When it comes to glazing your pottery, do you feel Glazed and Confused? Should you Brush, Pour, or Dip? Then there are things like drying time and what clay you should use. Let’s face it Glazing Pottery is time-consuming, and there is a lot to remember. When I started making pottery, I was very nervous when it came time to glaze. I had one heck of a Bisque collection at one time.
Now I’m the opposite. I actually enjoy and look forward to glazing.
I’m going to share 27 Easy to Remember Glazing tips for Beginners and some forgetful seasoned veterans that will help you stop the Glaze Confusion and master the art of Glazing.
Before any glaze hits your pottery, there are a few things you need to consider, and the prep work that’s involved.
1. Compatible Clay and Glazes
Nicely glazed pottery starts with your choice of clay and glazes. When choosing your glaze, make sure its compatible with your clay to prevent crazing, bubbling, and even cracking.
It’s important to know that your glaze and clay will get along and bond well in the kiln. You will find over time that some clays and glazes just don’t get along.
For best results, make sure the firing temperature range of your clay matches the fire temperature range of your glaze. As a new potter, you don’t want to take any chances. I found Amaco Buff 46 fuses nicely with Amaco mid-fire glazes and mid-fire Spectrum Glazes.
Tip: It’s best to test fire your clay and glaze before you glaze large batches of pottery.
Find your Clay
2. Properly Bisque Fire
A good glaze starts with properly bisque pottery. Keep in mind, you can single fire but is not recommended with many glazes that are made today.
Bisque firing makes your pottery porous to help glazes adhere to your pottery also releases sulfur and carbon gases from the clay.
Most potter’s bisque at cone 06 to 04.
Cone 04 is recommended to ensure all the gases have been eliminated from the clay. Also, some clays may create pinholes when you bisque at cone 06. Pinholes may be due to excess gases being released from the clay.
3. Keep Resist Spots Off Your Pottery
Oil repels glaze. To ensure your glaze adheres to your pottery, keep any lotions or oils off your pottery. Even the natural oils from your hands can prevent glaze from soaking into your piece, causing your glaze to lift, crawl, or create bare spots. For best results before handling, you’re your bisque ware keep your hands clean or wear disposable gloves throughout the glazing process to keep any oils off your pottery.
4. Sanding Your Bisque Ware
Use sandpaper to smooth out any rough edges, pointy bumps, or sharp spots. Make sure you wear a Dust Mask or get your pottery and sandpaper wet. To help keep the Dust down in your Studio.
5. Clean Bisque Ware Before Glazing
It’s best to use a wet sponge to get any dust or debris off your pottery before you glaze especially after sanding. A damp sponge works great and your pottery dries fast.
It’s best not to submerge your pottery in water or rinse it off under running water. Technically you can do this, but just be aware if you do you have to wait for your bisque ware to dry before applying any glaze and by that time dust and other particles may accumulate again on your pottery and affect the glaze. Glaze adheres best to clean dry pottery. Also, remember kilns hate moisture.
6. Mix Your Glaze Well
Whether you’re dipping, pouring, or brushing, you have to mix your glaze. You should mix your glaze first (an electric drill with a mixer attached works best). Then run it through a strainer or sieve to catch any debris or particles, and remix it.
I always mix my glaze before glazing each piece. Even though bottle glazes are more stable, mixing your glaze often is still a good habit to get into and ensures a nice even consistency in the glaze. Glaze likes to dry fast and ingredients separate, especially dipping glazes.
7. Keep The Bottoms Clean
Wax resist works very well. It may seem to take more time to apply the wax resist. Actually, it takes less time than trying to wipe the glaze off the bottom or foot of your pottery. When using runny or drippy glazes, you may want to leave ¼ inch (6mm) or more of the bottom unglazed. Use a damp sponge to wipe any glaze that’s left on the bottom of your piece. Because it’s been waxed, it wipes right off.
8. Take Notes
Write the glazing information down and take a picture. This helps you keep track of glaze recipes that have worked well and others that have not. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, (I forgot to write it down or I wish I would have written that glaze recipe down.)
9. Choosing The Right Brush
When brushing on glaze, make sure you have a nice soft brush that can hold a good amount of glaze. Hake brushes hold the extra glaze that is needed to cover pottery more evenly, making the coverage easier and more even than other brushes. Fan brushes also have the ability to cover large areas smoothly and evenly. They are not too stiff or soft and hold the glaze on the brush evenly. Fan brushes are one of my favorites to use. Check out some of the brushes I use over on My Best Glaze Brushes Page.
10. Don’t Get Stingy
One of the biggest problems with brushing on glazes is streaking. The main reason this happens is that the coats are applied too thin and your brush doesn’t have enough glaze on it. Your brush should be loaded, so the glaze flows onto your pottery.
11. Change Direction With Each Coat
When brushing on your glaze, it’s best if you change the direction of your brush strokes with each coat. For instance, your first coat can be horizontal and your second diagonal and the third vertical. It doesn’t matter which direction you start with. This technique evens out the thickness of the glaze and helps to get rid of steak marks on your pottery.
