Glazing pottery is an extra step added to the process. Glazing pottery can be a fun and rewarding part of the pottery crafting process. But you may be wondering, do you have to glaze pottery?
You don’t have to glaze pottery. However, it would greatly depend on the desired results for your pottery project. Glazing adds a beautiful, glossy, satin, or matte finish to your piece and can really make it pop. Plus, it’s a great way to seal and protect your pottery.
I will go over the reasons why you don’t have to glaze and a few alternatives to glazing. I will also cover when you would have to glaze and the reasons why you may want to glaze your pottery.
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Why You Don’t Have to Glaze Pottery?
There are many reasons why you might not want to or feel like you have to glaze your pottery. Let’s take a look at some of those reasons.
Decorative purposes are one of the main reasons why you don’t have to glaze pottery. Glazing may not be necessary if you want to create a certain look. You could use clay bodies that would not need to be glazed.
There are many ways to achieve the look you want without having to glaze your pottery. Deciding whether to glaze your pottery should be based on the effect you are trying to achieve with your final product.
Your Pottery Is Vitrified (Glass-like Seal)
You may have heard that you need to glaze your pottery in order to make it food safe and or waterproof. However, this is not always the case. If you fire your pottery at high enough temperatures, it will vitrify and become both food safe and waterproof.
This process depends on the type of clay you use and the temperature you fire to. Many Stoneware, Porcelain, and Ball clays can all vitrify when fired at high temperatures – typically over Cone 10, which is 2345℉ (1285℃). So, if you are using one of these Types of Clay and firing to a high enough temperature, you don’t need to worry about glazing your pottery. Instead, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the clay itself.
You May Not Like to Glaze
Another reason not to glaze your pottery is that you may not like it. As a beginner potter, you may be afraid to glaze like I was when I started making pottery.
One of the most common challenges people have when they don’t know how to glaze pottery is getting the right thickness on their pottery. If you put too much glaze on, it can run off the pottery and pool in the bottom. If you don’t put enough glaze on or the right type of glaze, your pottery will not be protected and may not be food safe.
Glazing can be tricky, so if you’re not sure you’ll like the results, you can always experiment with glazing later once you’ve mastered the basics of pottery making. There is an article on 27 Glazing Tips that may help.
You May Find Glazing Too Time-Consuming
You may find that glazing pottery is too time-consuming. It requires mixing the glaze, applying it to the pottery, and firing the pottery again. If you don’t have the time or patience to do all of that, you may want to skip the glazing step.
You can still have beautiful pottery without glazing it. The key is to find a design that you like and that will work with the clay. You can also experiment with different techniques to get the look you want. You can create stunning pottery with little effort without spending hours glazing it.
Glazing Could Be Too Expensive
You don’t have to glaze your pottery if you are on a tight budget or not ready to make your own glazes. You can display your pottery as is. You don’t have to invest in Commercial Glazes right away, especially if you are just starting out as a potter. There are plenty of ways to decorate your pottery without glazing it. Experiment and find what works best for you and your budget.
For these reasons, you may want to skip glazing and find an alternative.
A Few Alternatives to Glazing Pottery
When it comes to pottery, there are endless possibilities for creativity. Glaze firing is one way to give your pottery a unique appearance, but it’s not the only option. These techniques only require a single firing. Here are a few alternatives that you can use to enhance the appearance of your pottery and create unique pieces:
Keep in mind these alternatives will not make the pottery waterproof unless they are fired in Gas or Electric Kilns to high enough temperatures to vitrify the clay.
Burnishing Your Pottery
When I started making pottery, I wanted to burnish all my clay. If you are not familiar with burnishing, it is a simple process of smoothing out the clay particles by rubbing the leather hard or bone-dry clay with a smooth stone, spoon, or any other smooth object. This process creates a polished smooth, shiny surface.
Burnishing is also used to create different textures on the pottery surface. There are many different types of tools that can be used for burnishing, and the type of tool you use will depend on the desired effect. Experiment with different tools to see what works best for you.
When burnishing, it is important to use even pressure and to move the tool in one direction only. Otherwise, you may end up with an uneven finish.
Underglazing Your Pottery
One popular glaze alternative is Underglazing. Underglazing is made up of clay, colorants, and a little frit. It involves painting directly on leather hard, bone dry, or bisque-fired clay. This method is often used for decorative purposes, as it allows for more intricate designs. There are many Underglaze Colors for you to choose from.
Underglazing can be a fun and rewarding way to add a personal touch to your pottery. However, it is worth noting that underglaze pottery is more susceptible to damage when fired at a lower temperature.
Applying Clay Slip
Clay slip is a liquid clay that can be used for a variety of purposes, including decoration. It is relatively easy to use and can be colored with mason stains. For more detailed information on making plain and colored Slip check out this Article with Videos. Slips can be applied thick for textures or thinner to be used like paint.
Slip is a useful alternative to glazing, Overall, slip is a versatile material that can be used in a variety of ways to create beautiful and unique pottery.
Applying Acrylic Paints
If you’re looking for an alternative to glazing your pottery, you may want to try applying acrylic paint to your fired clay piece. The ceramic piece can then be painted and used only for decorative purposes.
This is a great option if you’re looking for a way to add some color to your pottery without having to worry about the glazing process. You can also apply a Sealant over the paint. Remember, Acrylic paints can only be applied to your pottery after firing the clay in the kiln.
Decals are a wonderful way to add images or patterns to your pottery. You can apply decals before bisque firing your clay or bisque firing the piece, then apply decals. If you are looking for alternatives to glazing pottery, applying decals is a great option.
