisque can now be either painted with acrylics or glazed, depending on how you want it decorated.
Basic Ceramic PaintingBisque may be painted with acrylics and if done right will look more realistic if dry brushed.
Wet brushing is applying a brush loaded with paint to the ceramic piece.
Dry brushing is a technique where the painter wants the details of the molded item to stand out, such as fur on a wolf.
First, the piece is wet brushed, completely covered with one color such as black or walnut.
Then the color of the fur or other detail is added by putting some paint on the brush and wiping off most of it on an old towel.
The paint is then brushed across the grain of the piece, leaving the black in the crevices and the color of the fur standing out.
Other colors are applied also across the grain, blending highlights, such as white or yellow, with the original fur color.
After the piece is done, it is sprayed with either a matte or gloss sealer to protect the paint from rubbing off.
The piece is not fired again. This would burn off all the paint that has been applied.
There are other textures that can be added to a piece that is painted, such as glitter or rough textures that look like rock.
If you put paint on a toothbrush and face the bristle toward your ceramic and drag your fingernail across them you will get a speckled affect on it.
Glaze is actually glass.
If a piece is to have separately colored places on it such as designs or writing, these separate colors can be applied either in the greenware or bisque stage.
In the greenware stage one uses a special clay based paint called underglaze.
When the piece is then fired to bisque, the clay based paint also hardens to bisque, but has a dull finish.
A clear glaze is then put over the bisque and the piece is fired again and your piece will have a nice high gloss finish.
In the bisque stage, to apply multiple colors, one uses an underglaze for bisque.
Depending on the type of underglaze, another coat of clear glaze may or may not be applied.
The piece is then fired again.
If only one color of glaze is desired, you would brush on this color of glaze.
Various effects can be achieved such a peacock look by using crystal glazes.
A piece can be made to look old by using a crackle glaze.
All types of glazes can be bought at most pottery or ceramic stores and the directions are usually on the bottles.
If you have any questions just ask anyone in the store and they should be able to give you and answer.
Gold and Mother of PearlGold and Mother of Pearl are called overglazes.
These are applied over a finished glazed piece.
The gold application is genuine 24K gold.
Mother of Pearl is a mixture of chemicals that give the appearance of abalone or mother of pearl.
Both of these overglazes have to be applied on top of another glaze and fired in a kiln at about 1000˚ F.
If you would want to apply either of these to a piece that is only partially glazed and would otherwise to be painted, the bisque must be glazed in the spots where the overglaze will be applied, fired, then the overglaze applied on top of the glaze, fired again, and then the piece can be painted.
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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery or ceramics and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.
Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.
The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.
With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.
When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.
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