12. Keep Your Brush Handle Clean
Since you have to load up your brush with glaze, the handle near the brush can also load up and start to drip on your pottery. Use a sponge to wipe that area off from time to time to prevent drippage. Just a swipe or two across the sponge will do.
13. Two Rinse Bowls For Your Brush
It’s good to have two bowls with sponges in them the sponges help get glaze off the bottom of your pottery and the glaze off your brush. Always use the first bowl for an initial cleaning then the second cleaning bowl, so glaze isn’t left behind on the bottom of your pottery or your brush.
14. Thoroughly Dry Between Coats
Make sure your glaze is dry before applying another coat. Don’t take a chance and hurry the process. The more layers you apply, the longer you’ll have to wait before applying another coat. If the glaze is cold to the touch, it’s still wet.
15. Glaze The Inside First
When Pouring or brushing, you will want to glaze the inside of your pottery first. You don’t want to handle the glazed areas too much. If you glaze the outside first, your chances of leaving marks and messing up the outside of your piece will go way up.
16. When Pouring Use Caution
When pouring the outside of your piece, try not to overlap the glaze. If this happens let the glaze dry. After the glaze is dry take your mask and fine sandpaper, then gently sand off any extra glaze to get an even amount of glaze throughout your piece.
17. Get Rid of Any Tiny Bubbles
After you have mixed your glaze well, you want to get all the little bubbles out before you dip your pottery in the glaze. Slowly stirring your glaze will do the trick.
18. Dip Your Piece In Carefully
When dipping your piece in the container you don’t want to plop it in and have the glaze splatter up. You will want to place it in the container like a ladle or soup spoon and be careful not to hit the sides.
19. Placement of Your Tongs
When using tongs to dip your pottery in the glaze make sure you place them in the most solid and secure area of your pottery. Because you have to clamp down firmly with the tongs you don’t want to crack or even break your piece.
20. Watch Your Dipping Time
Be careful not to leave your piece in the glaze too long. Three to five seconds is the recommended time to keep your piece submerged in the glaze. One or two seconds less if you want a very thin coat and two or three seconds longer if you want a thicker coat.
21. Removing Extra Glaze and Drips
If a glaze drips on an area that has already been glazed or if there is too much glaze in one spot resist the temptation to wipe it off. Any extra glaze on your pottery is best-taken care of after the glaze is dry.
When the glaze is still wet, you will most likely remove too much or smug it, and it will show in your finished product.
After your glaze is completely dry, you can use a cleanup tool, metal rib, or sandpaper to carefully remove any extra glaze. (When scraping or sanding dry glaze goes air born. Don’t forget to wear your dust mask.)
22. Check the Thickness of Your Glaze
When applying glaze, it’s important to know how much glaze to apply. Not too thick or too thin. Check the thickness with your fingernail. The glaze should be the thickness of a t-shirt.
23. Work With One Glaze At A Time
I used to work with more than one glaze at a time thinking I would save some time. There are a couple of reasons you’ll want to work with one glaze at a time. Especially for beginner potters.
- It doesn’t take long for the glaze to start drying out or separate. The more glazes you are working with at the same time the longer they will sit out and start to separate and dry out.
- Because glazes don’t show their true colors until they have been fired, glazes can easily get mixed up. I have done this on more than one occasion.
- Using one glaze at a time also helps to keep you more organized.
See Some of The Glazes I Use
Most beginners are afraid to lay their glaze on too thick. Having a cookie under your pottery helps a lot. Cookies are about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch (.317cm to .635cm) thick and should be around 1/2 inch (1.27cm) larger than the foot of your piece. You don’t want your cookies to be too big, because they will take up a lot of your kilns real estate.
Cookies give you a little more confidence that you don’t have to worry about the dreaded dripping glaze melting on the kiln shelf.
25. Kiln Wash Shelf Protection
Kiln wash will also help to protect your pottery and kiln shelf. It is a liquid resistant substance you brush on your kiln shelf that helps your pottery from sticking to the shelf. For more information check out my article on Protecting Your Kiln Shelf.
If you happen to load the glaze on too thick, not all is lost. You can grind the melted glaze off with your Handheld Rotary Tool. It has come in handy on more than several occasions. The diamond bits work the best on glaze. You can also use the rotary tool to sand down sharp edges before glazing.
27. Totally Dry Your Glazed Pottery
It’s just as important to allow your glazed piece to dry as it is with your greenware. If the glaze is not dry, it will be cold to the touch. Make sure it’s room temperature before you fire it up in the kiln. Glaze dries faster than greenware, but to be on the safe side, it’s worth letting the pottery dry overnight before you load the kiln.
When starting out on your glazing journey, it can seem a bit tricky to master. By following these glazing tips, your glazing skills will definitely improve, and your success rate will go up.
The wonderful part about glazing is there are different techniques to choose from, so you are bound to find the ones that are most enjoyable for you. Be sure to check out my Best Clay Picks and Best Glaze Picks to help you create that beautiful pottery.