Chapter 5: Surface Decoration

You are about to discover a vast
number of surface decoration
techniques and treatments!
The techniques you choose for your
works are broken into 2 categories:
Texture and Color
Clay surfaces have historically served as a
means for artists, to realistically or with
abstract design, to:
◦ tell a story
◦ Display symbols of religious significance
◦ Beautify a form
You can add texture ANYTIME before a clay
piece is fired
Stages of Clay:
◦ Plastic: soft and flexible
◦ Leather-hard: most water has evaporated from the
clay, feels cool to the touch.
◦ Bone dry: Almost ALL water has evaporated from
clay – feels dry and chalky to the touch.
IMPRESSING- best done when clay is soft
◦ Press with a tool into clay surface and the mark left
becomes a low relief of your tool
◦ Tool possibilities include: fingernail, button,
stamping tool, textured wooden beater, string,
rope, burlap, lace, or whatever your imagination
leads you to
◦ You can make your own stamp designs in little
pieces of clay!
INCISING AND APPLIQUE- can be done at any
time in plastic and leather-hard stage
◦ INCISING- cutting into the surface of the clay
◦ APPLIQUE- applying one piece of clay to another –
pieces can be coils , cut-out pieces of clay, pads, or
clay designs that are pressed on the SOFT walls of a
rim or a form
…continued…. Incising and Appliqué…
◦ Add these to the surface of your piece by using a
little pressure
◦ If surfaces have dried somewhat – you will have to
slip and score the pieces for better adhesion
PIERCING and BURNISHING- should be done
when clay is leather-hard
◦ Creates dramatic effects
◦ Tools can be knives, hollow cutting tubes, anything
that punctures clay
BURNISHING – rubbing the surface of the clay
smooth with a stone or the back of a spoon
◦ Produces a shiny finish
◦ Burnish at the leather-hard stage
Adding color to your piece opens up
enormous creative possibilities
COLORED CLAY- mix different colored clays
in the same piece
INLAYING- fill in impressed or incised marks
with soft clay of a contrasting color
OXIDES AND CARBONATES- what gives clays,
glazes and underglazes their colors are
minerals and metals
COLORED SLIPS◦ Slip is a mix of extremely fine clay with water
◦ Colored slip can be purchased to add to clay by
painting or a dropper tool
UNDERGLAZE – painting on the surface of
greenware (or bonedry clay) before the first
fire (bisque fire)
◦ Vary from rough to smooth grain
◦ Give different textures and depth of color when
daubed onto surfaces
◦ A toothbrush or a bristle brush can be used
◦ Paintbrush is good for blocking in areas of color or
painting fine, delicate lines
◦ Can be used to finish details on top of a
background, outline a design, or emphasize a
certain aspect of the form
◦ Stencils can enclose or outline background shapes
or foreground designs
◦ Cut out design from a piece of paper, lay the paper
on the clay surface, apply color through the
opening using one of the previous techniques
◦ Masking tape cut into lines or shapes also makes an
effective stencil
◦ Cut shapes or patterns from damp paper and lay
these shapes on clay surface
WAX RESIST- use melted wax or white glue
thinned with water
◦ - paint design on leather hard clay, then when wax is dry
wipe away areas around it with a wet sponge. Top layers
will melt away in kiln leaving a raised design
◦ Paint over waxed area with underglaze, the covered
areas will remain clear and the unwaxed area will hold
◦ Apply on bisqueware and it will resist any glaze that is
◦ Apply wax details OVER a glaze, brush or dip another
glaze over it, or carve away areas of waxed area and
apply glaze to the exposed surfaces
SLIP TRAILING- squeeze a line of slip onto
damp clay to produce a raised line
◦ Slip trailers can be made from pastry bags, mustard
dispensers, rubber syringes
SGRAFFITO- scratching designs into colored
slip or glaze to reveal the clay body
MISHIMA – a pattern or design is incised or
carved into the clay, slip is brushed on and
then once dry – scraped off the raised areas
so only the incised carving has the color
TERRA SIGILLATA – exceptionally fine-grained
clay suspension in water, similar to colored
Transfer Printing – using etched plates
Monoprints- a single print
Photo Emulsions
Computer Generated decal Transfers – using
an image printed to transfer to surface of clay
Glaze has the same characteristics as glass
when it melts and fuses onto a clay surface
All glazes made from 3 basic ingredients:
silica, flux and alumina
Low-Fire: The First Glazes (what we use!)
◦ Melt a relatively low temps
High-Fire Glazes
◦ Used on stoeware and porcelain
◦ Must be fired at high temperatures
Overglazes and Paints
◦ A low temperature glaze that goes OVER original
Clean pottery – wipe it with a damp sponge or
rinse it quickly under the tap - dry
Paint wax on (if using)
May have to paint several layers – test
thickness by scratching glaze with thumbnail.
Should be the thickness of a card.
Dipping – dipping glaze into large container filled
with glaze
Pouring- pour glaze inside piece and swirl
around, pour out any extra back into glaze
Brushing – use a SOFT paintbrush to apply glaze
◦ Brush at least 3 layers onto piece in DIFFERENT
◦ Do NOT allow glaze to dry out before adding layers
Spraying- using a spray gun or an airbrush to
apply base glaze