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Many beautiful pottery pieces can be made with only one pottery glaze on them or by dipping them in a couple different colored glazes.
Sometimes the glazes are sprayed in combination, making a very nice finish and design.

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A lot of beautiful designs can be made on pottery with paint or slip trailed decoration. If you are working in oxidation, particularly at low temperatures, it is often hard to make a piece of pottery come alive with only a single glaze, a condition which causes many pottery workers to turn to painted decorations.
If you would like to decorate your pottery but you don’t feel confident about your painting skills, there is still hope for you.
Though you won’t regret any time spent learning to master a paintbrush, slip trailer or potter’s pen, there is a relatively simple way to render a line drawing in glaze or under glaze.
It is called resist inlay and requires only wax resist, a tool such as a wire loop sgraffito tool, a small paintbrush, glazes or under glazes and, of course, a design.

Resist Inlay Pattern

This is an example of resist inlay on a ready made tile which has been fired to Cone 06.
The design on this tile was carved with a wire loop sgraffito tool and a dental tool.
If you need fine lines and intricate details, this method might be perfect for you.

Now, the basic technique of resist inlay is to coat the surface of your piece with glaze or under glaze, cover with liquid wax resist, scratch your design through the wax and then brush a second color of glaze or under glaze over the cut in design.

There are a couple of ways to transfer a design to the surface to be decorated, so you don’t have to draw your design free hand.
If you use resist inlay with glazes, you will have to be careful to choose glazes that are not too runny, so your design will stay crisp after firing.
Also, you may find that the technique gives better results on a flat piece, such as a platter, rather than a vase where the surface to be inlayed is up and down instead of laying flat.
If you use under glazes, they won’t run or blur, but you will have to fire the piece to burn off the wax before coating it with a clear glaze.
You will also have to be very careful to apply three coats of your background color to make sure you have enough coverage.
Whether you use glazes or underglazes will depend on what materials you have available and the type of design you have in mind.
Either way, you will find it a fun and rewarding way to decorate your pottery projects.

The photos below show the traditional method of resist inlay using commercial underglazes on a store bought bisque tile.
Since there has to be an intermediate firing to burn off the wax after drawing the design, you have a chance to touch up any small defects before putting on the glaze and refiring.
For this method of resist inlay, you can make your own stencil, use a purchased stencil or simply draw your own free hand design.

Painting the Underglaze

A tile is painted with three coats of underglaze.
Using fewer coats of underglaze will result in a streaky background that won’t show up until the piece is glazed and fired.

Tracing the Resist Inlay Design

A pencil is used to trace around a stencil.
The interior of the design or the pattern will need to be drawn in free hand with the pencil, after the stencil is removed.

Painting wax for Resist Inlay

The entire tile is coated with wax.
The pattern will clearly show through the wax.

Carving in the Wax of resist inlay

Once the wax is dry, the design is cut through the wax using a wire loop sgraffito tool. A sharpened pencil or a dental tool can be used for the finer lines.
Do not brush away the crumbs of wax and underglaze, blow them off instead.

Painting on the top glaze of resisit inlay

The tile is painted with a contrasting color of underglaze.
Look at the design to make sure all of the lines are filled with the underglaze.
Small details can still be added to the design at this time by repeating the process.

Sponging off the resist inlay design

Droplets of underglaze that remain on top of the wax can be removed by dabbing with a damp sponge.
They also can be left on the piece and brushed off after the tile is fired to burn off the wax.

Finished resist inlay before firing.

The finished tile is now ready to be fired, after which a coat of clear glaze can be put on it.
If the background glaze or underglaze is too dark for the pencil to show, or too powdery to draw on with a pencil, you can trace around a stencil after applying the wax.
In this case, a dental tool is used instead of a wire loop sgraffito tool.
The design can be finished free hand with the same tool, then painted with a contrasting color of underglaze.

Mistakes are not mistakes when they prompt us to improve.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery 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 from Youtube. 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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