Glazing might be my least favourite part of making pottery (okay, I actually hate it) and I often heard other potters say the same thing. Glazing can certainly be frustrating to say the least. You make this lovely clay vessel/object and then you fire it once, it survives and looks great so far but then you go and coat it in a glaze you think you know pretty well. Then comes that fateful day when you open the kiln and that glaze has dripped all over the kiln shelf; or cracked; or shivered or pin-holed or whatever. You internally scream because you spent hours on this and it has come out wrong. It's so frustrating.
But I've come to know a few ways to minimise these frustrations. These are my 10 Go-to Glazing tools to help you out.
These are my go-to tools as I dip most of my ceramics. I have two different types, both are more suited to glazing certain shaped vessels.
Essential all-rounder for any pottery! Its all about quantity not quality with this one. I have so many cheap sponges in the studio because they are useful for every stage of making pottery. In glazing, I use them to clean up any spillage and also to wipe pottery bottoms (a MUST! even if they have been waxed) as you don't want your lovely pot to be to come out of the kiln
Studio safety is essential! Dust inhalation is no joke! So a Respirator is a good investment in every pottery studio. During glazing, glaze dries quickly on bisque work and can cause dust in the air and spilled glaze should be wiped up while still wet to deter glaze dust in the studio. Glazes are made of glass and clay dust as well as metal
Wax and Latex
Essential if you want more control on how much of the foot ring is left unglazed. This might be extra important if you have a glaze that drops (and you want to save your kiln shelves!) Use wax or latex as a resist to resist your glaze and keep your foot ring clean. I find wax is better at resisting glaze but is near on impossible to remove from the surface if you apply a bit of a wonky line or accidental drip. Latex if applied too thin can tare or ripple to allow glaze through, this easy to fix with a damp sponge by just wiping clean. Also you can easily remove by peeling off.
New favourite tool! Really helpful to cover vessels that are too tall to dip glaze. To glaze the outside, I hold the vessel with my Glazing tongs upside down, ladle the freshly whisked up glaze over the ceramic back into the bucket.
Very useful for glazing the inside of vessels. Especially pots with a small neck or rim. Just place and ladle in your whisked glaze into the funnel. I fill about half the vessel, then while holding my pot slowly pouring the glaze out whilst also turning the vessel. This covers the the entire inside of your pot.
These are great if you want to experiment with layering your glazes. I also use them to glaze any missed spots of fiddly pottery that can be sometimes hard to glaze like teapots.
A cheap and very useful tool that every potter probably already has; this can also be used at the glazing stage of your pottery making. When dipping your pottery in glaze, it may have caused runs on your pot. Allow the glaze to fully dry and become powdery. Then take your metal kidney tool and lightly scrape the raised glaze run until it is even to the rest of the surface. Then gently smooth out with your finger.
A easy and cheap option to stir up your glaze to disturb the heavier materials from the bottom. Mixing up all the ingredients so that all the ingredients (of different weights) are evenly dispersed throughout the glaze is very important so that you don't use up lighter (weight) materials on the top and leave all the heavier materials at the bottom.
The only thing is, if you use glazes that sit heavier at the bottom you might want to instead go for a more industrial option of a drill and paint stirrer.
Drill and paint mixer
A more expensive tool but well worth it. This will thoroughly stir any glaze with ease in seconds. An investment would be to buy a good quality drill and then a cheap paint stirrer/paddle from any DIY store. My main piece of advice? Do not let your drill overheat.
Also known as magnesium sulfate. Can be used as an easily accessible and cheap flocculant.
The flocculent thickens the glaze, by charging particles so that they gel together and attract to each other. This helps all the components in the suspend in the water more easily. It also helps the glaze drip less easily and stay put on your bisque wares.
Use approximately 30g dissolved in 100ml of warm water.
Studio safety is essential! Dust inhalation is no joke! So a Respirator is a good investment in every pottery studio. During glazing, glaze dries quickly on bisque work and can cause dust in the air and spilled glaze should be wiped up while still wet to deter glaze dust in the studio. Glazes are made of glass and clay dust as well as metals that can be toxic if inhaled.
Let me know what your favourite tools are when it comes to glazing and maybe we can all start to enjoy glazing - maybe!
Many thanks for reading!
By Christina Goodall