Applying the Glazes

Once you’re all mixed up it’s time to apply. Because you can never be 100% certain on how your glazes are going to turn out after mixing them up, it is heavily advised to make some test pieces out of the same clay you have been using to make your objects. In my case it’s Earthenware clay which dries white. Test tiles do not need to be anything fancy, just some squares of clay with enough room for you to experiment with your glazes and possibly layers. Here are the test tiles I made up for my work:

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Test Tiles

I had mixed up four glazes after my workshop with Matt, so I decided to make quite a few test tiles so I was able to experiment thoroughly with the thickness of my glazes and also experiment with the different techniques used to apply glaze. When making my test glazes, I thought it would be a good idea to add on the same details which I had included on my first clay object. This then allows me to experiment correctly and as close to what glazing my object will really be like. I added the circular details on to my test tiles here as they mimic the details of the first clay tumour I recently created.

There are a few different ways in which you can glaze your objects, whether they are just test tiles or the real deal. We went through all of these techniques with Matt whilst in the workshop.

BRUSH: This is probably the most common way of applying glaze usually for test tiles. Down in the glazing studio, there are some brushes used especially for this process, made of rabbit hair. This means the brushes are super soft and easy to apply with, and do not leave brush strokes behind. When using the brush, apply one layer in one direction, leave for a few seconds – 1 minute for the glaze to dry. Afterwards, apply another layer of the glaze but in the opposite direction to the first, and again leave to dry. Matt suggested around 3 coats when glazing. Once finished, leave to dry. Once dired it will appear and feel powdery. Set aside and wait for firing!

SPONGE: Another way to apply glaze is by using a sponge. These sponges are not your everyday sponges you use to wash up your empty dinner plates with, but they are actually make-up sponges, available in most shops. Much like using a brush, apply the glaze evenly. Dip your brush into your glaze and press it onto your ceramic objects. This should give a slightly different effect to using a brush, instead of being mostly smooth, there may be some spotting in your glaze once fired, giving more detail and depth.

DIPPING: Alongside brushing, this is also one of the most common ways to glaze your objects. It’s rather simple, using a pair of tongues or simply using your fingers, have a tight grip on your object and lower it into your mixed glaze. Hold in the mix for a few seconds and make sure all surfaces have been covered evenly. Take your object out of the mix and hold it in the air for a little while whilst it dries. Set aside.

SPRAYING: This technique is a little more complicated but completely manageable. This techniques is probably best used when glazing an object with textured or raised surfaces in order to get an even coating. Using the spray baths and the spray gun, making sure the extractor fan is turned on,  pour some of your glaze into the bottle on the spray gun, making sure your mix is stirred well before putting in into the gun (to avoid clogging). Before loading the gun, check the pressure of the gun and adjust it to the settings you’d like to use. Once you are happy with the settings on the spray gun, you can start applying the glaze. In the spray booth, there are circular spinning shelves. Place your ceramic object in the centre of this and spin the shelf as you spray, always making sure you’re coating your object evenly.

Remember: once all pieces are glazed, be sure to make sure there is no glaze mix that will come in contact with the kiln shelf. So be sure to check the bottom of your test tiles and when decorating your final pieces, sure sure that there is a clear patch for the object to stand on, or if unable to leave a part of your piece clear, use one of the props supplied in the kiln studio.

Something that is pretty cool and extremely handy (especially for me) is that there a resists available for use when applying your glazes. Two examples of these resist are the wax and latex resist. You paint on the resists onto the area’s that you do not wish to glaze, once your first layer has been applied, you can the remove your resist in order the glaze the remaining parts of your object. With the wax resist, this can only be removed by it melting off in the kiln. This resist comes in extremely handy if you want to leave part of your ceramic object clear and glaze free, or if you want to prevent glaze running and burning onto the kiln shelf. The Latex resist is used more for covering areas of your object that you do not want to be glazed just yet, and then you peel off the resist once the first layer is applied and then you can then proceed to glaze the areas that you applied the resist too. This will be the most helpful one for me personally, as I hope to cover the main body of my ceramic objects in one colour, and to have separate colours for the more detailed areas of my piece.

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Glazed Test Tiles

The above photo are my test tiles after applying the glazes. Now, it doesn’t actually look as though anything has been applied yet however once they have been through the firing process, the colours will come through. When mixing my glazes, I made 3 different blues, and a white base in which I would then apply colour stains over the top to achieve the yellows and oranges. With the bottom row of tiles on the photo, I applied 3 different tests per piece, each varying in thickness. This is so that I am able to see which thickness is the best thickness for what I am hoping to apply to my final pieces. On the 3 tiles that have the circular details, each base has one of the 3 blue glazes I had mixed. I then applied the white base glaze onto the detailed areas and applied either yellow or orange stain over the top. I made sure that on each test piece, there was at least one detailed piece with either yellow or orange on, so I could get a strong and clear idea of how  successfully (or not) the stains work with the blue glazes. The same goes for the tiles that I have filled with yellow and orange. As you can briefly see, there’s also a difference in the thickness of application in order to see how the stain reacts in the kiln. Lets get firing!!

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