Decals can be found in a variety of colors and styles, so you can find the perfect look for your pottery. Applying decals is a straightforward process, and with a little practice, you will be able to apply them perfectly every time. Check out this Decal Application Video
Using Colored Pottery Clay
You could use clay bodies with different colors and textured surfaces that would not need to be glazed. If you want a completely natural look, Glazing may not be necessary if you want to create a certain rustic look, like Terra Cotta Pottery Clay. There are also clay bodies that will turn a Deep, Rich Brown, Hawaiian Red, or Beautiful Black color when fired at higher temperatures.
Second, if you want to add color, you can use mason stains. These stains can be used to create swirls or other patterns.
Overall, colored clay is a great alternative to glazing and can provide beautiful results. Just be sure to consider all the factors before making your final decision. I have a detailed video here on How to Add Color to Clay.
Adding Textures to the Clay
If you’re looking for a more aesthetic look, you can show the raw clay and add texture. There are many ways to add texture to pottery, and each method will create a unique look.
One way is to use Textured Rollers. This will create a consistent pattern on your pottery. Another way to add texture is to carve designs into the clay.
This can be done with a variety of carving tools, depending on the look you want to achieve.
You can also use stamps or stencils to create patterns on your pottery. Finally, you can press things like leaves into your Clay to create a one-of-a-kind design.
Whatever method you choose, adding texture to your pottery will give it a unique and interesting look. There are many possibilities, so be creative and have fun!
Important Note: Pottery that is not verified or glazed will have porous surfaces and have to be used for decorative purposes or planters only and handled carefully.
These are just a few of the many possibilities for creative expression on unglazed pottery. So don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!
When Do You Have to Glaze Pottery?
The only reason that I know of when you would have to glaze your pottery is to seal it. If your clay body is porous and cannot be vitrified, you would have to glaze it. Glaze seals the pottery and makes it waterproof.
This goes for pieces of pottery that need to be food safe or as decorations like vases that must hold water.
Ceramic glaze seals and hardens the pottery, making it stronger, which not only allows you to drink out of or eat off of it but keeps the pottery in good shape for a long time.
Important Note: Keep in mind that not all glazes are food safe or waterproof. It’s important to read the label and or know the ingredients of your glaze recipe.
Reasons Why You Would Want to Glaze Pottery?
As you have learned so far, It isn’t required to glaze your pottery, but many artists choose to glaze. Let’s take a look at a few of those reasons.
Glaze for Decorative Purposes
Glazing your bisque ware gives it an entirely new look! The most popular reason to glaze your pottery is for decorative purposes; to give it a unique look. There are different types of Glazes to Choose From, each with its own effect. For example, you can use Shiny Glazes for a glass-like finish or Satin or Matte Glazes for a more subdued look.
Pottery glaze also comes in a variety of colors, so you can mix and match them to create different effects. You can also layer glazes to create a cool drippy flowing pattern.
The color selection is endless, especially if you make your own glazes. Whether you’re looking to add a pop of color or you want to try something new, glazing your pottery is a great way to achieve the look you desire.
Glaze Over underglazes
After all, the term underglaze came from the fact that it is applied under a clear or translucent glaze. Glazed pottery is also more resistant to staining and scratching. Glazing can also enhance the colors of your underglazed pottery.
Add Texture and Patterns with Glaze
If you want to take your art piece to the next level, use glaze!
Different glazes can add a whole new texture to the pottery, and you can create unique patterns.
You can get very creative with the glaze and a whole new design that wasn’t possible before.
Applying glaze can be a simple or complected process because there are many different techniques that can be used to create different looks. If you are interested in learning more about pottery glazing techniques, check out this article on 9 Pottery Glazing Techniques for more detailed information on different ways to glaze.
You don’t have to cover the entire piece of pottery, but you can add glaze so that it will drip off of the sides, providing texture, look, or feel to it.
Glaze to Seal and Protect Your Pottery
Glazing provides a smooth surface that is easy to clean. Glaze preserves the pottery and its functionality, as well as its appearance and design. Glazes fire at different temperatures. High-fire glazes are known for sealing the pottery and making it food safe. Now there is low fire glaze that will seal low fire clay and make it food safe. These low-fire glazes became a game changer for potters that wanted food-safe pottery without having to use high fire glazes.
The glaze will make the pottery tougher and more resistant to breakage and damage.
The glaze isn’t just about protecting the piece but adding your little touch to it, as there are so many kinds of glaze to choose from.
Water is dangerous to pottery and can ruin the final piece, so if you don’t glaze it, you will always have to make sure it is kept away from water.
Glazing is more than just the final coating; it is an art in itself. The glaze allows the artists to make the piece their own and help it to stand out among other pottery designs. A lot of the pottery design comes from glazing it.
In the end, it is up to you whether you glaze your pottery or not. You are the artist, and only you can know what is best for the particular piece.
Do You Have to Bisque Fire Before Glazing?
The answer is usually yes. Bisque firing changes the clay permanently, making it much harder but still porous enough to absorb the glazes. The main reasons for bisque firing are to burn the organic materials off the clay and make it easier to handle and absorb the glaze. You can also choose to fire the pottery only once, called single firing. This is done more with seasoned or professional potters that know how their clays and glazes will interact in the Kiln.
For more detailed information, check out my post on What is the Purpose of Bisque Firing
Can You Paint Unglazed Pottery?
You can apply Acrylic paint to unglazed pottery. But the clay must be fired first because the clay would be too fragile. If you can not fire the clay, then Air-Dry Clay would be better to use. Keep in mind that you can not fire acrylic paints in the kiln.
Can You Make Pottery at Home Without a Kiln?
You don’t need a Kiln to make pottery at home. You can fire your clay at a studio or rent kiln space. You can also use air-dry clays. There is also an alternative to glaze that can make creating pottery at home easy.
Let’s explore the different ways in this article, Do You Need a Kiln to Glaze Pottery at Home?