Sponges are one of the essential tools in pottery. You can use it in almost every step, from centering pieces to glazing. Ceramics that you finished with sponge glazing is popular amongst Potters because it gives them the flexibility to create unique patterns and multilayer glaze.
This technique only requires a synthetic or natural sponge with different cutout shapes or patterns. With proper use, you can achieve the same texture as brushing and still have an excellent secondary layer for your ceramics.
Unlike brush glazing, however, this technique relies on textured patterns that create limitless design possibilities. There are different ways on how you can sponge glaze your ceramics, Let’s go through the best practices of sponge glazing.
Basics of Sponge Glazing
Sponge glazing became a popular glazing technique because of the versatility with the patterns that you can create.
You can use extra-fine sponges to create a repeat, smooth designs throughout your piece, or a porous sponge that can provide a contrasting layer of glaze that adds depth in your ceramics. Add these to the various cutouts that you can have on a sponge without constraints, and your imagination becomes the only limitation on what you can do with your pieces.
Unlike other glazing methods that depend on the skills and perfection through practice, sponging relies on the potter’s creativity and adaptability.
There’s no such thing as lousy sponging, and I believe that it’s the only glazing technique that allows complete self-expression in pottery. As long as you follow the best practices when sponge glazing, you’ll be able to use it to push the boundaries of your creativity.
Best Practices Before Sponge Glazing
Sponge glazing may seem easy because of the sporadic impressions. But it’s not as simple as brushing, where you need a good brush to get the job done.
Here are some of the things that you need to do before you start sponge glazing your ceramics:
- Make sure that your glaze is well mixed and thoroughly sieved before dipping your ceramics or sponge. This will help prevent crawling, crazing, and cracking when fired.
- Sponge glazing doesn’t need a lot of glazes, so keep your mixtures in small containers to prevent it from settling on the bottom.
- You don’t need a separate glaze when sponging, because the application and glaze behavior that you need for this technique is the same with brushing. That’s why most seasoned potters interchangeably use brushing and sponging when finishing their ceramics.
- Clean your bisque ware before glazing. Use a damp sponge to remove dust and keep it grease-free. These particles will create spots that are prone to cracking and crawling because your glaze won’t adhere properly. You can use an air compressor to remove the dust before glazing.
- Cutting out parts of your sponge is the only way you can achieve unique patterns on your ceramics. However, improper cutting of sponges can compromise its firmness, which can affect the design that you want to create.
- It’s okay to use the sponge as it is, but the shape of your sponge is the only way to influence the designs. Cutting out various patterns on different sponges will allow you to be more creative and exploit the biggest advantage of sponge glazing flexibility.
You don’t have to follow these practices before sponge glazing, but it’s the best starting point. Different potters have different methods of glazing, but these guidelines will help you learn the basics with minimal trial and error.
To help you with good glazing practices you will want to check out this List of Glazing Tips for Beginners.
Several Ways to Sponge Glaze
The first and most popular way is to sponge glaze with Underglaze.
After mixing your underglaze put a small amount of Underglaze in a shallow container. Take your selected damp sponge and dab it into your Underglaze.
This next step is important. Before you dab the sponge on your piece you will want to dab it on a piece of paper or plastic to see the pattern it will make on your piece. You may need more or less underglaze to make the pattern you desire.
After you have sponged your pattern let the Underglaze dry.
Once it’s dry you can apply another color, let dry and apply another if you like. That’s the fun part of sponge glazing.
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The tools listed in the post are tools I have used or am using at the present time. The tools are also optional, being that you may have, and use many of them already.
The Speedball Underglaze Sampler Pack (amazon) or (walmart) has a great selection of colors for you to choose from.
Apply Clear Glaze
Once your Underglaze is totally dry it’s time to seal your creation with Clear Glaze.
This can be done in several ways, Dipping, Spraying or Brushing:
This is the easiest way to coat your sponged creation. One dip for 3 seconds should do the trick, some potters like to dip twice. I have found one works fine for me.
