Pottery has always been the best medium to express creativity, and potters will always look for innovative ways on how they can improve their craft. And one of the glazing methods that has resurfaced and gained a lot of traction recently is bubble glazing. It gives a beautiful, extraordinaire marble look to ceramics, which is almost impossible to achieve with dipping and brushing.
So, what is bubble glazing? Bubble glazing is the process of applying bubbles in glazes to achieve different unique effects in ceramics. There are various ways on how you can use bubbles to finish your pieces, but the process and materials that you need will remain constant.
The best way to learn bubble glazing is to understand the basics of this technique. We’re going to dive into the basics in the next section, so if you’re interested in learning about bubble glazing, read on.
Basics of Bubble Glazing
Creating marble effects is the most common reason why potters use bubble glazing on their crafts. To achieve this effect, you’ll need the following materials:
- Underglaze or Glaze (one or more in separate containers)
- Clear glaze
- Small clean container or a cup
- Hand soap or dish soap
- Pottery wheel, Turntable or Banding wheel (optional)
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Preparing for Bubble Glaze
Before you start with anything, it’s crucial to determine the color or shade that you’ll use for glazing. The underglaze should have high contrast to make the traces of bubbles more visible on your bisque ware.
When choosing colors you have to make the darker shade more concentrated. It will show your bubble marks better with lighter clay.
Subtle differences with the color or shade may seem okay, but it’ll make your design mediocre when fired. Bubbling relies on thin line marks that bubbles leave, which you can emphasize with a highly concentrated dark shade. The Speedball Underglaze Sampler Pack has great colors for you to choose from.
Mix 3 tablespoons of water, 2 to 3 squirts of hand soap or dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of underglaze in your cup.
Never pour too much into your cup at a time, because whatever you put into the cup won’t be suitable for future use.
Once you have the water, soap, and the underglaze in the cup, mix well. Be careful not to add too much water because it would dilute the underglaze.
Making the bubbles is where the fun starts, and where you can be more creative with your designs. Using a straw, blow into the container until the bubbles start to fall over your piece. When blowing bubbles, we tend to tilt the container. Be careful not to tilt your container too far over.
You can adjust the size of your bubbles to match your preference. The faster you blow into the cup, the more small bubbles you create. If you want to have prominent bubble marks, try to blow into the container slowly and consistently.
Look at the marks that you created. If it leaves thick lines, you’re using too much underglaze, or your mixture is too thick. The best practice when bubble glazing is to keep it thin, and there should be no protruding areas when you touch.
Turning your Pottery
Turning the Banding Wheel is where potters differ with their preference. Some prefer to blow air into the glaze while turning the wheel; others only do it once they are satisfied with the bubbles that they have on one side.
You can also turn the Pottery Wheel because it creates well-balanced, candid bubble marks, or keep your piece stationary and use no turntable.
Apply Clear Glaze
After you are finished applying the bubbles, Clear Glaze must be applied to vitrify your piece. This can be done in several ways. You can brush it, dip it, or spray it on.
When brushing be careful not to smudge the bubbles. Your bubble must be totally dry. Some potters will even bisque their pieces again and apply the clear glaze to guarantee the bubbles won’t smudge.
This is the easiest way to coat your piece. One dip for 3 seconds should do the trick some potters like to dip twice. I have found one works fine for me. Just make sure your bubbles are completely dry before you dip.
One of the best ways to apply clear glaze to your bubbles is with a spray gun. This technique gives you the least chance of smudging your bubbles without having to bisque again.
Another Way to Bubble Glaze
As you learn the art of bubbling, you can experiment on different techniques to find the one that suits your preference. Here is another process that potters use when bubble glazing: Using Glaze instead of Underglaze.
You can dip your bisque ware in light or dark glaze for the first coat because it creates an even surface. One to two dips for about 3 seconds each, gives you the best surface to work with bubbles. You can also try using a spray booth for the first coating, or brush on, but dipping is much faster and simpler.
While waiting for the first coat to dry up, start working on the darker or lighter shade of Glaze.
Mix your two or three squirts of soap with 3 to 4 tablespoons of glaze and add a little water if your glaze is too thick. Mix and blow your bubbles.
Always remember that bubble glazing can’t cover your piece completely, so you should always have an undercoat or overcoat of Glaze. Two colors or shades is the minimum combination of Glaze that you can use when bubble- glazing, and you can use as many colors as you need for your craft.
You can push your creativity even further by combining two bubbling techniques to create a design that suits your preference. There’s no exact pattern that you should follow when bubble glazing, so you might as well take it a step higher with composite designs. Amacos Set of Six Potters Choice Glazes has a nice selection for bubble glazing.
Glazing Multiple Pieces
Bubble glazing works best if you craft pieces one at a time because you can create unique designs without following a pattern. This glazing technique is easy to master, however things become a bit different if you want to bubble more than three ceramics. Here are some of the things that you need to remember when glazing multiple pieces:
- You can use the same mixture for different pots, but you always need to check the thickness of your glaze. As you introduce air bubbles into the mix, it’ll become congeal and too thick to be suitable for bubbling.
- Don’t pick up your pot until the bubbles have evaporated, and the glaze dries out. Picking up your piece too early can smudge the marks, so be sure that it’s dry to touch before moving on to the next pot.
- Never try to save time by mixing large amounts of glaze and soap. Your mixture will be tough to manage, and your pieces are prone to thick lines of glaze. So even if you’re working on several pots, it would be best to do it by batch.
Unlike dipping, sponging, and brushing, where you can work on several pieces at a time, bubbling requires you to glaze slowly and by batch. We recommend that you work on three to four ceramics at a time, then replace your glaze with a fresh mix.
Bubble glazing is a very sophisticated and versatile glazing technique that you can use for your crafts. It requires exceptional attention to detail, and even though no two bubbled ceramics will ever be identical, you still need to spend a lot of time to master it.
It’s a straightforward glazing technique, and the options that you have for designing pieces with bubble glazing is limitless. Start with the baby steps, and as you learn more about this technique, it’ll be easier to make adjustments to match your design preference.