Wax resists are substances that keep underglazes and glazes from seeping through pores in the clay and adhering themselves to the pottery. They are very common among potters and are very easy to use. You can create great looking pottery after using wax resists.
So how can you use wax resists during glazing? The basic purpose of wax-resist is to repel underglazes and glazes. Keeping this in mind, you can use wax resists in multiple creative ways to make glazing more fun!
You can, of course, apply wax to areas you don’t want the glaze to drip down to, like the bottom of your pottery. You can also use wax to create designs and patterns on the pottery, wait for it to dry, and then apply the glaze. You can then wipe off the glaze and reveal a gorgeous pattern. You can create designs using wax between dried glaze layers. You can apply wax over an Underglaze layer and chip away a pattern, then layer with a different colored and textured glaze (Mishima with wax resist).
Let’s take a look at some popular techniques of using wax resists in glazing!
Wax Resist Techniques
Protect the Bottom of Pottery
The most popular use of wax resists and emulsions in pottery for protecting the bottom part of vases, cups, pots, etc from coloring liquids. Wax resists keep liquids like Underglazes and Glazes from adhering themselves onto the clay. This is the most practical use of Wax Resists and is common in industries. Thanks to wax resist, you don’t have to struggle to wipe the glaze off the bottom part of pottery, the glaze wipes off clean and easy.
Besides the dirty, unfinished look that dripped glaze can give, it will also cause the pottery to stick to the kiln shelf during the firing process. Even if you wash the bottom part of a pot after the glaze has dried, it might still weld itself to the shelf. You can read more about Protecting Your Kiln Shelf From Melting Glaze.
For these reasons, most experienced potters apply a layer of wax resists on the bottom of their pottery before glazing. If you do this (we highly recommend you do so), don’t rush through the process. Hasty work always results in bad finishing. Make sure to get done as neatly as possible to protect the pottery, your artwork, and the kiln. I have skipped the wax resist and found myself taking more time trying to get the glaze off the bottom and it still left colored strikes on the bottom. The Wax Resist kept the bottom clean.
If you’re a beginner, follow these steps to applying Wax on the bottom of your Pottery;
- Grab a spare brush. Some waxes can damage the brush (varies from brand to brand). Don’t use your favorite brush!
- Coat the bottom of the pottery properly. Make sure to get every spot. The direction of strokes doesn’t matter.
- For extra protection you can apply wax about an 1/8th of an inch up the side, beginning from the bottom. You could do a little more if the glaze is a flowing or floating glaze.
- After you’re done, let it dry thoroughly. If your coat is too thin, you can apply a second coat. But don’t forget, wax coats repel themselves. You could apply a coat before the other one’s completely dry for one thick coat.
- Once the coat has dried, apply Glaze, Underglaze or Decorative wax.
- After Glazing, wipe all the glaze on the bottom. If the glaze dries on the wax, it will wipe right off.
- Fire the pottery. The Wax Resist will burn off in the kiln.
- Buy commercial wax resists. They’re easier to use as compared to the common melted wax.
- Commercial wax can be washed off sponges and brushes with soap and water, while melted wax is much more difficult to wash off.
- Clear your wax resist of air bubbles. They might pop and leave bare spots where unwanted glaze can adhere.
- Select a Wax Resist with color if possible. Colored Wax Resist is much easier to work with because you can see exactly where you applied it.
Decorate Clay Body
You can apply wax resist over the clay body itself to give a decorative effect. But before you do, make sure that your pottery piece is completely dry and free of dust.
- To begin, sketch your idea on paper. There’s not much room for trial and error.
- If you’re new to pottery or not that good at drawing, try using a stencil instead of free drawing.
- You should wax resist only the areas you don’t want the glaze to adhere to. You can either make outlines and then apply the glaze or draw with wax and apply glaze on the outlines.
- Wait for the wax to totally dry before glazing.
Design With Wax Resist
You can cover the pottery with tape then apply Underglaze. Once it has dried, apply the wax resist layer as a barrier.
Now let dry and remove the tape, then glaze your pottery. It will give a cool looking effect. Sponge off any glaze on the wax resist, let dry, and fire.
Tips on Working with Wax Resist Over Glaze and Underglaze
Decorating with wax might get a little tricky for some. But remember, there’s nothing that you can’t do with practice, passion, and some very helpful tips!
- You only need to apply a single coat of wax. Waxes resist other coats of themselves.
- Don’t wax unless you’re sure. Once wax touches the pottery, it will repel any Glaze or paint you try to apply.
- Always apply wax on dried Glaze or Underglaze. If you’re in a rush, put the pot in front of or under a fan. This quickens the process and drying would take less than 2-3 hours.
- Similarly, if you want the wax to resist different coats of Glazes and Underglaze, dry it thoroughly first. Drying overnight is the best option, but you can do the fan method too.
- Be careful when choosing your Glaze. Unlike Underglazes some Glazes like to run more than others you will want a glaze that keeps your pattern noticeable.
- Liquid wax has a consistency, much like cream or buttermilk. Thicker liquid wax takes much longer to dry and might retain moisture, which makes it useless as a repellant. Carving through thick wax can also be tricky.
- The consistency of liquid wax should be as thick as cream. You’ll have to experiment with a variety of brands and products until you find the right one.
- The wax resist can be applied with any brush. Make straight, wavy, horizontal, diagonal, vertical or circular strokes depending upon the design.
- To preserve your brush and save it from getting hard due to dried wax, wash it as soon as you’re finished. Use soap and hot water for washing.
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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.
Best Wax Resists
AMACO Wax Resist (amazon) – (blick arts) or (walmart)
This wax resist is perfect for bisque ware. It protects bisque from all sorts of glazes and slips. It’s also non-toxic.
Mr. Marks’ Wax On Resist (amazon)
This a pottery studio staple is non-toxic wax that can be used on both bisque and between glaze layers. The wonderful part of this Wax Resist is its purple color. You know exactly where you applied it. The color fires off in the kiln.
Ceramic Supply USA Wax Resist for Pottery (amazon)
This is another non-toxic option with great brushing consistency, strong repellant strength, and quick drying time. But what makes it stand out is that it has a light-blue tint, letting you trace the areas you’ve applied it to. The tint fires off in the kiln.
Wax resists can be used to make creative and intricate patterns on pottery and give it a neat look. It is also used as an important part of protecting your pottery in the Glazing process. From decorating to protecting your pottery, having Wax resist is a must for your studio. After finding the wax resist that works best for you, get creative, and protect your pottery too.