One of the best ways to apply clear glaze to your Pottery is with a spray gun. This technique gives you the least chance of smudging your sponge work without having to bisque again.
When brushing your clear glaze on be careful not to smudge your sponge pattern. Some Potters will bisque their pieces again then apply the Clear Glaze to guarantee your pattern won’t smudge. For a few good Brush recommendations Click HERE
Another Way to Sponge Glaze
As you learn the art of sponge glazing, you can experiment with different techniques to find the one you prefer. Here is another way that Potters can glaze:
Glaze instead of Underglaze
Dip your bisque ware in light or dark glaze for the first coat because it creates a nice even surface. One or two dips for about 2 to 3 seconds each, gives you the best surface to work with. You can also try using a spray booth for the first coating, or brush on, but dipping is faster and simpler.
Once your base coat is dry it’s time to sponge.
Sponge glazing may not cover your piece completely, so you should always apply an undercoat or overcoat of Glaze. Two colors or shades is the minimum combination of glazes that can be used when sponge glazing. You can use as many colors as you need for your craft.
You can push your creativity even further by combining different sponge patterns to create a unique design. There’s no exact pattern to follow when sponge glazing, so you might as well take it a step higher with different sponges to create cool designs. This set of Six Potters Choice Glazes (amazon) or (blick arts) has a great selection for sponge glazing.
Best Practices During and After Sponge Glazing
Even though sponge glazing is known for encouraging spontaneous designs, you still need to be careful with the process.
Like other glazing techniques, whatever pattern you achieve though sponging will be permanent, so it would be best to follow these practices during and after glazing:
- Don’t dip your sponge in too much glaze. Several small dips are the best way to introduce glaze because it will allow you to create even designs. Potters who are new to sponge glazing think that they can save time if they have more glaze in their sponge, but this will create uneven, thick patterns. Make sure you dab your sponge on paper before your pottery.
- When sponge glazing your pieces, you don’t have to cover the entire pot. When I sponge glaze my ceramics, I usually cover the upper part, then leave the lower part with the base coat or multilayer dip coats.
- If you accidentally glazed a section, don’t clean it immediately. Let the glaze dry off until it gets hard enough for you to scrape it with a metal rib or sandpaper. You can also use a small brush to clean hard-to-reach surfaces. When doing so wear a Dusk Mask.
- If you want to avoid glazing specific parts of your ceramics, it would be best to apply a thick coat of wax resist. It will serve as a protective layer and creates a beautiful emphasis on certain parts of your ceramics.
- Please don’t leave your sponge as it is after use. Sponges deteriorate over time, but if you wash it after each use, you can use the same pattern for a lot of ceramics. It may not cost a lot to replace a sponge, but the cutouts that you have for it are so unique that it’ll be tough to replicate.
There are several ways on how you can sponge glaze your ceramics, but these practices ensure that you’ll get the best results every time. As you learn more about this technique, you can modify some of these practices to suit your preference.
Sponge Glazing and Brush Glazing
Potters use both methods interchangeably because the process of application is similar. You can use dipping, brushing or sponging at the same time.
It’ll create varying textures and could significantly affect the color schemes and design elements that you want your ceramics to have. So the question is, when is the best time to use sponge glazing?
I prefer to use sponge glazing when working on functional ceramics like mugs, bowls, and pitchers. These pieces look best with the sporadic design and textures that sponging creates.
Potters used sponge techniques throughout the history of pottery. Sponge glazing is a unique way of decorating your mug. Beginners, as well as Seasoned Potters, prefer spongeware because the design elements are harder to replicate, and it gives them enough freedom to be creative with their pieces.
We have covered a few ways you can sponge glaze your ceramics to help expand your creativity of glazing.
Sponge glazing is unique because you don’t need to practice a lot to perfect it.
You only need to know the best practices when sponge glazing to use it in pottery successfully. The unique designs make it possible for potters to make mistakes and still make it unnoticeable when fired. Hope this helped you to create some fun new glazing designs.